AmeriScan: October 31, 2001

COALITION: MANATEE RECOVERY PLAN NEEDS MORE WORK

WASHINGTON, DC, October 31, 2001 (ENS) - Conservation groups are challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to stick to the recommendations of the Federal Manatee Recovery Plan, released today.

Meanwhile, a national group of marine mammal scientists has challenged the validity of a study that promotes downlisting the endangered manatee.

"The Service released a draft recovery plan in August that blatantly ignored the recommendations of their own commissioned scientific experts," said Howard White of the Humane Society of the United States. "Based on this track record, we're expecting that the recovery plan issued today will be business as usual - and that's bad for the manatees."

The recovery plan "will likely lead to the eventual downlisting of manatees," continued White. Environmentalists are not hopeful that the final Recovery Plan will have changed from a controversial previous draft.

"Based upon our past experiences with the Department of Interior under Gale Norton, including a list of violations of the federal settlement that we pointed out in our press conference last week, we have no optimism that the government will do what's necessary to recovery the manatee," said Eric Glitzenstein of Meyer & Glitzenstein, the Washington, DC based, public interest law firm which has represented a coalition of 18 environmental and animal protection groups in a lawsuit that resulted in a court ordered settlement agreement.

"Unless the Service has adopted a Recovery Plan that comports with the recommendations of their own commissioned scientists, we expect today's final Plan to be a politically driven document, not a science driven recovery plan," Glitzenstein continued.

In Florida, scientists contend that a study commissioned by a special interest group - the primary piece of evidence in the petition to reclassify the manatee to threatened status - was driven by politics rather than sound science. In a letter to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission chair David Meehan, marine mammal and manatee specialists expressed concern that a report submitted by salt water fishing advocates known as the Coastal Conservation Association would be presented as a sound scientific paper at a meeting today.

"The policies affecting the manatees must be based upon good science, and the minimum definition of good science must include peer review," said Dr. Naomi Rose, marine mammal scientist of the Humane Society of the United States.

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AGRICULTURE DEPARTMENT APPOINTS NATURAL RESOURCES SECRETARY

WASHINGTON, DC, October 31, 2001 (ENS) - Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman has announced the selection of David Tenny as deputy under secretary for natural resources and environment.

In this position, Tenny will be responsible for setting and enforcing policies relating to the programs of the U.S. Forest Service, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

"Dave Tenny is a person of exceptional integrity and character, and he brings a great deal of experience to our team," said Veneman. "His extensive legislative background in the area of natural resources will serve USDA well."

Tenny has served as acting deputy under secretary since January 22. Prior to that, he worked for the House Committee on Agriculture of the U.S. Congress, where he served as counsel and policy advisor on natural resources and related issues since January 1997.

Before that, Tenny served as counsel for U.S. Representative Wally Herger, a California Republican.

A native of Boise, Idaho, Tenny earned a bachelor's degree in American studies from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and a law degree from George Washington University in Washington, DC.

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NEW YORK GRANT SUPPORTS NEW ENERGY EFFICIENCY STANDARDS

ALBANY, New York, October 31, 2001 (ENS) - The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has awarded a $188,000 contract to Arthur D. Little to develop minimum energy efficiency standards for certain types of equipment purchased by the state.

"Improved energy efficiency is increasingly important to New York State and the nation as we seek ways to preserve the environment, stimulate economic development, and reduce our dependence on imported petroleum," said NYSERDA president William Flynn.

Arthur D. Little will work with NYSERDA to gather information on existing voluntary standards and guidelines for this equipment; select and analyze potential standards levels to assess cost effectiveness, product availability and other relevant issues; and develop recommendations for new energy efficiency standards.

The consulting company will also support NYSERDA in establishing product efficiency standards.

"This initiative perfectly complements our work with the State's agencies to comply with Governor Pataki's executive order requiring agencies to reduce energy consumption and purchase renewable energy," Flynn said.

In September 2000, Governor Pataki signed a law directing NYSERDA to establish minimum efficiency standards for specific products and appliances. The law requires NYSERDA, in consultation with the Office of General Services, to enact these standards between April 1, 2002 and April 1, 2003.

Eighteen products and appliances are identified, including: fluorescent lamp ballasts, central air conditioners, room air conditioners, package terminal air conditioners, heat pumps, electric motors, refrigerators, freezers, refrigerator-freezers, water heaters, lamps, luminaries, dishwashers, clothes washers, clothes dryers, furnaces, boilers and chillers.

Additional products may be added to the regulations and NYSERDA is interested in evaluating potential standards for exit signs, traffic signals and office equipment.

NYSERDA is also spearheading a task force created in June 2001 to seek ways to reduce energy consumption at state agencies by 35 percent and purchase 20 percent of electricity from renewable energy resources by the year 2010.

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ALASKA TIGHTENS SECURITY ON HAZMAT SHIPMENTS

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, October 31, 2001 (ENS) - The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), are working with major carriers to increase the security of hazardous materials being transported on state roadways.

