AmeriScan: May 8, 2001


WASHINGTON, DC, May 8, 2001 (ENS) - Gasoline prices are likely to reach record highs this summer, and the U.S. should respond by drilling for more oil and building more refineries, the Bush administration said Monday.

The Energy Information Administration issued its short term energy outlook Monday, predicting that average gasoline prices will be higher than the record prices reached last summer. Average prices for regular gasoline are expected to range between $1.50 and $1.75 per gallon this summer, about five percent above the average price last year.

"These findings reaffirm the need to develop additional sources of energy while building and maintaining the necessary infrastructure to move those supplies to the market," said Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham. "The U.S. is far too energy dependent on foreign resources and our refineries are increasingly strained. Until we take steps to address these problems, we will continue to experience volatility in energy markets and higher prices passed on to consumers at the gas pump."

Asked whether President George W. Bush would consider lifting the federal gas tax, which supports transportation projects, in response to high gas prices, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said the President would focus on longer term solutions.

"His focus is on long term solutions, not quick fixes," said Fleischer. "Quick fixes don't work. He wants to have a focus on that which is long term, that will work."

That response will focus on finding new energy sources, rather than conserving energy or raising the corporate average fuel standards for motor vehicles, Fleischer suggested. Asked if the President believes that Americans, who consume more energy per capita than any other nation on earth, should change their lifestyles, Fleischer responded, "That's a big no."

"The President believes that it's an American way of life, and that it should be the goal of policy makers to protect the American way of life," Fleischer added. "We have a bounty of resources in this country. What we need to do is make certain that we're able to get those resources in an efficient way, in a way that also emphasizes protecting the environment and conservation, into the hands of consumers so they can make the choices that they want to make as they live their lives day to day."

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SEATTLE, Washington, May 8, 2001 (ENS) - Documents filed in federal district court show that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that pesticides harm fish, but has failed to take required action.

The documents were presented as part of a motion for summary judgment in an Endangered Species Act lawsuit seeking protections for salmon from pesticides. Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund filed the court documents on behalf of the Washington Toxics Coalition, the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, and the Institute for Fisheries Resources.

The groups unearthed volumes of government documents showing current uses of 48 pesticides could harm salmon.

"EPA says in its own documents that dozens of pesticides used in the Northwest have high potential to harm salmon," said Erika Schreder, staff scientist with Washington Toxics Coalition.

The legal filings show that EPA has determined that current uses for 41 pesticides could result in surface water contamination levels that threaten fish or their habitat. The groups also identified 13 pesticides that the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) determined were present in watersheds used by salmon at concentrations at or above levels set to protect fish and other aquatic life.

Because some pesticides are found on the lists of both agencies, a total of 48 pesticides have concerns that were identified by either EPA or USGS.

"EPA and USGS have already made findings that these pesticides can harm salmon, yet EPA fails entirely to comply with its duty under the Endangered Species Act to protect threatened and endangered runs of salmon from these pesticides," said Patti Goldman of Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund.

The groups sued EPA on January 30 for failure to consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service concerning adverse impacts on listed salmon of pesticides that are registered for use by EPA. The motion for summary judgment, and an information sheet identifying the 48 pesticides and where they are used or detected is available at:

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KWAJALEIN, Marshall Islands, May 8, 2001 (ENS) - Two Greenpeace activists were arrested Monday as they protested U.S. plans to develop a national missile defense program.

Mike Townsley of Scotland and Anne Marie Rasmussen of Denmark were received a one month jail sentence, of which they will serve one week in prison. The activists were arrested after protesting against the U.S. space based defense program, dubbed Star Wars, at the U.S. missile test range in the Marshall Islands.


Greenpeace protested Monday at the Kwajalein Missile Range in the Marshall Islands (Photo © Greenpeace)
"A seven day jail sentence is a ridiculous overreaction to a non-violent protest," said Melanie Duchin, Greenpeace disarmament campaigner on board the Rainbow Warrior in the Marshall Islands. "It's testament to the fact that the Bush administration is not seeking consultation, it wants to quell all public debate and protest against Star Wars, which threatens to ignite a new nuclear arms race."

The Greenpeace flagship MV Rainbow Warrior, flanked by inflatable boats, and carrying a banner saying "Stop Star Wars" traveled to the U.S. Army missile testing range on Kwajalein Atoll in the North Pacific. Townsley and Rasmussen, carrying a banner saying "Just Say No", went onto the base and were arrested at the site of an X-band radar used in Star Wars tests.

