AmeriScan: March 27, 2003

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Iowa to Host World's Largest Wind Farm

DES MOINES, Iowa, March 27, 2003 (ENS) - A electricity company partly owned by billionaire Warren Buffett plans to build the largest wind farm on land anywhere in the world. A site has yet to be selected for the $323 million wind project, but it will be somewhere on the windy expanse of northwest or northcentral Iowa.

If approved by state agencies, the 310 megawatt project would be built by MidAmerican Energy Co. Based in Des Moines, Iowa, MidAmerican Energy is a unit of MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., the majority of which is owned by Buffett's holding company Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

Information from the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratories shows MidAmerican’s new wind project with its 180 to 200 turbines will be the largest land based wind energy installation in the world when it is completed in 2006.

Although wind is an intermittent generation source, MidAmerican said 310 megawatts of wind capacity provides enough electricity on average to power approximately 85,000 homes.

The project is in line with Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack's goal of making Iowa energy independent and a national leader in renewable energy. “I have challenged regulators, business professionals and utility companies in Iowa to work toward achieving 1,000 megawatts of renewable energy by 2010, which will require the addition of more than 500 megawatts of renewable energy facilities,” Vilsack said. “I am pleased that MidAmerican is taking a leadership role in that effort.”

MidAmerican also announced a plan to freeze its Iowa electric rates through 2010, while developing and constructing two other major generation projects already in progress.

When the wind project is complete, MidAmerican Energy will own or have under contract in Iowa more than 435 megawatts of wind, biomass or hydroelectric energy - or 43 percent of Vilsack’s goal of 1,000 megawatts of renewables.

Iowa currently produces more than 400 megawatts of renewable energy, and the governor says Iowa is third in the nation, behind California and Texas, in the production of wind energy.

“Environmentally friendly wind energy is available in abundance in northwest and north-central Iowa,” said Floyd Barwig of the Iowa Energy Center in Ames. “I applaud MidAmerican for tapping into this natural resource and for seeking environmentally sound solutions to our state’s growing energy needs.”

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California Taxpayers Free of Ward Valley Liability

SAN DIEGO, California, March 27, 2003 (ENS) - A San Diego County Superior Court ruled today that California taxpayers are not liable for a waste management company's losses arising from its efforts to build a low-level radioactive waste dump in Ward Valley.

Superior Court Judge Mac Amos, Jr. decided in favor of the state in the case of US Ecology v. State of California. US Ecology sued the State of California for nearly $223 million.

"This is a great victory for the taxpayers of California," said California Governor Gray Davis. "The state argued that taxpayers should not have to guarantee the risks of US Ecology's business strategy. I am grateful the court agreed."

Under then Governor Pete Wilson, the California Department of Health Services (DHS) selected US Ecology to develop a low-level radioactive waste disposal facility and selected Ward Valley as the location.

The federal government owns the Ward Valley site. In 1997, DHS sued the federal Department of Interior asking the court to order that the property be transferred to California. In 1999 the federal court denied the department's request and Governor Davis announced his decision not to appeal.

US Ecology later sued the state of California, arguing that the decision not to appeal violated a promise made by the Department of Health Services that it would use its "best efforts" to acquire the Ward Valley site. US Ecology sought nearly $223 million from California taxpayers for its alleged costs and lost hoped-for profits. Following a three week trial, rejected US Ecology's claim.

Last year Governor Davis signed a law prohibiting the siting of a low-level radioactive waste dump at Ward Valley. The legislation noted that the proposed dump was located 20 miles from the Colorado River, a source of drinking water for millions of Californians in Imperial County, the Coachella Valley and urban southern California.

Ward Valley has been designated a critical habitat for the threatened desert tortoise. The site is also considered sacred by several Native American Indian tribes who held a vigil for months in Ward Valley to block development of the waste dump.

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Solar Solution to Clean Water, Energy Supplies

RALEIGH, North Carolina, March 27, 2003 (ENS) - Duke Solar Energy, the solar branch of energy giant Duke Energy, is collaborating with TopEcology to design, build and distribute advanced solar-thermal desalination and water purification systems. The two companies announced their joint project at the 3rd World Water Forum in Kyoto, Japan last weekend.

Initially, the companies plan to integrate TopEcology's revolutionary Aqua Kids desalination technology and water purification technology with Duke Solar's efficient solar thermal technologies.

"We are very excited about this collaboration," said Kris Fukuda, president of TopEcology International. "Duke Solar's technology will provide us with reliable and renewable heat and power allowing our desalination and clean water technologies to be installed anywhere fresh, safe water is needed."

President and CEO of Duke Solar Energy, John Myles, said the new venture will help assure the supply of sustainable energy and clean water - two critically important global resources.

