AmeriScan: May 17, 2001


WASHINGTON, DC, May 17, 2001 - Greenpeace activists dumped five tons of coal and five faux oil and nuclear waste drums outside the Vice President Dick Cheney's residence at the Naval Observatory in Washington today to protest the Bush administration's National Energy Policy announced today. Activists held a banner reading "Stop the Bush/Cheney Energy Scam: America Needs Clean Power Now." The drums were labeled with the logos of Exxon/Mobil, Chevron, Texaco, BP and Enron.


Greenpeacers protest the new National Energy Policy (Photo courtesy Greenpeace USA)
"Mr. Bush and Cheney have released less of a plan and more of a scam because it enriches the oil, coal and nuclear industries while failing to solve our energy problems," said Andrea Durbin, Greenpeace campaigns director. "If they are so enamored with dirty power, they can have it, because the American people don't want it."

Cheney chaired the National Energy Policy Development Group that drafted the energy plan. Greenpeace targeted his lawn to protest the plan's reliance on coal, oil, and nuclear power, and its lack of emphasis on global warming, conservation and renewable energy sources. While renewable and energy efficiency strategies are provided for in the new policy, the main thrust is oil production, clean coal technology and the expansion of nuclear power.

Greenpeace points out that analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics showed oil, gas, utilities and mining interests contributed $44 million to Republicans in the last election cycle, $2.8 million of which went to the Bush/Cheney campaign.

Many other environmental and conservation organizations are taking aim at the National Energy Policy. Alden Meyer, director of government relations for the Union of Concerned Scientists said today, "With few good ingredients in his energy plan, the president has served up a recipe for trouble. It is a smorgasbord for the coal, oil and nuclear industries and table scraps for efficiency and renewable energy. Meanwhile, the plan does almost nothing for consumers facing high electricity and gas prices."

"The president's energy plan will do harm to the environment and public health, while abdicating leadership on the clean energy technologies that are key to economic success in the 21st Century," Meyer said.

A majority of the environmental groups maintain that America must be weaned off its dependence on oil and coal through conservation and more energy efficient technologies. A November 2000 Department of Energy study found that a government led program to promote energy efficiency could reduce growth in electricity demand in the United States by 20 to 47 percent.

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SAN JOSE, California, May 17, 2001 (ENS) - His Holiness the Dalai Lama was the honored guest Wednesday at a luncheon at the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose to acknowledge and thank 51 highly compassionate individuals - the honorees of the event Unsung Heroes of Compassion.

Three environmentalists are among the Unsung Heroes of Compassion honorees who represent 16 countries and many faiths. In addition to the environmentalists, they are teachers, doctors, nurses, community organizers, lawyers, religious leaders and custodians.

Among those honored is attorney Ted Smith who founded the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition and serves as its executive director. He was recognized for his 20 years of work researching and documenting the impact of the high tech industry on community, worker, and environmental health.

Smith said, "I am greatly honored to accept this award. Increasingly, people are recognizing that a healthy environment is a right, not a privilege. The real heroes are those who have already lost their lives as well as those who continue to struggle for a sustainable future."

Another environmental leader honored as an Unsung Hero of Compassion is Rakesh Jaiswal, founder of Eco-friends, an environmental awareness, education, and advocacy group in India that works to protect and improve the environment, and in particular the water, of Kanpur in North India.

"We perceive the clean environment as a fundamental and constitutional right of human beings," says Jaiswal. "Humans have a basic need for clean water, clean air and clean surroundings in order to live a healthy and dignified life."

Also honored is Lloyd Marbet, a longtime environmental activist who has volunteered for 32 years to help stop the dumping of nuclear waste, and to protect the rivers of Orgeon. Marbet was a political candidate for the Pacific Green Party in 2000.

The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is the exiled leader of the Tibetan people and a Buddhist monk and teacher. He maintains a Tibetan government in exile in Dharamsala, India. The 1989 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Dalai Lama is an outspoken proponent of nonviolence and compassion who is loved and revered around the world.

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WASHINGTON, DC, May 17, 2001 (ENS) - Federal funds have been made available by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for the second time this week to help Florida fight another outbreak of uncontrolled wildfires burning in Escambia County near Pensacola.

The state's latest request for federal fire suppression aid was approved yesterday after it was reported that the 1,000-acre Escambia Complex Fire posed an immediate threat to more than 150 homes and forced the evacuation of at least 100 people in the subdivision of Beulah.

The authorization is the eighth granted to the state this year and follows a funding request that was approved May 15 for the Chipola River Complex Fire in Walton and Washington counties.

According to a long-range forecast by the Florida Division of Forestry, the state has the potential for another extreme fire season due to rainfall deficits and a prediction for below normal rainfall for the next few months.