The protest coincided with the beginning of a U.S. diplomatic offensive to sell Star Wars to Europe, Japan and Australia. The support of the United Kingdom and Denmark are considered vital if the U.S. is to include their early warning radar in their plans.

A team of U.S. officials, led by Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, visited Japan Monday. A second team led by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley is visiting Europe today, starting at NATO headquarters in Brussels, with a third visit to Australia, lead by Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs James Kelly, scheduled for May 11 to 13.

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CHAPEL HILL, North Carolina, May 8, 2001 (ENS) - Major hurricanes in 1999 caused significant changes in nation's largest lagoonal estuary, Pamlico Sound, new studies show.

In as few as six weeks in late summer and early autumn 1999, three major hurricanes - Dennis, Floyd and Irene - drowned great swaths of eastern North Carolina under more than three feet of rain. Floodwaters at some sites rose more than 20 feet.

Besides their human toll, the storms altered Pamlico Sound, flushing unprecedented amounts of nutrients and sediments into this key Mid-Atlantic fisheries nursery. The runoff sickened and killed countless thousands of fish and shellfish and diluted the shallow waterway's natural saltiness.

The new studies, published as a single paper in the May 8 issue of the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences," showed floodwaters displaced three-fourths of the Sound's volume. Salinity declined by two-thirds, and the sound's annual intake of nitrogen jumped by at least 50 percent.

"Within six weeks, the entire water content of Pamlico Sound was replaced by the flood," said Dr. Hans Paerl, professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Institute of Marine Sciences and lead author of the paper. "Normally, that would take a year because the sound has only four small inlets restricting exchange with the sea."

Freshwater algae and higher organisms that live in freshwater tributaries feeding the Sound were driven down into the sound, helping to create low oxygen conditions. Resident crab, shrimp and fish communities either left the Sound, took up residence near the inlets or, in some cases, just died.

"While extensive low oxygen conditions were documented during fall 1999, we didn't see equivalent low oxygen during the summer of 2000 because that spring and summer were very windy, keeping the waters well mixed," Paerl said. "Those windy periods were kind of a blessing."

But because much of the load of nitrogen and other nutrients washed into the Sound remains, low oxygen could become a problem this summer if winds are low and stagnation occurs, he warned. Over abundant algae and other microorganisms that thrive in nitrogen rich waters can produce low oxygen conditions that suffocate other species.

Climate change could increase the number of hurricanes hitting the Southeast, Paerl said.

"The real question is - if we're going to have 20 or more years of more frequent hurricanes as our meteorologist friends predict - how many times can the system bounce back in the face of high fishing pressure?" wondered Paerl.

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MIAMI, Florida, May 8, 2001 (ENS) - The Ocean Fund of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. has awarded a three year, $450,000 grant to the National Audubon Society, plus grants to seven other marine conservation organizations.

The grants, totaling $770,000, range from $20,000 to $150,000 a year. These funds will underwrite projects related to coral disease research, marine animal rescue, manatee protection and the purchase of land in Alaska.

In the four and one half years since the launch of the Ocean Fund, the cruise company has donated $4.9 million on behalf of Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises to 34 organizations working to protect the marine environment.

The new grant to Audubon supports two programs: Living Oceans, which protects endangered fish populations, and Coastal Islands Sanctuaries, which monitors wading birds and restores habitats in Florida.

The Ocean Fund also continued its support of education programs at Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro, California, and MAST Academy in Miami. New grantees include the Washington based Conservation Fund and four Florida organizations - Florida International University Foundation, Tampa BayWatch, the Ocean Research and Education Foundation, and Mote Marine Laboratory's Tropical Research Center.

"We consider it a privilege to be associated with the outstanding work done by organizations receiving support from the Ocean Fund," said Royal Caribbean chair and CEO Richard Fain. "It is doubly exciting to welcome five new partners. By working together, we can accomplish great things for the marine environment."

Audubon, which received three previous grants for a combined $150,000 from the Ocean Fund, will use the new grant to expand its fisheries program and include the reduction of bycatch of seabirds. One third of Audubon's grant is earmarked for Audubon of Florida and its Coastal Islands Sanctuaries program, which educates the public about protection of bird habitats in the Tampa Bay and Florida Bay estuaries.

