AmeriScan: June 30, 2003

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Lawsuit Filed Against Bush Forest Rules

MONTGOMERY, Alabama, June 30, 2003 (ENS) - Eighteen environmental and conservation organizations from across the country filed suit today against regulations issued by the U.S. Forest Service earlier this month as parts of the Bush administration's Healthy Forests Initiative. The suit was filed in U.S. District for the Middle District of Alabama Northern Division.

The initiative unveiled in August 2002 would abolish the National Environmental Policy Act requirements on fuel reduction and forest health projects and make permanent changes in forest regulations to abolish citizen input, the suit claims. The program would be paid for through increased logging.

On June 4 the administration issued new regulations that changed 1993 regulations that implement the Appeals Reform Act. The appeal regulations apply to all types of land management activities, mining, grazing, recreational and logging activities covered by the Healthy Forests Initiative.

The 1993 regulations allowed citizens to appeal all types of timber sales, including those that were categorically excluded from National Environmental Policy Act documentation requirements.

The new regulations exempt all categorically excluded projects from appeal.

A second rule change was issued June 5 to increase the use of categorical exclusions on national forest lands for hazardous fuels, or logging, projects.

Categorical exclusion is legally defined as a category of action which does not have a significant effect on the human environment and which has been found to have no such effect in procedures adopted by a federal agency in implementation of these regulations.

For these activities, no environmental assessment or environmental impact statement is required.

According to the new rule, categorical exclusion can be used for logging areas up to 1,000 acres in size and for prescribed burning projects up to 4,500 acres.

In the late 1980s, the Forest Service limited the size of categorically excluded timber sales to 10 acres.

These directives, the lawsuit says, open the door for an irresponsible logging program that would ignore environmental impacts and public opposition to harmful projects.

The lawsuit is also designed deal with later claims over two other sets of regulations the administration will issue in coming months.

The first is another set of categorical exclusion rules to eliminate environmental review for all green tree timber sales of up to 50 acres and all salvage sales up to 250 acres.

The second set of rules gets rid of the use of science and completely guts the wildlife protections in the planning process that develops the management plans for all the National Forests, the 18 organizations say in their lawsuit.

"The Bush administration is trying to use people's fear of forest fires to gut environmental laws and eliminate public participation in the management of the public's lands," said Ray Vaughan, executive director of WildLaw and lead attorney for all the organizations filing the case.

"The administration knows that there are legal and scientifically sound ways to reduce fire hazards and to improve the health of our forests," said Vaughan.

"But instead, they want to use the situation to scare and scam people into letting the large, healthy and fire resistant trees be logged without laws or good science, all to benefit a handful of multinational corporate special interests."

A copy of the complaint is available at: http://www.wildlaw.org/HFIComplaint-FinalDraft.doc.

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Energy Facts Contradict Bush Global Warming Plan

WASHINGTON, DC, June 30, 2003 (ENS) – A new study of data released by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) indicates that President Bush's global warming plan will allow more greenhouse gas pollution to occur at a faster rate than if the nation maintained the pollution trends of the past five years.

The National Wildlife Federation analysis, “Beneath the Hot Air 2003,” says that the administration’s goals are stated in terms of emissions intensity – measured as the amount of U.S. greenhouse gases emitted per dollar of economic output – and not in terms of actual emissions levels.

“This ‘intensity’ goal actually hides an emissions increase that is likely to be larger and faster than what we experienced in the past five years,” the report says. “Based on the White House’s predictions of economic growth, the President’s target translates into an emissions increase of 13 percent over the next decade.”

If current trends were to continue for the next 10 years, the report says, carbon dioxide emissions from energy would grow about 10.1 percent.

"The pollution increases we have seen for the past five years were bad enough for the environment, but the White House's global warming plan would allow more pollution to occur at an even faster rate," said Jeremy Symons, climate change and wildlife manager for the National Wildlife Federation.

"Suppressing the science on global warming doesn't hide the fact that the President's misguided energy agenda and his efforts to relax enforcement of the Clean Air Act will increase global warming pollution," Symons said.

