AmeriScan: January 24, 2001

CLIMATE CHANGE CONFERENCE HOSTED BY DEFENSE DEPARTMENT

WASHINGTON, DC, January 24, 2001 (ENS) - A conference on ozone depletion and the role of military organizations in climate protection will be co-hosted by the U.S. Defense Department, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the United Nations Environment Programme, the agencies announced Tuesday.

The conference, to be held February 6-8 in Brussels, Belgium, will focus on "The Importance of Military Organizations in Stratospheric Ozone and Climate Protection." More than 100 senior military and environmental officials, industry experts and representatives of environmental organizations from more than 35 countries will participate.

Conference participants plan to increase their understanding of the importance of phasing out ozone depleting substances and protection of the climate, including the implications of environmental risk on national security. They also will exchange experiences of military environmental protection programs and promote commitment by military officials to implement internal management of ozone depleting substances and climate protection programs.

On February 8, a special breakout session will discuss methodologies and inventory practices for reporting greenhouse gas emissions from multilateral operations as required under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol is financing the ozone component of the workshop.

The conference is also supported by the Australian Department of Defence, the Center for International Environmental Law, the Climate Institute, Department of National Defence Canada, Environment Australia, Environment Canada, the Institute for Defense Analyses, the International Cooperative for Environmental Leadership, the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence, and the United Kingdom Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions.

More information is available at: http://www.uneptie.org/ozat/military/home.htm

* * *

CONTAMINATED TRAILER PARK GETS $16 MILLION CLEANUP

WASHINGTON, DC, January 24, 2001 (ENS) - A polluted, abandoned trailer park in western New York will be cleaned up and redeveloped under a settlement between the United States and Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company filed last week.

In the late 1980s, the government discovered that residents of the mobile home subdivision were living atop, and in some cases playing with, nuggets of hazardous waste. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) relocated the residents beginning in 1989.

The Forest Glen Subdivision Superfund Site sits astride the boundary between the City of Niagara Falls and the Town of Niagara, New York. The site was used as an informal landfill for chemical and other waste before part of the land was subdivided and developed.

The Department of Justice sued the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company in 1996, alleging that Goodyear had arranged for the disposal of hazardous substances at the site and therefore was responsible for cleaning up the property.

Under the settlement, Goodyear will clean up at an estimated cost of $16 million, and pay more than $9 million to reimburse the government for cleanup costs and compensate for damages to natural resources.

Goodyear will build a treatment plant at the site to remove hazardous chemicals from contaminated groundwater, and build a cap over contaminated soil at the site. New buildings and parking lots may be constructed on top of the cap, allowing the site to be redeveloped.

"This settlement shows that with effort and creativity we can resolve environmental lawsuits in ways that benefit not just the environment but the communities that have been affected by the sloppy waste disposal practices of the past," said Lois Schiffer, assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department's environment and natural resources division. "The agreement will return money to the Superfund to be used for cleanups at other sites, will provide funds for restoring injured natural resources, and will secure the added benefits of redevelopment."

* * *

AVENTIS PAYS MILLIONS FOR STARLINK CORN DEBACLE

WASHINGTON, DC, January 24, 2001 (ENS) - Aventis CropScience - the maker of StarLink genetically modified corn - has agreed to pay growers 25 cents per bushel of corn to ensure that Starlink stays out of the food supply.

Starlink turned up on grocery shelves last year in products like taco shells and tortillas, prompting billions of dollars in recalls, and leaving many farmers without a market for their crops.

Aventis has signed an agreement with the attorneys general of 17 states to pay millions of dollars to farmers and grain processors to compensate them for corn they cannot sell.

"I am very pleased we reached this formal agreement," said Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, who announced the agreement on Tuesday. "Aventis has affirmed the assurances and claim procedures it posted at the company web site recently for growers and elevators, and the company specifically assured the states that it has access to assets necessary to satisfy its obligations under the agreement."

"Now we have an agreement that can be enforced by the states," Miller said. "Aventis expressly agreed that it is obligated to compensate growers and elevators for loss in value resulting from StarLink corn, buffer corn and commingled corn. That means the states have clear standing to go to court if Aventis fails to live up to its obligations."

The agreement includes claim procedures for farmers who planted StarLink and for farmers whose crops test positive for the StarLink protein even though they did not plant the engineered variety. Many traditional corn crops have been contaminated with StarLink proteins through pollen drift or mixing at grain silos.

