AmeriScan: January 16, 2001

EPA TO REGULATE AIR POLLUTION FROM OCEAN SHIPS

WASHINGTON, DC, January 16, 2001 (ENS) - In an agreement finalized Friday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pledged to establish emission standards for large ocean going vessels such as oil tankers, cruise ships and cargo vessels. The settlement ends a lawsuit, filed by Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund on behalf of the Bluewater Network.

The world's biggest ships account for 14 percent of total nitrogen oxides (NOx) and 16 percent of all sulfur oxide emissions from petroleum sources around the world. The EPA says that large ships emit 273 thousand tons per year 748 tons each day of NOx into U.S. air.

"Oil tankers and cargo ships are huge contributors to global warming, smog, and airborne toxics both in port and at sea," said Dr. Russell Long, director of Bluewater Network. "It's absurd that the EPA has lowered the boom on virtually every type of vehicle and factory but the world's biggest polluters almost got off scot free."

"This settlement is a victory for clean air in U.S. cities and around the world," said Martin Wagner, attorney for Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund. "EPA has conceded that it must follow the law, and this agreement will ensure that the agency sets standards that promote human health and a clean environment, instead of blindly adopting the lowest common denominator standards advocated by the shipping industry."

In the settlement, EPA agreed to give Bluewater regular reports on its progress in establishing standards for the largest type of ship engines, called "Category 3" engines. The first report will be due in February. EPA is to issue a proposed rule in April 2002 and finalize the standards in January 2003.

Bluewater Network's report, "A Stacked Deck: Air Pollution from Large Ships," is available at: http://www.earthisland.org/bw/

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PREGNANT WOMEN WARNED ABOUT MERCURY IN FISH

WASHINGTON, DC, January 16, 2001 (ENS) - Pregnant women and women of childbearing age who may become pregnant should avoid eating certain kinds of fish that may contain high levels of methyl mercury, federal agencies said Friday.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advised these women not to eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. The FDA also recommended that nursing mothers and young children not eat these fish as well.

Fish such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish contain high levels of a form of mercury called methyl mercury that may harm an unborn baby's developing nervous system. These long lived, larger fish that feed on smaller fish accumulate the highest levels of methyl mercury and pose the greatest risk to the unborn child. Mercury can occur naturally in the environment or be released into the air through industrial pollution, and can get into both fresh and salt water.

The advisory acknowledges that seafood can be an important part of a balanced diet. FDA advises pregnant women to select a variety of other kinds of fish, including shellfish, canned fish, smaller ocean fish or farm raised fish. These women can eat up to 12 ounces per week of cooked fish, the FDA advised.

The EPA also issued advice concerning fish from non-commercial sources - freshwater fish both caught and directly eaten by subsistence and recreational fishers. The agency recommended that women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, nursing mothers and young children, limit consumption of such fish to one meal per week.

More information is available at: http://www.epa.gov/ost/fish

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$30 MILLION INVESTED IN ENERGY EFFICIENT RESEARCH

WASHINGTON, DC, January 16, 2001 (ENS) - The Department of Energy (DOE) has announced plans to invest $30 million over the next three years in 75 new energy saving industrial research, development and demonstration partnerships. The DOE will share the cost of most of these projects with universities, research institutions, more than 150 private companies and DOE national laboratories.

"These technologies will improve productivity, save energy and reduce environmental impacts in many energy intensive industries in the U.S. today," said Energy Secretary Bill Richardson. "Reducing energy demand is crucial to reducing the high price of energy today."

Among the research, development and demonstration cost shared projects announced Saturday are:

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SEA DUCKS GAIN CRITICAL HABITAT DESIGNATIONS

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, January 16, 2001 (ENS) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has designated critical habitat in Alaska for two threatened sea ducks - the Steller's eider and the spectacled eider.

About 2,830 square miles of critical habitat in five regions was named for the Steller's eider. About 65 percent of the designated area is federal lands or waters, about 25 percent is state waters and the remaining 10 percent is on Native lands.

"As a threatened species, Steller's eiders are protected under the Endangered Species Act wherever they occur, but the designation of critical habitat focuses additional attention on the need to protect the birds' vital habitat," said David Allen, USFWS regional director for Alaska. "The areas we are designating today are used by large flocks of Steller's eiders during breeding, molting, wintering and staging for their spring migration."

About 39,000 square miles of critical habitat was designated for the spectacled eider in Alaska in four different locations.

spectacled eider

The spectacled eider was listed as threatened in 1993 (Photo by John Warden, courtesy USFWS)
More than 97 percent of spectacled eider critical habitat is in marine waters seldom used by commercial fishers. Of the portion on land, more than 95 percent is within areas managed by the federal government. Less than one percent of the designation falls on Native lands. The remaining four percent are along shorelines where the water is managed by the State of Alaska.

"The designation will help focus attention on the habitat needs of this threatened sea duck," said Allen. "We have learned a lot about the habitat needs of this species during the last few years. Designating critical habitat in the areas we now know are essential to spectacled eiders will help us highlight their importance in the recovery of the species."

The designation of critical habitat for the two eiders stems from an out of court settlement of a lawsuit filed by the Southwest Center for Biological Diversity and the Christians Caring for Creation. These organizations challenged the USFWS's earlier decisions to not designate critical habitat for the birds. The agency had determined that the threatened species would receive little or no additional benefit from the designation of critical habitat.

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TRUCK PARTNERSHIP RELEASES CLEAN VEHICLE ROADMAP

WASHINGTON, DC, January 16, 2001 (ENS) - The 21st Century Truck Program, a major new multi-agency and industry partnership, have released a "technology roadmap" for developing commercial technologies to increase energy efficiency, reduce pollution and improve safety in the nation's trucking industry.

The 21st Century Truck Technology Roadmap establishes technical targets and fuel efficiency goals for 2010, along with safety relevant performance targets.

"The innovations resulting from this partnership will reduce our dependence on oil, improve the nation's air quality, and enhance the competitiveness of the U.S. truck and bus industry," said Energy Secretary Bill Richardson. "At the same time, it will ensure safe and affordable freight and bus transportation for the nation's economy."

The partnership between the industry and federal agencies is designed to cut fuel use and emissions by buses and trucks, while enhancing their safety, affordability and performance. Based on fuel usage, the Technology Roadmap Team selected a number of truck platforms for study. Transit buses and military vehicles were included, given their importance to the nation's transportation system and national defense.

"The 21st Century Truck Program provides a forum in which industry can interact in a coordinated manner with the full array of federal players that impact on the future technology aspects of our business," said Sherril West, a vice president at Caterpillar Inc. and a member of the Partnership Coordinating Committee. "There is unquestioned value in jointly identifying and implementing a technical approach to meeting these energy security, environmental and safety challenges with the full range of industry and government stakeholders."

Participating federal agencies include the Departments of Energy, Defense and Transportation, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Office of Management and Budget provide policy direction.

The roadmap is available at: http://www.osti.gov/hvt/21stcenturytruck.pdf

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BABBITT FAMILY PROTECTS 34,480 ACRES OF RANCHLAND

FLAGSTAFF, Arizona, January 16, 2001 (ENS) - Babbitt Ranches, Babbitt Brothers Trading Company and The Nature Conservancy of Arizona have put together Arizona's largest ever conservation easement to protect 34,480 acres of private land just south of the Grand Canyon.

In a ceremony held in Flagstaff, shareholders of Babbitt Brothers Trading Company signed an agreement with The Nature Conservancy of Arizona. This document permanently restricts mining, subdivision and development on the Cataract Ranch, described by shareholder Paul Babbitt as "a place where you can just about see forever and really be out of sight of the human imprint."

The announcement is a first step toward ultimate protection of three-quarters of a million acres that make up the Coconino Plateau Natural Reserve Lands, managed by Babbitt Ranches and Babbitt Brothers Trading Company. Babbitt Ranches is run by relatives of Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, a former Arizona governor.

The subdivision of large tracts of private lands is a threat to habitat in this region. From 1980 to 1995, the Greater Grand Canyon region grew at an estimated 45 percent; almost three times the national average.

"This action shows a deep commitment by the Babbitt family to preserve the open landscape and wildlife habitat that they have carefully stewarded for over a hundred years," said Les Corey, executive director of The Nature Conservancy's Arizona chapter. "The conservation easement will ensure that development will not break up the wide open grasslands that link the Grand Canyon with the San Francisco Peaks. It will also help to protect the watershed of the spectacular Cataract Canyon and Havasu Creek."