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SAN DIEGO, California, May 8, 2001 (ENS) - A new study by scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography shows that ocean whitecaps can influence global temperatures.

Whitecaps, the bright, wind driven result of breaking wave crests, have been ignored by most climate models.

In a paper that appeared in the April 15 edition of "Geophysical Research Letters," Robert Frouin and Sam Iacobellis of Scripps, along with Pierre-Yves Deschamps of the Laboratoire d'Optique Atmosphérique in France, for the first time define the amount whitecaps impact climate by reflecting sunlight, or solar radiation.

The presence of whitecaps results in less radiation reaching the surface of the ocean, changing the way this radiation energy impacts the ocean, the atmosphere and the entire climate system.

"Our estimate of the global radiative forcing by oceanic whitecaps is small, yet not negligible compared with the direct forcing by some greenhouse gases and even anthropogenic aerosols," said Frouin. "In contrast to well mixed greenhouse gases, whitecaps are more localized, and their forcing may be much larger on regional and seasonal scales, with definite effects on climate."

The researchers used satellite data and other measurements to calculate how much solar radiation whitecaps reflect away from the surface. They found a global average of .03 watts per meter squared.

However, in certain regions, such as parts of the Indian Ocean, this average jumped, in some cases up to .7 watts per meter squared.

In the Arabian Sea, for example, cloudless skies and great wind speed boost the impact of whitecaps on climate.

"We've demonstrated that in certain cases these whitecaps might be important players in evaluating how regions respond to climate change," said Iacobellis. "Hopefully we've shown that whitecaps should be included in climate models."

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HAGERSTOWN, Maryland, May 8, 2001 (ENS) - A private utility has partnered with federal agencies to undertake a pilot project to revegetate strip mined land for carbon sequestration and environmental stewardship.

Carbon sequestration is the absorption of carbon dioxide (CO2) by trees and other vegetation as part of the growing process. Sequestration is considered to be one of the more cost effective means of reducing CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere.

Carbon dioxide, a byproduct of fossil fuel combustion, is a greenhouse gas that contributes to global climate change.

Allegheny Energy, Inc., is working with the Department of Energy and the federal Office of Surface Mining on the Limestone Run Revegetation Project.

The project will involve planting more than 7,000 red and white pine seedlings and two acres of native grasses on a 20 acre former strip mine site purchased by Allegheny Energy after it had been mined and reclaimed. Students from the Lenape Technical School in Ford City, Pennsylvania, helped plant the trees during a kick off ceremony today at the site between Cowansville and Adrian, Pennsylvania.

"This is an exciting project with multiple benefits that fits perfectly into our commitment to the environment," said Victoria Schaff, Allegheny Energy's vice president for external affairs, and a member of the company's executive environmental review committee. "In addition to sequestering CO2, it will enhance the environment and provide an opportunity for Allegheny to beneficially use fly ash from our power stations."

As part of the research for the project, Allegheny Energy will mix fly ash from Armstrong Power Station with the revegetated soil to measure its effectiveness in stimulating plant growth. If proven effective, the application of fly ash could increase its marketability so that greater quantities can be used, reducing the amount of fly ash that is deposited in landfills.

"The revegetation of the strip-mined land will add ecological value in our region by helping to control soil erosion, reducing sedimentation and improving water quality in streams that receive soil runoff, and improving the wildlife habitat," Schaff said. "We are excited to be involved in the first project of its kind implemented under a recent agreement between the Department of Energy and the Office of Surface Mining."

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HAMPTON, New Hampshire, May 8, 2001 (ENS) - Wheelabrator Technologies, a developer of commercial waste to energy facilities, is celebrating the conversion of 100 million tons of municipal solid waste into energy since 1975.

Wheelabrator Technologies, a subsidiary of Waste Management Inc., opened the first commercial waste to energy project in Massachusetts in 1975. Wheelabrator now owns and/or operates 16 facilities with a combined daily processing capacity of 24,000 tons of trash and a total electric generating capacity of 670 megawatts - enough electricity to provide the energy needs for 600,000 homes.

As of April 2001, Wheelabrator has processed 100 million tons of waste, saving more than 150 million barrels of oil while producing 50 billion kilowatt hours of electricity. Wheelabrator's waste to energy plants have recovered and recycled more than two million tons of ferrous metals.

