AmeriScan: May 7, 2001


FRONT ROYAL, Virginia, May 7, 2001 (ENS) - Responding to public pressure, Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence Small has dropped plans to close the Smithsonian's Conservation and Research Center, a leader in endangered species research.

Small announced Sunday at a meeting of the Smithsonian's Board of Regents that he has withdrawn his controversial proposal to redirect the Smithsonian's endangered species research from the 3,100 acre complex in Front Royal to the National Zoo in Washington, DC.

"We made this decision because it was clear from the messages we received from individuals and organizations around the country that the proposal was interpreted by many as indicating that the Smithsonian was backing away from its commitment to science in general, and to the biological sciences in particular," Small said in a statement.

"While our intention has been to save the significant cost of managing such a large physical property and reinvest those savings in scientific research, it is now obvious that the message did not come through," Small added. "Rather than continue a controversy that was harmful to the Institution, we decided to withdraw the proposal."

The Conservation and Research Center was instrumental in the captive breeding and reintroduction of endangered black footed ferrets. Other species the Center has aided include cheetahs, green sea turtles, Guam rails and Eld's deer.

Closing the center would have saved the Smithsonian an estimate $2.8 million a year.

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KLAMATH FALLS, Oregon, May 7, 2001 (ENS) - More than 10,000 people rallied in Klamath Falls today to protest the federal government's decision to shut off irrigation water that serves more than 90 percent of the farmers in the area.

Buckets representing each of the 50 states were passed from Veteran's Memorial Park, down Main Street to Modoc Field in Klamath Falls, by veterans, farmers, local citizens and elected officials, where the buckets were emptied into a dry irrigation ditch.

Frontiers of Freedom - People for the USA helped organize and sponsor the bucket brigade to support the farmers and ranchers, whose way of life is threatened by a federal decision based on the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

On April 7, the Bureau of Reclamation decided to allocate almost all the water in the Klamath Basin Project to protect the endangered sucker fish in Upper Klamath Lake, the project's primary reservoir. The water is also being directed to aid threatened coho salmon in the Klamath River, which drains the basin.

Critics of the decision charge that with careful planning, irrigation need not threaten fish.

"There is no reason why we can't protect farmers and fish," said George Landrith, executive director of Frontiers of Freedom. "Yet the Endangered Species Act through its cumbersome command and control mechanisms requires that fish be protected and that farmers and their families be bankrupted. That is simply wrong and we must set things right."

The tri-county Klamath Basin produces $100 million each year in hay, grains and vegetables. Farmers want the government to compensate them for the crop losses they will experience due to a shortage of water. Livestock herds, now being liquidated, are worth another $100 million in replacement costs, farmers say.

"Federal bureaucrats have effectively decided that turning farms and ranches in Southern Oregon into a depression era dust bowl is good for the environment, good for wildlife and fish and good for people. It doesn't take much to see how wrong they are," added Landrith. "It is time to face the truth - the Endangered Species Act does not work and cannot be fixed by adding a few words or moving a couple commas. We must start over and build from scratch a new law that actually protects endangered species and at the same time preserves constitutional rights and the dignity of people."

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CLEVELAND, Tennessee, May 7, 2001 (ENS) - A federal review board has upheld a damages award for a whistleblower from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the nation's only government owned utility.

The review panel from the Department of Labor has ordered TVA to pay Curtis Overall $50,000 in compensatory damages, and cover his court costs, health insurance, medical bills and life insurance. The panel also ordered TVA to give Overall back his supervisory job and compensate him for lost wages.

Overall lost his job in 1995 after he spoke up about safety concerns at the Watts Bar Nuclear Power Plant near Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Overall was the supervisor for the plant's ice condenser system in 1995, when he discovered between 170 and 200 broken screws at the bottom of the melt tank. The condenser system was intended to help contain radioactivity inside the plant during a nuclear accident.

After Overall reported the broken screws, and suggested that the ice condenser system be inspected, he was reassigned to a temporary employee services office. Overall claimed in court that he received threatening phone calls while working at that office.