Together with a checkerboard pattern of Arizona state lands, the Cataract Ranch covers some 178,000 acres situated between Williams and the Grand Canyon.

"It is such beautiful, fantastic, unspoiled country," said Jim Babbitt, Babbitt Brothers Trading Company shareholder and Babbitt Ford owner. "We want to be able to preserve it in appreciation to the people of northern Arizona who have been so supportive of the Babbitt family and Babbitt Brothers Trading Company."

Babbitt Ranches is also investigating ways to grant conservation easements on the CO Bar and Espee Ranches. The three ranches total some 700,000 acres on the Coconino Plateau.

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U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY TAKES OVER LANDSAT 7

RESTON, Virginia, January 16, 2001 (ENS) - From real time command of the spacecraft to the downloading of spectacular images of the Earth, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has assumed complete mission operations responsibility for Landsat 7 from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

"We are very excited about this new opportunity to manage the operational activities of the Landsat 7 program," said USGS Landsat program manager R.J. Thompson. "Adding this new component to our original mission of collecting, archiving and distributing Landsat data allows us to fulfill our original goal of completely managing Landsat operations and ensuring the availability of data."

Mission operations responsibilities include more than a dozen daily contacts with the spacecraft to perform data transfers and general housekeeping activities; uplinking commands which control the spacecraft's activities; assessing the performance of the spacecraft; and preventive maintenance operations.

"We are extremely pleased that USGS has assumed mission operations responsibility for Landsat 7," said Dr. Darrel Williams, Landsat 7 project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "Their increased involvement in the Landsat program, as mission operators of Landsat 7, was a natural fit."

Landsat 7 is part of a global research program known as NASA's Earth Science Enterprise, a long term program focused on studying changes in the Earth's global environment, and part of the USGS' Gateway to the Earth Program, which makes the agency's earth and natural science information available on the Internet.

Landsat 7 has captured more than 200,000 scenes of the Earth from U.S. and foreign ground receiving stations since April 1999. With 15 meter resolution, the imagery collected by Landsat 7 is far better than what has been provided by previous Landsat sensors.

In addition to environmental research, Landsat data is used for applications in forestry, agriculture, geology, oceanography, land mapping and geographic research.

For more information on Landsat 7 visit: http://landsat7.usgs.gov/ or http://landsat.gsfc.nasa.gov/

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RED-COCKADED WOODPECKER FINDS SAFE HARBOR IN GEORGIA

ATLANTA, Georgia, January 16, 2001 (ENS) - The Pebble Hill Foundation has signed a Safe Harbor Management Agreement with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GDNR) to protect the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.

The GDNR Safe Harbor program has been modeled after successful programs in North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas that include more than 156,000 acres owned by 76 landowners who have pledged to provide and improve habitat for the red-cockaded woodpecker.

woodpecker

Red-cockaded woodpeckers excavate nesting cavities in living pine trees infected with the fungus that produces red heart disease (Photo courtesy USFWS)
Pebble Hill is the first property in the Red Hills region - which supports the largest population of red-cockaded woodpeckers on private lands in the world - to make such an agreement. Tall Timbers Research Station, a private nonprofit ecological research and conservation organization, manages the 3000 acre plantation. GDNR will be working with Tall Timbers and Pebble Hill to manage the land under this agreement.

"Safe Harbor rewards private landowners for doing good things for the red-cockaded woodpecker," said GDNR wildlife resources division director David Waller. "Management for the red-cockaded woodpecker will also benefit many other species that also require mature pine forests found on these private lands."

Safe Harbor programs provide landowners management flexibility while ensuring a conservation benefit for endangered or threatened species. Participating landowners pledge to preserve wildlife habitat and sometimes to create new habitat as well. In exchange, they are protected from future restrictions on land use if the endangered species increases its presence on their property.

"As more landowners learn of the flexibility that Safe Harbor Agreements provide, we are seeing more interest in these type of agreements, " said Sam Hamilton, Southeast regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "Red-cockaded woodpeckers were the genesis for the national Safe Harbor program. Today's announcement signifies a continued commitment to this innovative ecosystem management program."