AmeriScan: October 11, 2002

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Grand Canyon's Colorado River Eyed for Coal Transport

FLAGSTAFF, Arizona, October 11, 2002 (ENS) - Senator Jon Kyl, an Arizona Republican, amended an unrelated bill before the Senate last week to allow the Yavapai people of the Fort McDowell Indian Community to lease 6,500 acre feet of Colorado River water as it passes through the Grand Canyon. His action has set off a firestorm of environmental protest.

If passed into law, the result would be a $125 million pumping station and pipeline in the Grand Canyon to move the water to the Black Mesa and Kayenta coal mines owned by the world's largest coal company, Peabody Coal.

The Colorado River water would be used in a slurry pipeline to move coal 273 miles from Black Mesa to the coal fired Mohave Generating Station in Laughlin, Nevada. It would replace water now being pumped from the pristine N-aquifer, the only source of clean drinking water for Hopi villages.

The Hopi Tribe has set a 2005 deadline for Peabody to stop pumping some 4,000 acre feet a year out of aquifer water for its mining operations and slurry pipeline.

Nicolai Ramsay, spokesman for the Flagstaff conservation group Grand Canyon Trust, says the end result "would be a very good thing" because they are trying to get the Peabody Coal Company to stop the mining of aquifer water, a valuable groundwater supply that the Hopi Tribe relies on. But it would turn part of Grand Canyon National Park into an industrial site and that's "a very bad thing," he said.

There has been no public input, says Ramsay, although the $125 million industrial project would for the first time change the nature of "our most beloved park." Any industrial infrastructure in Grand Canyon National Park is unacceptable, the group says.

Outlined in a Bureau of Reclamation report "Peabody Coal Black Mesa Mine Water Supply Appraisal Study" quoted Wednesday by the "Arizona Sun," the pipeline would begin at a diversion point on the river from Jackass Canyon and wind along the Navajo reservation to Black Mesa on the Hopi reservation.

The Navajo Tribe claims that point is on their land, but Ramsay says the Grand Canyon Trust has a legal opinion that states the point at which the water would be drawn from the Colorado River is "definitely" in the park. "The Navajo I'm sure have their claim," he said, "but it's not a legal dispute, it has not been taken to court."

Ramsay says other alternatives should be explored such as moving the coal by rail, use of the same slurry line to recycle water in a loop through an adjacent pipeline, and especially shutting down the coal fired power plant in favor of renewable energy.

If the $125 million were invested in wind and solar facilities on Navajo and Hopi land, Ramsay says, it would be good for the tribes, for the air quality and for the Grand Canyon.

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Peabody Wins Air Permit for Kentucky Coal Power Plant

ST. LOUIS, Missouri, October 11, 2002 (ENS) - The state of Kentucky has issued an air permit for the Peabody Coal's Thoroughbred Energy Campus, a planned 1,500 megawatt coal fired electric generating station in Muhlenberg County in the western part of the state.

Designed with advanced environmental controls, Thoroughbred will be among the cleanest major coal fueled plants east of the Mississippi River when it begins generating power in 2007, according to the company.

Peabody said in a statement today that the plant's emissions will be "far lower than current Clean Air Act standards, with sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions that will be 86 and 84 percent below the current Kentucky coal plant average, respectively."

Thoroughbred will include two 750 megawatt generating units fueled by up to six million tons of coal per year produced from an adjacent Peabody mine.

The plant's impact on visibility at Mammoth Cave National Park 50 miles to the east, where the air quality is already impaired by industrial emissions, has been at issue for months.

In August, the Interior Department reversed a National Park Service finding that air pollution from Thoroughbred would significantly hamper visibility at Mammoth Cave National Park. The park was rated in September by the National Parks Conservation Association as the third most polluted U.S. park.

In a letter to state air quality officials August 22, Craig Manson, Interior Department assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks, said the agency would compromise by permitting Peabody to operate for two years at an emissions level that the National Park Service believes will hurt visibility.

After two years, Peabody would agree to the state's lowering the emissions limits, the letter said.

David McIntosh, an attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, says the Thoroughbred plant would burn Peabody's dirty high sulfur coal and emit 22 million pounds of sulfur dioxide into the skies over Kentucky every year.

McIntosh said, "It's a craven capitulation to Peabody - one of President [George W.] Bush's major campaign contributors - at the expense of public health and the environment."