The National Wildlife Federation released its first edition of “Beneath the Hot Air” last July to document that emissions growth had already slowed below forecasted levels well before President George W. Bush pursued voluntary agreements with industry.

"The administration has set the bar so low that it's impossible not to meet their goals," said Symons. "That may not stop them from trying to claim credit in the future, even though they are not taking responsible action to reduce the nation's emissions."

The United States Senate is expected to vote in July on a alternate bipartisan plan introduced by Senators Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat, and John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, to reduce U.S. emissions.

Read the document “Beneath the Hot Air” at: http://www.nwf.org/nwfwebadmin/binaryVault/Beneathhotair200311.pdf.

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Wildfires Heating Up; Red Cross Funds Dwindling

WASHINGTON, DC, June 30, 2003 (ENS) – Fires in Arizona, New Mexico and Alaska continued burning, while more fires erupted in California and Oregon. Meanwhile, the American Red Cross announced that enough funds have been raised to provide relief for the victims of the Arizona wildfires, but relief funding to assist victims of the other fires has not yet been secured.

More than 4,000 acres burned over the weekend in several fires around the state of Oregon, driven by hot conditions and a dry, dusty wind.

And more than 2,500 residents were evacuated from homes near Tejon, California, as more than 750 structures were threatened by the wind driven flames.

The Red Cross estimates that providing disaster assistance for wildfire victims so far will cost between $80,000 and $90,000. To date, the Red Cross has received $77,000 in gifts and pledges. These funds, plus monies from other pledges, contributions and special campaigns, should be enough to meet the costs of responding to the wildfires.

But the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund has a cash balance of only $3.6 million, a low level heading into fire and hurricane seasons. One storm or wildfire could wipe out the balance completely, officials say.

"It's crucial that the Red Cross has the funds to respond immediately with lifesaving relief whenever and wherever these disasters may strike," said Terry Sicilia, executive vice president of American Red Cross Disaster Services.

"We can only do that if we have a healthy balance in the Disaster Relief Fund, and so we are appealing to the public to help us by making a financial donation."

A rash of tornadoes in May and several months of low profile yet expensive disasters, including December's Supertyphoon Pongsona, which hit Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands and cost more than $19 million in disaster relief expenses, have left the disaster fund unnaturally low.

Last summer, more than $9 million from the fund was used to help those affected by wildfires in Arizona, Colorado, California and Oregon.

Donations to the Disaster Relief Fund have enabled the Red Cross to provide for the immediate needs of those affected by recent disasters, including wildfires in New Mexico, flash flooding in western Florida, eastern Kentucky and central West Virginia, as well as tornadoes in Nebraska, Minnesota and South Dakota.

The Disaster Relief Fund provides the financial support for more than 67,000 disasters each year, including floods, fires, hurricanes and more.

The fund operates as a revolving account, enabling the Red Cross to respond immediately to disasters and ensuring that victims get comparable assistance regardless of the visibility of the disaster or the ability of the community to support Red Cross efforts.

Find out more about Red Cross disaster relief efforts or how to contribute the Disaster Relief Fund at: http://www.redcross.org.

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Tropical Storm Bill Heads for Gulf

WASHINGTON, DC, June 30, 2003 (ENS) - Gulf Coast residents on the shore and farther inland have been urged to prepare for flooding in association with Tropical Storm Bill. The second storm of the hurricane season is expected to make landfall along the Louisiana coast today.

Forecasters are not sure whether Bill will attain hurricane status, but heavy rains are expected along the coast and perhaps farther inland.

Communities in rain saturated areas of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, along with states east and north to the Appalachians are at risk of severe flooding as remnants of the storm make their way across land.

Residents are urged to prepare for tornadoes, which can be associated with this kind of severe weather.

Local residents are urged to make evacuation plans, update their disaster supplies and take steps to protect their property from wind and rain damage.

"While many people might not consider a tropical storm as serious as a hurricane, the reality is that tropical storms can be destructive and deadly because of heavy rains, flooding and tornadoes," said Terry Sicilia, executive vice president of American Red Cross Disaster Services.

