AmeriScan: September 5, 2000

CHEVRON FINED $2.25 M FOR CALIFORNIA FUEL LEAK

LOS ANGELES, California, September 5, 2000 (ENS) - Chevron Corporation has been fined $2.25 million for a jet fuel leak at the company’s El Segundo, California refinery. Over about a year between 1998 to February 1999, about 4.5 million gallons of jet fuel leaked into the groundwater beneath the refinery, charged officials at the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board. The board is responsible for enforcing state and federal water regulations in Los Angeles and Ventura counties. The proposed fine is the second largest in the board’s history. "The magnitude of the release justifies the size of the fine," Dennis Dickerson, executive officer of the water board, told the "Los Angeles Times." "It is clear to us that the leak should have been detected and stopped much earlier."

Chevron is considering appealing the fine, company spokespersons said. "Chevron is very disappointed with this fine," said Rod Spackman, Chevron's manager of Los Angeles government and public affairs. "We undertook an aggressive effort, taking the line out of service as soon as this was discovered in February 1999. We have since cleaned up 60 percent of the fuel incursion and believe this assessment was premature." The Old Dune Sand Aquifer, into which the fuel was spilled, is not used for drinking water. It has been contaminated by previous fuel spills from the Chevron refinery, and water board officials said the new spill could set back cleanup efforts by at least three years. The state fine was announced less than a week after Chevron agreed to pay $7 million in fines and environmental improvements to settle federal charges that the El Segundo refinery violated clean air laws in the 1990s.

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CALFED WATER PLAN CRITICIZED BY FARMERS, ENVIRONMENTALISTS

SACRAMENTO, California, September 5, 2000 (ENS) - The ink is still drying on an $8.6 billion plan to address California’s water woes, and already the plan is being attacked from all sides. The CALFED plan, released in June, ends almost six years of state and federal negotiations over the use of Northern California’s water resources. The plan attempts to satisfy agricultural, rural and urban water users, while leaving enough water to protect and restore river habitat. California will immediately start spending more than $500 million in state and federal funds to address a backlog of environmental projects, including breaching some small dams and enlarging others. "It sets precedent for how our nation can balance environmental protection and economic growth," said Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt in a telephone news conference last week.

Farmers in California’s Central Valley, where irrigated crop land supplies almost 45 percent of the nation’s fruits and vegetables, said the plan does not guarantee enough water for agricultural users. Environmentalists say a provision that would remove about one million acre-feet of water from the San Francisco Bay Delta each year would endanger the region’s wildlife. Conservation groups also argue that expanding storage capacity in a handful of reservoirs, as the plan requires, would waste water and lower river flow levels below reservoir dams. The San Francisco Bay-Delta system supplies drinking water for more than 22 million Californians, irrigation water for more than seven million acres of the world's most productive farmland, and supports some 450 fish and wildlife species. For more about the plan, visit: http://209.196.143.239/ens/jun2000/2000l%2D06%2D09%2D08.html

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GORE ACCEPTS FRIENDS OF THE EARTH ENDORSEMENT

PORTLAND, Oregon, September 5, 2000 (ENS) - Vice President Al Gore and Joe Lieberman today received an endorsement from the Friends of the Earth's Political Action Committee. The national environmental organization called the Democratic Presidential Gore/Lieberman ticket, "the best hope for the nation's environment." "Friends of the Earth has worked hard to improve and safeguard the environment and protect the rights of people to live in communities free of pollution. I look forward to working with Friends of the Earth to safeguard our environment for generations to come," said Gore.

The Friends of the Earth endorsement was announced at a Portland, Oregon press conference, which was attended by Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, a Democrat, and Bill Bradbury, Oregon secretary of state. Also present were Friends of the Earth president Brent Blackwelder; Ken Rait, executive director of the Oregon Natural Resources Council Action; and actor Ed Begley Jr., board member of Friends of the Earth. "There is a grand canyon of environmental differences between Al Gore and George W. Bush," said Blackwelder. "The abysmal environmental records of Bush-Cheney pose a clear and present danger to our nation's environment, and their big oil/corporate polluter agenda must be defeated at all costs. Only Al Gore and Joe Lieberman can vanquish that threat."

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GEORGE W. BUSH ACCEPTS TROPHY HUNTING AWARD

WASHINGTON, DC, September 5, 2000 (ENS) - Despite pleas from animal protection organizations, Texas Governor George W. Bush has just accepted the "Governor of the Year" award from the Safari Club International, a trophy hunting group that promotes the slaughter of exotic and endangered species, including elephant, rhinoceros, leopards, polar bears and crocodiles. The Safari Club helps its members find businesses that guide big game hunting expeditions around the world. The club also offers prizes to hunters who kill more than 300 different species.

The organization is a defender of canned hunts in the U.S., in which the animals are confined to small fenced areas. Most of the animals shot in canned hunts are rare species sold to dealers by zoos and are often so tame they do not run away from humans, reports People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Prominent Safari Club members have been charged with unethical and illegal hunting methods, the animal rights group said. Governor Bush is running for President on the Republican ticket.

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EIGHTH WEST NILE VIRUS VICTIM IN NEW YORK

NEW YORK, New York, September 5, 2000 (ENS) - A Staten Island woman was diagnosed with West Nile virus infection on Saturday, becoming the eighth New York City resident to be struck down this summer by the mosquito borne virus. The 53 year old woman became ill August 23 and was hospitalized five days later with encephalitis. The woman is improving but remains hospitalized. Word of the latest victim came just one day after authorities confirmed that a 61 year old Staten Island man was the seventh victim in New York. Last year, the virus caused 62 human cases of encephalitis and seven deaths.

One New Jersey resident, a 43 year old man, became that state's first known victim of the virus on Friday. A euthanized horse from Staten Island has also tested positive for West Nile virus, after showing signs of equine encephalitis. Horses become infected with West Nile Virus when bitten by infected mosquitoes, but cannot pass the virus along to other animals or humans. New York City announced plans for pesticide spraying over the weekend in an effort to reduce the mosquito population and halt the spread of the virus. The area around the United Nations, which hosts its Millennium Summit this week, and Central Park were sprayed with the pesticide Anvil on Saturday. Several parts of Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island were targeted for Labor Day weekend spraying, along with most of Manhattan. More information on West Nile virus is available at: www.health.state.ny.us.

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ANTHRAX ANTIBIOTIC APPROVED TO COUNTER BIOLOGICAL WARFARE

ROCKVILLE, Maryland, September 5, 2000 (ENS) - For the first time, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved an antibiotic for use in cases of biological warfare. The agency announced Thursday that antimicrobial Cipro® (ciprofloxacin) has been approved for use in individuals exposed to "inhalational anthrax" - a disease caused by breathing in anthrax spores. Bacillus anthracis, the bacterium that causes anthrax, can be used as a biological weapon, the agency noted. "Inhalational anthrax is thought to be the most likely form of this infection to result from the intentional use of an aerosolized preparation of spores of B. anthracis," FDA said in a release.

Tests on rhesus monkeys showed that prompt treatment with ciprofloxacin helped the animals survive anthrax exposure. Cipro® was first approved in the U.S. in l987. It has been used in more than 100 million patients in the U.S., and about 250 million patients worldwide. It is now approved for a total of 14 diseases or conditions. These include a number of serious infections such as lower respiratory tract, intra-abdominal, typhoid fever, bone and joint infections. Long term exposure to Cipro can degrade cartilage, causing deafness and other problems. But because inhalational anthrax is lethal, FDA concluded that using Cipro in children and adults is appropriate in cases of anthrax exposure. Studies are now underway to evaluate long term safety, including effects on cartilage, in children. Because Cipro must be administered within hours to be effective in combating inhalational anthrax, the federal government plans to stockpile up to five million doses of the drug against the possibility of biological warfare.

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DEPUTY AGRICULTURE SECRETARY CALLS FOR NEW CROP USES

DES MOINES, Iowa, September 5, 2000 (ENS) - Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Rich Rominger spoke last week on how new techniques to combat global warming and create renewable fuel sources could help U.S. farmers. Exploring the use of vegetation to store carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, is a top priority at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Rominger said in a speech is Des Moines. "Now we know that sequestering carbon in agricultural soils achieves a whole lot more than pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and cutting greenhouse gas concentrations," Rominger said. "Carbon content is a top indicator of soil health and sustainability. By increasing soil organic content, we improve water holding capacity, fertility, and productivity. Soil organic carbon helps on a number of fronts - resisting erosion, keeping nutrients and pesticides from washing into water bodies, reducing flooding. In short, there's a direct connection between soil carbon content and benefits to soil, water and air quality, on and off the farm."

USDA is also working to meet President Bill Clinton’s goal of tripling U.S. use of bioenergy and bio-based products by 2010. "Realizing this goal would generate as much as $20 billion a year in new income for farmers and rural communities, while cutting greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 100 million tons a year - the equivalent of taking more than 70 million cars off the road," Rominger said. "Where we once used only a seed or kernel, and tossed away the rest ... now we're learning how to use entire plants." Agricultural crops can be used to replace petroleum based plastics, adhesives, lubricants, building materials and fuels, said Rominger. "By substituting domestic renewable resources for fossil fuels we ease our growing dependence on foreign oil. That's important to our economy, our security and our environment," concluded Rominger.

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PERMITS REQUIRED FOR DEMONSTRATIONS AT GRAND STAIRCASE-ESCALANTE

KANAB, Utah, September 5, 2000 (ENS) - The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has issued an interim final rule requiring permits for public demonstrations at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah. The BLM's interim final rule, which took effect Friday, gives the BLM the authority to manage public demonstrations and protests within the Monument. The agency says the rule is not directed at the subject matter of demonstrations or protests, but does affect when and where such activities may be held. "This interim final rule is intended to make sure that visitors to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument have safe access to our visitor centers and to other Monument facilities," said BLM Utah state director Sally Wisely. "The rule also seeks to prevent confrontations between opposing groups and to protect special places within the Monument." The interim final rule, she said, "generally gives the BLM a management tool to ensure visitor access and resource protection without infringing on the free speech and assembly rights of protesters."

The rule was issued in advance of the Labor Day weekend holiday "because of expected political demonstrations," and was "prompted by recent political protests at the Monument that effectively prevented visitor access to the BLM's Escalante office, which also functions as a visitor center," BLM said in a release. Permit applicants must submit dates, location, duration and format of the demonstration. The agency will ask for an estimate of the number of participants, types of props, sound equipment, vehicles and related information in order to assess potential impacts on resources within the Monument. The BLM will accept public comments on the rule for the next 30 days and will publish a final rule after reviewing those comments. The rule is available at: www.blm.gov, and comments can be sent to: WOComment@blm.gov. Electronic comments should include the subject heading "Attn: AD40."

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CONSTRUCTION DUMPING IN FLORIDA BAYS NETS $1 M FINE

PENSACOLA, Florida, September 5, 2000 (ENS) - Two companies and three of their employees have pleaded guilty to dumping construction waste into Pensacola Bay and East Bay, in violation of the Clean Water Act. Between January 1997 and March 1999, the defendants dumped concrete and other wastes into the Bays during the construction of the Garcon Point Bridge, damaging habitat for fish and other aquatic life. Odebrecht-Metric, a joint venture between Odebrecht Contractors of Florida, Inc. and Metric Constructors, Inc., agreed to pay a $1 million fine and $2,423,000 in restitution to the Garcon Point Restoration Trust for cleaning up and restoring East Bay and Pensacola Bay. Odebrecht will also pay $42,000 to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Law Enforcement, $20,500 to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, $10,500 to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Submerged Land Section, $2,000 to the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office and $2,000 to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission's Marine Patrol.

Odebrecht has agreed to purchase and donate 60 acres of land in Santa Rosa County to the state of Florida and pay $500,000 to the Florida Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund to help finance future environmental crimes investigations in Florida. This is the largest federal penalty to date for an environmental crime in the Northern District of Florida. Odebrecht employees Frank Doddi, general superintendent; Steven Spry, assistant superintendent; and Marcellino Romero, assistant superintendent also pleaded guilty, and could face maximum sentences of one year in prison and/or fines of $25,000 per day of violation.

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FLORIDA WINS APPROVAL FOR CERTIFICATION PROGRAM

TALLAHASSEE, Florida, September 5, 2000 (ENS) - The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced today that Florida is the first state to receive the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's approval of a program to certify operators of public drinking water supplies. "The health and well-being of Florida's citizens and its economy is directly linked to the inventory of safe drinking water," said DEP secretary David Struhs. "The state has deployed significant resources in this area and on behalf of our citizens and system operators, we are deeply gratified to be the first in the nation to declare Florida as a safe drinking water state."

The Florida Operator Certification Program is a statewide licensing program whose mission is to ensure that operators of drinking water and wastewater facilities have the knowledge and skills to operate a facility of a particular class. Each application for licensure is evaluated to make sure that the minimum criteria for experience and education is met. Training courses must meet minimum standards set by the Department of Education before they can be approved to satisfy the education requirement. These training courses are available through correspondence courses, various community colleges and vocational schools. The applicant must also pass a statewide examination, which is conducted twice a year and is offered at various locations throughout the state. To obtain the approval from EPA, the program has added continuing education requirements to the license renewal process. The continuing education courses will be designed to keep the operators current with the latest technology and will be required to renew a license beginning in 2003.

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RECYCLING HITS THE CEILING

LANCASTER, Pennsylvania, September 5, 2000 (ENS) - Armstrong World Industries, the world's largest manufacturer of acoustical ceilings, has announced a program that allows building owners to recycle their old ceiling tiles rather than dumping them in landfills. As part of the program, the company will pay the cost of shipping the old ceilings to its plant, where they can be used as raw materials in the manufacture of new acoustical ceilings. The program is the first of its kind to offer reclamation as an alternative to landfill disposal of old commercial ceilings from renovation projects.

Neither the old nor the new replacement ceilings need to be Armstrong products to qualify for the program, and Armstrong offers information for companies to verify that their ceiling tiles can be recycled. Owners must stack their old ceiling tiles on pallets and wrap them for pick up, then contact Armstrong. Armstrong will arrange for a truck to pick up the material anywhere in the continental U.S. and transfer it to its nearest manufacturing facility. In a time analysis, the process for recycling old ceilings proved to be almost as fast as dumping them, so the program should have little, if any, adverse impact on demolition or renovation schedules. A number of corporations, including Microsoft, General Motors, Aetna and others, have already taken advantage of the Ceiling Recycling Program in their attempts to cut back on landfill disposal of building materials. All Armstrong ceilings contain recycled materials, including old scrap ceilings, old newsprint and a byproduct of steel production known as "mineral wool." For more information on the ceiling recycling program, Phone: 1-888-CEILINGS (1-888-234-5464).