"Alaska carriers transport various types of hazardous material every day including explosives and products like fuel, paint, and even hair spray," said Alaska Governor Tony Knowles. "In response to recent events, state and federal transportation officials are now contacting Alaska motor carriers to educate them about security issues, and ask them to be on alert for suspicious behaviors from drivers, shippers, consignees, or the public, and to report any suspect activity to the proper authorities."

Members of the state's Measurement Standards and Commercial Vehicle Enforcement (MSCVE) division and the U.S. DOT's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration are conducting on site security visits to hazardous materials carriers in Alaska. MSCVE's commercial vehicle enforcement officers working at weigh stations and at roadside have been alerted to be on the lookout for suspicious activity, particularly activity involving commercial vehicles hauling hazardous materials. Enhanced inspections of vehicles and drivers transporting hazardous materials are also being conducted.

Companies are being asked to examine personnel security by reviewing all drivers' files and ensuring that detailed background checks have been performed as required by regulations. Companies are also being asked to review the security of their on site storage of hazardous materials as well as security measures being taken during the transportation of such materials.

Priority will be given to carriers that transport bulk explosives, petroleum products, poisonous gases and similar products.

"Unfortunately, we have been made painfully aware of the fact that commercial transportation equipment can be used as weapons by terrorists," says Alaska Department of Transportation Commissioner Joe Perkins. "Taking these additional steps will heighten the level of vigilance and enhance the security of hazardous materials moving throughout Alaska."

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LONG ISLAND UTILITY INSTALLS FUEL CELLS

WEST BABYLON, New York, October 31, 2001 (ENS) - Under a $7 million program to demonstrate how fuel cell technology can generate electricity for Long Island consumers, the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) announced today that it has installed 55 fuel cells - manufactured by Plug Power - at its West Babylon substation.

The fuel cell project is part of LIPA's Clean Energy Initiative (CEI), first proposed by New York Governor George Pataki as a way to promote new energy technologies and energy conservation projects. A total of 75 fuel cells will be installed at the substation. Eighteen of the 55 fuel cells are now installed and generating electricity for LIPA's grid.

The program is intended to begin identifying and developing the measures and systems needed to facilitate the use of fuel cells operating in parallel with LIPA's electrical grid system.

A fuel cell is a device that converts the energy of a fuel (hydrogen, natural gas, methanol, gasoline, etc.) and an oxidant (air or oxygen) into useable electricity. Unlike traditional fossil power plants that burn fuels, fuel cells generate electricity through an electrochemical process from which no particulate air pollution is produced. As a result, they do not contribute to the formation of smog and acid rain.

LIPA's application of fuel cell technology will be the first large scale use of fuel cells for this purpose in New York State.

"LIPA's mission is to provide safe, reliable, environmentally sound electricity for our customers' needs," said LIPA chair Richard Kessel. "Fuel cells are an environmentally friendly electric generating technology, and this project will help us develop a better understanding of how fuel cells can be integrated into our electric grid. In turn, the information and experience gained through this program will continue to help fuel cells evolve as a technology that can be utilized by electric utilities as a source of power, and eventually by residential and commercial customers for their own on site power needs."

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UNION BUILDS GREEN HEADQUARTERS

SAN JOSE, California, October 31, 2001 (ENS) - Officials of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Local 332, the largest IBEW local in northern California, announced today the completion of new headquarters that feature the largest commercial solar power installation west of the Mississippi.

Designated an official Green Building model by the city of San Jose, the union hall's photovoltaic (PV) solar power system generates 55 kilowatts of power, enough to provide for 70 to 80 percent of the building's total electrical needs. The use of solar photovoltaics cuts the facility's utility bill in half - and allows IBEW Local No. 332 to send power back to the utility grid.

The independent power system also insulates the building against loss of power from the utility grid in the event of a blackout, as well as from fluctuations in the price of electricity. IBEW said having a source of reliable power is important in California, with its unpredictable supply of electricity.

"The future for solar power is very strong, and the electrical workers have a philosophical and environmental commitment to using solar energy," said Terry Tanner, business manager of IBEW Local 332. "We installed this system ourselves because it points the way to the future of electrical generation for the businesses and communities in Silicon Valley. Plus, it lessens the impact to the environment and lowers our energy costs."

IBEW Local 332's commitment to the use of solar energy is a reflection of the national policy of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA).

"There is a growing consensus that distributed PV systems that provide electricity at the point of use will be the first to reach widespread commercialization," said Mark Ayers, national IBEW director of construction and maintenance.

The building's solar powered PV system, built into the structure's rooftop and south side awning, help supply heating, cooling and lighting to the IBEW's 400 seat meeting hall, conference rooms, dispatch and administrative offices. The PV solar system also operates the building's computers, telephones, fire alarm and security systems.