Peabody executive vice president for corporate development Roger Walcott said the mild weather over the past two years and soft economy have been easy on America's energy supply, but, "If our country experiences strong economic growth or normal weather patterns, we believe America's energy supplies will be severely taxed."

"It's a sad day for America's parks when the policy of the Bush administration is pollute first and ask questions later," said McIntosh. "Since the Park Service recognizes that we need stricter pollution limits on Thoroughbred to prevent visibility haze at Mammoth Cave, the agency should be a guardian of the national parks instead of protecting a big Bush campaign contributor."

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Idaho Lab Moves Nuclear Fuel from Wet to Dry Storage

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho, October 11, 2002 (ENS) - In the interest of risk reduction, the U.S. Department of Energy's Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory has moved spent nuclear fuel from wet to dry storage and shipped special nuclear material off-site to other DOE facilities. Dry storage of spent nuclear fuel reduces the risk of corrosion and leakage into the environment, the lab said in a statement Wednesday.

The last of 42 transfers of spent nuclear fuel and fuel remnants stored in the canal of the Materials Test Reactor has been made to the Idaho Nuclear Technology and Engineering Center, three months ahead of schedule, the lab said.

The Materials Test Reactor was the second reactor to be operated at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL). It was in operation from 1952 to 1970, and information obtained from tests run at the reactor influenced the choice of core structural materials and fuel elements for every reactor designed in the United States since 1952, INEEL says.

Some of the nuclear material moved this week had been in canal storage for more than 30 years after testing on it was completed. The transfers were performed with a specialized cask designed for moving fuel. The Materials Test Reactor canal will now undergo decontamination and decommissioning.

Crews completed moving the last of the spent nuclear fuel in wet storage pools at Test Area North into three dry storage casks sitting on a concrete pad.

Under the INEEL's Accelerated Cleanup Plan, all spent nuclear fuel will be consolidated and transferred into dry storage at Idaho Nuclear Technology and Engineering Center by 2005. There it will be packaged and prepared by 2012 for shipment to the national repository that is scheduled to be constructed by then at Yucca Mountain, Nevada.

The state of Nevada has six lawsuits before various courts to block the Yucca Mountain project, which also faces more than 250 technical issue that must be resolved before a license can be sought from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

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New York Spends $3.8 M on Finger Lakes Water Quality

ALBANY, New York, October 11, 2002 (ENS) - Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act grants totaling more than $3.8 million will fund five projects in the Finger Lakes drainage basin of upstate New York, Governor George Pataki announced today. The projects will improve the treatment of wastewater and restore aquatic habitats. They are designed to protect and enhance the overall water quality of the Finger Lakes and their tributaries.

Governor Pataki said, "The Finger Lakes and their tributaries provide a valuable water source, a venue for outdoor recreation and an important habitat for wildlife, and it is imperative that we continue our efforts to protect them."

The grants include more than $2.3 million for the Town of Springwater to construct a sanitary sewer collection system. This project will eliminate the direct discharge of raw or inadequately treated wastewater from failing septic systems into Kiln Creek, Springwater Creek and Hemlock Lake. Hemlock Lake is a major drinking water supply source for the city of Rochester.

Grants were also awarded to two projects which will improve treatment of wastewater before it enters Conesus Lake. The lake serves as the drinking water supply for the Villages of Avon and Geneseo, the Towns of Avon, Geneseo and York, as well as numerous lakeshore property owners.

The Town of Conesus will receive $1 million to construct a sewage collection system from the Hamlet of Conesus, where septic systems are failing, to the existing Conesus Lake Wastewater Treatment Plant at Lakeville.

The Livingston County Water and Sewer Authority will receive a $90,000 grant to construct a sewer in the Town of Livonia which will prevent sanitary sewer overflows into the lake.

Betsy Landre, program coordinator for the Finger Lakes-Lake Ontario Watershed Protection Alliance, said, "Today's announcement is great news for the Finger Lakes region. Protecting public drinking water supplies is a top priority. The state support through the Bond Act provides the financial leg up local communities need to make the improvements to sewage infrastructure that are so desperately needed."

The Bond Act projects were selected by the State's environmental experts, who reviewed applications submitted by municipalities. The projects will be reviewed by independent committees and are subject to a 45 day public comment period.

The $1.75 billion Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act of 1996 has committed more than $1.3 billion for 1,850 environmental projects, including water quality improvements, open space protection, local solid waste management, restoration of brownfields and projects to improve air quality.

