AmeriScan: May 14, 2001


WASHINGTON, DC, May 14, 2001 (ENS) - The Bush administration will propose new tax incentives for energy efficiency as part of a comprehensive energy plan to be released Thursday.

Bush outlined the proposal during his weekly radio address on Saturday, and during a Friday press conference.

"This week, we will introduce a comprehensive energy plan to help bring new supplies of energy to the market, and we will be encouraging Americans to use more wisely the energy supplies that exist today," Bush said. "Pushing conservation forward will require investment in new energy technology, and that will be a part of my administration's energy plan."

"Conservation will require improving appliance standards. That will also be a part of the plan," added Bush. "And conservation will require new incentives to encourage industry to replace outdated equipment. That will be a part of the plan as well."

The Bush plan is expected to focus mostly on increasing energy supplies by opening new areas on federal lands to oil and gas exploration, such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and some national monuments.

But Bush's radio address offered environmentalists some hope that the plan will also offer incentives for alternative energy sources and energy efficiency initiatives.

"In the energy plan I'm going to be discussing, you'll see some incentives for hybrid automobiles," Bush told reporters Friday. However, "I also say we need to build more refining capacity. We need more supply. We need to meet the increasing demands with better supply."

Asked whether the Bush administration's ties to the oil industry mean that the new energy policy will favor that industry, Bush said, "I would tell the American people I'm going to tell the truth when it comes to energy; that we have a serious problem; that we need to do a couple of things."

"One, we need to encourage the development of technologies to help us conserve. We need to be more conservation minded in America," Bush said. "But I'm also going to say, as plainly as I can, we won't conserve our way to energy independence. We must also increase supply."

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WASHINGTON, DC, May 14, 2001 (ENS) - The White House has released a set of measures that the U.S. can use to advance labor and environmental standards in combination with trade negotiations.

The fact sheet, released Friday, identifies a "toolbox" of actions to promote the protection of children, adherence to labor standards, and trade and environmental protection policies.

Regarding environmental standards, the tool box said the U.S. could, among other tactics:

Improve the effectiveness of United Nations environmental programs, in particular those focused on environmental capacity building.

Work to increase the extent to which key environmental concerns are included in development bank lending, by bolstering efforts to strengthen environmental and related safeguards built into lending programs, or by augmenting funding for debt for nature swaps.

Propose the inclusion in World Trade Organization Trade Policy Reviews and in APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) Individual Action Plans of discussion of ways in which a country's or a member economy's trade and environment policies mutually reinforce each other.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) welcomed the administration's willingness to put environmental issues on the table, but called the political backdrop to them uncertain and troubling. The administration's principles were released as a first public step toward new fast track trade negotiating authority legislation, WWF said.

"The President has included environment in the principles he says he wants to discuss as the U.S. develops its trade policy," said David Schorr, director of WWF's Sustainable Commerce Program. "That is a welcome step, but it comes amid mixed and disturbing signals about whether the President is really ready for a serious conversation about trade and environment issues."

Recent statements by President Bush - including remarks made last week in which he dismissed environmental concerns with trade policy as uninformed and protectionist - are discouraging, Schorr said.

"The administration's fast track principles appear to open the door to discussing environment in the context of trade negotiations, but how far?" said Claudia Saladin, senior program officer in WWF's Sustainable Commerce Program. "Is the President really ready to think about how trade policies and environmental policies interact? Or has he already made up his mind that there's nothing to discuss here?"

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CAMDEN, New Jersey, May 14, 2001 (ENS) - A federal judge has ruled - again - that a $50 million cement plant built in a minority neighborhood in Camden should not be allowed to open.

St. Lawrence Cement, the Canadian company that built the plant, said it will appeal the decision by U.S. District Judge Stephen Orlofsky. On April 19, Judge Orlofsky granted a motion for a temporary injunction prohibiting the company from beginning operations of its cement manufacturing facility.

The Court found that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) had violated the civil rights of the African-American and Hispanic residents, who comprise 90 percent of the residents in the census tract where the St. Lawrence facility is located, when the agency issued a permit to the plant. The judge based his ruling on Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The state attorney general's office appealed Orlofsky's ruling, saying that the DEP had not intended to discriminate against Camden residents in issuing permits for the cement plant three years ago.

On April 24, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a state can not be sued for discriminatory policies, unless the discrimination is proven to be intentional.

Last Thursday, Orlofsky ruled that the discrimination claim should still be allowed under United States Code 1983, which states that any person or body that, "under color" of state law, subjects anyone to the "deprivation of any rights, privileges or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable."

Under that law, lawsuits by private citizens or groups can allege discrimination without proving intent.

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens made a similar argument in his dissent of the Court's majority decision on April 24, written by Justice Antonin Scalia.

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SAN FRANCISCO, California, May 14, 2001 (ENS) - Several anti-logging activists trying to halt logging on a tract of old growth forest in California were arrested over the weekend.

Pacific Lumber Company, a subsidiary of Maxxam Corporation, entered the Mattole River Watershed on May 9 to begin logging a tract granted to the company under a controversial deal with the federal government.

Previous attempts to log the area were refused by the California Water Quality Board and State Fish and Game officials, due to wildlife values in the Mattole Watershed and its steep and unstable slopes. However, as part of the Headwaters deal signed with the U.S. Congress in 1998, Pacific Lumber has been granted an exemption from the Endangered Species act and permission to clearcut about 68 acres.

On Friday, two woman locked themselves to a 50 gallon cement filled barrel, holding off logging crews for a few hours until the crews figured out how to winch the barrel out of the way. Another set of nine protesters was taken into custody during protests in the woods.

The struggle to preserve one of California's most precious watersheds has escalated into a conflict of violent tactics against nonviolent forest advocates in Humboldt County, the activists report. In recent weeks, the Humboldt County Sheriff's Department, with help from state officials, has mounted assaults on activists trying to protect the forest.

Law enforcement officers have used pain compliance holds against non-violent protesters on several occasions, resulting in three emergency medical evacuations, including a rescue airlift. More than 20 activists have been arrested.

The Mattole River is one of the last wild rivers in California and contains some of the state's last remaining unprotected old growth Douglas fir stands. The Mattole River Watershed borders the King's Range National Conservation Area and Humboldt Redwoods State Park in Northern California, and is recognized as a critical biological corridor, providing habitat for numerous endangered species, including peregrine falcons, northern goshawks, northern spotted owls, bald eagles and summer steelhead salmon.

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MIAMI, Florida, May 14, 2001 (ENS) - The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and the Tropical Audubon Society announced today they have filed a lawsuit challenging a federal agreement to extend private leases at Stiltsville within Biscayne National Park.

The agreement, filed March 30 by the Department of Interior and the National Park Service, offers a third extension of the leases on private homes that would allow the present lessees to retain exclusive use of Stiltsville until April 1, 2002.

"Today marks the day we stand up and say enough is enough," said Mary Munson, director of NPCA's south Florida and marine programs. "The settlement undermines an ongoing process to identify public uses for Stiltsville and benefits a politically influential, privileged group of Miami residents who have already had a cushy deal for well over 25 years."

The lawsuit charges that the government's action violates federal laws that require public access to park property.

If the park is unwilling to open the structures to the public, the environmental organizations point out that the park's plan calls for the structures to be removed.

Located in the northern part of the Biscayne National Park, Stiltsville's submerged lands and water provide habitat for lobsters, sponges, threatened corals and queen conchs, and endangered sea turtles. Seven parcels within the area contain houses on stilts used as recreational retreats.

The sites were leased to the users when the land belonged to the state of Florida, and the leases were honored when Florida turned the land over to the Park Service in 1980 for national park status. Under the original terms of the 1976 leases, the leaseholders were to turn their structures over to the park when the leases expired in July 1999.

"The government's action is illegal and has the appearance of bestowing political favors," said Munson. "These people are squatters. Their leases expired two years ago! It is mind boggling that the Department of the Interior and members of Congress are helping them take over national park lands that belong to all Americans. We have no choice but to object in the strongest possible way."

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GLOUCESTER, Massachusetts, May 14, 2001 (ENS) - The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has set temporary restrictions on fishing in federal waters northeast of Cape Cod to protect a group of right whales.

The restrictions, which went into effect Sunday, prohibit the use of gillnet gear in the area for a period of 15 days. Lobster gear in the area must be modified to reduce the number of vertical lines by one half.

The restrictions are intended to protect groups of right whales seen in the area from April 30 through May 9. In addition to the required removal or modification of gear in the restricted area, NMFS is asking fishermen to make similar gear changes, on a voluntary basis, in a precautionary area surrounding the restricted area.

The coordinates describing the restricted and precautionary areas are available at:

"We are committed to reducing human threats to these highly endangered whales, including fixed fishing gear," says Chris Mantzaris, deputy regional administrator for NMFS in the Northeast. "As we learn more about how whales behave, we use that information to improve our protection measures. Based on this improved picture of a sub-group feeding behavior, we can take precautionary step to prevent an entanglement from occurring."

The measures are part of an evolving strategy to protect endangered North Atlantic right whales from injury or death caused by entanglement in fishing gear. Recent analyses of right whale sighting data and observations show that sighting three or more animals in an area means they are feeding, that there are more animals nearby, and that this sub-group will stay in the area until the prey is depleted or moves away.

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BUCHANAN, New York, May 14, 2001 (ENS) - The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) began a special inspection at the Indian Point 3 nuclear power plant today to look into the details surrounding a loss of spent fuel pool cooling at the plant last week.

The plant in Buchanan is operated by Entergy Nuclear Northeast.

Cooling to the spent fuel pool was lost on May 8 for about 50 minutes. At the time, the plant was shut down and all of the reactor fuel had been off-loaded into the spent fuel pool.

