AmeriScan: May 9, 2001


WASHINGTON, DC, May 9, 2001 (ENS) - Members of Congress joined citizens from Western states and mining reform advocates today to call on President George W. Bush to not rollback current mining regulations for hardrock mining.

A new tally of public comments submitted to the Bush Administration during a 45 day comment period that ended Monday was released at a press conference this morning, showing that the more than 30,500 comments favored preservation of the current mining safeguards 50 to 1.

"A few weeks ago the Bush Administration stripped our ability to keep arsenic out of our water," said Representative Jay Inslee, a Washington Democrat. "This week they're increasing the ability of the mining industry to put arsenic into our water."

On March 23, the Bush Administration proposed to suspend current Department of Interior rules for hardrock mining and return to old rules which were written in 1980. Known as the "3809" rules because of their location in the Federal Register, they are intended to protect public health and the environment from mining activities.

"This Administration should be helping, not hurting reform efforts," said Senator Russ Reingold, a Wisconsin Democrat. "Responsible use of our public lands has a constituency that reaches far beyond the states in which the public land mining is occurring."

The new rules, for the first time, establish environmental performance standards and acknowledge the federal government's authority to deny irresponsible mine proposals. The Administration has said it aims to make the rollback of the current mining safeguards permanent in the coming weeks.

Hardrock mining is the nation's top toxic polluting industry, according EPA's 2001 Toxic Release Inventory. The estimated cost to clean up past mining damage is $32 billion to $72 billion.

The new 3809 regulations would provide stronger assurances the mining industry would pay for future cleanup.

"Water on my property, for my cattle has been contaminated by hardrock mining companies," said Stephanie Shammel, a rancher from Hilger, Montana who spoke at the event. "They're not bearing the cost of their pollution. I am. Rolling back the 3809 regulations is a slap in the face of all Westerners who expect fair play."

* * *


SEATTLE, Washington, May 9, 2001 (ENS) - Environmentalists hailed a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision Monday upholding U.S. Forest Service's authority to withhold lands along Montana's Rocky Mountain Front from oil and gas development.

A district court earlier rejected industry's claim that the Forest Service violated a host of laws when it decided to leave the Lewis and Clark National Forest free of bulldozers, pipes, natural gas wells and roads. The lawsuit was filed by the Rocky Mountain Oil & Gas Association and the Independent Petroleum Association of America.

The Ninth Circuit court ruled, "the Forest Service has discretion whether to authorize the leasing of any particular Forest Service lands for mineral exploration." The court also found that the industry group that sued the Forest Service "has no 'right' to bid for leases on any Forest Service land or to compel the Forest Service to authorize leasing of its land for mineral exploration."

The Mountain States Legal Foundation represented the oil and gas industry in this case. Mountain States was headed by former Interior Secretary James Watt, and is the organization that current Interior Secretary Gale Norton served in before her appointment to the Bush cabinet.

The lands in question extend from the Canadian border in north-central Montana and border Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall and Scapegoat Wilderness Areas. The decision applies to more than 750,000 acres in one of the least disturbed mountain ecosystems in the world.

The area is home to more than 300 wildlife species, including such threatened and endangered species as grizzly bear, gray wolf, peregrine falcon and bald eagle. The area is also home to numerous Native American cultural and religious sites.

Environmental groups, represented by Earthjustice, had intervened to defend the Forest Service from an oil and gas industry lawsuit.

"Opposition to drilling the Front has been overwhelming. Now we will see if the Bush Administration listens to the majority of people who oppose drilling or whether they will let the oil and gas industry veto the public interest," said Bob Ekey director of The Wilderness Society's northern Rockies field office.

* * *


WASHINGTON, DC, May 9, 2001 (ENS) - In a brief filed in federal court Tuesday, the Department of Labor defended regulations intended to streamline the processing of claims by miners suffering from black lung disease.

The regulations, which were issued by the Clinton administration, will be defended by the Justice Department on behalf of the Labor Department, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao said.