"We are pleased to be associated with TopEcology and this effort to bring ecologically friendly technologies and much needed clean water and safe power to many regions of the globe," Myles said. "This collaboration will mean improved living standards while reducing ecological impact. This is very exciting news."

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Conservationists, Industry Join to Advance Roadless Rule

WASHINGTON, DC, March 27, 2003 (ENS) - A professionally mediated roadless area conservation dialog among dozens of stakeholders on December 3 and 4, 2002 has resulted in the formation of a working group that aims to advance the protection of roadless areas in U.S. national forests.

The Forest Roads Working Group Tuesday submitted a series of recommendations to the Bush administration for implementing the existing Roadless Area Conservation Rule that affects 58.5 million acres in the national forest system. At the same time, the group proposes, a collaborative process should be established over the next several years to consider whether improvements should be made to the rule and, if so, what should those improvements be.

The recommendations were submitted Tuesday to officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Forest Service.

The members of the Forest Roads Working Group (FRWG) include Wildlife Forever, the Wildlife Management Institute, The Wildlife Society, Trout Unlimited, Izaak Walton League of America, International Paper, the Outdoor Industry Association and the Pinchot Institute for Conservation.

The organizations came together in 2001 as a series of litigants began to challenge the Roadless Area Conservation Rule written during the Clinton administration.

The recommendation states, "The FRWG believes the existing [rule] provides an acceptable basis for national management of [roadless areas], but recognizes there are legitimate questions concerning the rule, and recommends that it be implemented while potential adjustments are considered through a structured process of information gathering and continued multi-stakeholder dialogue.

While working group members have varying views of the Roadless Rule, the coalition grew out of a general agreement that the unsettled nature of the rule could end up threatening the conservation of roadless areas and their unique values. They believe an "acceptable solution can be identified and supported by the diverse array of interested stakeholders."

The Forest Roads Working Group's final recommendations can be obtained through the Meridian Institute's web site at www.merid.org/roadless. The Institute is the professional mediation group that conducted the dialogue.

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Dave Matthews Band Plants Trees to Offset Tour Emissions

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia, March 27, 2003 (ENS) - The Dave Matthews Band, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, will sponsor the planting of some 900 trees next month at the Conservancy's 155 acre Forks of the Rivanna property near the band's hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia.

In an unprecedented move in the entertainment industry, the Dave Matthews Band, as part of the One Sweet Whirled campaign, received the Climate Neutral Network's "Climate Cool" certification for its 2002 national tour.

Now the band is partnering with the Conservancy and others to offset the carbon dioxide emitted from the band's 21 trucks and buses, plane trips, 67 concert venues, and hotel stays during last year's tour. The trees will absorb carbon dioxide from the air, emitting oxygen in the process of photosynthesis, and cutting the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

"We felt that we should take responsibility for the greenhouse gases that we release into the atmosphere as a result of our tour," the band said in a statement. "More importantly, we hope our small step toward combating global warming will encourage others to join in protecting our planet and ourselves against climate change."

The Conservancy acquired Forks of the Rivanna in October 2001 with funds from the Virginia Wetlands Restoration Trust Fund, which is administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. To date, the fund has provided $365,000 toward the project. Ultimately, the tract will be resold to a conservation buyer with an easement limiting future development of the property.

"Native forest restoration can play an important role in helping address global warming because of the capacity of trees to absorb carbon dioxide, a key greenhouse gas," said Tia Nelson, director of The Nature Conservancy's Climate Change Program. "We are thrilled that the Dave Matthews Band has recognized the environmental service that forests play not only in contributing to a solution for global warming, but also in creating valuable habitat that sustains and protects biodiversity."

The band's contribution will help complete a larger restoration project in which the Conservancy is planting native hardwoods to restore streamside forest, forested wetlands and upland buffer areas at the Forks of the Rivanna site which lies at the confluence of the North and South Forks of the Rivanna River.

"The location makes this a strategic project in terms of enhancing water quality in the Rivanna River and conserving habitat along its banks," said Ridge Schuyler, director of the Conservancy's Piedmont Program in Virginia. "The Dave Matthews Band's involvement in this project exemplifies its commitment to our local community as well as the global community."

The Conservancy is seeking another 20 volunteers for a tree-planting workday on April 12 to complete this habitat restoration project. For information on volunteering, contact Scott Boven, the Conservancy's volunteer coordinator, at 434-951-0585 or sboven@tnc.org.

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Sun Wise is Cancer Free, Arizona Children to Learn

PARADISE VALLEY, Arizona, March 27, 2003 (ENS) - EPA Administrator Whitman was in Arizona today shaking hands with Arizona Diamondback pitcher Curt Schilling and his wife Shonda who established the SHADE Foundation to educate children about skin cancer and other health risks from overexposure to the sun.

