AmeriScan: May 30, 2001


YONKERS, New York, May 30, 2001 (ENS) - As part of ongoing efforts to implement President George W. Bush's national energy policy, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham called Tuesday for a transmission infrastructure that ensures reliable electricity supplies.

Highlighting the problems presented by a lack of a reliable transmission infrastructure during a visit to Con Edison's Sprain Brook Substation in Yonkers, Abraham said, "Investment in new transmission capacity has failed to keep pace with growth in electricity demand and with changes in the industry's structure. If we remove the transmission constraints across the country, like those present in New York, the result will be lower prices and improved reliability."

Transmission constraints across the country impede the movement of electricity both within and between regions, resulting in higher prices and lower reliability. The Secretary noted that, in some cases, transmission constraints exist because of a lack of economic incentive.

The Bush administration's national energy policy proposes a solution by encouraging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to develop incentive rates to promote transmission expansion.

In other cases, the problem is the siting process itself. The Bush policy proposes legislation providing for federal transmission siting. Under current law, transmission siting is a state function.

On Monday, Abraham directed the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) to take the first step toward building the necessary transmission capacity to relieve the bottleneck in California's Path 15. Abraham directed WAPA to complete its planning and determine whether outside parties are interested in helping finance and co-own the transmission line.

The level of interest will be a factor in the decision to build the line later this year. WAPA will prepare the necessary environmental and feasibility studies, in addition to reviewing easement and land acquisition issues associated with the project.

"The Bush Administration is taking a leadership role in addressing a long neglected problem in California's electricity transmission system," said Abraham. "California's electricity problems developed over a period of years and cannot be solved overnight. However, we can move now on actions that will help avert the same types of problems from recurring year after year. Removing the so called 'Path 15 bottleneck' is a big step in the right direction, and a big step forward for Californians."

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DALLAS, Texas, May 30, 2001 (ENS) - The Board of Directors of Exxon Mobil Corporation today declared an additional cash dividend of two cents per share on its common stock and a 2-for-1 stock split. But the good news for shareholders meeting at the Myerson Symphony Center in Dallas today was interrupted by two activists from the Seattle based non-profit organization Pressurepoint who unfurled an enormous banner during the shareholders annual meeting.

The banner read, "ExxonMobil: Stop Killing for Oil" in blood red lettering. It was unfurled from the top level of the amphitheater while CEO Lee Raymond spoke about Exxon Mobil's support for the controversial Chad-Cameroon pipeline. Activists Chris Doran and David Cobb chanted "Exxon Mobil stop killing for oil," drowning out Raymond's speech on the company's human rights record. Both activists were escorted out of the meeting by police and released. A crowd of about 200 people protested outside the meeting.

"This action is a declaration of independence from corporate rule," said Texas Green Party State Secretary David Cobb.

"Exxon Mobil is the most profitable corporation in the world, but it is morally bankrupt," said Doran. "Exxon Mobil is the target of world outrage over its abuse of corporate power, and this banner serves notice that their safe haven of wealth and privilege no longer exists."

Earlier in the meeting, Raymond limited the speech of Acehnese activist Radhi Darmansyah to the standard two minutes. Darmansyah pleaded with the corporation to acknowledge its complicity in human rights atrocities occurring in the Indonesian province of Aceh and to take immediate steps to end them.

Doran told the shareholders that they are the target of an International Day of Action on July 11 as part of an ongoing campaign on climate change and corporate power. Pressurepoint has confirmed 100 protests at Exxon Mobil gas stations in 15 countries. A representative from the UK Stop Esso campaign told shareholders about the growing Exxon Mobil boycott in Europe.

Shareholders also heard from a number of individuals speaking to resolutions designed to make the corporation more accountable for its actions. These included people of color living near the corporation's refineries, opponents of the corporation's plans to drill in the National Arctic Wildlife Refuge, and some who are angry at what Pressurepoint calls "the corporation's intentionally misleading comments on climate change." Others objected to what they see as the company's influence on President George W. Bush, which has resulted the administration's reliance on fossil fuels in its new National Energy Policy, and Bush's retreat from the Kyoto climate change protocol.

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WASHINGTON, DC, May 30, 2001 (ENS) - To help reduce global warming, the Kyoto Protocol encourages countries to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by planting more trees. But the protocol fails to consider conservation, and countries could meet their commitment by replacing mature forests with rapidly growing plantations.

"Replacement of old forests with plantations is a 'perverse incentive' of the Kyoto Protocol," said Reed Noss of Conservation Science, Inc. in Corvallis, Oregon, in the June issue of the journal "Conservation Biology." "The protocol could easily do more harm than good unless accompanied by strong incentives to protect biodiversity."