Almost 788,000 tons of steel, and 939,000 tons of glass, plastics, white goods, batteries, paper, cardboard, metals, yard waste and ash, are recovered for recycling each year at waste to energy plants. Communities with waste-to-energy plants recycle an average of 33 percent of their trash, Wheelabrator says.

"Wheelabrator reached this goal through the excellence of our people, the ongoing refinement of our technologies and the professionalism of our municipal and commercial partnerships," said Wheelabrator president Richard Felago. "We will continue this insistence on quality and performance in the 21st Century."

By replacing fossil fuels, waste to energy power plants reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.

But critics of municipal waste incinerators say the energy produced by waste to energy incinerators comes at an unacceptable price, a risk to public health. Incinerators do not eliminate waste, but change the form of waste into hazardous air emissions and toxic ash, says Zero Waste America (ZWA), a national nonprofit organization that promotes 100 percent recycling.

The waste incinerators convert 30 percent of the waste burned into toxic ash, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency allows to be used as daily landfill cover, says ZWA. And they are a major source of 210 different dioxin compounds, plus mercury, cadmium, nitrous oxide, hydrogen chloride, sulfuric acid, fluorides, and particulate matter small enough to lodge permanently in the lungs, the organization charges.

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AUSTIN, Texas, May 8, 2001 (ENS) - The Trust for Public Land and Travis County, Texas, have added 581 acres to the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, home to the endangered golden cheeked warbler and black-capped vireo.

The Trust for Public Land purchased the land and conveyed it to the Travis County Transportation and Natural Resources Department to ensure its permanent protection. The property was bought with a total of more than $5.5 million, three-quarters of which came from federal grants including the Habitat Conservation Plan land acquisition grants.

These grants were awarded by the Department of Interior, with support from Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and Representative Lloyd Doggett as well as others from the Texas congressional delegation.

"The Balcones Preserve protects not just endangered Texas wildlife and plants, but also the beauty that is our state," said Senator Hutchison, a Republican.

Representative Doggett, a Democrat who champions the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, worked with the Travis County congressional delegation to lobby for federal funding.

"This federal support demonstrates confidence in our local conservation efforts," Doggett said. "In Travis County we have a model of how private, public and non-profit groups can work together to preserve vital green spaces and protect endangered species while offering reasonable compensation to property owners whose land contains habitat."

The balance of the funds were provided by Travis County, which is the steward of the Grandview Hills tract. The County is one of five land managers that manage this property as part of the 24,000 acre preserve, and are working in partnership to expand the preserve to about 30,500 acres.

Both golden-cheeked warblers and black-capped vireos are declining due to the loss of specialized nesting habitat. The warbler will nest only in the juniper and oak woodlands found in the ravines and canyons of central Texas. Vireos prefer scattered shrubs and grassland, to which they return each year.

In the last decade both these songbirds have become endangered due to the loss of this specialized habitat. The Balcones Canyonlands Preserve offers prime location for both of these species. The Grandview Hills tract also protects an unnamed creek and a series of seasonal travertine pools.

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ANNAPOLIS, Maryland, May 8, 2001 (ENS) - Over the next two months, more than a thousand Maryland students will plant grasses grown in their classrooms in the Chesapeake Bay.

The program, which involves elementary, middle and high school students, is part of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Chesapeake Bay Foundation's (CBF) Bay Grasses in Classes program.

Students, joined by faculty and staff from DNR and CBF, will wade and canoe into areas of the Bay that have been designated for bay grass restoration as part of a six week series of plantings throughout May and June.

Bay grasses are a critical part of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem, serving as the nursery and feeding ground for fish and crabs. While water quality improvements have increased the acreage of bay grasses in recent years, the Chesapeake and its tributaries are still only at a fraction of historic levels.

This program jump starts the recovery of grasses in areas where they once flourished. By studying the ecological importance of bay grasses and participating in restoration, students gain a sense of stewardship of the Bay.

The program has increased from 11 teachers in the spring of 1998 to 200 teachers in 2001. In the first two years, as many as 100,000 wild celery seedlings were generated by schools for transplanting.

The goal is to perfect techniques for growing many species that will be used throughout Maryland for bay grass restoration projects.

The Bay Grasses in Classes program was developed by DNR and CBF and funded in part by the Chesapeake Bay Trust. Participating schools are provided with teacher instruction, bay grass related curricula and all equipment necessary to grow bay grasses in classes.

More information is available at: