AmeriScan: January 15, 2002
SUPREME COURT DECLINES TO HEAR ENDANGERED SPECIES CASE
WASHINGTON, DC, January 15, 2002 (ENS) - The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a case which could have determined how far the U.S. government can go to protect endangered species.
On Monday, the nation's highest court refused to review a case brought by a coalition of California developers who claimed that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) exceeded its authority in listing three tiny crustaceans as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.
The three species - Conservancy fairy shrimp, longhorn fairy shrimp and vernal pool tadpole shrimp - are all found in small, seasonal pools in California's Central Valley and in Oregon.
In the case, Building Industry Association of Superior California v. Norton, 01-620, an association of builders and ranchers from the Central Valley argued that while the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to "regulate commerce . . . among the several states," it does not authorize Congress to regulate non-commercial issues such as endangered species. The lawsuit challenged the constitutionality of the Endangered Species Act, and therefore, the legality of federal protections for the fairy shrimp.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service won the case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and the developers opted to take the case to the Supreme Court.
Noting that the "tiny, fly sized freshwater crustaceans are found only in California," and "have no commercial purpose," the USFWS should not have the legal authority to order protections for the shrimp and their habitat.
People in California "run the risk of violating federal law by simply walking on their land," the developers coalition argued. "Placing a foot in a puddle of water can result in heavy fines or even imprisonment if it harms the small and delicate fairy shrimp."
Defending the government's case, acting solicitor general Paul Clement wrote that, "Individual species are part of an interdependent web. The significance of a particular species cannot always be easily determined at a given point in time."
The Supreme Court's refusal to hear the case marks the fourth time that the high court has deflected cases aimed at weakening or overturning the Endangered Species Act.
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT UPHOLDS NEW SOURCE REVIEW CASES
WASHINGTON, DC, January 15, 2002 (ENS) - The U.S. Department of Justice plans to continue lawsuits brought by the Clinton Administration against power plants and other facilities whose initial exemptions from the Clean Air Act may have been invalidated by upgrades.
The facilities were exempted due to their age at the time that the Act was passed. But under the Act's new source review provisions, facilities which add new capacity or other upgrades must comply with all relevant Clean Air Act regulations.
The Justice Department announced today its conclusion that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) enforcement actions under the new source review are legal and consistent with the Clean Air Act and the Administrative Procedure Act. The Department's Office of Legal Policy conducted the review following a directive by the Vice President's National Energy Policy Development Group last May.
"The Department takes seriously its obligation to enforce the laws protecting our nation's environment," said Attorney General John Ashcroft. "Ensuring cleaner air for the health and well being of all Americans is critically important."
Conservation groups warned that the Justice Department's announcement could be a smokescreen intended to cover up the Bush administration's intention to reverse the new source review rule - a move which could come as early as this Friday.
"This is the most cynical publicity stunt I have ever seen," said National Environmental Trust president Philip Clapp. "Look good one day by announcing you're going to prosecute polluters - and hope nobody notices a few days later when you quietly announce that you're gutting the very rules under which the polluters are being prosecuted."
Senator Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced earlier this month that he will hold hearings on the new source review provisions, and whether the EPA is enforcing them properly.
"The Administration has decided not to derail enforcement actions against big polluters who have abused clean air laws and kept dirty power plants on line, and that is welcome news," said Leahy. "Strong enforcement against polluters is exactly what Americans expect when big energy companies break the law. These cases took nearly a decade to carefully research and develop, and all of that hard work and solid science deserves to be upheld by this new administration."
The Justice Department new source review report is available at: http://www.usdoj.gov/olp
AMAZONIAN DEFORESTATION ACCELERATING, U.S. STUDY FINDS
WASHINGTON, DC, January 15, 2002 (ENS) - Forest destruction in the Brazilian Amazon has accelerated over the last decade, suggests a new study by a team of U.S. and Brazilian scientists.
The team, led by William Laurance of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, analyzed deforestation estimates produced by Brazil's National Space Agency that were based on detailed satellite images of the Amazon since 1978.