While the U.S. commitment is now in doubt under the Bush administration, the government had planned to meet half its annual commitment through land based carbon sinks. Noss urges countries to conserve old growth forests and to put any tree plantations on marginal agricultural lands.

Noss also considered how to protect forests during climate change. Forests have already survived many periods of warming and cooling, in part by shifting, contracting and expanding their ranges.

But it will be harder for trees and other species in today's fragmented and degraded forests to shift their ranges in response to climate change.

To help forests adapt to climate change, Noss recommends two main approaches. First, governments should maintain or restore connections between forests. These include elevational corridors so species can move up or down mountains as necessary, as well as corridors along the Mississippi Valley and other major north south river valleys that allowed dispersal during past climate changes.

Second, governments should protect climate refuges, which are areas that harbored species during past climate changes. Probable climate refuges include the southern Appalachians and the Klamath-Siskiyou region of California and Oregon; Iberia, Italy and the Balkans; and rock outcrops, cool slopes and many other small areas.

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BOSTON, Massachusetts, May 30, 2001 (ENS) - An analysis of vegetation growth in North America between 1982 and 1998 using satellite observations indicates a significant increase in the rate at which carbon is being taken up by plants, according to a new study.

The regions where vegetation productivity showed the largest increases were managed forests in the Southeast and croplands and grasslands on the Central Plains.

Two other areas also showing increases were forests in southeast Canada - which are recovering from insect damage - and western Canada and Alaska. Recent warming in the northwest part of the continent appears to have triggered earlier annual snowmelt and an earlier beginning to the growing season, said University of Colorado at Boulder research associate Jeffrey Hicke, who led the study.

Hicke said it is still unclear why North American vegetation growth has been increasing in the last two decades.

"It is likely that changing land use practices, the stimulation of vegetation growth by increased atmospheric CO2 and climate change are the primary causes of the recent U.S. vegetation increases," Hicke said. "But we definitely are seeing an increase in carbon uptake that could generate a carbon sink similar to those observed by other researchers."

Carbon sinks, or storage areas, include the atmosphere, the oceans and the terrestrial environment, said Hicke, a research associate in CU-Boulder's department of geological sciences. A 1995 study led by CU-Boulder indicated the equivalent of about half of the world's fossil fuel emissions was absorbed by terrestrial vegetation in the Northern Hemisphere in 1992 and 1993.

"There definitely is a limit to how much carbon dioxide plants can soak up," said Hicke. He said the amount of future uptake of carbon by North American vegetation will depend on the mechanisms that are driving the processes, which still need to be identified.

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BOSTON, Massachusetts, May 30, 2001 (ENS) - A major advance in satellite based land surface mapping has led to the creation of more accurate and detailed maps of cities.

These maps provide urban planners with a better understanding of city growth and how rainfall runoff over paved surfaces impact regional water quality.

Maps taken from space are invaluable to city planners and state agencies monitoring water quality in urban areas, and are replacing the more expensive and time consuming traditional aerial photography.

These space based maps of buildings and paved surfaces, such as roads and parking lots, which are impervious to water, can indicate where large storm water runoffs occur. Concentrated amounts of runoffs lead to erosion and elevated amounts of soil and chemical discharge into rivers, streams and ground water.

Scott Goetz, Project Manager of the NASA-sponsored Mid-Atlantic Regional Earth Science Applications Center (RESAC) at the University of Maryland, presented detailed surface maps Tuesday at the American Geophysical Union spring meeting in Boston.

More information is available at:

In another study presented at the same meeting, Arizona State University geologists William Stefanov and Philip Christensen have turned to satellite data being gathered on 100 cities around the globe by the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) to examine different configurations of urban development that they believe can be used to classify cities by their growth and density patterns.

"We're going to collect data over each of 100 cities twice a year, both day and night," explained Stefanov, a researcher at in ASU's Department of Geological Sciences and the Center for Environmental Studies. "The whole idea is to be able to classify the land cover of those cities, differentiating vegetative vs. non-vegetative, urban vs. non-urban, developed vs. undeveloped areas and to track them over six years to begin to see how these cities are changing over time and how they're interacting with their surrounding environment."

More information is available at:

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CRYSTAL RIVER, Florida, May 30, 2001 (ENS) - A total of 45 sea turtles have been caught in the water intake areas of the Crystal River nuclear power plant in Florida since January 1, the plant's operators have reported.

Under its licensing agreement, the Crystal River Nuclear Plant is required to report to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) if its facilities snare more than 40 live sea turtles within any two year period. That number is set by the National Marine and Fisheries Service (NMFS).

The NMFS has established numerical limits on the snaring of live turtles, the killing of turtles as a result of plant operations, and dead turtles that are not related to plant operations.