In September 1996, Overall was laid off. In 1998, a judge ruled in his favor, and Overall was reinstated with back pay. But he left again after claiming that TVA authorities were still discriminating against him. Monday's ruling upholds the judge's 1998 decision.

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CHICAGO, Illinois, May 7, 2001 (ENS) - Toxic chemicals and metals - including seven chemicals included in the dozen now subject to international phaseout under a new United Nations treaty - continue to enter Lake Michigan in dangerous amounts.

A new report, "Reducing Toxic Air Pollution in Lake Michigan," finds that these toxic substances threaten the health of both humans and the ecosystem. The report demonstrates that the atmosphere - through precipitation, gas exchange and airborne particles - is a significant method by which PCBs, mercury, dioxin, pesticides and other air toxics enter the Lake.

Though standards and reduction timelines are in place for other regional air pollution problems such as acid rain, ozone and regional haze, no comprehensive program exists for reducing atmospheric deposition of chemicals to Lake Michigan.

"The science shows that if we do not address air deposition of toxic pollutants, we will not meet our water quality goals for a very long time,'' said Gary Gulezian, director of the Great Lakes Program Office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The report comes one week before nations adopt the world's first global, binding treaty to eliminate a dozen toxic and persistent chemicals known as POPs (persistent organic pollutants). The study released today demonstrates that a number of these chemicals, as well as other pollutants, continue to create human health hazards in the Great Lakes Region.

Fish consumption advisories warn people to limit their intake of Great Lakes fish due to these chemicals.

"We have better source controls, and water quality in the Great Lakes has improved significantly since the 1970s. Still, lake wide contamination problems persist because of the pollution entering the lake from atmospheric deposition," said Tim Brown, codirector of the Delta Institute. "Scientists have been describing this problem in the Great Lakes for some time. Now it's time to do something about it."

The report's recommendations have been adopted by the Lake Michigan Forum, a stakeholders group that provides input into the development and implementation of the Lakewide Management Plan (LaMP) for Lake Michigan - a process required by the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between the United States and Canada.

Dr. Janet Vail, co-chair of the Lake Michigan Forum, said, "This is a very significant study that could lead to immediate action on this issue."

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WASHINGTON, DC, May 7, 2001 (ENS) - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Christie Whitman announced Friday that the agency is giving two refiners greater flexibility on deadlines for producing cleaner, low sulfur gasoline.

Giving these two refiners additional time to reduce the levels of sulfur in gasoline for passenger vehicles will help them meet the deadline to produce low sulfur diesel fuel for heavy duty trucks and buses by June 1, 2006, Whitman said.

The refiners, the National Cooperative Refining Association (NCRA) in Kansas and Wyoming Refining in Wyoming, requested and were granted flexibility under a provision in EPA's Tier 2 program to produce cleaner vehicles and gasoline. The refiners will be subject to temporary, less stringent interim gasoline sulfur limits.

This relief also allows refiners additional time - ranging from two and a half to four years, depending on each refiner's financial hardship - to meet the sulfur standards in gasoline.

"The relief I am granting today will give these refiners the ability to continue providing gasoline to consumers while moving ahead to provide cleaner air for all Americans," said Whitman. "This approach is consistent with our goal to take actions that help businesses reduce harmful air pollution to create a strong, healthy environment."

The cleaner fuels and vehicles program, finalized in December 1999, requires passenger vehicles to be 77 to 95 percent cleaner than those on the road today and reduce the sulfur content of gasoline by up to 90 percent. When the new tailpipe and sulfur standards are implemented, they will produce the clean air equivalent of removing 164 million cars from the road each year.

The Tier 2 program includes a provision for refiners who have difficulty meeting the new 30 parts per million refinery average for sulfur in gasoline. This provision allows refiners to request additional time and flexibility to meet these sulfur standards.

Information on the Tier 2 program is available at:

Information on new sulfur standards for heavy duty diesel trucks and buses is available at:

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WASHINGTON, DC, May 7, 2001 (ENS) - The Department of Energy (DOE) has received 24 proposals for clean coal technology projects, totaling almost $535 million in research dollars.

The projects request $251 million in federal matching funds. The DOE is offering $95 million for a competition, titled the Power Plant Improvement Initiative, aimed at demonstrating technological advances to bolster the reliability of the nation's electric power supply.