Contrary to the claims of the Brazilian government that threats to Amazonian forests have fallen in recent years because of improved environmental laws and public attitudes, the Smithsonian team asserts that rates of deforestation have risen since 1995.
"Forest destruction from 1995 to 2000 averaged almost two million hectares a year," said Laurance. "That's equivalent to seven football field a minute, and it's comparable to the bad old days in the 1970s and 1980s, when forest loss in the Amazon was catastrophic."
The research team's findings are important because the Brazilian government plans to invest over $40 billion in new highways, railroads, hydroelectric reservoirs, power lines and gas lines in the Amazon over the next few years. About 5,000 miles of highways will be paved. The government claims that these projects will have only limited effects on the Amazon.
But the research team disputes these assertions.
"There's no way you can criss-cross the basin with all these giant transportation and energy projects and not have a tremendous impact on the Amazon," Laurance said. "When you build a new road in the frontier, you almost always initiate large scale forest invasions by loggers, hunters, and slash and burn farmers."
Although new environmental laws in Brazil are designed to slow forest loss, the research team claims that most laws are rarely enforced. That, combined with a growing population and expanding logging and mining industries, means that threats to Amazonian forests are growing.
"The scariest thing is that many of the highways and infrastructure projects will penetrate right into the pristine heart of the Amazon," said Laurance. "That could increase forest loss and fragmentation on an unprecedented scale."
The team's findings are described in a paper in the journal "Environmental Conservation."
EPA AND MICHIGAN PROTECT WATER FROM MANURE RUNOFF
LANSING, Michigan, January 15, 2002 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) have agreed on measures to protect public health and waterways from manure and other wastes from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).
"The bottom line is that this agreement will result in an improved environment," said EPA regional administrator Thomas Skinner. "And we reached a good balance between regulatory and voluntary approaches to environmental protection. The plan calls for proactive steps to inspect CAFOs and determine whether they are meeting clean water requirements. At the same time, it addresses concerns expressed by livestock and poultry producers."
Under the plan, MDEQ will work with Michigan citizens to issue a Clean Water Act general permit for CAFOs with 1,000 or more animal units. MDEQ will require facilities to be covered by the permit if they discharge or have discharged wastes to waterways.
Under the Clean Water Act, animal feeding operations are considered to be CAFOs if they have 1,000 or more animal units, which is equivalent to 1,000 beef cattle, 700 dairy cattle, 2,500 hogs, 55,000 turkeys or 30,000 egg laying chickens.
CAFOs that have not had a discharge can elect to participate in the Michigan Environmental Assurance Program or apply for coverage under the general permit by notifying MDEQ.
Like site specific permits, general permits include standards of performance and management practices that protect water quality. They also include monitoring and reporting requirements so that the EPA, MDEQ and citizens know that CAFOs are meeting clean-water standards.
"Michigan has already developed an exemplary voluntary program to control pollution at smaller facilities that are not regulated by the Clean Water Act," Skinner added.
ENVIRONMENTAL CONTRACTOR JAILED FOR FRAUDULENT STORAGE TANK TESTS
GREENVILLE, South Carolina, January 15, 2002 (ENS) - A former environmental contractor will spend 27 months in jail for defrauding owners and operators of underground storage tanks.
James Edward Adams has been sentenced to 27 months in prison and three years of supervisory release for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and related crimes, the Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday.
Adams was the former president and owner of Carolina Upgrading of South Carolina, Inc., a South Carolina environmental contracting business providing testing services for owners and operators of underground storage tanks (USTs). USTs contain petroleum products including gasoline, and UST owners and operators are required by law to have their tanks tested to ensure their systems are not leaking any petroleum into the groundwater or soil.
On August 24, 2001, Adams and the company pled guilty to a 15 count Indictment, which charged that from March 1994 through October 1999, Adams directed employees of his company to provide false UST test reports to owners and operators of UST facilities located in South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Virginia and Tennessee.