Whitman and the Schillings joined students at Cherokee Elementary School to announce a new sun safety partnership with the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Living in a sunny state with high incident rates of the deadly skin cancer melanoma, Arizona children must learn the risks and how to protect themselves. To this end the EPA and the Arizona Department of Health Services are teaming up with the SHADE Foundation to integrate melanoma awareness into Arizona classroom curriculum using the EPA's SunWise program.

Whitman said, "Nothing is better than a beautiful day under the broad expanse of a sunny Arizona sky. But with the rising incidence of skin cancer in the United States, we have to be sure we all know how to enjoy those days safely."

SunWise is a national environmental and health education program designed to teach children and their care givers how to protect themselves from overexposure to the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays.

SunWise is a partnership program with schools, which in turn sponsor classroom and community activities that raise children's awareness of stratospheric ozone depletion, UV radiation and simple sun care strategies.

SunWise urges people to check the UV index, wear a hat and tightly woven, loose fitting, full length clothing. People should use SPF 15+ sun screen, use UV blocking sunglasses, and seek shade.

"Melanoma can be prevented. If we can teach responsible sun behavior to children, hopefully they will carry this attitude with them throughout their life and reduce the number of melanoma incidents in the future," said Shonda Schilling, melanoma survivor and founder of the Shade Foundation. "The EPA's SunWise Program is a great way to get our message through to students."

Will Humble, chief of the state health department, said, "Protecting young children from overexposure to the sun can have a tremendous impact on lowering lifetime risk of skin cancer."

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States and is increasing. A person's chance of developing melanoma is directly related to sun exposure before the age of 18. One in five children in the U.S. will develop skin cancer during his or her lifetime, the EPA says.

SunWise Program, visit: http://www.epa.gov/sunwise/html or on the SHADE Foundation, visit: http://www.shadefoundation.org

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Low Cost Loans Fund New York Water Upgrades

ALBANY, New York, March 27, 2003 (ENS) - Nearly $15 million in interest free and low interest loans has been provided to four municipalities around the state for wastewater and drinking water projects, Governor George E. Pataki said today. The financing is provided through the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds.

"New York State is partnering with communities across the state to help ensure that thousands of local families have clean, safe and healthy drinking water to enjoy," said Governor Pataki. "Today's funding announcements are further examples of the state's unwavering commitment to helping local officials find affordable solutions to protecting and enhancing our precious water supplies."

The Drinking Water State Revolving Funds were mandated in 1996 by the $1.75 billion Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act. Since the measure passed, more than $128 million in grants and $885 million in reduced interest rate financing have been awarded for drinking water improvement projects throughout New York state.

The Clean Water State Revolving Fund offers favorable financing for eligible water pollution prevention projects. Communities throughout the state have used a total of $7.9 billion for improvements.

The largest loan approved today goes to Westchester County where $11.3 million will finance upgrades to the Port Chester wastewater treatment plant and an upgraded cover system for the Railroad No.1 landfill.

The Buffalo Sewer Authority will receive $1.92 million to cover improvements to two primary digesters at the Buffalo Sewer Authority's Bird Island Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Two other municipalities - Rotterdam and Aurora - will receive smaller amounts. State Health Commissioner Dr. Antonia Novello said, "Thanks to Governor Pataki's support for critical drinking water projects, New Yorkers will continue to have the safest drinking water in the country."

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New Jersey Man Loses Clam Permit, Boat

TRENTON, New Jersey, March 27, 2003 (ENS) - State fisheries officials have charged an Ocean County man with possession of nearly 700 clams from polluted waters that were likely destined for market.

The Division of Fish and Wildlife of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) immediately suspended the clamming permit of Gary Bankes of Brick Township for one year. The DEP also issued summonses to confiscate Bankes' harvesting gear, his boat and his motor.

"These untreated clams were destined for market, where they would have put the health of unsuspecting consumers at risk," said DEP Commissioner Bradley Campbell. "We will not tolerate the abuse of the depuration program, which allows our baymen to harvest and safely market clams from restricted waters."

Special restricted waters often have high levels of fecal coliform, so clams from these areas must be treated at a depuration plant to remove any bacterial contamination before being sold to the public.

Under a pending law Governor James McGreevey signed on January 27, penalties for improper harvest of shellfish will double or triple, depending on the offense. Because this is Bankes fourth offense, he would be facing a 10 year permit suspension if the law were in effect now.

Bankes harvested hard clams Saturday from special restricted waters in the Manasquan River, selling a portion of his clams to a depuration plant, but keeping the remainder for himself.

When a Fish and Wildlife marine enforcement officer inspect Bankes' boat to make sure he had unloaded his entire harvest, the officer found 697 clams hidden in a cold box and in baskets covered with clothing.