Grain silo operators that have lost money because their equipment became contaminated with StarLink corn will also be eligible for reimbursement.

Aventis will pay 25 cents per bushel to growers, and use the contaminated corn for animal feed other approved uses. Growers can apply for reimbursement for the costs of storing, testing or transporting StarLink corn, but they must apply before February 15.

More information is available at: http://www.StarLinkCorn.com

* * *

EMERGENCY POWER SALES TO CALIFORNIA EXTENDED

WASHINGTON, DC, January 24, 2001 (ENS) - Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham has issued a two week extension of emergency orders requiring certain energy suppliers to provide natural gas and electricity supplies to California utility companies.

The extension was granted at the request of California Governor Gray Davis in order to provide sufficient time for California to complete actions designed to restore the financial health of the utility companies and develop other energy sources.

Secretary Abraham warned that no further extensions will be offered.

In granting the extensions, Abraham emphasized that while the federal government has provided help to the state, only the state of California can implement the policies necessary to resolve its short term as well as its long term energy supply challenges.

"Our action today is designed to give the Governor, the California Legislature and other relevant parties the time to take necessary action. I strongly urge the parties to act immediately," Abraham said. "I have also noted that other Western States have expressed deep concerns about the impact this situation is or might be having on their States and the region. We must consider any action we take, not only in terms of California, but also other States in the region."

Many of California's utilities are near bankruptcy, and out of state power providers are concerned that funds will not be available to pay for electricity and natural gas shipped to California. California is exploring other power options, including renewable sources.

"While we do not intend to write legislation for the State, a real solution must address the need for the construction of more electric power generation in California, reform of the flawed state market rules, restoration of the financial health of California utilities and encouragement of greater conservation," Abraham concluded. "If California takes these steps, it is my belief that the current situation will be resolved."

The emergency orders will expire on February 7.

* * *

DETROIT RIVER'S MUD ISLAND ADDED TO WILDLIFE REFUGE

ECORSE, Michigan, January 24, 2001 (ENS) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (UFSWS) has accepted the donation of 18 acre Mud Island, located near Ecorse, by National Steel Corporation.

Acting USFWS director Marshall Jones authorized the potential refuge addition on January 5. The island will become part of the adjacent Wyandotte National Wildlife Refuge, which now totals 304 acres.

William Hartwig, USFWS Great Lakes-Big Rivers regional director, welcomed the addition of the island to the Refuge System.

"As part of the 93 million acre National Wildlife Refuge System, Mud Island and the shallow shoals associated with it will now benefit migratory birds and fish forever," Hartwig said. The island lies within one of the nation's most significant staging areas for diving ducks like canvasback and scaup, he said.

Hartwig lauded the efforts of National Steel Corporation, Michigan Democratic Representative John Dingell, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, American Heritage River Initiative representative John Hartig, and Ecorse city officials for setting up the transfer.

"It helped a great deal to have local support for this transfer," said Hartwig, adding that given the location and resource value of the island "it makes sense to include it as part of the Refuge System."

As part of the National Wildlife Refuge System, Mud Island will be managed to benefit wildlife and provide opportunities for other wildlife dependent uses, such as hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography. Once the transfer is completed, the USFWS also intends to examine lake sturgeon populations in the area.

* * *

VANDENBERG NEEDS BETTER PLAN TO PROTECT PLOVERS

VENTURA, California, January 24, 2001 (ENS) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) says Vandenberg Air Force Base's proposed beach management plan will not protect threatened western snowy plovers.

The Air Force's beach plan would allow twice as much nesting habitat to be open to public recreation than was allowed during the 2000 breeding season, and it would reduce by about 80 percent the time Air Force spends patrolling the beaches.

The USFWS says the current beach management plan, if implemented, would "likely jeopardize the continued existence of the western snowy plover and adversely modify its critical habitat."

"Our recommendations to the Air Force strike a balance that protects this native shorebird while addressing the public's concern for beach access," said Diane Noda, field supervisor of the USFWS Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office.

The agency has issued a draft biological opinion on the plan that proposes alternative methods of managing the base's beaches in ways that do protect the species. Options include reducing the acres of nesting beaches that are open to the public and requiring constant patrols during nesting season by military officers.

People found violating the beach access restrictions would be cited and fined, and plans to manage predators and restore vegetation necessary for the western snowy plover's breeding habitat would be required.

"Beaches and dunes at Vandenberg Air Force Base present one of the greatest opportunities for recovery of the western snowy plover," Noda said. "The plovers need undisturbed areas to breed and forage to have a reasonable chance to recover from their threatened status."

The Base has one of the largest concentrations of breeding western snowy plovers along the western U.S. coast. The population of adult plovers declined from 242 birds in 1991 to 106 birds in 2000.

Biologists have attributed declines to loss of nesting habitat to development, disturbance by humans and dogs, encroachment of European beach grass on nesting grounds and predation.

* * *

AUTOMAKERS SAY CLEAN CARS WILL MAKE DIRTY AIR

SACRAMENTO, California, January 24, 2001 (ENS) - The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, and industry promotions group, has released a study arguing that California regulations mandating zero emissions cars will drive vehicle prices up so high that people will hang on to their older, higher polluting cars.

This unintended result of the mandate, dubbed "The Jalopy Effect," will negate any potential air quality benefits from electric vehicles, as more drivers keep older, higher emission cars on California highways, the Alliance argues.

"Fully half of the cars from the 1987 model year are still on the road," said David Harrison, an economist from the National Economic Research Associates, which conducted the study. "One of the best things Californians can do to improve air quality is to replace these cars with newer vehicles. But the California ZEV mandate, by increasing the prices of new cars, will encourage people to keep the older cars on the road even longer."

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) mandate states that, by 2003, 10 percent of new cars sold in the state must be zero or partial zero emission vehicles. The ARB has estimated that production and sale of those vehicles will cost up to $24,000 more than gasoline powered vehicles.

"The unintended effects of the ZEV mandate can lead to dramatically different results than intended," said Alliance president and CEO Josephine Cooper. "This case shows the need to clarify exactly what is at stake for air quality. Even small actions when taken by many people can have a big effect. If large numbers of Californians delay purchasing a new, cleaner motor vehicle, the adverse impact on emissions will be significant."

But environmental and public interest groups say the Alliance's argument is flawed.

"It's been an argument we've heard for the last decade," said Jason Mark, senior transportation analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists. "Their analysis is premised on the assumption that there's no business case for advanced technology vehicles, but we've seen lots of investors getting interested. Sure, these vehicles will cost money to produce, but companies will recover those costs down the road as the vehicles are commercialized."

According to Roland Hwang, transportation analyst the Natural Resources Defense Council, the ARB estimates that about 5,000 zero emissions vehicles will need to be sold when the program takes effect in 2003, at an estimated additional cost of about $20,000 per vehicle.

If automakers spread those additional costs out over all the vehicles they sell in California, they will add about $60 to the price of each car, Hwang said. If they pass on the costs to consumers nationwide, they will add about $6 to each vehicle's price.

"They first pulled this dirty little trick in 1995," Hwang said. "They were roundly scolded" last year for dragging it out again at a hearing before the California Air Resources Board, he said. "These are specious unfounded attacks that are just business as usual for them - the politics of scare mongering."

* * *

IDAHO WORRIES GRIZZLIES COULD ENDANGER HUNTERS

WASHINGTON, DC, January 24, 2001 (ENS) - Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne and the state of Idaho have filed a lawsuit opposing plans to reintroduce grizzly bears into the Bitterroot Mountains of central Idaho and western Montana.

The suit charges that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS) plan to import grizzlies into the Bitterroot ecosystem would endanger human lives and challenges the state's sovereignty.

"The federal government's grizzly bear program under the Endangered Species Act unconstitutionally imposes obligations on the state's executive branch of government, usurps the State of Idaho's sovereign and traditional right to regulate land use and fish and wildlife within its borders, interferes with the State of Idaho's duty to protect its citizens from physical harm, and compromises the ESA protection currently afforded existing grizzly bears," the complaint reads.

"This is perhaps the first time a federal agency's actions could directly lead to the injury or death of humans," Kempthorne said. "Despite strong opposition from the Idaho Legislature, our Congressional delegation, the Idaho Land Board and hundreds of our citizens, the Interior Department insisted on moving forward with this plan."

The suit asks the court to rule the grizzly bear reintroduction program unconstitutional as a violation of the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The plaintiffs also argue that the environmental impact statement prepared by the USFWS violates the National Environmental Policy Act.

"It is difficult to understand why the government would attempt to force Idahoans to accept potentially dangerous animals when Idahoans clearly do not want them," said state attorney general Al Lance.

The state Fish and Game Commission supports the lawsuit, saying reintroduced grizzlies could threaten the safety of hunters.

Text of the lawsuit is available at: http://www2.state.id.us/gov/govhmpg.htm