AmeriScan: May 12, 2003

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EPA Finalizes Air Pollution Rules

WASHINGTON, DC, May 12, 2003 (ENS) – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has revised two rules contributing to its efforts to reduce national emissions of toxic air pollutants. The rules affect industries such as auto and metal can coating, fabric printing and dyeing, iron and steel manufacture, and industrial boilers.

The first action issued Thursday amends a rule known as the "General Provisions" which establishes a common set of requirements for developing rules or standards to regulate emissions of toxic air pollution.

In the second action, EPA is amending its rule known as the "Section 112(j) or MACT Hammer rule." MACT stands for maximum achievable control technology to reduce the emission of air pollutants. This rule currently affects over 40 categories of industry for which EPA has yet to issue national air toxics emissions standards.

The 1990 Clean Air Act charged EPA with the task of issuing regulations that would reduce air toxic emissions from over 170 categories of industries.

To date, the agency has issued rules to control emissions of air toxics from 112 of the 154 categories of industries currently listed for control.

Sixteen of the original categories have been delisted or are included within other categories. The EPA is committed to completing the remaining emissions standards by the deadlines agreed to in a March 2003 settlement agreement with the Sierra Club. The agency says that all will be completed by June 14, 2005.

The final amendments require an affected source of emissions to submit a copy of its startup, shutdown, and malfunction plan (SSMP) to its state, tribal or local environmental enforcement agency, if requested by its agency, and to revise its plan if that agency finds it to be deficient.

An SSMP is a required document that describes how a source will operate to minimize emissions during periods of startup, shutdown, and malfunction. The amendments also eliminate summary reporting of startups and shutdowns if the SSMP is followed during those periods.

The amendments clarify that during periods of startup, shutdown, and malfunction, the emissions standard need not be attained, but the facility must reduce emissions to the greatest extent consistent with safety and good air pollution control practices.

These amendments include a backstop to insure that emissions reductions will occur by requiring states to set emission limits on a facility-by-facility basis should the EPA not be able to finalize the remaining air toxics standards as agreed.

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Federal First: Space Flight Center Uses Landfill Gas for Heat

GREENBELT, Maryland, May 12, 2003 (ENS) - The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the first federal agency to directly use the landfill gas methane to produce energy at one of its facilities. The federal space agency is using this renewable energy source to heat buildings at the Goddard Space Flight Center, located in Greenbelt. The gas comes from the Sandy Hill Landfill owned by Prince George’s County, Maryland.

Two of the five boilers at Goddard were modified to run on landfill gas, heating 31 buildings at the center. Landfill gas provides all of the center's heating needs 95 percent of the time, with natural gas serving as the back up.

“It is very encouraging that a large federal institution like NASA is using a local landfill as a source of renewable energy,” said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman at a recognition ceremony Thursday. “This project at Goddard Space Flight Center demonstrates how the federal government can lead the way in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and utilizing alternative energy sources. These efforts should be applauded.”

“Understanding and protecting our home planet is one of NASA's key missions,” said NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe. “NASA monitors and studies our planet from our unique vantage point in space, and our Earth Sciences Enterprise also looks for ways to improve the quality of life on Earth. This project directly benefits the Earth by removing a significant amount of methane, a greenhouse gas, from the environment. We use this energy, virtually pollution-free, for power. Hopefully, projects like these will demonstrate the clean, efficient, cost effective use of renewable sources of energy."

By reducing their use of fossil fuels by substituting landfill gas, NASA will save taxpayers millions of dollars over the next 10 years. The switch to a cleaner fuel source will also prevent as much pollution annually as planting 47,000 acres of trees, or removing 35,000 cars from Maryland’s roads.

The Goddard Space Flight Center landfill gas project is the culmination of a public-private partnership between Prince George’s County, Waste Management, Toro Energy, NASA and EPA’s Landfill Methane Outreach Program.

Currently, 340 landfills in the United States harness landfill gas for energy. If the greenhouse gas reductions from these projects were combined, Whitman said, it would have the same annual climate change benefit as planting 17 million acres of forest, or eliminating the emissions from 12 million cars.

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Phased California Resort Development Draws Lawsuit

SACRAMENTO, California, May 12, 2003 (ENS) - Conservation groups have filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Diablo Grande Limited Partnership alleging numerous violations of federal environmental laws in the construction of a planned 29,500 acre destination resort and residential community in western Stanislaus County.