"In fact, on the list of the costliest disasters in Red Cross history,” Sicilia said, "tropical storms make up three of the top 15 disaster relief responses."

Sicilia advised residents in coastal and inland states to remember the lessons learned from Tropical Storm Isidore, which hit the Louisiana coast in October 2002, and Tropical Storm Allison, which struck Houston in 2001.

With winds of 65 miles per hour and more than 20 inches of rain, Tropical Storm Isidore caused widespread destruction along the coast and inland.

Two years ago, record setting rainfall from Tropical Storm Allison flooded more than 40,000 homes and killed more than 40 people during a 12 day rampage through seven states from Texas to New England.

At $31 million, Allison ranks as the eighth most expensive Red Cross disaster response.

Find detailed information on flood, tornado and hurricane preparedness at: http://www.redcross.org or the Red Cross toll free nationwide information hotline at 1-866-GET-INFO.

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Illinois Firm Recalls Beef for E. coli

WASHINGTON, DC, June 30, 2003 (ENS) – A Chicago meat packing company is recalling voluntarily about 739,000 pounds of frozen beef products, mostly vacuum packaged steaks, that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.

The announcement of the recall by Stampede Meat was made Sunday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

The products subject to recall were produced between March 17 and March 22 of this year and bear the establishment code "EST. 19113" inside the USDA mark of inspection.

The products were distributed to restaurants, institutions and retail stores nationwide and through door-to-door sales in the United States and Canada.

The recall was initiated after epidemiological case studies conducted by public health officials concluded the recalled product could be linked to five E. coli O157:H7 illnesses in Minnesota, Kansas and Michigan.

Public health officials from the Food Safety and Inspection Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and several state health departments are continuing to investigate the extent of the outbreak and determine if additional products are linked to illnesses reported.

Anyone concerned about an illness should contact a physician immediately.

E. coli O157:H7 is a potentially deadly bacteria that can cause bloody diarrhea and dehydration. The very young, seniors and persons with compromised immune systems are most susceptible.

Generally, steaks are not considered a high risk source of E. coli O157: H7. The products subject to recall were injected with tenderizers and flavor enhancing solutions, and that process may have transferred the bacteria from the surface to the inside of the product.

Consumers should return the recalled products to the point of purchase and cook similar tenderized products to an internal temperature of 160 degrees as measured with a food thermometer.

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EPA Halts Sales of SARS Pesticide Product

WASHINGTON, DC, June 30, 2003 (ENS) – The products say they protect people from Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), but the U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA) ordered an end to sales of and a voluntary recall of six unregistered pesticide products.

The EPA orders were issued to Phillips Technologies, of Millersville, Maryland, and to SARS Research Labs of Tampa, Florida, for selling the SARS Mask Set, SARS Travel Kit, Silver SARS Mask, Phillips Silver Mask, SARS Electrostatic Mask and Silver.

Each claimed to kill pathogens, bacteria, fungus and viruses, including the SARS virus. According to the website from which these products are offered, SARS Research Labs is an affiliate of Phillips Technologies.

The order goes into effect immediately. The EPA will be monitoring compliance with the orders and the companies' voluntary recall.

In addition, the EPA will continue to examine other advertisements on the Internet to ensure that no unregistered pesticides are illegally sold to the public.

The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act prohibits anyone from selling or distributing unregistered pesticides and authorizes EPA to issue orders stopping the sale of illegal products.

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Orange County Groundwater Storage Pact Signed

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, California, June 30, 2003 (ENS) – Three California water districts signed a 25 year agreement to store nearly 20 billion gallons of water in Orange County’s groundwater basin for use during dry years and emergencies.

Saying that the plan would enhance water quality for southern California, the Orange County Water District, Municipal Water District of Orange County and Metropolitan Water District of Southern California signed the agreement, which also provides for additional protection from seawater intrusion and improved groundwater quality.

