AmeriScan: May 22, 2001


WASHINGTON, DC, May 22, 2001 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today finalized its plan to delay until February 2002 a rule that would strengthen standards for arsenic, a known carcinogen, in drinking water.

The nine month delay comes after the arsenic rule was already postponed 60 days from its original March 2001 effective date. A mandate from Congress required the EPA to establish a final rule by June 22, 2001, a deadline that the agency will now miss by eight months.

"Not only is EPA thumbing its nose at the legal deadline set by Congress, they're also doing the American public a grave disservice by opting to delay and reconsider this important public health standard," said Maria Weidner of Earthjustice, a nonprofit law firm for the environment. "The jury is in on arsenic's health effects-we know it's a poison and we know it causes cancer."

In today's rule, the agency justifies missing its June deadline by asserting its authority - independent of statutory deadlines - to establish appropriate effective dates. The delay also will postpone until February 2002 stricter federal reporting requirements to inform communities of the contamination levels of arsenic in their drinking water.

"The Bush administration is flouting the law by delaying the arsenic rule beyond the deadline set by Congress," said Joan Mulhern of Earthjustice. "The administration's callous dismissal of the deadline shows they believe themselves to be above the law."

"We know the mining industry doesn't want to see tougher arsenic standards," added Weidner. "The Bush administration is clearly more interested in keeping their corporate donors happy than they are in complying with Congress's directives."

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WASHINGTON, DC, May 22, 2001 (ENS) - The nonprofit Clean Air Trust has awarded its clean air "Villain of the Month" award for May to Vice President Richard Cheney.

The Vice President earned this dubious distinction by including a provision in his energy plan directing the Attorney General to review existing clean air enforcement cases against coal burning power plants and oil refineries.

"This is without a doubt the single worst dirty air recommendation in the energy plan, which has been subject to detailed critiques in the past few days," the Trust stated.

The Clean Air Trust warned that Cheney "appears to be pushing the Attorney General to pardon the polluters - polluters that have been linked literally to thousands of premature deaths and pollution related health problems."

The review involves lawsuits by the Justice Department against more than a half dozen electric utilities accused of violating the Clean Air Act. These companies stand accused of making major modifications to existing coal fired power plants without installing modern pollution controls, as required by law.

A related enforcement action is pending against at least one major refiner, the Exxon-Mobil Corporation.

"Given that the Vice President has initiated interference with ongoing judicial proceedings, we're surprised that there hasn't been more of a public outcry," the Trust said.

In two of the pending cases, involving Cinergy Corp. and Virginia Power, the accused companies have announced settlements with the government. Each company said it would spend more than one billion cleanup dollars to settle the prosecution.

Cheney has instructed the Attorney General to "review the existing enforcement ensure that the enforcement actions are consistent with the Clean Air Act and its regulations."

Neither company has signed a final consent agreement yet. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been given 90 days to review the underlying rules, but there is no deadline on how long the Attorney General's review may take.

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HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania, May 22, 2001 (ENS) - Pennsylvania is conducting the largest environmental enforcement effort in state history, aimed at eliminating environmental and safety violations on trash trucks and at landfills.

On behalf of Governor Tom Ridge, Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) acting secretary David Hess announced Monday that DEP, the Pennsylvania State Police and the Department of Transportation (PennDOT) have launched "Operation Clean Sweep."

More than 500 DEP, State Police and PennDOT inspectors fanned out across the Commonwealth to conduct surprise inspections of trash trucks at every landfill, and at municipal waste incinerators in the state. State police will set up additional checkpoints on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and other interstate highways.

"Last month, DEP and State Police found safety violations on 86 percent of all trash trucks and environmental violations on 29 percent during surprise inspections," Hess said. "This dramatic increase in violations is intolerable."

During the inspections, held from April 2 to April 5, DEP found 250 environmental violations on 169 vehicles. As a result, DEP issued 26 notices of violation and 105 citations.