Adams and his employees printed false graphs for improper UST tests, or tests that were not performed. Many of the false tests became known as driveway tests, because employees would generate the tests on a computer in their own driveways, without ever testing the UST facilities.
Adams ordered employees to send the false test results and an invoice for payment through the mail to the company's customers.
From 1994 through 1999, over 1500 false tests were performed, for at least 400 customers in six states. UST owners and operators who were defrauded ranged from small commercial gas stations to a state college to a federal courthouse building.
The total fraud suffered by customers of Adams and the company is about $750,000.
Adams was ordered to pay a special assessment of $1,500, but was not fined due to his inability to pay. The company was placed on probation for three years and ordered to pay a special assessment of $6,000.
Mark Scruggs and Chris Fletcher, former employees of the company, pled guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud in April of 2000. Each were sentenced to five months of home confinement.
"These defendants not only violated the law, but also the trust of the underground storage tank owners and operators who, in good faith, sought to ensure that they were in compliance with the law," said Thomas Sansonetti, assistant attorney general at the Department of Justice environment and natural resources division. "Such fraudulent criminal activity could cause major environmental harm, and the Department of Justice will continue to seek out and prosecute these crimes."
NEW JERSEY TACKLES POWER PLANT EMISSIONS
NEWARK, New Jersey, January 15, 2002 (ENS) - A new voluntary agreement in New Jersey will help reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power plants by 15 percent.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and Public Service Enterprise Group Inc. (PSEG) Fossil agreed to cut CO2 emissions at in state fossil fueled power plants. The power company will also give NJDEP a $1.5 million grant to assist in the development of landfill gas projects.
Under the agreement, PSEG Fossil will reduce the aggregate CO2 emissions rate from all coal, natural gas and oil fired power plants it owns or operates in New Jersey from a 1990 baseline of 1,706 pounds per megawatthour to 1,450 pounds per megawatthour by 2005. PSEG Fossil is a subsidiary of PSEG Power, an independent power producer, and an affiliate of Public Service Electric and Gas Company (PSE&G), New Jersey's oldest and largest electric and gas delivery utility.
"This agreement, combined with New Jersey's 15 percent green power electricity purchase, the $358 million societal benefits program, and our Silver and Gold Track Program, will put us well on our way to realistically achieving our greenhouse gas reduction goals and cleaner air for all New Jersey residents,'' said NJDEP commissioner Bob Shinn.
Shinn said the state's 15 percent annual green power purchase of electricity produced by renewable resources delivers 46,000 tons of annual CO2 emissions reductions and is the largest government green power purchase in the country. The $358 million societal benefits program subsidizes the capital costs of energy efficiency and renewable energy technology.
The Silver and Gold Track Program provides permit process incentives for companies that commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions 3.5 percent below their 1990 levels.
PSEG Power president and chief operating officer Frank Cassidy noted that PSE&G was an original signer of NJDEP's April, 2000 Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
"PSEG Fossil's voluntary action we're announcing today reflects ongoing support for NJDEP's leadership in marshalling and coordinating efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," Cassidy said. "We believe the electric power industry must play a role in addressing the problem, locally and nationally."
NORTH CAROLINA PRESERVE PROTECTS ENDANGERED PLANTS
CHARLOTTE, North Carolina, January 15, 2002 (ENS) - Another 239 acres of the Tater Hill Lake Basin in North Carolina have been permanently protected by the Trust for Public Land as part of an ongoing effort to preserve this entire rare highland bog ecosystem.
The lake basin has been a state preservation priority since the 1980's, when it was first threatened with development. The basin lies at the headwaters of the New River in the Amphibolite Mountains, providing unique wetland habitat for two endangered plant species, the long stalked holly and Gray's lily, and two species considered endangered in the state of North Carolina, the linear leaf willow-herb and swamp saxifrage.
The land will be added to an ecological research preserve created last year when the Trust for Public Land (TPL) purchased 158 acres now managed by Appalachian State University.
TPL partnered with the Plant Conservation Program of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to buy the 239 acre tract from the Replogle family. The family has now sold two properties in the Tater Hill Lake Basin to TPL.