The Diablo Grande property is situated west of Interstate 5, on land that provides prime habitat for several species listed under the federal Endangered Species Act, including the San Joaquin kit fox and the California red-legged frog.

The plaintiff groups, Protect our Water and the San Joaquin Wildlife/Raptor Rescue Center, allege that by issuing permits for building just one phase of the project at a time, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has failed to evaluate all the impacts that may occur as a result of the entire project. The groups demand that a complete federal environmental review be prepared before any further development can occur.

Developers have begun with the first of five phases of Diablo Grande's construction in Oak Flat Valley, about five miles west of Patterson. At completion, the project would include 5,000 residential units, six championship golf courses, a conference center, swim and tennis facilities, and shopping centers.

"This is a classic example of piecemealing a project - that is, breaking it into small component parts and claiming that each part by itself has an insignificant impact, rather than evaluating the cumulative impacts of the overall project - which is specifically prohibited under federal environmental law," said Earthjustice attorney Mike Sherwood, who represents the plaintiff groups.

"Such a vast project could have huge adverse impacts to the environment, including several endangered species," said Sherwood, "but the Corps has never evaluated those impacts in a comprehensive way. That's what we hope this suit will force them to do."

In addition, the plaintiffs allege that the developer is violating the Endangered Species Act by destroying habitat for and possibly killing endangered San Joaquin kit fox and California red-legged frogs. Under the ESA, a developer must obtain a permit to "take" listed species or habitat and must prepare a "habitat conservation plan" outlining how it will continue to protect the listed species. The Diablo Grande developer has not done so, yet the Army Corps has given the developer a green light to start construction despite the ESA's requirements.

"For years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have been telling Diablo Grande they need to comply with the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act before starting to build this project, but the developer has refused, and the Army Corps has turned a blind eye," said Steve Burke of Protect Our Water.

"This project will not only destroy current kit fox habitat; it also puts a huge roadblock in the middle of an essential travel corridor for kit fox and other wildlife," said Lydia Miller of the San Joaquin Wildlife/Raptor Rescue Center. "Allowing movement through this corridor helps insure the viability of the species and facilitates genetic exchange between kit fox populations to the north and south."

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Washington State Grants $21.8 Million for Salmon

OLYMPIA, Washington, May 12, 2003 (ENS) - Governor Gary Locke has announced the approval of nearly $22 million in program grants designed to improve and protect salmon habitat in Washington state. The funding, which was approved by the Salmon Recovery Funding Board (SRFB) earlier this month, will target 70 habitat restoration and improvement grants across the state.

In its fourth annual review, which began in mid-2002, the board funded 70 of the 207 requests it received. The funded projects are located across the state, in 23 different watershed or regional areas.

"I commend the board for its diligence in the selection process and funding of the most qualified projects across the state," Locke said. "Through its work with local watershed and regional groups, the state can continue its commitment to salmon recovery efforts."

Combined with local matching funds, the total value of the approved project list is more than $32.7 million. An additional $3 million in projects are identified for possible future approval pending determination of fund availability and other issues.

"In these difficult budgetary times it is terribly important that we are spending the SRFB money wisely and getting a return for the money that's being invested," said William Ruckelshaus, chair of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board, and a former U.S. EPA administrator. "The board will do its best to honor our commitment to the local watershed groups and at the same time protect salmon by funding the best salmon projects possible."

The board used state and local technical groups to help review all proposals. Local technical advisory groups apply their scientific understanding of the watershed to evaluate projects. Then local citizen committees review the technical groups' recommendations to develop a final list of ranked projects to receive funding.

Once the funding board receives project lists from the designated local lead entities, a statewide panel of scientists review and rate the local process and list of projects based on the benefit to salmon and the certainty of project success. Through this level of scrutiny, the SRFB can fund projects that are both scientifically sound and locally supported.

The board will begin working on guidance for the fifth grant round at its June 4 and 5 meeting in Vancouver, Washington.

In April, the SRFB approved $36.7 million in grants to fund salmon recovery projects across the state. Combined with local matching funds, the total value of the approved project list is more than $57.6 million. Of these, 21 projects focus on the purchase of key salmon habitat, and 59 projects spotlight habitat improvements such as planting vegetation along streams for shade and removing fish passage barriers.

A summary and detailed listing of the funded projects are available on the Salmon Recovery Funding Board website at: http://www.iac.wa.gov/srfb/grants/funding.htm.

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Water for Endangered Minnow Benefits El Paso

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico, May 12, 2003 (ENS) - The cost to keep the Rio Grande river flowing for the survival of the endangered silvery minnow will cause economic hardship for that Albuquerque residents and some central New Mexico agricultural users, but other water users downstream in El Paso, Texas enjoy benefits, according to a new economic analysis by a New Mexico State University scientist.

Frank Ward, an agricultural economist at New Mexico State University (NMSU), conducted a 44 year mathematical simulation of future water inflows, which he says shows a net gain for New Mexico agriculture of $68,000 a year.

Central New Mexico would lose $68,000 a year and southern New Mexico would add $217,000, primarily because of the high value crops grown in the region. Farther down river, El Paso area farmers would get a boost of $203,000 a year, and El Paso municipal water users would gain $1.27 million annually.

The big beneficiaries to maintaining the upstream habitat for the minnow include El Paso industrial and municipal water users, who would gain more than $1 million a year during drought years, Ward said.

He found that protecting instream flows for the silvery minnow produces positive market economic benefits for agriculture and water users in the upper Rio Grande Basin, from southern Colorado to Ft. Quitman, Texas.

The study was funded by a $700,000 grant from U.S. Geological Survey, with support from the NMSU Agricultural Experiment Station and the water research institutes of New Mexico, Colorado and Texas.

The federal government, under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, has kept the Middle Rio Grande flowing for the endangered silvery minnow. The year round minimum minnow flow rate has been determined by biologists to be 50 cubic feet per second in the 60 mile San Acacia stretch of river north of Socorro. This reach of the upper Rio Grande is where most of the silvery minnows are found in the wild.

In wet years, that is not a problem, said Ward, but under drought conditions keeping the river flowing puts a strain on already drought stressed water supplies, with farmers along the Middle Rio Grande being forced to give up irrigation water to keep water in the river for the minnow.

"What we found wasn't all that unexpected," Ward said. "To get more water in the 60 mile San Acacia reach of the river, you have to have reduced diversions from other water users. Those two water users would be farmers in the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District and the City of Albuquerque."

The Albuquerque metropolitan area is developing surface water treatment facilities for future use, which was anticipated in the NMSU computer model.

By far the biggest beneficiary of rise in river flow would be El Paso municipal and industrial users, who rely heavily on surface water. "About 40 percent of their water comes right out of the river," Ward said. "El Paso water users would gain in greater water quantities, and reduced need for groundwater, which is a more expensive source."

The silvery minnow, once one of the most abundant fish in the Rio Grande Basin, now inhabits only a fraction of its former range. About 157 miles of the Rio Grande and a tributary through central New Mexico are now critical habitat for the endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow.

Ward's analysis was published in the April issue of "Journal of the American Water Resources Association."

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Aquila Burns Tires to Fight West Nile Virus

KANSAS CITY, Missouri, May 12, 2003 (ENS) - Power utility Aquila, Inc., which operates electricity and natural gas distribution networks in seven states, has partnered with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and community organizations burn abandoned tires that might otherwise serve as breeding grounds for mosquitoes that spread the West Nile virus.

The program, sponsored by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), rewards service clubs and community groups with contribution dollars in exchange for tires collected during organized clean-up efforts. The tire sites targeted for cleanup contain fewer than 500 tires, making it more economic to award contribution dollars to community cleanup groups than to hire contractors.

Once collected, the tires are disposed of at pre-arranged collection sites and sent for processing by independent companies. After being chopped into small pieces, the tires can be used as fuel to generate power. A passenger car tire has a heat value equivalent to approximately 20 pounds of coal, making scrap tires a fuel alternative that conserves natural resources.

Aquila's generating station in Sibley, Missouri has been using scrapped tires, known as Tire-Derived Fuel (TDF), in its boilers for more than five years. In an average year, Aquila burns the equivalent of more than one million passenger car tires, or about half the number of tires sold in the Kansas City area.

"Our primary goal in participating in this combined effort with the state and local groups is to do all we can to help our communities become a safer and more environmentally pleasant place to live," said Jim Brook, Aquila vice president of International Regulation and Environment.

While it would be simpler and as economical for Aquila to use only blended coal in its generating boilers, it is able to substitute TDF for up to five percent of its fuel.

"We view this program as an effective way for communities to remove unwanted tires from the environment," said Brook. "Since scrapped tires do not decompose, this is an innovative and cost effective way to address both an eyesore and health issue."