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Rhode Island Bus Emissions to be Cut 90 Percent

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island, October 11, 2002 (ENS) - The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority has agreed to pay a $75,000 penalty and make changes to its bus fleet that will reduce air pollutant emissions by 90 percent to resolve claims by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that it violated federal water, air and hazardous waste laws at its bus maintenance and repair facility in Providence.

The agreement stems from EPA inspections in 1999 that showed numerous violations of hazardous waste management laws, as well the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act.

"This summer's poor air quality is an unfortunate reminder that air pollution still persists in New England and that we must be diligent in ensuring compliance with our environmental laws," said Robert Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England Office.

In addition to paying the penalty, the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) has agreed to operate its entire diesel powered fleet on ultra-low sulfur fuel, reducing diesel soot emissions by about 20 percent.

The agreement requires RIPTA to use this fuel until 2006, when federal regulation will require all highway diesel fuel to be ultra-low sulfur fuel containing less than 15 parts per million.

RIPTA agreed to install diesel particulate filters by July 2006 on all 156 of its diesel fueled buses, further reducing diesel particulate emissions by about 70 percent for a total reduction of 90 percent.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has agreed to fund 80 percent of the $1.2 million cost of this retrofit project.

The 1999 inspections revealed that RIPTA was not making required hazardous waste assessments on many of its waste streams and had been throwing cans containing solvents and contaminated rags into the trash. RIPTA failed to properly label and date waste containers, manage hazardous waste to minimize the potential for release, and ship hazardous waste off site within 90 days as required.

RIPTA violated the Clean Water Act by failing to have an adequate oil spill prevention plan and violated the Clean Air Act by failing to retrofit 20 of its pre-1994 buses with required catalytic converters designed to reduce diesel emissions by 25 percent.

This retrofit was required under the Urban Bus Retrofit Rule when the transit authority rebuilt the engines on those buses.

In September, the EPA issued the "Health Assessment Document for Diesel Engine Exhaust" which concludes that short term exposure to diesel exhaust can cause lung irritation and other inflammatory symptoms and that long term exposure is likely to pose a lung cancer hazard to humans.

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Tiger, Leopard Traders Pay Stiff Fines

CHICAGO, Illinois, October 11, 2002 (ENS) - A lengthy undercover investigation by agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service called Operation Snow Plow this week resulted in stiff sentences for two men convicted of trading in tiger and leopard skins.

Timothy Laurie of Elgin, Illinois, was sentenced in federal court in Chicago Tuesday to four months home detention, four years probation, and 200 hours of community service for concealing the hide of a federally protected leopard that was illegally imported into the United States from South Africa.

Laurie was ordered to pay $10,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's Save the Tiger Fund and a $100 court assessment.

Laurie was among eight defendants indicted May 1 in Chicago on federal wildlife protection charges relating to trafficking and killing endangered tigers, leopards and their parts.

In his plea agreement May 23, Laurie admitted that in January 1997, he took possession of a skull and hide of two endangered leopards from South Africa and later bought false documents that made it appear as if the parts, as well as another illegally obtained leopard hide, were from captive bred animals that died from natural causes.

In January 1997, Laurie admitted he purchased a tiger that was killed and skinned on his property, and then mounted by a taxidermist for display at his residence. He obtained falsified U.S. Department of Agriculture forms declaring that the tiger had been "donated" to him.

George Riley of Farmington, Michigan was sentenced Monday in federal court in Detroit after pleading guilty to receiving the hides of two endangered tigers, a misdemeanor. Riley was sentenced to one year probation and must pay a community service donation of $30,000 to be divided between the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's Save the Tiger Fund, $20,000, and the Lacey Reward Fund, $10,000.

Riley's plea agreement requires him to cooperate with the government in its ongoing investigation into the illegal exotic animal trade.

Operation Snow Plow investigators, working with U.S. Attorney's offices in Illinois, Missouri, and Michigan, uncovered a group of residents and small business owners in the Midwest who bought and killed exotic tigers, leopards, snow leopards, lions, mountain lions, cougars, mixed breed cats and black bears with the intention of introducing meat and skins into the lucrative animal parts trade.

The investigation resulted in federal wildlife charges against 17 people in Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Florida and one Illinois meat market. All but two defendants have pleaded guilty.

Tigers are listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. The law also protects leopards, which are classified as either endangered or threatened depending on the location of the wild population. It is unlawful to kill these animals for profit, or to sell their hides, parts or meats into interstate commerce.