Since the latest two year monitoring period began on January 1, 2001, 45 sea turtles have been discovered in plant intake areas or other areas related to the operations of Crystal River's three nuclear reactors.

The 40th snared turtle, which triggered the reporting requirement, was found on April 9. Two more were caught at the plant in April, and three have so far been caught in May.

The live turtles are kept by licensed rehabilitators for observation, then released back into the sea.

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COLLEGE PARK, Maryland, May 30, 2001 (ENS) - While the pet trade and conservation biologists agree that parrots are threatened by habitat loss, they disagree about the effects of poaching.

Avicultural interests downplay it but biologists say poaching chicks for the lucrative pet trade is one of the biggest reasons for the parrots' decline. New research shows that the biologists are right.

"Our results are the first to demonstrate that poaching of nestling parrots is indeed widespread and in many species is occurring at levels that probably are not sustainable," said Timothy Wright of the University of Maryland in College Park, who reports this work with 24 co-authors in the June issue of the journal "Conservation Biology."

Almost a third of the 145 parrot species in the Neotropics (Mexico, Central and South America) are threatened, making them among the most endangered groups of birds worldwide. Parrots fetch an average of $800 in the U.S. and the number of parrot chicks taken from the wild is estimated at up to 800,000 per year.

Parrots are sensitive to poaching because they have low reproductive rates.

Based on existing studies of 21 parrot species in 14 neotropical countries, Wright and his colleagues determined the birds' death rates due to nest poaching. The overall poaching rate was 30 percent and for four species it exceeded 70 percent, which is too high given parrots' low reproductive rates.

Without intervention, these four species are likely to decline sharply, the researchers said.

Wright and his colleagues also compared poaching in 10 species before and after the 1992 U.S. Wild Bird Conservation Act, which bans imports of threatened parrots. They found that this legal protection cut poaching rates from almost 50 percent to 20 percent, refuting the pet trade's arguments that limiting legal trade will only intensify illegal trade and thus poaching.

This finding suggests that parrots would benefit from similar legislation in Europe and Japan, which now provide most of the market for parrot imports.

"Import restrictions would be perhaps the single most effective measure for improving the plight of endangered parrots," said Wright.

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ONTARIO, Canada, May 30, 2001 (ENS) - Researchers have discovered a surprising factor in the decline of songbirds in North America: forest fragmentation may put a cramp in their sex lives.

Two researchers from York University in North York, Ontario, looked at the effects of fragmentation on male hooded warblers, small yellow songbirds with black caps and throats. To see if fragmentation restricts their movements, the researchers radiotracked 20 of the warblers in forest fragments separated by agricultural fields in northwestern Pennsylvania.

"Our results suggest a new link between social behavior and habitat choice in fragmented landscapes," said Ryan Norris, who did this work with Bridget Stutchbury. The study appears in the June issue of the journal "Conservation Biology."

Ranging from 1.7 to six acres, the isolated forest fragments were similar in size to the warblers' breeding territories in continuous forest.

Norris and Stutchbury found that these low levels of isolation did not restrict the birds' movements. Rather, males in fragments spent far more time out of their territories than those in continuous forest (about 16 percent versus five percent) and also flew farther.

These extra costs of living in fragments could explain why males occupy only about a fifth of those fragments that are big enough for territories.

Norris and Stutchbury got another unexpected result that could explain why male hooded warblers living in fragments put so much effort into leaving them. About 60 percent of their forays were to woodlots occupied by another pair, suggesting that they traveled between fragments primarily to mate with other males' females.

"This 'need' for sex may explain why long distance forest migrants actually avoid settling in extremely isolated forest fragments," Norris said. "In other words, if there are no opportunities to cheat on your mate then it's not worth settling in certain highly fragmented areas."

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SIOUX FALLS, South Dakota, May 30, 2001 (ENS) - Senator Tom Daschle was honored today with the first annual Lewis and Clark Corps of Recovery Leadership Award, in recognition of Daschle's work to protect the Missouri River.

South Dakota Governor William Janklow joined American Rivers president Rebecca Wodder in presenting the award to the Senator, a South Dakota Democrat.

"Because of the leadership of Senator Tom Daschle, the future looks brighter for the Missouri River than it has in many years," said Wodder in presenting the award with George Lund of Sioux Falls, chair and CEO of BANKFIRST and a board member of American Rivers.

"We have an opportunity this year to modernize the operation of the great dams that control the river, restore natural flows, and make the most of all the river has to offer us," Wodder said. "Senator Daschle realizes this, and he has become the Missouri's greatest champion in the United States Congress. Everyone who believes in healthy rivers, and who wants healthy river based economies up and down the Missouri River, should know that they have no better friend in Congress than Tom Daschle."

The event was part of Daschle's first swing through his home state since learning last week he would become Senate Majority Leader after Congress returns from recess June 5.

Following the ceremony in Sioux Falls, Daschle and Governor Janklow joined the audience in previewing a new traveling exhibit by American Rivers, "Discovering the Rivers of Lewis & Clark." It will be open to the public from June 1 to 24 in the Washington Pavilion's Kirby Science Discovery Center, its first stop on a three year tour to 25 cities.

More information is available at:

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OLYMPIA, Washington, May 30, 2001 (ENS) - During the past two weeks, the Washington Department of Ecology has spent about $200,000 to remove at least 32,000 gallons of hazardous waste from the sites of two former Western Washington businesses.

The now defunct businesses are Reflex Recycling, a Tacoma hazardous waste disposal and recycling facility, and Boomsnub Chrome & Grind, a Vancouver chrome plating facility.

"Spending tax dollars to remove hazardous wastes is our last option, but these business owners either could not or would not deal with the problems," said Kay Seiler, a manager with Ecology's hazardous waste program.

Seiler added that the state will attempt to recoup the cleanup costs from the owners. The hazardous wastes, if left unattended, had great potential to cause harm, she said.

At Reflex Recycling, also known as Micro Oil, Ecology removed 20,000 gallons of "witch's brew," as one inspector described it. The hazardous waste included 249 aging drums filled with solutions that contained benzene and tetrachlorethylene, suspected human carcinogens.

The department also removed the contents of an abandoned 8,400 gallon tanker truck that was dripping hazardous waste into a 55 gallon steel drum. Reflex operated as a treatment, storage and recycler of printing industry wastes.

In March 2000, Ecology fined Reflex $20,000 for violating numerous hazardous waste regulations. The action was an effort to prevent a replay of the circumstances at CleanCare Corporation, another Tacoma-area waste handling company that broke dozens of environmental regulations, went out of business, and left hundreds of customers and taxpayers liable to clean and remove the waste it left behind.

At Boomsnub Chrome & Grind on 68th Street in Vancouver, Ecology removed all of the liquid hexavalent chrome plating and waste solutions on the site, totaling about 12,000 gallons. Hexavalent chromium is a human carcinogen and is classified by the state as a dangerous waste.

In March, Ecology confirmed that small amounts of hexavalent chromium were found in the ground water at the site, but experts do not believe drinking water is threatened. Boomsnub's former site is a federal Superfund cleanup site due to ground contamination by hexavalent chromium.

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TEMPE, Arizona, May 30, 2001 (ENS) - Integrated pest management has helped an Arizona school district keep unwanted pests at bay with only a fraction of the pesticides they once used.

Like lots of other schools, the Tempe based Kyrene School District sprayed its facilities to control an assortment of pesky creatures: fire ants, cockroaches, mosquitoes and bark scorpions. Each month the pesticide treatments were repeated, but pest populations remained at what district officials considered to e unacceptable levels.

While the poisons were being applied and reapplied, children were being pulled out of school for a day or two each month by their parents to avoid pesticide exposure. In addition, Kyrene's pest control costs were mounting: repeated pesticide applications and administrative hours boosted the price three times over.

In April 2000, Kyrene brought in a team of specialists that included entomologists from the University of Arizona (UA) led by Dawn Gouge, an expert in urban entomology.

Three Kyrene schools (Cielo, Paloma and Pueblo) were chosen for the pilot project, called Integrated Pest Management, or IPM. The operative theory behind IPM, says Gouge, is that most pests can be controlled "by combining all of our pest management tools and avoiding reliance on chemical pesticides."

"We focus on improving hygiene standards, the use of pest exclusion methods, habitat manipulation, encouraging naturally occurring biological controls and the selection of target specific pesticides that have low mammalian toxicity and low environmental impact," Gouge added.

The three pilot schools concentrated on identifying what the pests were, finding where they came from and denying them entry into buildings. All of the openings around pipes and conduits were sealed, and crawl spaces beneath portable classrooms were closed off.

Drains and building slabs were repaired to inhibit cockroaches. Trees were trimmed back and birds were encouraged to roost where their droppings would not contaminate walkways and other high traffic areas.

Gouge and her colleagues monitored the project using traps in various parts of the schools. She also started a "Critter Corner" report to be included in school newsletters to provide information on bug outbreaks.

"In this way we establish a pest management strategy that provides long term management of pest problems with a minimum impact on human health, the environment and non-target organisms," said Gouge.

A midterm evaluation showed that the schools reduced their pesticide applications by 90 percent and kept pest populations below 85 percent of their original levels.