AmeriScan: September 14, 2000


BOSTON, Massachusetts, September 14, 2000 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) New England Office has launched a $1 million, initiative aimed at protecting children from environmental health threats in the places where they spend most of their time - in school, at home and outdoors. The plan, announced Monday, includes $500,000 of new investments to combat lead poisoning in New England cities, $200,000 to improve air quality and reduce toxic exposure at 200 schools, and $225,000 in programs to curb skyrocketing asthma rates. EPA also announced the availability of $100,000 in grants to broaden opportunities for environmental education in classrooms around New England and a new "Showcase Schools" initiative in which one school in each of the New England states will be selected to showcase numerous EPA programs available to make schools safer for children.

"At a time of unparalleled prosperity all across the country, it is unacceptable that there are still thousands of children in New England afflicted by lead poisoning, mercury poisoning and bouts with asthma," said Mindy Lubber, regional administrator at EPA's New England Office. Lubber pledged that EPA New England - through a new Children's Health Team comprised of a dozen EPA staff members - will work to reduce environmental risks that are causing elevated rates of asthma, lead poisoning and other diseases suffered by children. "Our society cannot stand still when a dozen kids in Massachusetts are being diagnosed with lead poisoning each and every week and our hospital emergency rooms are being flooded with small children suffering from asthma," said Lubber.

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BOSTON, Massachusetts, September 14, 2000 (ENS) - The Massachusetts Legislature has passed legislation to grant cities the right to raise taxes to conserve land, preserve historic sites, and create affordable housing. The Community Preservation Act also provides state matching funds as an incentive for conservation. "This is truly a momentous day," said Whitney Hatch, regional director of the Trust for Public Land. "The House and Senate have shown great perseverance in taking up the Community Preservation Act during their informal session, after their original version of the bill was sent back by Governor Cellucci in August. We applaud the Legislature - and especially the committee chairs, Representative John Rogers and Senator Marion Walsh - for their efforts to leave a lasting natural and cultural legacy for future generations of Massachusetts residents."

To fund the state's matching program, the Community Preservation Act imposes new fees on filings at the registry of deeds and lands court. Based on fees paid to the registry last year, this increase is expected to generate about $26 million per year, all of which will be directed to participating communities. To qualify for these matching funds, a town or city must approve a property tax surcharge of no more than three percent. A minimum of 10 percent of the annual revenues raised through the surcharge must be used for each of three core community concerns: land protection, historic preservation, and affordable housing. The remaining 70 percent can be allocated for any combination of these three uses.

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GOLDEN, Colorado, September 14, 2000 (ENS) - Outdoor recreation clubs, outfitters and other groups are holding their first national conference to focus on human powered recreation in the mountain environment. The National Mountain Conference will bring together professionals and experienced volunteers in the areas of mountain resource management, outdoor recreation, ecological research, environmental protection and related fields to identify and address issues in mountain stewardship within the U.S. The three day conference starts today at the American Mountaineering Center and the Golden Hotel in Golden, Colorado. Today and Friday, plenary and concurrent sessions will address issues such as "Development and Resource Extraction Pressures on Mountain Ecosystems" and "Human Threats To Mountain Ecosystems."

Panel discussions will cover multiple related issues such as "Protecting Trailhead Access" and "Huts and Shelters as Management Tools." A Thursday evening poster session and break out sessions will provide for additional discussion of key issues in an informal setting. An optional field trip on Saturday will highlight two case studies in mountain community development issues. Participants will visit Vail Pass, a popular recreation area that has experienced significant user conflict and that is the site of a pilot user separation program implemented by the U.S. Forest Service. Then they will travel to Breckenridge to discuss the social and environmental issues facing the town including a major ski area expansion proposed by Vail Associates. The conference is sponsored by the Rivendell Foundation, outfitters REI and LL Bean, National Geographic Maps, the Town of Breckenridge, Appalachian Mountain Club, American Alpine Club, American Hiking Society, Colorado Mountain Club, and The Mountaineers. More information is available at:

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ROSEMEAD, California, September 14, 2000 (ENS) - The California Independent System Operator (Cal-ISO) declared a "Stage 2 Emergency" yesterday when the state’s power reserves dropped below five percent. Cal-ISO has called on Southern California Edison (SCE) and other investor owned utilities to begin voluntary "load" curtailment programs. Cal-ISO attributed the emergency to a heat wave that has sent California's electricity demand soaring, and wildfires that have interrupted the flow of electricity on at least three transmission lines. Cal-ISO and SCE are making urgent appeals for all customers to reduce their electricity consumption. "If the demand for power does not decrease soon, we could be forced to begin shutting off power for groups of customers," said Pam Bass, SCE's senior vice president for customer service. "To avoid forced outages, everyone needs to cut their use of power now."