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Goodall and Chimps Star on Giant IMAX Screen

LOS ANGELES, California, October 11, 2002 (ENS) - The California Science Center's IMAX Theater is the place to go for the big picture of Dr. Jane Goodall's pioneering work with the chimpanzees of Tanzania's Gombe Stream National Park. Starting October 25, the new film "Jane Goodall's Wild Chimpanzees" will allow viewers to experience the chimpanzees' world on a screen 10 times larger than traditional cinema format.

take viewers on an extraordinary trip deep into Gombe and across four decades of research to experience the world of the chimpanzee as never seen before.

In May 1999, a giant screen film production team accompanied Dr. Goodall on her walks through the forest in search of her famous chimpanzee subjects - her longtime friend Fifi, whom Goodall met as an infant chimpanzee when she first arrived at Gombe; Fifi's son Frodo, the alpha male of the community whose aggression has placed him atop the ranks in his community; Gremlin, her offspring Gaia, and the rare twins Golden and Glitter.

The crew shot rare footage of chimpanzees playing with one another and with their baboon neighbors, grooming, hunting, communicating, and using tools to find food.

Combining this contemporary footage with archival footage of Dr. Goodall in her earlier years at Gombe, the film gives viewers an insight into her historical work.

Goodall's chimpanzee research began 40 years ago when she was hired an assistant on a fossil-hunting dig at Olduvai Gorge in Africa by renowned paleontologist and anthropologist Dr. Louis Leakey. He then arranged for Goodall to study chimps at Gombe, a study that has now become the longest continuously running study of animals in the wild.

Viewers will meet Elizabeth Lonsdorf, a Ph.D. student at the University of Minnesota and one of a new generation of researchers at Gombe. With a special interest in the development of survival skills in young chimps, Lonsdorf uses video analysis and DNA testing to expand upon the observations Dr. Goodall has made over the years with only a notepad and a pencil.

"Jane Goodall's Wild Chimpanzees" is a co-production of the Science Museum of Minnesota, Science North, and Discovery Place, in cooperation with the Jane Goodall Institute. Presented by Bank of America, the film has also received major funding from the National Science Foundation.

Today, Dr. Goodall spends most of her time touring, speaking to groups of all ages about our responsibility to respect and preserve the planet's wild places.

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Animal Advocate Christine Stevens Dies at 84

WASHINGTON, DC, October 11, 2002 (ENS) - Animal Welfare Institute founder and president Christine Stevens, who worked for decades to end cruelty to animals, died Thursday at George Washington University Hospital of metabolic encephalopathy, a nervous system disease. She was 84.

"She's been called the mother of the animal protection movement with good reason," said Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) executive director Cathy Liss. "Without her efforts for more than 50 years, animals across the globe would have suffered much greater atrocities and long, drawn out pain, fear and suffering. We've simply lost a giant - a woman of boundless compassion and drive."

Stevens

Christine Stevens
(Photo courtesy AWI)
Stevens founded the Animal Welfare Institute in 1951 primarily to end the cruel treatment of animals in experimental research laboratories. She fought against cruel animal factory farms, the steel jaw leghold trap, commercial whaling, the slaughter of endangered species, and the commercial killing of great apes for bushmeat.

Stevens' husband of 60 years, Roger Stevens, was the founder of Washington's John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and served as AWI treasurer. The couple used their political connections to host foreign dignitaries and leaders in the American government, always advocating their agenda of animal protection.

Dr. Jane Goodall said, "Christine Stevens was a giant voice for animal welfare. Passionate, yet always reasoned, she took up one cause after another and she never gave up. Millions of animals are better off because of Christine's quiet and very effective advocacy. She will sorely be missed by all of us."

In 1955, to make an impact on the legislative process, she founded the Society for Animal Protective Legislation (SAPL). At a time when only a handful of laws to protect animals existed, Stevens played a role in the passage of more than a dozen laws including the Humane Slaughter Act, the Animal Welfare Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Wild Bird Conservation Act.

"Christine exhibited an indefatigable determination to succeed that is unparalleled in our field and, I dare say, any other," added SAPL president John Kullberg. "Nobody could be as charming and persuasive as she, and animals have today lost their greatest advocate on Capitol Hill."

Senator Edward Kennedy, a friend of Mr. and Mrs. Stevens, said, "For so many of us, Christine Stevens will always be the First Lady of the Kennedy Center. She was as knowledgeable as she was gracious and a tremendous partner to her devoted husband, Roger. My brother asked him to lead the effort to establish a national performing arts center here in Washington. Together they did an impressive job and, in the process, transformed our capitol city."