"It is the Department's duty to defend the law, regardless of whether they are this administration's regulations or the previous administration's regulations," Chao said. "Our concern is that the litigation is itself delaying the larger goal of trying to improve the black lung program."

New rules governing the administration of the black lung program went into effect on January 19. The National Mining Association challenged the regulations in U.S. District Court. The United Mineworkers of America intervened in the lawsuit to defend the regulations.

The court issued an injunction to allow the new administration to review the regulations and required the Department to file a brief on the regulations by May 8.

Black lung is the common name for pneumoconiosis, a lung disease resulting from excessive exposure to coal mine dust. In severe cases, black lung can be disabling and fatal.

The Department of Labor's portion of the Federal Black Lung Program provides almost $460 million a year in financial and medical benefits to former coal mine workers who are disabled by the condition.

* * *


WASHINGTON, DC, May 9, 2001 (ENS) - A coalition of more than 60 consumer and environmental groups, along with fishing companies and private fishers, petitioned several federal agencies today for a moratorium on the marketing and import of genetically modified fish.

The coalition filed legal petitions with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Department of Agriculture and other agencies, demanding that the agencies bar the domestic marketing or import of any genetically engineered fish until the FDA can address the environmental and human health impacts of engineered species.

Several companies are now working to develop genetically engineered (GE) fish. At least one company, A/F Protein, is now requesting approval from the FDA to market these fish to consumers, the coalition said.

Research and opinion pieces posted on A/F Protein's website argue that engineered fish can been safely contained and kept out of open waters, and will pose no risks to human health.

Critics warn that GE fish could have a mating advantage over wild fish due to their increased growth rate, yet have less success in producing viable offspring.

"The FDA, without even consulting the government's own environmental experts, is rapidly and carelessly moving toward the approval of a transgenic fish that will further exacerbate the challenges faced by endangered species, including salmon in the drought stricken Pacific Northwest," charged Representative Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat.

If the FDA approves the sale of GE fish to fish farming operations and consumers, the fish could be the first engineered animal to land on consumer's dinner plates.

"FDA is not considering the food safety and environmental risks that these animals may pose," said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety and lead attorney on the petitions. "These foods should not be approved for human consumption until further study indicates that they are safe for consumers."

* * *


SEATTLE, Washington, May 9, 2001 (ENS) - Ten scientific and environmental groups and the former Attorney General of Washington state have filed a petition to list the Puget Sound population of killer whales as endangered.

Once called the southern resident killer whale, this orca population is perhaps the most urbanized whale on earth. It spends a large portion of the year in Puget Sound between Seattle, Bellingham, Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia.

The killer whales in the Pacific Northwest are classified into three distinct forms: residents, transients and offshores. The forms exhibit differences in appearance, ecology, behavior and genetic composition.

The differences between residents and transients are so great that some researchers believe that they are separate species, the Center for Biological Diversity says. The two forms also have different diets, with transients preying on marine mammals and residents subsisting on fishes alone.

Less is known about the offshore form, but they are known to be genetically distinct from other killer whales in the region.

But the resident whales are known to be contaminated by PCBs - polychlorinated biphenyls, byproducts of many past industrial practices. Their favored salmon prey are endangered.

The population is under intense whale watching pressure, and the Puget Sound ecosystem is collapsing around it, the groups charge.

A population model developed by scientists at the Center for Biological Diversity concluded that under current conditions, the southern residents face up to a 99 percent chance of extinction within the next 300 years.

More information is available at:

* * *


WASHINGTON, DC, May 9, 2001 (ENS) - Scientists have developed an innovative way to detect dangerous molds faster and with more accuracy.

The new technology, developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can be used to detect the mold Stachybotrys, known as black mold, and more than 50 other problematic molds.

Molds grow in buildings affected by water damage and have been found in homes, hospitals, schools and office buildings. It is estimated that about 50 to 100 common indoor mold types have the potential for creating health problems.