Florida is suffering through one of the worst droughts in the state's history. According to the National Climatic Data Center, 2000 was Florida's driest year on record. The Palmer Drought Index indicates that the current Florida drought, which dates back to April 1998, is the worst since the 1930s. Abnormally dry to severe drought conditions also exist throughout Georgia and central and eastern Alabama, as well as portions of southern and west Texas and southeast New Mexico.

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VANCOUVER, Washington, May 17, 2001 (ENS) - Ground breaking for a new home for the U.S. Geological Surveyís David A. Johnston Cascades Volcano Observatory will take place Friday, exactly 21 years after the explosive 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption that took the life of USGS geologist Dave Johnston. The new building will be located in the Columbia Tech Center in Vancouver, Washington.

The observatory is one of five federally funded volcano observatories operated by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) with other partner agencies and institutions to monitor the active and potentially active volcanoes in the United States, and to assess the hazards they present to life and property.

The Cascades Volcano Observatory is the home of the USGSís Volcano Disaster Assistance Program, a volcano rapid response team, which is able to deploy within a matter of days, a mobile volcano observatory anywhere in the world at the invitation of the host country where a volcano may be showing signs of eruption.

The new USGS facility, which is being built by Columbia Tech Center, LLC, will be 34,000 square feet of office and warehouse space and will house an experienced team of about 60 volcano scientists, technicians, and support staff. It is expected to be completed later this year.

Since being founded in 1980, the mission of the Cascades Volcano Observatory has been to monitor restless volcanoes in the Cascades and provide timely warning of eruptions. The observatory technicians assess potential hazards, share information with government officials and the public, and educate people about what volcanoes can do. They develop improved monitoring techniques, and study volcanic processes in order to better understand future hazards.

The U.S. Geological Survey serves the nation by providing reliable scientific information to describe and understand the Earth, minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters, and manage water, biological, energy, and mineral resources.

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GREENFIELD, Massachusetts, May 17, 2001 (ENS) - American Honda Motor Co. has created a great showcase spot for the company's natural gas and hybrid gas-electric vehicles in its role as Gold Sponsor of the 13th Annual Tour de Sol, a green car rally organized by the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association based in Greenfield.

To be held May 19 to 26, the 2001 Tour covers more than 300 miles, starting in Waterbury, Connecticut travelling west to Albany, New York, then heading east through central Massachusetts to finish in Boston.

Honda will lead the Tour with two pace cars that run on clean technologies, the gasoline-electric hybrid Insight in its second year as pace car, and the Civic GX, powered by dedicated natural gas.

The manual transmission Insight, now entering its second model year, is rated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as getting 57 miles per gallon in city driving. The Honda Insight took top honors in the 2000 Tour de Sol, achieving an average of 92 mpg over more than 300 miles, from New York City to Washington, DC.

With near-zero emissions, the Honda Civic GX has been named by U.S. EPA as "Cleanest on Earth" with an internal combustion engine.

Tour de Sol: The Great American Green Transportation Festival is Americaís premier event showcasing sustainable transportation and energy options.

The annual event features manufacturer built prototypes and futuristic student designed concept cars.

This year, new vehicle categories and displays have been added to allow fuel-cell powered vehicles, vehicles using renewably produced fuels, electric bicycles, biking, and walking activities to be showcased.

Vehicles on display manufactured by other corporations include those built by Ford, DaimlerChrysler, Toyota, Solectria of Massachusetts, Advanced Transportation Technologies R&D of Korea, Personal Electric Transport of New York, Orion Bus Company, and Vogelbilt Corporation of New York.

Several countries and American government agencies are also showcasing vehicles including China, Micronesia, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, the Massachusetts Port Authority, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. One of the most futuristic vehicles in the event, a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, is being brought by a New Jersey partnership of educational institutions and corporations.

During the weeklong event, there will be six major community festivals that celebrate energy efficiency, clean transportation, and environmental awareness. They are all free and open to the public. They take place in Waterbury, Connecticut May 19-21; Pittsfield, Massachusetts May 22; Albany, New York May 23; then three in Massachusetts - at Greenfield, May 24; in Worcester, May 25; and a finish-line celebration in Boston on May 26.

More information and race results can be found online at:

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WASHINGTON, DC, May 17, 2001 (ENS) - Labor Secretary Elaine Chao announced today that new regulations limiting diesel particulate matter (dpm) emissions from coal mining equipment will go into effect as scheduled on May 21. A separate emissions rule for metal and nonmetal mines will be subject to a 45-day stay while pending litigation settlement discussions with affected parties are ongoing.

"Part of our job is assuring that coal miners are working in the safest environment reasonably possible," Chao said. "The decision to move ahead with this regulation takes us that much closer to the goal."

The coal rule will limit emissions on particular pieces of equipment to no more than 2.5 grams/hour. In most cases, mine operators will be able to comply with the rule by installing a paper or ceramic filter on the equipment.

Chao also announced that the Department has recommended a 45-day stay another rule on diesel particulate matter in metal and nonmetal mines.

"The Department is in ongoing discussions with the United Steel Workers of America and the National Mining Association regarding the final form of a rule for diesel particulate matter in metal/nonmetal mines," Chao said. "These talks have been productive and we think we can come to a sound decision on good rule."

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INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana, May 17, 2001 (ENS) - The Southwest Indiana Brine Coalition was recognized Monday by the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission with a Chairmanís Stewardship Award. The award was given to honor the groupís work with local landowners and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division (DNR) of Oil and Gas in working to cleanup old, historically contaminated oil production sites. The award was presented to Priscilla Kelly, SWIBC chair, at the commissionís mid-year meeting in Anchorage, Alaska.

Brine, or salt water, is a by-product of extracting oil and gas. Historically, the brine was left in large lagoons near the wells. The contamination from the brine is a threat to soil and groundwater.

"Iím happy join the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission in honoring the work of the Southwest Indiana Brine Coalition," said Indiana Governor Frank OíBannon. "The coalition is a dedicated group of Hoosiers who are transforming contaminated, barren land into life sustaining ecosystems.

This year the group completed its first pilot project by remediating a site that had suffered from 50 years of brine contamination. Once described as a moonscape, the soil at the site is now stabilized and can support vegetation. The demonstration project was completed for less than half of the traditional costs of similar projects and brought together local farmers, environmentalists, government, residents and industry.

Based on the damage measurements, gypsum and soil were layered onto the site, contoured to promote proper drainage and covered with straw. An erosion control basin with drainage tile was constructed to prevent surface runoff. Grasses such as Jose Tall Wheatgrass were planted to help stabilize the site.

The Southwest Indiana Brine Coalition began in 1977 as an outgrowth of a DNR citizen participation project. It is supported by seven Southwest Indiana soil and water conservation districts and by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Service.

In 1999 the group received a grant from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency. The grant provided funds to identify contaminated sites in Daviess, Dubois, Gibson, Pike, Posey, Vanderburgh and Warrick counties.

The Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, founded in 1935, works to ensure the efficient recovery of domestic petroleum resources while protecting health, safety and the environment. It represents the governors of 30 oil and gas producing states.

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GAINESVILLE, Florida, May 17, 2001 (ENS) - The Maya of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula were talented astronomers, religiously intense in their observations of the sun, moon and planets. Now, new research shows cycles of solar intensity brought on droughts that influenced Mayan culture and in the end may have wiped it out entirely.

A team of researchers led by University of Florida geologist David Hodell reports finding that the Yucatan Peninsula suffered recurrent droughts linked in time to a cyclical brightening of the sun.

"It looks like changes in the sunís energy output are having a direct effect on the climate of the Yucatan and causing the recurrence of drought, which is in turn influencing the Maya evolution," said David Hodell, a University of Florida (UF) professor of geology and the paperís lead author.

In 1995, Hodell and two colleagues at University of Florida published results in the journal Nature suggesting that the 9th century collapse of the Maya civilization may have been influenced by a severe drought that lasted for more than 150 years. The paper was based on analysis of a sediment core from Lake Chichancanab on the north central Yucatan Peninsula.

Cores are samples of lake sediment retrieved by driving a hollow tube into the lake bottom. The sediments are deposited layer by layer providing a timeline that allows researchers to see a continuous record of changes in climate, vegetation and land use.

For the latest research, Hodell and colleagues returned to the lake to collect a fresh series of cores. Lake Chichancanabís water is nearly saturated with gypsum, and the cores show layers of gypsum concentrated at certain levels. The researchers found that the the gypsum deposits were laid down in a cyclical pattern, once every 208 years.

The 208 year cycle is nearly identical to a known 206 year cycle in solar intensity, Hodell said. The sun is most intense every 206 years, something that can be tracked through measuring the production of certain radioactive substances such as carbon-14.

The researchers found the droughts occurred during the most intense part of the sunís cycle and at times when archeological evidence reflects downturns in the Maya culture, such as abandonment of cities or slowing of building activity, including the 900 A.D. collapse.

"Itís ironic that a culture so obsessed with keeping track of celestial movements may have met their demise because of a 206 year cycle," Hodell said. His findings are reported in an article set to appear in Fridayís issue of the journal Science, a publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.