On weekends, electricity produced by the solar array is sent out to the utility grid, and earns credit for the building during the midday hours when the grid needs power the most. IBEW Local 332 spent $400,000 on the installation of the system. Forty percent of the installation cost will be rebated by the state of California, which rebates $4.50 per watt up to 50 percent of the total cost of an installation.

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ARIZONA HOSTS COLORADO PLATEAU CONFERENCE

FLAGSTAFF, Arizona, October 31, 2001 (ENS) - The natural richness of the Colorado Plateau of the southwestern United States is the focus of the Sixth Biennial Conference of Research on the Colorado Plateau, November 6-8.

The conference, which is sponsored by the U.S. Geological Survey's Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center, the Colorado Plateau Ecosystems Studies Unit, and the Northern Arizona University Center for Sustainable Environments, has become the primary means for bringing groundbreaking science related to the Colorado Plateau into public discussion.

The Colorado Plateau is an upland region of the southwestern United States, situated in northern Arizona, southern Utah, southwestern Colorado, and northwestern New Mexico. Also called the Colorado Plateaus, it includes canyons, high plateaus and mountains, plus a host of plants, animals and human communities.

Anyone who has conducted research or is interested in land management issues in this area is encouraged to take part in the conference, held at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. Registered participants will receive a published volume of papers presented at the 1999 conference, and contributors to this year's meeting will have the opportunity to submit papers to a future conference publication.

More than 90 oral presentations and 25 poster presentations are scheduled for this year's conference, which includes sessions on topics such as integrating natural and cultural resources, fire as a management technique, inventorying and monitoring, and the presence and problems of non-native plants and animals.

A conference schedule and other details are available at: http://www.usgs.nau.edu/conf2001/

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FURNITURE COMPANY SEEKS EXEMPTION TO FILL WETLANDS

ANN ARBOR, Michigan, October 31, 2001 (ENS) - A wetlands fill bill is a backdoor attempt by the Ashley Furniture Company to create a special interest exemption and to bypass state wetlands protection laws, environmental groups charge.

The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation (WWF) sent a joint letter to Wisconsin legislators asking them to oppose an assembly bill (AB 580) scheduled for a hearing Tuesday.

"If this environmentally destructive bill passes, legislators will have given permission to a single company to bypass state law," said Lisa Yee-Litzenberg, regional organizer for NWF's Great Lakes regional office. "This avoidance of required wetlands permitting would set a dangerous precedent for the state and perhaps for the entire country."

To date, the Ashley Furniture Company has never filed for a wetlands development permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or the state. The new legislation would open the floodgate for any company to bypass the legal wetland permitting process by going to their legislators for exemptions.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources technical staff deemed the 15 acre wetland that the Ashley Furniture Company proposes to develop a "functional floodplain wetland." Wetlands provide valuable services for people and wildlife, including flood reduction and river sedimentation. They also provide one of the richest habitats for a wide variety of plants and animals.

"The wetland permitting process is in place to provide a necessary review of projects that may destroy important public resources, and the effects of bypassing this process could be devastating," said Jim Weishan, president of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, NWF's state affiliate.

According to Charlie Luthin, executive director of the Wisconsin Wetlands Association, "Ashley Furniture is asking the citizens of Wisconsin to subsidize their factory expansion, forcing the loss of 15 acres of floodplain forest and all of the ecological and community services that these wetlands provide."

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ENERGY DEPARTMENT CELEBRATES WEATHERIZATION DAY

WASHINGTON, DC, October 31, 2001 (ENS) - Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham lauded "Weatherization Day" Tuesday by honoring the Department of Energy's (DOE) Weatherization Assistance Program for cutting the annual energy bills of almost five million low income families across the country.

"Since 1976, the Weatherization Assistance Program has helped families reduce their costs for heating and cooling their homes," Abraham said. "More money saved in energy costs is more money in the pockets of American families."

"This year alone, weatherized households are saving an average of $300 which amounts to a projected cost savings of more than $1 billion for all homes served," Abraham added. "This program is a key feature of President Bush's National Energy Policy which recommends increased funding for weatherization assistance over the next 10 years."

Earlier this month, Abraham toured a family's home in Arlington, Virginia that received weatherization improvements. By adding insulation the family may reduce its gas bill by up to 50 percent.

The Weatherization Assistance Program is provided to families according to income and family size guidelines. The program places high priority on services to the elderly, persons with disabilities and families with children. Weatherization also reduces the nation's energy consumption by the equivalent of 15 million barrels of oil each year, an important contribution to our energy security.

Program funding comes from several sources. The DOE provides funds to state weatherization offices which provide grants to local agencies in every county in the nation to perform the work. Every dollar invested in core program funds leverages about $3 from other sources including federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program grants from the Department of Health and Human Services, utility funds and state support.

More information on weatherization is available at: http://www.eren.doe.gov/buildings/weatherization_assistance