"The Plant Conservation Program appreciates the work of TPL and is glad to be a partner on this project to protect these unique plants and their habitat," said Hollis Wild, chair of the Plant Conservation Program Board. The North Carolina Natural Heritage Trust Fund provided funding for the protection of the property.
Studies being conducted at the Tater Hill preserve include: analysis of plant and bird life, research into historic patterns of forestation, and excavation of Native American and early European settlements. A study of the reptile and amphibian populations is also planned, as is a complete survey of the property.
"We were delighted that the Replogle family chose to work with TPL again to protect this unique part of our state's natural heritage," said TPL project manager Maggie Clancy. "We look forward to a long partnership with them as we continue our work in the Amphibolite range."
Tater Hill lies at the southernmost end of the Amphibolite Mountains, which are the focus of a comprehensive conservation effort among the Trust for Public Land, The Nature Conservancy, and local conservation organizations, including the High Country Conservancy. The conservation groups are working to acquire land along the full length of the corridor and create a protected area of several thousand acres.
SYNTHETIC DRILLING LUBRICANTS MUST MEET NEW STANDARDS
HOUSTON, Texas, January 15, 2002 (ENS) - A University of Houston researcher is working with the oil industry and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ensure that synthetic based fluids used to lubricate oil drilling equipment are safe for the environment.
Drilling operators pump a special mixture of materials, called drilling mud, down through the drill pipe to cool and lubricate the rotating pipe and drill bit. The mud carries most of the drilling waste and rock cuttings back up to the surface.
The liquid component of the drilling mud, called the drilling fluid, has traditionally been water based or petroleum based. Since about 1990, however, the oil and gas extraction industry has developed synthetic based drilling fluids that enable faster, more efficient drilling and have less of an environmental impact.
An EPA ruling published in 2001 says that synthetic based drilling fluids (SBF) can be used in drilling operations in the western Gulf of Mexico, if the fluids meet certain guidelines and pass tests indicating they are biodegradable and nontoxic. The guidelines regulate how and how much water based and petroleum based fluids can be discharged into the water, but not synthetic based fluids.
Companies must now apply for updated general permits that incorporate the new SBF regulations.
Deborah Roberts, an environmental microbiologist in the civil and environmental engineering department in UH's Cullen College of Engineering, helped develop the biodegradation test cited in the ruling. The EPA and oil industry representatives from the American Petroleum Institute worked together to develop the regulation.
"The EPA ruling establishes restrictions on the discharge of synthetic-based fluids, or SBFs, into the Gulf in order to reduce the potential for adverse environmental impact, while allowing the industry to continue to benefit from their use," Roberts said. "This test determines whether a particular compound will biodegrade sufficiently in the Gulf. Basically, if the microbes in the Gulf sediments eat it, it's OK to use."
Operators try to reclaim as much drilling fluid as they can off the cuttings when they are returned to the surface, Roberts said, but a small percentage of fluid remains on the cuttings, which are discharged into the sea. The new regulations identify methods to control the discharge of cuttings associated with SBFs.
"If the industry couldn't use ocean disposal of these cuttings, and instead had to transport them back to shore, it would be more expensive to pump the oil," Roberts said.
The EPA estimates that compliance with the rule will result in a reduction of almost seven million pounds of discharged pollutants a year, and a significant savings in operating costs. The EPA's summary on the rule is available at: http://www.epa.gov/ost/guide/sbf/final/finalfact.html
NEW YORK HONORS GREEN COMPANIES
ALBANY, New York, January 15, 2002 (ENS) - Four companies were recognized Monday for their efforts to reduce pollution at its source and promote cleaner air, land and water in New York State.
New York Governor George Pataki announced the recipients of the 2001 Governor's Awards for Pollution Prevention.
"By working with businesses throughout our state to protect public health and our environment, we have made New York a national leader in reducing pollution," Pataki said. "Each year more businesses in New York are recognizing the economic and environmental benefits of reducing pollution at its source."