Organized cleanups under way in the Kansas City area will continue through most of the year. More information about organizing a clean-up project and the reimbursement process can be found on the MDNR's website at: http://www.dnr.state.mo.us/alpd/swmp.tirecost.htm, or organizations may contact the MDNR's Byron Murray or Dan Fester at: 573/751-4465.

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Gas Toxics Removed from Delaware Town Groundwater

KENTON, Delaware, May 12, 2003 (ENS) - Gasoline chemicals detected in the town of Kenton's groundwater during an investigation in July, 2000 have been successfully removed. The water was contaminated by gasoline that originated from an underground gasoline tank at the Kenton Country Store in Kenton.

The station owner, under the oversight of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), contracted Groundwater and Environmental Services, Inc. to perform air-sparging, soil vapor extraction, and chemical oxidation to deal with the contaminated soil and water. The work began in December 2001.

Air-sparging involves forcing air into the groundwater to create bubbles. The bubbles strip the contaminants from the water and carry them to the unsaturated soil above the groundwater where the soil vapor extraction system removes them out like a vacuum. Chemical oxidation is a process in which ozone and hydrogen peroxide are injected into wells to increase the amount of dissolved oxygen in the groundwater. The added oxygen promotes "good" bacteria growth that will ultimately feed on the contaminants.

It took three months for the system to successfully remove gasoline chemicals in the groundwater around the Kenton Country Store. The chemical oxidation system was recently turned off after five months of remediation, and the site is currently being monitored for closure.

"The Kenton Country Store project is truly an environmental success story. Gasoline chemicals are difficult substances to clean up but after just five months of cleanup efforts, the town of Kenton had no detectable contaminants in their soil or water," said Kathleen Stiller-Banning, DNREC Underground Storage Tank Branch. "We will continue to monitor the site for at least one year to ensure that the cleanup was effective."

Eighteen monitoring wells were installed throughout the project to monitor contaminant migration and ground water elevations. Five residential wells were replaced and filters were installed on two wells.

On July 17, 2000 a 6,000-gallon, "super" grade gasoline, underground storage tank was removed at the Kenton Country Store. All the underground storage tanks were tight and not leaking. But soil samples taken at the time of the removal indicated a release of gasoline chemicals to the sub-surface.

A hydrogeologic investigation was conducted by the station owner at DNREC's direction. The results of the investigation indicated a contaminant plume migrating southeast from the country store. Division of Public Health and DNREC tested provate drinking water wells in the surrounding area for contaminants and it was found that concentrations of gasoline chemicals existed in seven wells.

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Texas Considers Slaughter of Horses for Dinner

AUSTIN, Texas, May 12, 2003 (ENS) - Legislation to overturn an existing Texas law which outlaws the slaughter of horses for human consumption was introduced earlier this year, but it may not go very far. A new opinion poll shows that a majority of Texas voters, 77 percent, are opposed to the slaughtering of horses for human consumption.

Texas has the two remaining horse slaughter houses in the United States. Both are foreign owned, and the meat is shipped to Europe and Asia where it is considered a delicacy.

The survey was conducted May 4 to 6 by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research for Blue Horse Charities and the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, the largest equine rescue organization in the country.

In response to the question, "Do you favor or oppose changing state law to legalize the slaughter of horses and foreign export of horsemeat for human consumption?" 77 percent of those polled said they were opposed.

"The horse holds a unique place in the lives of Americans, so we weren't surprised to learn that 77 percent of Texans oppose the legislation pending in the state legislature," said John Hettinger, executive committee, Fasig-Tipton Co., Inc., which conducts auction sales of thoroughbred horses.

The survey also revealed that horse slaughter is an unknown industry to most Texans. Eighty-nine percent of those questioned said they were previously unaware of the practice.

Because horses are not raised for human consumption in the United States but in Europe and Asia, slaughterhouses and their middlemen known as "killer buyers" have to travel throughout the entire United States from auction to auction to fill their quotas, often buying from owners who are unaware that their animals will be killed and their flesh served in European restaurants.

Diana Pikulski, executive director of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation says, "There are ample, quality sanctuaries across the United States that can take in horses in need of homes. We have four major farms at correctional facilities where inmates and juvenile offenders derive emotional as well as educational benefits while helping care for the horses. Additionally we have seven other satellite farms around the country caring for horses."

A federal bill, the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (HR 857), was recently introduced by Representative John Sweeney, a New York Republican. This bill would ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption, and the export of live horses for slaughter abroad.