Exposure to mold has been identified as a potential cause of many health problems including asthma, sinusitis and infections. It is also believed that molds play a major role in cases of sick building syndrome and related illnesses.

Drs. Stephen Vesper and Richard Haugland at the EPA Office of Research and Development, National Exposure Research laboratory have developed a DNA based system that allows rapid identification of molds in a matter of hours. Current methodologies require days or weeks to identify molds before action can be taken.

With the new technology, up to 96 analyses can be run simultaneously by laboratory technicians, reducing the labor required to analyze samples while boosting the accuracy of the analysis. The new technology also allows scientists to make risk assessments by identifying which mold is present and in what numbers.

In recognition of their work in developing the technology, the EPA scientists received the Federal Laboratory Consortium Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer. They were in competition with researchers from all the federal laboratories.

The mold detection technology is being introduced by the Environmental Technology Commercialization Center, an EPA center that assists U.S. industries in the licensing of EPA technologies. The technology is available for licensing by laboratories, indoor air quality specialists and other environmental professionals.

More information on molds is available at:

* * *


EUGENE, Oregon, May 9, 2001 (ENS) - There has been a slight swelling, or uplift, of the ground surface over a broad area of central Oregon near three volcanoes.

The uplift is centered three miles (five kilometers), west of the South Sister volcano in Three Sisters region of the Oregon Cascade Range, said scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

The uplift, which scientists say occurred between 1996 and 2000, covers an area about nine to 12 miles (15 to 20 kilometers) in diameter. The maximum amount of uplift at its center is about four inches (10 centimeters).

The USGS scientists discovered the bulge through use of a technique called Satellite Radar Interferometry (InSAR), which uses satellite data to make radar images of a portion of the Earth's surface. Through this process, images acquired at different times, but from the same location in space, can be used to detect even minor changes of a few centimeters in the elevation of the ground.

The images that reveal the 10 centimeter uplift near South Sister were obtained in 1996 and 2000. The exact timing of the uplift, or whether it is continuing, is still being studied.

The USGS scientists said the cause of the uplift is uncertain, but because the Three Sisters region is a volcanic area, the uplift may reflect intrusion of a small volume of magma, or molten rock, deep below the surface.

Such a process, which prepares volcanic areas for future eruptions, is a common occurrence under volcanoes. If the intrusion of magma were to continue, it could lead to a volcanic eruption.

Other precursors to an eruption would include earthquakes and large emissions of volcanic gases, such as carbon dioxide. At present, earthquake activity and gas emissions appear to be at or near background levels.

More information on the bulge, including maps and a volcanic hazards assessment, is available at:;; and

* * *


WASHINGTON, DC, May 9, 2001 (ENS) - Three environmental satellites, GOES-2 and Landsats 4 and 5, are being retired from service.

After a career spanning almost 24 years, GOES-2 was boosted into higher orbit and removed from service last week, said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It was the second in a series of 11 Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites.

GOES-2 acted as an imaging satellite until 1993, when it stopped giving imagery of cloud conditions across the nation. In 1995, it was reactivated to broadcast the Pan-Pacific Education and Communication Experiments by Satellite program administered by the University of Hawaii, a public service telecommunications network.

Last week, NOAA boosted the satellite into a higher orbit to make room for another geosynchronous satellite. Because there are many satellites in orbit at the same 22,300 mile altitude, it is necessary to make room for new satellites.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has begun decommissioning Landsats 4 and 5, two Earth observation satellites. Landsat 4, launched in 1982, and Landsat 5, a duplicate satellite launched in 1984, have both performed far beyond their two year design lifetimes, sending hundreds of thousands of land surface images to U.S. and international ground receiving stations.

The satellites in the Landsat series have compiled a global archive of natural and human induced change ranging from the devastation of the Mt. St. Helen's volcanic eruption; the calving of giant icebergs from the Antarctic ice shelf; and the deforestation of large tracts within the Amazon Basin. Scientists and natural resource managers worldwide rely on Landsat technology.