This is the first new government competition in more than eight years for clean coal technology projects. Proposed projects would be sited in at least 15 states.

"The private sector's response to this initial program is a strong sign that President Bush's commitment to clean coal technology is well founded," said Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham. "This country will have a much stronger, more reliable electric industry if we keep coal in the power mix. New technology is the way to do that, and these proposals tell us that the power industry agrees."

In its recent budget, the administration proposed increasing funding for clean coal technology projects. The Energy Department is requesting $150 million for what Secretary Abraham has called a "down payment" on President George W. Bush's pledge to invest $2 billion in clean coal power generation over the next 10 years.

U.S. consumers obtain more than half their electricity from coal. Many of the nation's 450 coal fired power plants could generate more power by installing new technologies developed in recent years, such as better burners or new computerized control systems. Others could avoid premature shutdowns by installing more effective or lower cost pollution control technologies.

The new program is intended to share the risks of these unproven technologies with the expectation that the demonstrations will encourage other power companies to use the new technologies.

More information is available at:

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WASHINGTON, DC, May 7, 2001 (ENS) - The Department of Energy (DOE) has released four documents related to its ongoing work and study of Yucca Mountain, Nevada as a possible site for a long term nuclear waste and materials repository.

The documents released include:

The Yucca Mountain Science and Engineering Report that provides a summary of scientific and other technical information developed by DOE over the last 20 years in its study of Yucca Mountain, Nevada. The department is accepting public comments on this material.

Supplement to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for a Geologic Repository for the Disposal of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste at Yucca Mountain, Nye County, Nevada. The supplement provides the most recent information on the repository design evolution and the potential environmental impacts associated with this updated design information.

The department announced that is it opening a 45 day comment period on the supplement to the draft EIS, and will hold three public hearings in Nevada. The original draft EIS was issued in August of 1999.

The 2000 Total Systems Life-Cycle Cost Report of the Civilian Radioactive Waste Program, which estimates the total amount of dollars required for project completion.

The 2000 Fee Adequacy Report Assessment, which determines whether the fee charged to nuclear power plants for waste storage is sufficient to cover the total cost of the project.

All the reports can be used by the public as reference materials in providing comments on the technical information and data underlying the consideration of a possible recommendation of the Yucca Mountain site as a long term nuclear repository.

Copies of the documents are available at:

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WASHINGTON, DC, May 7, 2001 (ENS) - A new website from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will share the latest science and news about the ozone layer as it becomes available.

The ozone website will provide a concise look into the science of ozone, current and historical ozone monitoring products, NOAA's efforts in ozone monitoring and research, and answers to frequently asked questions about ozone.

During the "Antarctic ozone hole season," which occurs in September and October, the site will provide up to date information on the ozone hole, and how it compares to those of previous years.

In the stratosphere, the region of the Earth's atmosphere from six to 30 miles (10 to 50 kilometers) above the surface, ozone plays a vital role in absorbing harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun. NOAA uses satellites, balloons and ground-based equipment to monitor stratospheric ozone, as well as the chemical compounds and atmospheric conditions that affect its concentration.

NOAA monitors and researches ozone and the processes that affect its concentration in the stratosphere.

The new website is expected to provide a service to scientists, the media and the general public. To visit the site, go to:

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PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island, May 7, 2001 (ENS) - The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, in partnership with the Audubon Society of Rhode Island, has produced paper placemats to help educate the public about watersheds and their importance.

The placemats are available at no charge to local restaurants, community groups, watershed organizations and others who wish to use them for educational purposes.

The placemats are double sided. One side contains a colorful map of Rhode Island's 26 major watersheds, a watershed diagram and a list of steps people can take to protect watersheds. The other side has games and coloring activities for children.

The first printing of 15,000 watershed placemats, available now, has been sponsored by the Department of Environmental Management. The department is seeking sponsor support for future printings.

Sponsored placemats can be customized to include the name of the sponsor and to highlight a particular watershed. To receive some of the current placemats, or for information about sponsoring a future printing, email Gregg Cassidy at DEM's Sustainable Watersheds Office,