AmeriScan: January 11, 2002

BROWNFIELDS REFORM BILL SIGNED BY PRESIDENT BUSH

WASHINGTON, DC, January 11, 2002 (ENS) - A bill to reform the laws governing redevelopment of brownfields was signed Thursday by President George W. Bush.

The Brownfields Reform and Small Business Liability Relief Act is intended to encourage the cleanup and redevelopment of lightly contaminated old industrial properties known as brownfields. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that between 500,000 and one million brownfields lie abandoned in communities across America.

The new law reforms one of the major hindrances to brownfields cleanup - the federal Superfund law. The bill provides liability protection for prospective purchasers, contiguous property owners, and innocent landowners, and authorizes increased funding for state and local programs that assess and clean up brownfields.

"Revitalization of brownfields and new investment in our cities is essential," said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman. "Returning abandoned industrial sites to productive use can create jobs in areas where they are very much needed and also will improve the tax base of many communities."

The legislation also provides relief from Superfund liability for small business owners who sent waste or trash to waste sites, protecting small businesses while ensuring that polluted sites continue to be cleaned up by those most responsible for the contamination.

Bush chose to sign the brownfields bill at the Millennium office complex in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, the 1000th brownfield site to be cleaned up through Pennsylvania's Land Recycling Program.

"A hundred years ago, Pennsylvania led the industrial revolution in America," said Pennsylvania Governor Mark Schweiker. "But we paid a price for that leadership - hundreds of abandoned industrial sites."

"The site where we meet today, the Millennium complex, was used for steel and plastics from 1906 until its abandonment. But today it is transforming," Schweiker added. "Where there were broken down buildings, there will be bike paths and boathouses. Where there was an empty shell, there will be high-tech office space. Where once there was waste and runoff, there will be opportunity and growth."

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FRESH WATER TO BE RESERVED FOR FLORIDA EVERGLADES

WASHINGTON, DC, January 11, 2002 (ENS) - President George W. Bush and his brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, have signed an agreement aimed at ensuring that a planned $7.8 billion restoration of the Florida Everglades reserves fresh water for the nation's premiere wetlands.

"The Everglades and the entire south Florida ecosystem are a unique national treasure," said President Bush. "The restoration of this ecosystem is a priority for my Administration, as well as for Governor Bush. Today we are very pleased to solidify our commitment and full partnership in this unprecedented endeavor by signing a joint agreement to ensure that adequate water supplies will be available to benefit state and federally owned natural resources."

The agreement reserves water for restoration projects at Everglades National Park, the Big Cypress National Preserve, and other natural areas owned by the state and federal government.

"This is an important project," said Governor Bush. "It will show that what was harmed by man can be restored by man."

On January 16, Interior Secretary Gale Norton will convene a meeting in Plantation, Florida of the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force including representatives from federal, state, regional, local and tribal governments about how to implement the Everglades restoration plan.

Conservation groups warn that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed implementation rules fudge what the actual goals will be for measuring the project's success, fail to set timetables for those goals and do not specify the amount of water dedicated to Everglades restoration.

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SMUGGLED CFCS CONVICT FLORIDA MAN

FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida, January 11, 2002 (ENS) - A Florida man faces a fine and possible jail time for smuggling ozone depleting chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) refrigerant into the United States.

Clifford Windsor of Fort Lauderdale, pleaded guilty on December 19 to violating the Clean Air Act by illegally importing about 300 cylinders of R-12, a CFC refrigerant. Some of the cylinders were then sold to businesses.

When sentenced, Windsor faces a maximum sentence of up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000. The case was investigated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Criminal Investigation Division, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Customs Service and the Ft. Lauderdale Police Department.

R-12 was used in air conditioners in automobiles manufactured before 1994. The importation of R-12 has been restricted under the Montreal Protocol because its release into the atmosphere depletes the earth's ozone layer, which protects humans and animals from the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation such as cataracts and skin cancer.

The nonprofit Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) says that the multimillion dollar illegal market in CFCs is not limited to industrialized nations like the United States, but is also growing in developing nations. The illegal trade in ozone depleting substances is estimated at 20,000 tons a year, the EIA says.

The illegal chlorofluorocarbons and other gases are cheaper than newer, safer gases. Refrigerant producers in some nations say the problem is made worse because they have not been able to acquire technology developed in the West for producing cleaner gases.

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THREATENED SALMON LISTING CHALLENGED IN COURT

BELLEVUE, Washington, January 11, 2002 (ENS) - The Pacific Legal Foundation has filed a lawsuit aiming to overturn the Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing of the Southern Oregon/Northern California coho salmon.

The threatened listing for the coho living in the Klamath River was a factor in the government's decision to shut down water deliveries to farmers in the Klamath Basin in the spring of 2001.

"The [National Marine] Fisheries Service is guilty of using junk science to advance a political agenda," said Russ Brooks of the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), a property and individual rights group which has led previous challenges to ESA protections for threatened and endangered species.

"Our rivers and streams are teeming with salmon, yet farmers have been pushed into bankruptcy, businesses are closing, and a way of life is being destroyed while government officials explain away listing fish that really aren't endangered at all,'' added Brooks.

The lawsuit announced Thursday, Oregon Grange v. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), marks the second time that PLF has challenged salmon listings brought under the ESA. In September 2001, PLF won a victory in Alsea Valley Alliance v. Daley, which challenged the Oregon Coast coho listing.

In that case, a federal judge ruled that hatchery spawned salmon are biologically indistinguishable from wild spawned salmon, and called the listing of Oregon Coast coho "arbitrary." Judge Michael Hogan ruled that the government had created the unusual circumstance of two genetically identical coho salmon swimming side by side in the same stream, while one receives ESA protection and the other does not.

The Alsea case is the basis for the new case that will be filed next week in Oregon federal court. PLF sent a 60 day notice of intent to sue to the Secretary of Commerce and NFMS in mid-November.

"We are within days of fulfilling the 60 day notice requirement," said Brooks. "Unless the government takes immediate action to remove the fish from protected status - and we have no indication that they will - PLF will be banging on the courthouse door to challenge this listing. It is time to end the nonsense and return some common sense to species listings."

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REPRESENTATIVE JAMES HANSEN WILL NOT SEEK NEW TERM

WASHINGTON, DC, January 11, 2002 (ENS) - Representative James Hansen, a Utah Republican with a long history of opposing environmental protections, has announced he will not seek another term in office.

"At the conclusion of this term, I will have served in the United States House of Representatives for 22 years," Hansen said in a surprise announcement on Tuesday. "After a lot of thought, I feel it is time to move on, and I will not stand for election in 2002."

Hansen

Representative James Hansen (Photo courtesy House Resources Committee)
Hansen vowed to "give my all and not let up" in his final term in office. "I feel we can accomplish many good things for Utah and America during this last year of service," he said.

Representative Hansen is the chair of the powerful House Resources Committee, which helps control whether environmentally related legislation reaches the House floor. On his website, Hansen takes credit for promoting "environmentally sound multiple use of public lands," and for preventing former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt from re-inventorying Bureau of Land Management properties in Utah.

Hansen opposed President Bill Clinton's attempts to protect some 58.5 million acres of national forest lands from roadbuilding and logging. He sponsored comprehensive energy legislation that called for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and other sensitive public lands that are now off limits to oil and gas development.

Hansen led a Congressional probe of the 19 new national monuments and monument expansions enacted during the Clinton administration, and sponsored a bill to require state input and congressional authorization in the creation of national monuments of 50,000 acres or larger.

As a state legislator, Hansen positioned himself as an environmentalist, sponsoring a glass bottle recycling bill and other green legislation. As a U.S. Representative in 1984, Hansen backed the Utah Forest Service Wilderness bill, the state's largest wilderness protection measure, which set aside for permanent protection more than 700,000 acres of national forest lands.

It was the last major pro-environment bill backed by Hansen. In the 106th Congress, Hansen earned a 10 percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters, indicating that he voted for the environment on just one of every ten major environmental issues before the U.S. House.

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EL NIŅO COULD HIT THIS SPRING

WASHINGTON, DC, January 11, 2002 (ENS) - Warming trends in the Pacific Ocean could lead to the development of an El Niņo weather system over the next few months, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said Wednesday.

NOAA's Climate Prediction Center officially announced that warming is being observed over the tropical Pacific, which could lead to an El Niņo by early spring. The U.S. is not expected to see its potential impacts until late summer, through the fall and into next winter.

NOAA cautions the public that it is too early to predict the magnitude of the potential 2002 El Niņo, or how long it would last.

"The magnitude of an El Niņo determines the severity of its impacts," said Vernon Kousky, NOAA climate specialist. "At this point, it is too early to predict if this El Niņo might develop along the same lines as the 1997-98 episode, or be weaker."

The announcement was supported by enhanced cloudiness and precipitation occurring over the equatorial central Pacific for the first time since the 1997-98 El Niņo episode. Indications for a warm episode, or El Niņo, in the tropical Pacific was first noted in August 2001.

"Considering the observed oceanic and atmospheric circulation patterns and their recent evolution, it seems most likely that warm episode conditions will develop in the tropical Pacific over the next 3-6 months," said Kousky.

The last El Niņo took place in 1997-1998 and was very severe. In the U.S. it was marked by such conditions as flooding rains in California and along the Gulf Coast. NOAA's long range prediction of this El Niņo led California to conduct major mitigation efforts leading to the reduction in losses of about $1 billion.

El Niņo episodes generally occur every two to seven years and can last up to 12 months. More information is available from NOAA's Climate Prediction Center at: http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/

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GROUPS CHALLENGE MAKAH WHALE HUNT

SEATTLE, Washington, January 11, 2002 (ENS) - Conservation groups have filed a second legal challenge in U.S. District Court over the killing of gray whales by the Makah tribe off the coast of Washington.

Despite a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that the previous environmental study authorizing the whale hunt violated federal law, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) have expanded the hunt by now allowing hunting close to shore and any time during the year, the groups charge. The changes make it more likely that summer resident whales could be killed, and increase the threat to human safety, the groups say.

The Makah have requested $1.9 million from the federal government to continue their whaling activities.

The plaintiffs - The Fund for Animals, The Humane Society of the United States and others - argue that the agencies have violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to adequately study the ways in which the Makah whale hunt could harm the environment. The plaintiffs also argue that the agencies' authorization of the whale hunt violates the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which bars whaling, by creating an exemption for Alaskan tribes but not for the Makah.

"Whaling may have been a tradition in the past, but there is nothing traditional about cruelly shooting these majestic creatures with high powered rifles," said Michael Markarian, executive vice president of The Fund for Animals. "The government has ignored hundreds of public comments opposing the whale hunt, has thumbed its nose at the court by ignoring its instructions to produce an unbiased study, and is fleecing American taxpayers to promote whaling."

According to Dr. Naomi Rose, marine mammal scientist for The Humane Society of the United States, "The government is not applying good science when it dismisses the importance of the summer resident whales to the Puget Sound ecosystem. Resident whales may be genetically distinct, and may play a vital role in the local ecology of the region."

The plaintiffs are represented by the public interest law firm Meyer & Glitzenstein.

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NAVY BASE FINED FOR HAZ WASTE VIOLATIONS

APRA HARBOR, Guam, January 11, 2002 (ENS) - The U.S. Navy Public Works Center in Guam has agreed to pay $42,000 and perform two environmental projects worth $380,000 for alleged violations of hazardous waste regulations.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cited the Navy's PWC facility in Apra Harbor for four violations of Guam's hazardous waste regulations. The EPA cited the PWC for failing to comply with the hazardous waste generator requirements, failing to store hazardous waste under a covered structure, failing to make hazardous waste determinations, and failing to amend training and contingency plans.

Under the settlement, the Navy will spend $136,000 to purchase a rescue truck and an incident command response vehicle. The rescue truck will be outfitted with equipment to support hazardous material spill response team personnel.

Another $244,000 will be set aside for an improved hazardous waste minimization system and include training, software and equipment. The money will pay for a computerized hazardous substance management system, new laboratory equipment, a graphite furnace unit with associated support equipment, and two storage lockers.

"The Navy's Guam Public Works Center fully cooperated and responded quickly to EPA's facility inspection," said Jeff Scott, the EPA's Pacific Southwest director for waste management programs. "Furthermore, the environmental projects agreed upon by the facility in this settlement are intended to help protect public health and the environment in Guam."

The PWC manages recyclable and hazardous materials from shops operated by the PWC and naval ships that dock on Guam. The PWC determines which materials can be reused and which must be handled as hazardous waste.

During the EPA hazardous waste compliance inspection in September 2000, inspectors found the facility had a backlog of materials to be processed as useable or waste. The facility reported this backlog occurred when it received an unexpected large amount of materials from U.S. Navy ships.

The naval fleet would normally have off loaded its hazardous materials at a facility in the Middle East, but was called to the western Pacific when East Timor declared independence. This event, coinciding with a change of the contractor managing the PWC facility, caused a delay in processing these materials.

The hazardous wastes included paints, adhesives, paint thinners, insecticides, solvents, batteries, rust removers, coatings, sealants, disinfectant and cleaner wastes.

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NATURE CONSERVANCY BUYS 6,275 ACRES IN MICHIGAN

HOUGHTON, Michigan, January 11, 2002 (ENS) - The Nature Conservancy plans to purchase 6,275 acres of International Paper land in Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula for $12 million.

The agreement aims to conserve the forested character of the land and protect important recreational and ecological resources, including 6.5 miles of Lake Superior shoreline, 4.8 miles of inland lake shoreline and 3.5 miles of Montreal River shoreline.

"Throughout International Paper's 100 plus years of forest stewardship, we've demonstrated time and again that our economic goals and the conservation of natural resources are not mutually exclusive," said Dave Lieser, the timber giant's region manager of the Northern Operations for Forest Resources. "This land sale to The Nature Conservancy provides yet another example of how economic and resource conservation goals converge to benefit the public, the environment and our company."

The land sale, which also includes sand and gravel rights, is structured as a two part transaction that matches purchase closing dates with available TNC Trust Fund dollars. The first part of the sale totaling 4,069 acres for $5.72 million closed on January 2. The second part of the transaction totaling 2,206 acres for $6.33 million will close in December 2002.

"Everyone is coming out of this deal with a smile," said Tina Hall, conservation director of the Upper Peninsula for The Nature Conservancy - Michigan Chapter. "The true beneficiaries are Michigan residents who will be able to experience this great land firsthand. We're extraordinarily proud and thrilled to help conserve one of the last great places in Michigan for future generations."

International Paper will negotiate with the state of Michigan on the potential sale of mineral rights on these lands to the state. Through the Sustainable Forestry Initiative program, the company will continue to own and manage some 109,000 acres of forestland above the Portage Canal in the Keweenaw Peninsula.

International Paper is the largest private landowner in the U.S. with more than 11 million acres of forestland and the world's largest seedling grower, producing more than 500 million seedlings each year. The company says it uses no wood from endangered old growth forests, and all of the company's U.S. forestlands are third party certified under the Sustainable Forestry Initiative program.

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PARK VISITORS CAN FIND INFORMATION ON ALTERNATE SITES

WASHINGTON, DC, January 11, 2002 (ENS) - The National Parks Conservation Association offers an alternative source on information on national parks that can help fill the void left by the temporarily shut down National Park Service site.

A recent court order shut down the National Park Service website, blocking park visitor access to information on vacations and other park subjects. On December 5, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth ruled that the Interior Department's (DOI) computer systems left Indian trust accounts, which include about $3 billion in assets, vulnerable to outside interference.

Lamberth ordered the DOI and its agencies to remove all its systems with any links to Indian trust data from the Internet, until the agency can demonstrate that the systems meet appropriate security standards. The agency is now reviewing all its information systems, but for the time being, many functions - including national parks visitor information, are unavailable.

But another planning guide for national park trips can be found at: http://www.eparks.org, the award winning website of the National Parks Conservation Association. The EPARKS destination finder allows visitors to explore individual parks or to type in a set of preferences that EPARKS will match to specific parks.

For example, a visitor can indicate that he or she wants to visit a desert park in the Southwest that features caves and bats, and the destination finder will provide a list of such parks along with details on the difficulty of individual trails and items needed for trips.

To get to the destination finder from the opening page, click the "Explore the Parks" button and then click "Take a Virtual Visit."

EPARKS also offers an array of other park information, from profiles of wildlife species to a park planning mini-site to information on issues involving national parks.

"The Park Service site is down, but park enthusiasts don't have to do without when it comes to park information," Marie Jorgensen, NPCA Web director. "EPARKS should fill all their needs."

Other online options include outdoor equipment vendor LL Bean, which has parks information at: http://www.llbean.com - click on "explore the outdoors," and type "national parks" in the search field. Online travel giant GORP (Great Outdoor Recreation Pages) has information on national parks at: http://www.gorp.com