The temperature of the water in the spent fuel pool rose about four degrees to about 155 degrees F.

The NRC will conduct a special inspection to assess the utility's evaluation of the cause of the incident, and corrective actions planned by the utility. The NRC will evaluate the amount of risk created by the event, and determine whether there are implications for other plants that store spent fuel in cooling pools.

Many plants around the nation now store spent fuel in cooling pools while waiting for the federal government to build a permanent high level nuclear waste storage facility for the fuel. Congress and the Department of Energy are now studying a controversial proposal to build a permanent waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada.

An inspector from the NRC Region I Division of Reactor Safety and an inspector from the Region Division of Reactor Projects will perform the inspection at Indian Point.

A report detailing the findings will be issued about 45 days after the end of the inspection.

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ALBANY, New York, May 14, 2001 (ENS) - New York Governor George Pataki has announced the award of almost $1.79 million to help private sector companies protect New York's environment through waste reduction, pollution prevention, recycling and other initiatives.

The awards provided through New York's Environmental Investment Program will help 10 organizations and companies increase recycling by a total of 31,000 tons a year, and will leverage $4.74 million in additional public and private sector investment from New York businesses and organizations.

"Our Environmental Investment Program helps promote a sound economy and a cleaner, healthier New York," Pataki said. "These companies deserve our praise for working to protect our environment while also creating and retaining jobs for the people of New York."

The Environmental Investment Program is administered by Empire State Development's Environmental Management Investment Group, which invests appropriations from the New York State Environmental Protection Fund as part of the state's commitment to improving environmental quality. Project funding is contingent upon awardees fulfilling the terms and conditions of their contracts.

Eligible projects are those that lead to the reuse, remanufacturing or recycling of materials otherwise destined for disposal, and pollution and waste prevention projects that lead to reductions in the volume or toxicity of waste before it is generated. Eligible recipients include New York businesses, not for profit corporations and municipalities applying on behalf of New York businesses.

Projects funded in the current round of awards include Pixel Physics Inc., a Rochester company that will receive $119,000 to design, build and implement a fluid monitoring system for the Canandaigua Wine Company.

The Erie County Industrial Development Agency was awarded $86,000 toward a $274,260 project to assist Unifrax in purchasing equipment that will allow it to recycle and reuse die cut trim waste in its manufacturing process.

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ST. LOUIS, Missouri, May 14, 2001 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is postponing the effective date - from May 18, 2001 to June 29, 2001 - of the agency's determination that the St. Louis area did not attain an ozone standard by a federal deadline.

This delay in the effective date will give regulated companies and agencies in the St. Louis area additional time to prepare for compliance with the new emissions requirements that will apply once St. Louis is classified as not attaining the ozone, or smog, standard.

The postponement also allows EPA to complete its rulemaking on whether the St. Louis area should be granted an extension of its attainment date on grounds that pollution from upwind areas contributes to ozone levels in the St. Louis area.

On March 19, the EPA proposed reclassifying the St. Louis area from a moderate ozone area to a serious pollution area. If the agency approves an attainment date extension, the March 19 reclassification, along with the new, stricter air pollution regulations, would be withdrawn.

On April 3, 2001, EPA published a proposal to approve Missouri's and Illinois' plans to attain the ozone standard and to extend the St. Louis area attainment date to November 15, 2004.

The St. Louis area would then retain its moderate classification while working to attain the federal ozone standard by November 2004.

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WINDSOR, Connecticut, May 14, 2001 (ENS) - Aerospace Testing Laboratories of Windsor has agreed to pay a $100,000 penalty for violating federal air toxics regulations and failing to comply with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) compliance and reporting requirements.

The agreement settles an enforcement case brought by EPA against Aerospace last September.

Aerospace tests aircraft parts for foreign and domestic companies. From December 1997 to June 2000, the company was not complying with federal air toxics regulations for degreasing machines.

Aerospace's degreaser emitted trichloroethylene, or TCE, at twice its legal emission rate. Aerospace emitted an estimated one and a half tons (3300 lbs) or 276 gallons of TCE per year.

TCE is a hazardous air pollutant and a probable carcinogen. Long term exposure can cause lung, nerve, kidney and liver damage.

In July 1999, EPA issued Aerospace an administrative order requiring the company to comply with the degreaser regulations. Aerospace violated this order and failed to provide answers to an EPA demand for compliance information.

With EPA's enforcement action looming, the company stopped using the degreaser and eliminated its TCE emissions in June 2000.

"EPA's 1999 order gave the company ample time to come into compliance with regulations, correct its violations, and stop the excess TCE pollution, but Aerospace still failed to comply," said Ira Leighton, acting regional administrator of EPA's New England office. "The penalty in this case should serve as a warning to other companies with degreasing operations to take their compliance obligations - and EPA's enforcement - seriously."