AmeriScan: September 15, 2000


LIBBY, Montana, September 15, 2000 (ENS) - The federal government has sued W.R. Grace and Company and Kootenai Development Company (KDC), seeking immediate access to the closed vermiculite mine and screening plant in Libby. The Justice Department filed the suit Thursday in federal court in Missoula in order to speed up efforts to clean up asbestos at the mine that has been blamed for more than 200 deaths. In July, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asked Grace and KDC to grant unconditional access to their properties to agency officials, but the companies refused. The EPA wants to begin removing asbestos contaminated soil at the former mine and processing plant.

The property became contaminated with asbestos over a 70 year period as vermiculite, which is used in home insulation, potting soil and other products, was mined from a mountain outside Libby. The vermiculite contained tremolite, a very toxic form of asbestos linked to cancer and other health problems. KDC had assured the EPA that the agency would have access to the property to carry out an investigation and cleanup. But on July 18, Grace informed the EPA that it had bought a controlling interest in KDC and revoked all agreements between KDC and EPA. Grace owned the mine, which closed in 1990, until the early 1990s, when it was sold to KDC. Asbestos from the mine has been linked to illness and death in Libby residents, and former mine and processing plant workers. Asbestos has also been found in some consumer products made with vermiculite, including pre-mixed potting soils.

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WASHINGTON, DC, September 15, 2000 (ENS) - Black children and adult victims of toxic exposure from Texas, Tennessee and other contaminated communities will state "The National Stand for Environmental Justice and Civil Rights" this Saturday in Washington, DC. The event - which includes the display the Environmental Justice Memorial Quilt - will take place during the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) National Prayer Breakfast, a central activity of the CBC’s Annual Legislative Weekend. "The National Stand is designed to inform people who are in town for the CBC Legislative Weekend about the urgent environmental crisis plaguing poor, Black and other communities of color across the country," said Damu Smith, National Stand organizer. "Furthermore, the broader Black community needs to know how the Clinton/Gore Administration and presidential candidate Governor George W. Bush are retreating from civil rights legislation and environmental justice policies designed to protect the health and safety of our children from environmental hazards such as lead poisoning and chemical and radioactive contamination."

A press conference on Saturday will feature testimonials by community activists and victims of toxic exposure. In the poor, African American communities of South Memphis, Tennessee, residents like Doris Bradshaw suffer from chronic, life threatening illnesses that they attribute to toxic contamination from the Defense Depot - the U.S. military’s dumping site for more than 187 types of chemicals. The Reverend R.T. Conley is a resident of a Dallas, Texas neighborhood where children suffer from lead poisoning. Children from contaminated communities throughout the U.S. South will tell their stories about growing up in polluted neighborhoods. Events begin at 9 am in front of the Washington Convention Center. For more information, call 202-265-3263, extension 230.

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WASHINGTON, DC, September 15, 2000 (ENS) - The Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund filed suit in federal court Thursday to force the EPA to strengthen air pollution regulations in 15 communities throughout the nation. These are all areas designated by EPA as not meeting federal clean air standards designed to protect public health. The suit contends that EPA missed legal deadlines under the Clean Air Act for requiring stronger anti-pollution plans from these communities. Plaintiffs in the case are the Sierra Club and the Group Against Smog and Pollution. Communities affected by the suit include: Beaumont/Port Arthur, Texas; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Louisville, Kentucky; Portland, Maine; Cleveland, Ohio; Birmingham, Alabama; Reno, Nevada; Imperial County, California; Searles Valley, California; Pocatello, Idaho; Salt Lake and Utah Counties, Utah; Wallula and Spokane, Washington; and Kent and Queen Anne’s Counties, Maryland.

The suit contends that EPA is years behind schedule in determining whether these areas met clean air deadlines, and in requiring stronger control measures for areas that missed the deadlines. Federal law require EPA to reclassify delinquent areas to more severe air pollution classifications within six months of the missed deadlines. A reclassification would trigger stronger clean air requirements in each area, including tighter restrictions on pollution from major factories, refineries and power plants. Areas with three straight years of clean air can avoid a reclassification by showing that they have adopted all required controls, and by adopting a ten year plan to assure continued compliance with standards. The suit asks the court to order EPA to determine immediately whether the communities met the applicable clean air deadlines, and to reclassify those that did not.