State police conducted safety inspections of 635 vehicles, finding violations on 548 vehicles. The troopers issued 144 citations, took 70 unsafe trucks off the road, and cited 79 trucks for being overweight.

"This is a clear indication that there are too many waste haulers who disregard our safety and environmental regulations, which can lead to tragic accidents," said Captain Robert Haught, director of the State Police Safety Program Division.

"Starting today, we have deployed more than 500 DEP, State Police and PennDOT inspectors in the largest environmental enforcement effort ever undertaken by the Commonwealth," added Hess. "We will be at every landfill, every hour they are open to inspect trucks hauling waste."

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OLYMPIA, Washington, May 22, 2001 (ENS) - Lab tests now confirm what environmental experts have suspected for some time - wood treating chemicals have seeped into ground water under Carty Lake, part of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge.

The chemicals came from the former Pacific Wood Treating Corporation site at the Port of Ridgefield.

"Levels of contamination are moderately low and do not represent a threat to drinking water, but we are more eager than ever to galvanize funding so cleanup can begin," said Dan Alexanian of the state Department of Ecology's toxic cleanup program.

The nearest source of drinking water is an aquifer below the depth where contamination has been found. But Alexanian said it is too early to know what, if any, harm may have occurred to fish and wildlife in the refuge.

In the nine wells tested, two contaminants did not meet state cleanup standards for ground water: trichloroethylene (TCE) and pentachlorophenol (PCP), both suspected human carcinogens. TCE was found at 9.4 parts per billion (ppb); the residential cleanup standard is 3.98 ppb. PCP was found at 16 ppb; its residential cleanup standard is 0.729 ppb. The residential standard is the state's strictest cleanup requirement.

Low levels of carcinogenic polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were estimated by the lab, ranging from 0.02 to 0.05 ppb. The groundwater standard for PAHs is 0.012 ppb.

Alexanian said that Ecology intends to continue providing financial assistance for the cleanup, if the state legislature provides enough money in the next budget. The department has given about $5 million in grants to clean up the site since it came under Ecology's oversight more than four years ago.

"This is one of Clark County's worst environmental problems. We're on a path to change that," Alexanian said.

Ecology estimates the site cleanup will take 10 years, at a total cost of $48 million.

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TALLAHASSEE, Florida, May 22, 2001 (ENS) - A host of animal protection and environmental groups are urging Florida regulators to strike down a controversial proposal that would allow commercial dive operators to feed sharks and other marine wildlife and, instead, institute a ban on marine feeding.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC) is scheduled to hear arguments on the proposal on Thursday.

"Hopefully, it should be something of a 'no-brainer' for the FWCC commissioners," said Howard White, a spokesman for The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the nation's largest animal protection organization. "Marine feeding presents an obvious danger to humans as well as to sharks and other marine wildlife being fed."

In February 2000, the FWCC responded to a marine feeding ban petition from citizens and environmental groups by directing that a new rule be drafted that would ban the feeding of any marine wildlife by divers in Florida waters. The proposed rule would have had no effect on traditional sport or commercial fishing.

Since then, a small, well funded element in the sport diving industry has waged a campaign to reverse the FWCC's February 2000 decision. At its September 2000 meeting, the FWCC directed the dive industry to draft marine feeding guidelines - in essence, asking the dive operators to self regulate a practice many experienced divers feel is a prelude to tragedy.

For example, a south Florida woman was injured last summer when a nurse shark bit her leg, inflicting a gash that required hospitalization and took months to heal.

Feeding animals also changes their behavior and natural movement patterns, and can spread disease and other health problems.

"The feeding of marine wildlife, particularly sharks and reef fishes, has become a rapidly growing and highly profitable trend in the dive industry," said Robert Dimond, a veteran scuba diver and co-founder of the Marine Safety Group (MSG). "Food is offered to wildlife to promote so called 'interactive diving' experiences, that often also include touching, handling, and even riding of marine animals."

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska, May 22, 2001 (ENS) - The health of the prized Copper River salmon population is dependent on protecting its threatened habitat, the National Wildlife Federation says.