“This partnership will help stretch available supplies for 18 million Southern Californians while helping to assure Orange County will have a reliable, high quality water supply for recharging the groundwater basin, which serves 2.3 million people in northern and central Orange County,” said Phillip Pace, director of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Participating cities include Buena Park, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Orange, Santa Ana, Southern California Water Company, Westminster, and Yorba Linda Water District.

Under the program, Metropolitan will store more than 60,000 acre feet of imported water in Orange County’s groundwater basin during wet periods.

An acre foot is nearly 326,000 gallons of water, about what two typical Southern California families use in and around their home in a year.

During dry spells, droughts or emergencies, up to 20,000 acre feet per year will be withdrawn for use.

Eight groundwater extraction wells will be provided to city and local water district participants to ensure that the stored water can be pumped in addition to the existing pumping demand.

The operating cities and water districts will be able to use Metropolitan’s new wells as backups for their existing system. Ownership of these wells will transfer to them when the agreement expires in 25 years.

The $29.8 million groundwater project is being made possible by Metropolitan, which has dedicated to Orange County $15 million of the $45 million in Proposition 13 grant funding that was committed to it by the state for projects in Southern California.

Metropolitan’s board of directors also allocated another $14.8 million to complete the remaining components of the project.

“This groundwater storage program is a major step forward as the agencies begin working more closely together to address the county’s overall water supply and very important infrastructure needs,” said Larry Dick, vice president of Municipal Water District of Orange County.

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Scientists Chart Earthquake Effects on Water Levels

WASHINGTON, DC, June 30, 2003 (ENS) – The relationship between seismic activity and hydrology is not well understood, but scientists are attempting to detail how in November, the magnitude 7.9 Denali earthquake in Alaska was credited with sloshing water in Seattle's Lake Union and as far away as Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans. It was blamed the next day when muddy tap water turned up in Pennsylvania.

David Montgomery, a University of Washington professor of Earth and space sciences, and Michael Manga, associate professor of Earth and planetary science at the University of California, Berkeley, reviewed evidence of changes in stream flow and water levels in wells following earthquakes dating as far back as 1906, when a quake estimated at magnitude 7.7 to 7.9 struck San Francisco.

Montgomery’s specialty is surface hydrology, while Manga is an expert in subsurface and aquifer hydrology.

The scientists found that, generally, an earthquake's effects on water depend on the distance from the epicenter, the magnitude and the geologic conditions at the location where changes to a well or stream are noted.

They found that effects on wells and aquifers were likely to be recorded at much greater distances from an earthquake's epicenter than are changes to stream flow.

"Put the two together and what it says is that the stream flow response is a completely different beast than the water well response," said Montgomery, lead author of a paper documenting the findings. It was published in the June 27 edition of the journal “Science,” a publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Montgomery said the new analysis provides a framework for understanding the broad range of earthquakes' effects on hydrology and should help guide the study of links between seismology and hydrology.

Montgomery and Manga found that a mild, magnitude 3 earthquake could generate effects on subsurface water, such as in wells, as far as about 10 miles from the epicenter.

But effects on well water from a magnitude 9 quake could be observed more than 6,000 miles away, a scenario played out in the 1964 Alaska earthquake that registered 9.2.

"Wells in South Africa, clear on the other side of the world, responded," Montgomery said. "They didn't respond much, mind you, but the observations corresponded with the Alaska earthquake."

When an earthquake occurs, well water levels can change as energy from the quake compresses the rock containing the water, thus forcing water out of its pores.

Similarly, the flow of streams on the surface can increase as the aquifer is compressed, or either liquefies or settles during strong shaking, and water rises to the surface, Montgomery said.

"It's like squeezing a sponge because you're reducing the pore space and the water comes out. It has to go somewhere," he said.

Changes to surface and subsurface water could be related to each other at very close distances from the epicenter, Montgomery said, but even then different processes control them. That becomes more evident by the way they react at greater distances.

"One gives us a window on connections between hydrology, seismology and deformation of the Earth's crust," he said, "and the other gives us a better picture of connections between hydrology, seismology and geology at the surface."

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