Although communication hardware for sending images to the ground failed on Landsat 4 several years ago, the satellite continued to be operated as a test bed for software modifications intended for Landsat 5. The costs of operating the aging, but still operational, Landsat 5 now exceed available resources.

Landsat 7, launched in 1999, is operated by the USGS, providing images of U.S. cities, midwestern floods and western wildfires, volcanic eruptions and receding glaciers.

"Landsat 7 is already proving to be a major source for information about the land mass of the planet. Building on previous satellite data provides us a crucial long-term record of information about the Earth," said USGS Landsat program manager, R. J. Thompson.

* * *


BOULDER, Colorado, May 9, 2001 (ENS) - Colorado University at Boulder professor Naomi Soderstrom is teaching an innovative approach to accounting that has threefold benefits: it saves companies money, reduces environmental degradation and makes students more effective accountants.

Soderstrom looks at how environmental issues affect a company as a whole, across the boundaries of its finances, management and other business practices. The techniques she teaches can prompt companies to save money by using environmentally friendly practices.

"A colleague and I taught the first environmental accounting course in the country in the early 1990s," Soderstrom said. Many business schools now include elements of environmental accounting in their standard curricula.

An increase in environmental regulation and lawsuits for noncompliance has added to company costs for across all aspects of business. Environmental accounting techniques can help companies use a preventive rather than curative approach to environmental problems that can hurt their success.

For example, suppose a company manufactures parts using a process that requires a lot of solvents. Traditional costing systems would fail to include the costs associated with disposal of the solvents, training employees to handle the chemicals and other environmental costs.

By ignoring these costs, the company would end up underestimating the cost to manufacture the part and may therefore make poor decisions, Soderstrom said. Environmental accounting practices would prompt the company to include these hidden costs.

"As a result of recognizing environmental costs, companies are more likely to implement more environmentally friendly technologies that have fewer of these hidden costs," Soderstrom said. "This helps both their bottom line and the environment and helps management make better decisions."

Environmental accounting provides students with an opportunity to examine how accounting practices respond to new legal, economic, regulatory and even ethical pressures, Soderstrom said. The goal is to challenge students to apply existing accounting systems to new settings and to analyze existing and proposed accounting systems.

* * *


SAN DIEGO, California, May 9, 2001 (ENS) - The first award honoring the memory of William Nierenberg, who led the Scripps Institution of Oceanography as director for more than two decades, will be awarded to renowned biologist Edward O. Wilson.

Wilson will receive the inaugural Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest during a ceremony on May 20 at Scripps. The event will include a free public lecture by Wilson, a Harvard University professor recognized as one of the world's leading environmental scientists.

Through his books and lectures, Wilson fuels an enthusiasm for science by showcasing its immediacy in everyday lives. His passionate concern for the preservation of natural heritage has placed him in the forefront of environmental activism.


Biologist Edward O. Wilson will be honored by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography later this month (Photo courtesy Scripps Institution of Oceanography)
Wilson's public lecture, "The Future of Life," will cover the present and expected future status of biodiversity and current activities and prospects of the global conservation movement.

"The Nierenberg Prize will annually honor the name of William A. Nierenberg by promoting the idea of good science in the public interest," said Charles Kennel, director of Scripps Institution. "The prize will reflect Scripps's mission to seek, teach and communicate scientific understanding of the earth for the benefit of society and the environment. It will be awarded to those involved in the search for a sustainable balance between the natural environment and human activity."

"E.O. Wilson is a remarkable choice for this honor as his studies have changed the way scientists and nonscientists alike view the natural world," added Kennel.

Wilson's recent work has focused on drawing public attention to the impact human activity has had on life on the planet. Wilson has received the National Medal of Science, and won a Pulitzer Prize for one of his books, "On Human Nature."

The Nierenberg prize is named for William Nierenberg, a former Scripps Institution director and national science leader, who died last year.