Boats raced to bring back the first of Alaska's acclaimed Copper River salmon last week to restaurant chefs and supermarket fish buyers from San Francisco to Chicago to New Orleans. The distinctive, flame red Copper River salmon are known in gourmet restaurants and stores all over the world for their richness and flavor.

From May through September, more than two million wild salmon make their way through the silty water of the Copper River Delta, beginning their long journey. Aficionados say the salmon's outstanding quality comes from the generous oil reserves stored by the fish as they prepare for the grueling trip up the turbulent Copper River to spawn.


Copper River salmon is an annual treat for chefs and gourmands around the world (Photo courtesy National Wildlife Federation)
"There's really not another fish like it," said Matt Costello, chef at Seattle's Dahlia Lounge. "The Copper River salmon have a distinctly clean, bright taste that is unmatchable."

While this first harvest of the season is being celebrated, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) is leading a coalition of groups to secure a federal wilderness designation to keep the Delta forever wild and free of roads, clearcuts and strip mines. Maintaining a healthy habitat for these fish will assure they can be enjoyed for years to come.

Oil exploration, roads, and gas drilling threaten this pristine landscape and only a federal wilderness designation can achieve its permanent protection, NWF says.

"We want everyone in the country to enjoy Copper River salmon as much as we do, this year and every year," said Scott Anaya of the National Wildlife Federation's Alaska office. "A wilderness designation is the only way to maintain this rich habitat that supports not only abundant wildlife like salmon, but the people who depend on the Copper River Delta for their livelihood."

The Eyak tribe of Native Americans, who rely on the salmon runs to make a living, believe that by leaving their remaining wild places roadless, intact and free from development, these sacred places will continue to support their subsistence and cultural way of life for generations to come.

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KING MOUNTAIN, Texas, May 22, 2001 (ENS) - The second largest wind farm in the world will be constructed on King Mountain in Texas.

FPL Energy, LLC will own and operate the 278 megawatt (MW) generating facility. The output, enough to power 140,000 homes, will be sold to Reliant Energy of Houston, Austin Energy and Texas-New Mexico Power. Over the 20 year life of the facility, it is expected to prevent the release of 20 million tons of carbon dioxide that would be generated by a fossil fueled power plant.

"We are pleased to be enhancing our portfolio in Texas, where demand for electricity is growing and state regulators are encouraging development of a robust wholesale market, particularly in renewable sources and clean burning natural gas," said president Lew Hay.

The King Mountain project was developed by Renewable Energy Systems and Cielo Wind Power of Austin. RES will install the 214 turbines from Denmark's Bonus Energy, which have a rated power of 1.3 MW each. The facility should be operational before the end of this year.

"We are pleased to be a part of the team, along with Renewable Energy Systems," said Walter Hornaday, president of Cielo Wind Power. "Wind power is a cost effective and environmentally sound way to generate power."

Cielo Wind also developed the 107 turbine wind farm near McCamey, which is the largest wind farm now operating in Texas.

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LOS ANGELES, California, May 22, 2001 (ENS) - In honor of Ocean Day and its commitment to the environment, Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) is co-sponsoring the Eighth Annual Adopt-a-Beach event today.

Almost 3,000 students from 26 elementary schools are expected to help pick up trash and debris. Once their clean up mission is completed, they will form a human chain and spell out "CLEAN H2O NOW" for an aerial photograph.

During the Ocean Day event, students receive hands on instruction and learn how the debris found on the beach affects marine life. Students also learn how pollution from runoff from the Los Angeles storm drain system affects beaches and the ocean.

"Los Angeles World Airports and the Malibu Foundation share a commitment to implementing effective student programs that improve the quality of life for their communities and the environment overall," said Roger Johnson, LAWA deputy executive director for environmental affairs.

"Students are often surprised to see first-hand how much trash and debris beachgoers leave behind," added Johnson. "This trash often ends up in our ocean or is blown onto our El Segundo Blue Butterfly endangered species preserve or against the LAX perimeter fence along Vista del Mar, requiring twice weekly cleanups by LAX maintenance crews. It is a real joy for us to see thousands of students learn the importance of protecting our coastal areas and the ocean."

Michael Klubock, director of the Malibu Foundation and creator of the annual Ocean Day event, conducts a traveling environmental show where students participate in an Adopt-a-Beach Assembly program aimed at Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego schools. During the school assemblies, students bring hundreds of thousands of washed and crushed aluminum cans, which are redeemed for money to help pay for buses to transport the students to the Ocean Day event.

"LAWA's support and generous donation of recyclable sipper cups reinforces reuse, which is part of the recycling message," said Klubock. "Most of the trash found on the beach comes from discarded bottles, cans and cups."

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ALBANY, New York, May 22, 2001 (ENS) - New York Governor George Pataki has designated the Constitution Marsh Audubon Center and Sanctuary as a State Bird Conservation Area.

Pataki also announced the official opening of the new Boardwalk at the Marsh in Hudson Highlands State Park, to be known as "Jim's Walk," is dedicated in memory of Jim Rod, the longtime manager of the Sanctuary who passed away in July 1998.

"New York is a natural wonderland of untamed places filled with birds and wildlife that give us with a glimpse into Mother Nature's awesome beauty," Pataki said. "The Constitution Marsh Sanctuary is an unspoiled place that must be protected because it will provide future generations of New Yorkers with a special opportunity to learn about nature."

"The 'Jim's Walk' Boardwalk is a fitting tribute to Jim Rod, who was renowned for his knowledge of the environment and his ability to teach children and adults alike about the importance of nature," Pataki added. "Through his dedication, the Sanctuary has become one of the more significant education resources along the Hudson. With this boardwalk and the continuing efforts of Audubon, his legacy will continue."

Constitution Marsh is a 270 acre tidal marsh located on the east shore of the Hudson River. The Sanctuary is operated by New York State Office of Parks and National Audubon. The new boardwalk provides patrons with an up close and personal look at the inner workings of this important ecosystem while minimizing the impact to the environment.

In 1997, Governor Pataki signed legislation establishing New York's Bird Conservation Area program, designed to safeguard and enhance bird populations and their habitats on selected state lands and waters. The legislation authorizes the designation of state lands that are of particular importance to the conservation of birds.

"By safeguarding and enhancing these critical areas, we are securing critical habitat for resident and migratory birds and wildlife, while focusing needed attention on protecting our bird populations," said Pataki. "The Audubon Center at Constitution Marsh will provide unique outdoor recreation, environmental education and research opportunities for New Yorkers and visitors to learn about and enjoy the magnificent wildlife, wetlands, history and culture of the Hudson Highlands."

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado, May 22, 2001 (ENS) - The Colorado public is invited to a conference on Thursday to discuss human conflicts with bears and lions.

Burgeoning growth in Colorado means more people are building and recreating in areas that are home to black bears and mountain lions. Most encounters with a bear or a lion end safely with no harm to humans or the animals - if people are knowledgeable about the proper ways avoid conflict with wildlife.

"The best way for people to avoid potentially dangerous conflicts with bears and lions is to learn more about them," said Steve Lucero, an education specialist with the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DoW).

The DoW will hold a one day seminar in Colorado Springs on Thursday to offer information about the problems, and solutions, involved with living near bear and lion habitat. Sessions include in depth discussions about black bear and mountain lion biology, understanding what motivates bears and lions and tips on how to avoid conflicts.

"Bears and lions in Colorado are a normal part of the life cycle," said Lucero. "Some bears and lions seem to be able to live in the vicinity of humans without conflict. In other situations, people become careless and encourage the animals to visit their property."

"There are a number of things homeowners and people recreating in bear and lion territory can do to minimize potential conflicts," Lucero said. "The preventative measures people take up front can make sure the animals don't learn bad habits that will get them into trouble later."

There are between 10,000 and 12,000 bears in Colorado. The number of mountain lions is estimated at between 2,000 and 3,000.