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, September 15, 2000 (ENS) - Phillips Petroleum Co. has agreed to pay a $350,000 penalty for past Clean Air Act violations at its Woods Cross refinery, the EPA said Thursday. The U.S. Department of Justice filed the settlement in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City on EPA's behalf. The complaint alleged the Woods Cross refinery violated sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions limits and monitoring rules starting in October 1994. In 1991, Utah refineries agreed to install and operate equipment to recover most sulfur before it escapes into the air. To ensure State permit limits are not surpassed, refineries must install devices that constantly monitor their emissions. In the Phillips case, the alleged violations were due to breakdowns of the refinery's emissions monitor and numerous SO2 releases - beyond what the permit allows.

SO2 is formed when fuels containing sulfur are burned. Once airborne, the gas turns into small particles that can remain trapped in the air, adding to the smog problems in Salt Lake and Davis counties. "Sulfur dioxide pollution is dangerous, especially for children, the elderly and those with breathing problems," said Denver based EPA enforcement director Carol Rushin. "The nation's Clean Air Act sets emission limits to protect the health and environment of those living near and those downwind of industries that emit pollution into the air." After the lawsuit was filed in 1997, the refinery's compliance performance began to improve, and now it appears to meet SO2 emissions and monitoring requirements. Without admitting to any of the allegations, Phillips agreed to pay the penalty and comply with all applicable laws in the future.

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WASHINGTON, DC, September 15, 2000 (ENS) - The Senate has passed a legislation to stabilize revenue sharing payments from natural resource development receipts, including logging on public lands, to rural counties. The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (S 1608) passed Wednesday after the adoption of a substitute amendment. The House version of the bill was passed last November. Environmental groups feared the bill, drafted by Senators Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, and Larry Craig, an Idaho Republican, would promote logging by linking timber revenues to federal funding for rural schools and other needs.

The final version of the bill was amended to allow payments regardless of timber receipts. "Unlike today's system, a county will receive its payment from the general Treasury, regardless of whether a single tree is cut from National Forests," said Wyden during the floor debate. But the bill still includes problematic language, said Steve Holmer, campaign coordinator for American Lands Alliance. "Both the resource advisory committees (RAC) and the land management projects which undermine public involvement in decision making and increase logging remain in the bill," said Holmer. "Some progress has been made to limit their impact, but more needs to be done." The potential harm from the projects has been limited by language requiring that 50 percent of funded projects must be for forest road maintenance, decomissioning and removal, and for stream and watershed restoration, Holmer noted. All funds generated by these projects will be returned to the Treasury, removing the financial incentive to generate revenues with the projects. The bill must now be reconciled with the House county payments bill, which Holmer said is far worse than the Senate bill.

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BAYPORT, Minnesota, September 15, 2000 (ENS) - Andersen Corporation, maker of Andersen® windows and patio doors, announced today that it will not buy wood from endangered forests and it will give preference to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or equivalent certified wood supplies in the manufacture of its products. These commitments become a part of the company's established practices of promoting responsible forestry management in the procurement of wood supplies. "These commitments support the approach we have taken over the years to preserve forest resources by responsibly sourcing wood, conserving wood whenever possible and reclaiming wood within our operations," said Kurt Heikkila, vice president of technology and business development for Andersen Corporation. "All three must be practiced to assure the long term health of the world's forests and the viability of wood as a valued natural resource."

"We believe our commitment to our customers extends beyond manufacturing energy efficient, durable, beautiful windows and patio doors. It is evidenced by our long term environmental stewardship," Heikkila added. Andersen will give preference to certified wood supplies while pursuing the best wood for its products in terms of quality, price, volume and consistency of material. Andersen will continue to work with suppliers to ensure that specified lumber or cut stock is not sourced from endangered forests. The company supports efforts, such as the new Coast Forest Conservation Initiative in British Columbia, to achieve responsible balance among economic, environmental and community interests in timber producing areas. "We applaud Andersen for taking the leadership role in the window industry by ending the use of wood from endangered forests and by increasing the use of FSC or equivalent certified wood sources, alternative fibers and wood conservation," said Michael Marx, executive director of the Coastal Rainforest Coalition.

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WASHINGTON, DC, September 15, 2000 (ENS) - Environmental activists plan a national Timber Sale Teach-In next Tuesday to educate the public about destructive timber sales and to hold public officials accountable for voting to increase logging this year. The teach-in will urge elected officials to take action to stop the destruction by requesting that the U.S. Forest Service cancel damaging sales. Activists are encouraged to hold rallies, protests or press conferences, issue press releases and demand that bad sales in their area be canceled. Events can be at congressional offices, U.S. Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management headquarters, or out in the forests threatened by logging.

The conservation group American Lands has prepared Teach-In materials for activists including a sample press release, available at; sample bad timber sales; timber subsidy voting records for the Senate ( and the House (; and sample letters asking members of Congress to intervene and stop a sale (

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WASHINGTON, DC, September 15, 2000 (ENS) - Starting Monday, the EPA will conduct an Internet based discussion of how the agency can expand public participation in environmental decision making and protection. For 12 days, in collaboration with the Environmental Law Institute and Information Renaissance, EPA is sponsoring "Libraries as a Community Resource for Environmental Information." This electronic discussion will explore the opportunities for libraries to serve as a key source of environmental information. Using the power of the Internet, hundreds of librarians, citizens and members of communities, states and local and national organizations will discuss how libraries and online resources can be strengthened in order to expand the citizen and community access to local, state and national environmental resources.

A key goal is to identify opportunities for pilot projects involving EPA and libraries to determine ways to engage the public through use of the Internet. The issues being addressed will include varied information sources, public accessibility, additional information desired by the public and the possible assistance EPA could provide to libraries. Almost 400 participants already have registered to participate in the dialogue. Among those scheduled to participate are experts from libraries, universities, local government, environmental organizations, industry and indigenous groups. National Dialogues are a part of the Network Democracy program of Information Renaissance, a nonprofit corporation which seeks to expand opportunities for public participation in government through the use of the Internet. The web site for the dialogue ( ) includes five divisions that provide different options for participation.

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MEXICO CITY, Mexico, September 15, 2000 (ENS) - American business representatives returned Thursday night from a five day clean energy trade mission to Mexico hosted by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The business travelers had meetings in Mexico City and Monterrey, Mexico with government officials and executives of private companies. The discussions covered fuel switching, advanced natural gas combustion technologies, and renewable energy technologies to facilitate the sales and dissemination of clean energy technologies, products and services, and clean fuel sources. Clean energy products and services of interest help increase efficiency of existing energy production and energy use, promote energy conservation or assist in the conversion of existing facilities to cleaner fuels and/or cleaner operation.

Of great interest were suppliers who could introduce new sources of renewable, natural gas, clean coal or nuclear energy to help meet new or existing energy demand. As part of this initiative the Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration is planning trade missions to other promising markets around the world to enhance exports of advanced U.S. company clean energy technology. Countries to be visited include separate trips to India, Brazil and South Africa this November, and China this December. Later missions will take American clean energy business people to Indonesia, Russia, and the UAE/Qatar/Saudi. More information is available at:

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WASHINGTON, DC, September 15, 2000 (ENS) - Conservation International and Intel Corporation have launched Investigate Biodiversity (, a web site that uses the Internet to educate students about conservation science. Through the site, science students and teachers are transported to remote locations to experience an insider's view of science in action, while learning first hand tools and techniques that can be applied in their own backyards. "Investigate Biodiversity is a unique glimpse into on the ground scientific expeditions as they unfold," said Peter Seligmann, chairman and CEO of Conservation International. "Through this new web site, users can follow the work of top conservation scientists in far away jungles or savannas, looking over their shoulders as they explore some of the most biologically sensitive places on Earth. The web site adds a much needed human dimension to science education. While working to allay threats to endangered ecosystems, scientists are sharing their insights, thoughts and experiences with students."

The multimedia website highlights the people, tools and methodology of conservation science. It allows users to follow conservation science expeditions and create their own local science projects through a science project guide. "Investigate Biodiversity allows young conservation scientists to learn fundamental skills from professional scientists they'd normally never have access to," said Intel project manager Kevin Teixeira. "This kind of virtual mentoring illustrates how creative uses of the Internet can help train the next generation of young scientists in ways that would have been unthinkable a decade ago." Investigate Biodiversity is part of a larger education initiative between Conservation International and Intel that includes judging and presenting a Conservation Science Award at Intel's annual International Science and Engineering Fair for high school students.