"These organizations have implemented innovative projects that demonstrate how environmental protection can be incorporated into effective business practices," added Pataki.
The awards recognize pollution prevention projects that exceed regulatory requirements and reduce or eliminate pollution at its source. Applications for the awards are judged by a panel of representatives from the business community, and environmental and government organizations, according to the project's success in reducing toxic or hazardous pollution.
The judges review as the overall environmental record of the applicant, the economic benefits of the project, the extent of employee participation, management commitment and the applicability of the project to others.
Since 1994, the Governor's Awards for Pollution Prevention have been presented to more than 50 organizations. This year, New York honored one small company, two large companies and a university.
G. W!ll!kers, a family owned children's clothing manufacturer, was recognized for developing, testing and installing a system which removes dye from its wastewater discharges. The dissolved air flotation (DAF) system reduced the company's need for chlorine by 3,200 gallons a year, saving the company almost $300,000 a year.
IBM's facility in East Fishkill developed a strategy for minimizing waste, preventing pollution, and conserving water and energy. The projects provided a 63 percent reduction in perchloroethylene emissions; a 20.3 percent reduction in water usage from 1998 to 1999; and a master energy pilot program that is projected to save $1.2 million a year.
The facility's projected annual savings from pollution prevention projects is about $5.5 million.
IBM's Endicott facility was honored for reengineering a manufacturing process to eliminate the use of solvents and caustic chemicals, replacing them with water based processes and eliminating toxic wastes. The company saved $5.7 million a year through the initiatives.
Cornell University, located on the shores of Cayuga Lake, took advantage of this renewable source of cooled water to cool its campus buildings and equipment. The development of the Lake Source Cooling (LSC) project provided an alternative cooling source that allowed the university to phase out chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) refrigerants present in six of eight chillers used in the central cooling system.
This system reduced electric power use by about 87 percent, saving more than 15 million kilowatt-hours of electricity since July 2000.
LAKE POWELL IS SILTING IN
MOAB, Utah, January 15, 2002 (ENS) - Lake Powell Reservoir, the manmade lake created by the Glen Canyon Dam, is filling with sediment, charge Living Rivers and eight other river protection and recreation organizations.
In a letter to the National Park Service (NPS), the groups call for federal action to address the growing problem of river mud, which is interfering with boating activities in the upper reaches of the nation's second largest artificial lake. The Utah Guides & Outfitters Association, a recreational industry trade group, made the same points in a concurring letter.
"This is the beginning of the end for Lake Powell," said John Weisheit, Living Rivers conservation director and a professional river guide with 17 years experience. "People talk about Lake Powell filling with silt sometime in the future, but the future is now."
The sediment buildup threatens the environment and the Colorado Plateau's multimillion dollar recreational river rafting industry, the groups warn. Similar impacts are being felt today in the Grand Canyon far downstream, where in summer 2001 the Pearce's Ferry boat take out was closed due to thick layers of oozing sediment clogging the upper reach of Lake Mead Reservoir.
The groups' letters were sent in response to a NPS redevelopment proposal for Hite Marina, a commercial concession within Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (GCNRA), located in San Juan County, Utah.
The coalition of groups and businesses is asking for the marina project to be put on hold pending a study of sediment caused access problems, not only for boaters on the reservoir but also for rafters using the Colorado River's Cataract Canyon and the lower canyons of the San Juan River. Whitewater trips through both canyons end at Lake Powell Reservoir.
The groups want the Park Service to undertake a comprehensive sediment study prior to investing more public funds on infrastructure that sediment deposition will render useless. They charge that NPS emphasizes reservoir based, flat water recreation to the detriment of other uses of the rivers.
"People have been using these rivers for recreation since the 1920s," said Bob Jones, owner of Tag-A-Long Expeditions, the oldest river outfitting company in Moab. Jones is a member of Utah Guides & Outfitters Association. "Something has to be done about this access problem at Clay Hills, and now I am very worried that my business will be impacted by the problems I see coming for Hite Marina. Our customers come from all over the world, and I sure would hate to disappoint them."