Cal-ISO, the nonprofit agency that manages 75 percent of California's transmission power grid, said the Stage 2 status would be in effect from 3 pm to 7 pm Wednesday. The agency directed SCE to reduce its electrical load by 862 megawatts - enough power to serve about 800,000 homes. SCE activated its voluntary load curtailment program, under which large industrial, commercial, and agricultural customers, as well as customers on SCE's air conditioner cycling program, agreed to have their power interrupted in exchange for reduced rates. If power reserves drop below 1.5 percent, Cal-ISO will declare a Stage 3 Emergency, the most critical status. This would force involuntary rolling power outages for blocks of customers. "By all of us sticking together and cutting back power use as much as possible, we can get through this difficult period and possibly avoid a Stage 3 Emergency," Bass said.

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LOS ANGELES, California, September 13, 2000 (ENS) - The electric utility in Los Angeles will launch the city’s largest incentive program for energy efficiency. The directors of the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP) have approved a $14 million program to help avert energy shortages next summer. The incentives are the largest in the city’s history and are believed to be among the highest in the U.S. The incentives will go into effect if approved by Los Angeles City Council. Under the proposal, commercial and industrial customers that install new high efficiency chiller units by next June will be eligible to receive incentive payments of up to $400 per kilowatt of energy saved, depending on the age of the existing chiller and other factors.

Incentives for installing heating and lighting systems would be increased to $400 from $250, and other measures such as insulation and window tinting would be added to ensure maximum benefit. "This new Chiller Efficiency Program and the enhancement of the HVAC and Lighting incentives will help our city reduce our peak loads during critical summer months and assist the rest of the state to meet their energy needs," says DWP’s Angelina Galiteva. "These programs add to our initiatives to provide for cleaner air and a better environment in Los Angeles." The chiller program will be available through manufacturers, HVAC contractors and the DWP. Because of the relatively long lead times, most customers will need to make decisions about replacing their chillers before December.

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ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico, September 14, 2000 (ENS) - A team of government and private researchers has discovered a way to keep fusion plasma from eroding walls inside tokamak fusion machines. The breakthrough could help make nuclear fusion energy into a usable electric power source. The tokamak is a large doughnut shaped magnetic confinement device used to produce fusion. "Tokamak" is an acronym derived from Russian words meaning "toroidal chamber and magnetic coil." The research team from the Department of Energy's (DOE) Sandia National Laboratories, General Atomics and the University of California at San Diego has developed a method of keeping energy producing fusion plasma from breaking down the divertor walls inside a tokamak, which contaminates the plasma and causes erosion deposits inside the machine.


Sandia researcher Bill Wampler places a graphite sample that was exposed to divertor plasma into a chamber to measure erosion (Photo courtesy by Randy Montoya, courtesy Sandia)

"Because today's research fusion machines do not operate for long periods [typically less than 10 minutes a day], erosion has not been a significant problem," said Bill Wampler, a Sandia researcher studying divertor wall erosion. "But when we eventually have a fusion reactor working all the time, erosion will be a big issue." The team showed that divertor erosion can be eliminated by splitting the plasma into sections using deuterium gas. The gas cools the plasma near the divertor surface but does not cool the core plasma in the main chamber. The lower temperature of the detached plasma reduces the energy hitting the divertor walls. "We still have much more work to do, but our preliminary results show detached plasma operation provides an effective way to eliminate erosion in the divertor. We may have resolved a major problem in fusion," Wampler said.

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IRVINE, California, September 13, 2000 (ENS) - A team of U.S. scientists says it has achieved a record efficiency for hydrogen storage. Commercial use of the storage technique will allow fuel cell vehicles to travel further between refueling intervals than is now possible. The team from IMPCO Technologies Inc. (IMPCO), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories (LLNL) and Thiokol Propulsion tested a high performance prototype hydrogen storage cylinder. The mass performance record was 11.3 percent hydrogen storage by weight, the highest storage efficiency ever demonstrated.

A compressed hydrogen storage device would allow more efficient storage compared with metal hydrides (less than three percent by weight at room temperature) or liquid hydrogen (up to eight percent by weight). On-board direct hydrogen storage is cost effective and safe for automotive use, and allows the elimination of on-board fuel reformers which are large, expensive and create pollution. The ability to store hydrogen could be used to develop high altitude solar electric aircraft and remote power sources, including renewable energy facilities that generate electricity from solar or wind technology. Those applications can produce hydrogen and store the gas in the tank. The project is part of LLNL's effort to develop high cycle life energy storage systems for various applications, including zero emission vehicles and spacecraft systems that combine energy storage and propulsion. Commercial products could be available by next year.

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TIMBERVILLE, Virginia, September 14, 2000 (ENS) - A new wastewater treatment facility that opened in Timberville on Wednesday turns wastewater into a precious resource. The system, developed by Jack Sheaffer, founder of the Illinois engineering firm Sheaffer International, takes 30 days to treat wastes, instead of the rapid four to 24 hours treatment rates of conventional water treatment systems. During the treatment period, intense aeration is combined with anaerobic digestion to breakdown organic waste and to purify the water. By layering the 22 feet deep oxygen rich aerobic zone over the top of the anaerobic zone, any odor causing gases, such as hydrogen sulfide, are oxidized into odorless compounds. This eliminates the smells associated with most other sewage treatment systems.

The oxygen comes from the air. Three giant 750 hp compressors, operating only at off-peak hours to conserve electricity, suck in the air and pipe it to the two processing cells. Sludge, a problem byproduct of conventional systems, is reduced to such a small amount that it will have to be dealt with only once every 25 years. The clean, reclaimed water will be used to irrigate more than 500 acres of nearby farmland. Soil sensors, as well as strict guidelines from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, will control the amount of water put on the land as irrigation to protect both the groundwater and soil quality. Five local farmers are assured 25 years of drought free production. Under irrigation from the Sheaffer system, corn yields are expected to increase by 30 to 50 bushels per acre; corn silage by three to six tons per acre; and soybeans by 15 to 20 bushels per acre.

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DIAMOND BAR, California, September 14, 2000 (ENS) - Alternative fuel transit buses, heavy duty vehicles and electric bicycles are among the categories eligible for funding under a $14.5 million program administered by the Mobile Source Air Pollution Reduction Review Committee (MSRC). The MSRC is a committee responsible for funding transportation projects that reduce air pollution in Southern California. Each year, the MSRC funds projects in specific categories aimed at reducing pollution from mobile sources such as cars, trucks and buses. Local governments, government agencies, businesses, research institutions and individuals are encouraged to apply. "Pollution from mobile sources has the greatest detrimental effect on the quality of our air," said William Kleindienst, chairman of the MSRC and mayor of Palm Springs. "That's poison coming out of our tailpipes."

The proposals most likely to be funded are those that include measurable emissions reductions, demonstrate cost effectiveness and have verified co-funding. "The MSRC provides financial assistance for projects that provide the greatest reduction in emissions and thereby protect our air," said Kleindienst. This year's eligible categories are:

Proposals are due by October 5. More information is available at:

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MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota, September 14, 2000 (ENS) - United Shipping & Technology, Inc. (US&T), a same day delivery company, announced Wednesday that it intends to become the leader in environmentally friendly shipping. US&T's Velocity Express subsidiary is launching a series of energy and resource saving initiatives in three areas:

  1. reducing the mileage associated with the delivery of ground and air packages by developing more efficient routes
  2. reducing the amount of shipping materials required for deliveries by providing reusable totes and recyclable materials
  3. reducing the company's dependence on traditional fossil fueled vehicles by purchasing alternative fuel vehicles and using bicycle or foot messengers where practical

The company believes it is the first major U.S. transportation company to undertake and promote such a comprehensive green initiative. "Incremental shipping volume is estimated to increase to six million more package deliveries per day over the next 24 to 36 months, up from the 650,000 incremental daily deliveries associated with 1999 Internet sales," said Peter Lytle, US&T's chair and CEO. "Consequently, companies will need to seek solutions that avoid loading up landfills with excess packaging and have other positive environmental impact. It is time to demonstrate to businesses and consumers how the use of new and existing technology can help reduce the impact of the delivery industry on the environment." The company plans to explore additional options for reducing the impact of the delivery industry on the environment through discussions with employees and customers. "Today we are the largest same day shipper in North America," said Lytle. "Tomorrow I want us to also be known as the cleanest and most environmentally friendly shipper in the world."

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EXTON, Pensylvania, September 14, 2000 (ENS) - Across the U.S., more than 47,600 acres, or 74 square miles of land - an area larger than Washington, D.C. and three times the size of Manhattan - are in the process of being recycled, according to the first annual ECS Land Reuse Report released this week. ECS, an XL Capital company, is an underwriting manager providing integrated environmental risk management solutions to business and industry. The ECS Land Reuse Report provides a snapshot of national and regional trends in the reuse of contaminated land through a media coverage review about these activities.

ECS and the Council of Urban Economic Development performed a media analysis of 347 newspaper and business journal articles published from May 1999 to July 2000 and collected from online sources. Midwestern, Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states are most active in land reuse, with articles found in 36 of the 50 states. The analysis found Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Michigan and Massachusetts demonstrating the most progressive approaches to brownfields redevelopment. More than half of the sites reviewed were redeveloped for mixed use developments consisting of various combinations of office, retail, cultural, recreational, residential, public and/or some type of industrial space. "As communities struggle with curbing sprawl and preserving their green space, the good news is that many are making a lot of progress in reusing land or cleaning it up and returning it to productive use," said Bob Hallenbeck, senior vice president of government affairs for ECS. "From the stories reported this year, it's evident that brownfields redevelopment has become a mainstream real estate trend." The full report is available at: