AmeriScan: September 18, 2000

CONSERVATION PARTNERSHIP DEVOTES $85 M TO PROTECT MISSOURI’S WATER

SMITHVILLE, Missouri, September 18, 2000 (ENS) - A new state federal partnership in Missouri will provide $85 million to reduce pollution of streams and reservoirs that supply water to more than 375,000 state residents. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman and Governor Mel Carnahan announced the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) program on Friday. "This federal-state partnership will help guarantee safe drinking water for Missourians and provide additional habitat for wildlife," said Glickman. "Our efforts show that farming, enhancing water quality, and strengthening environmental protection can go hand in hand." CREP uses federal and state resources to help meet agriculture related environmental challenges. The Missouri CREP provides an opportunity for voluntary agreements with farmers to convert cropland to native grasses, trees, and other vegetation in return for rental payments and other incentives.

"Finding the right balance between the needs of agriculture and the safety of our water supply and environment is important in Missouri, where farming is vital to our economy," said Carnahan. "This new program will help meet all those needs." The Missouri project aims to retire 50,000 acres of erosion prone and environmentally sensitive cropland along streams that supply 83 reservoirs. The reservoirs supply 58 public water sources for residents in 36 counties. The project area encompasses more than 489,000 acres, of which more than 155,000 acres are cropland. Of the 155,000 acres in the drinking water reservoir watersheds, up to 50,000 acres could be enrolled in CREP. Most of the targeted drinking water reservoirs are located near agricultural land. The Department of Agriculture will pay up to 75 percent of overall program costs, and Missouri will pay the rest.

* * *

SENATE DROPS ECO-AMENDMENTS BEFORE VOTE ON CHINA TRADE STATUS

WASHINGTON, DC, September 18, 2000 (ENS) - The U.S. Senate is expected to vote Tuesday on whether to grant permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) to China. The vote would end the annual reviews that Congress must now perform of China’s environmental and human rights records. Opponents say the bill (HR 4444) would remove a crucial check on China’s actions. Environmental groups, organized labor unions and a mixed bag of liberal and conservative Democrats and Republicans oppose the measure, saying it is inappropriate to expand trade with China until the country makes progress towards higher environmental and social standards.

Last Thursday, the bill’s supporters in the Senate defeated a host of proposed amendments to the bill, many intended to impose additional environmental or human rights standards on China. Senator William Roth, a Delaware Republican, said that any amendment would prevent passage of the bill as it would require the creation of a conference committee with the House of Representatives to reconcile the Senate bill with the House version which passed in May. Without amendments, the Senate bill is identical to the House bill. President Bill Clinton has made passage of the China PNTR bill one of the major goals of the last months of his administration. Among the defeated amendments was language that would have required a commission to report on progress China is making in establishing environmental laws and implementing them to clean up its environment. Another would have called on the Commerce Department to work with U.S. businesses to adopt a code of conduct for operations in China.

* * *

CLINTON ASKS SENATE TO RATIFY SPENT FUEL PACT

WASHINGTON, DC, September 18, 2000 (ENS) - President Clinton has sent the 1997 Joint Convention on Spent Fuel and Radioactive Waste Management to the U.S. Senate for ratification. The Convention, as part of a broad effort to raise nuclear safety standards around the world, establishes a series of commitments for proper management of spent fuels and radioactive waste in the civilian sector. It complements the earlier Convention on Nuclear Safety, which entered into force in July 1999. The treaty now before the Senate was adopted by a diplomatic conference convened by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in September 1997 and was opened for signature in Vienna on September 5, 1997. President Clinton has delayed sending the Convention to the Senate due to concerns that not enough votes could be found to ratify the agreement.

"The Convention is an important part of the effort to raise the level of nuclear safety around the world," said Clinton. "I urge the Senate to act expeditiously in giving its advice and consent to ratification." The Convention does not delineate detailed mandatory standards that participants must meet. Parties are instructed to take appropriate steps to bring their activities into compliance with the general obligations of the Convention. The agreement does not apply to military radioactive waste or spent nuclear fuel unless a participating country opts to declare these wastes as spent nuclear fuel or radioactive waste for the purposes of the Convention. Parties to the Convention have absolute discretion as to what information is reported on material from military sources.

* * *

RESTRICTIONS NEEDED TO SAVE BLUE CRAB FISHERY

BALTIMORE, Maryland, September 18, 2000 (ENS) - A panel of scientists and economists says that Maryland and Virginia must cut their blue crab harvests to avoid destroying the blue crab fishery in the Chesapeake Bay. Crab harvests are at record lows, even while the number of crab boats and fishers are at record highs. The breeding population of blue crabs, as well as the overall population, have declined in the bay. Many crabs are being caught at the minimum legal size, as fewer and fewer large crabs are found. Crab fishing must be cut "in all sectors of the fishery to ensure the long-term sustainability of the crab stock and increase income in the fishery," the panel said.

The 27 member panel will present its findings to the Bi-State Blue Crab Advisory Committee on September 27, as part of a two year study of the blue crab fishery. Recommendations from the committee will help shape policy in the legislatures of the two states next year. In June, Virginia created a deep water crab sanctuary in state waters of Chesapeake Bay, which the panel called an "appropriate means of protecting a portion of the blue crab spawning stock." Other options could include raising the legal size limit for crabs, cutting quotas for crab fishers, and placing further restrictions on crabbing gear and the number of fishing permits issued.

* * *

CALIFORNIA TIGER SALAMANDER LISTED AS ENDANGERED

VENTURA, California, September 18, 2000 (ENS) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has listed the Santa Barbara County population of California tiger salamander as an endangered species. The listing took effect Friday. The Santa Barbara population of the California tiger salamander is threatened with extinction from habitat loss and fragmentation due to agricultural and urban development. This population is separated from all other California tiger salamander populations by the La Panza and Sierra Madre mountain ranges. The salamander exists in just six areas in Santa Barbara County, five of which are being converted from oil and grazing lands to intensive agriculture and urban development. The USFWS says the Santa Barbara population could be extinct within a year unless lands can be set aside and management practices implemented to protect the salamander and its habitat.

salamander

A Santa Barbara county tiger salamander (Photo courtesy USFWS)

"The Service is working with landowners to conserve the species while allowing economic activities to continue," said Michael Spear, manager of the agency's California-Nevada Operations Office. "We are providing technical assistance and pursuing opportunities to develop Habitat Conservation Plans with local agencies and landowners." Habitat conservation plans allow landowners to kill or harm a listed species or alter its habitat in the course of otherwise legal activities, if they implement specific conservation measures on their land to ensure the long term survival of the species. These measures could include preserving essential salamander habitat, such as vernal pools - seasonal ponds that appear during winter and spring rains - or underground burrows.

* * *

WORLD BANK PRIVATE LENDING HARMS ENVIRONMENT, REPORT CHARGES

WASHINGTON, DC, September 18, 2000 (ENS) - A new report released today by Friends of the Earth (FoE) charges the World Bank's private sector lending arm with failing to promote sustainable development. In the report, "Dubious Development: How the World Bank's Private Arm is Failing the Poor and the Environment," FoE criticizes the International Finance Corporation (IFC) for bankrolling the interests of corporations. "Dubious Development" cites IFC's support of luxury hotels and bottling plants as evidence that the agency's investments do not benefit the poor. The report says investments in natural resource extraction and fossil fuel development provide evidence that IFC lending can harm the environment. The report also questions IFC's support of corporations with poor environmental records or reputations for corporate irresponsibility. IFC financed a multimillion dollar loan to Exxon-Mobil for an oil pipeline in Chad and Cameroon earlier this year.

"IFC should improve the lives of the world's poor and safeguard the environment," said Andrea Durbin, director of FoE’s International Program. "It should be on the cutting edge leading, rather than following, the private sector. For example, IFC should invest in renewable energy, energy efficiency, organic agriculture and small and medium enterprises." Established in 1956, IFC is the private sector lending arm of the World Bank. IFC provides financial assistance to the private sector, and has been a target for reform of public interest groups. "Dubious Development" recognizes progress in the last couple of years in establishing environmental and social policies for IFC's lending, but argues that the Institution has yet to incorporate sound development approach to its lending. Friends of the Earth and other groups have called on IFC to adopt a set of criteria that would steer it toward projects that meet its poverty alleviation goal while safeguarding the environment. The report is available at: http://www.foe.org/international/worldbank/ifc.pdf

* * *

DOE FUNDS CLEAN ENERGY PROJECTS

WASHINGTON, DC, September 18, 2000 (ENS) - The Department of Energy has awarded six technology development research grants totaling almost $6 million for the advancement of clean energy technologies. "There are tremendous opportunities for clean energy technologies to thrive in the coming years," said Dan Reicher, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. "Through these partnerships, we are ensuring the development of energy efficient technologies which will help us to save energy, grow our economy and maintain a healthier environment by reducing the consumption of fossil fuels." The applicants will each contribute 20 to 58 percent of the funding to each project. The following projects have been selected for awards:

* * *

INTERNATIONAL MEETING PROMOTES MEXICO/U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL COOPERATION

EL PASO, Texas, September 18, 2000 (ENS) - The public is invited to participate in an international meeting on issues affecting public health and the environment along the U.S. border with Mexico. The National Coordinators Meeting, scheduled for September 20-21 in El Paso, will bring together federal agencies from both sides of the border. The groups will continue work on the Border XXI Program, which seeks to promote sustainable development in the border region while ensuring that public health and the environment remain protected. "This is an ideal opportunity for people to find out what work is planned along the U.S./Mexico border to protect their children and families," said U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regional administrator Gregg Cooke. "I encourage everyone interested in the future of the border region to attend."

In addition to air and water quality challenges, Border XXI seeks to build cooperation between the two nations on solid and hazardous wastemanagement, environmental enforcement, information sharing, emergency response, pollution prevention, environmental health and natural resources. Work groups will present progress reports on these issues. A poster display will explain progress made by groups and individuals who have received EPA grant money for environmental projects. Participants in the meeting will include EPA, Mexico's Secretariat for Environment, Natural Resources and Fisheries, the Good Neighbor Environmental Board, Mexico's Region 1 Sustainable Development Council, the Border Environment Cooperation Commission, the North American Development Bank, and state and local government representatives from the U.S. and Mexico. More information is available at: http://www.epa.gov/usmexicoborder/index.htm.

* * *

DETROIT TESTS ITS OIL SPILL RESPONSE READINESS

DETROIT, Michigan, September 18, 2000 (ENS) - The readiness of the Detroit area to handle a major oil spill on the lower Detroit River will be tested this week in a government led, multi-agency drill. The response capability of the local community will be put to the test by simulating the efforts that would go into tackling an oil spill on the river. Detroit's Marine Pollution Control, an environmental management firm that has handled the cleanup of oil and hazardous materials spills around the world, will participate in a Preparedness for Spill Response Exercise to be held September 19-21 in Trenton, Michigan.

The exercise will test readiness to handle a spill now and in a future that the Trenton Planning Commission has decided will include a rezoning of the waterfront property along the Detroit River from heavy industrial to mixed use development. Under the current zoning, intermodal rail, shipping and trucking facility, and container storage yard uses are allowed. Mixed use development would allow construction of a hotel and conference center, retail shops, restaurants, offices, marinas, recreational facilities and residential development. Marine Pollution Control will send 15 trained response personnel to the oil prevention drill, along with five pollution response watercraft, two spill recovery barges, 3,000 feet of oil containment boom and two oil skimmers. Their mission will be to set up containment and protection booms - floating barriers that direct oil towards collection points and away from sensitive areas - and to deploy other spill response equipment during the drill.

* * *

HAWAIIAN PARTNERSHIP WINS NATIONAL PARKS AWARD

ST. LOUIS, Missouri, September 18, 2000 (ENS) - Canon U.S.A., Inc., a leading supporter of the National Park Foundation, today presented the National Park Partnership Award in the Environmental Conservation category to the Olaa-Kilauea Partnership, a collaboration between seven state and federal agencies. The partnership was protected and restored more than 13,000 acres of habitat that hosts several species of endangered forest birds and 22 species of rare plants. The award presentation took place during the final day of the National Park Service's Discovery 2000 Conference in St. Louis. "Canon is proud to recognize, through this prestigious award, this cooperative land management effort that will ultimately protect 32,000 acres of land and preserve some of Hawaii's most endangered species," said Bill Cronin, vice president and general manager of general affairs and regional operations at Canon USA. "We have been a partner of the National Park Foundation since 1995, and this latest sponsorship is a natural extension of our work with national parks."

The Olaa-Kilauea Partnership includes the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the Hawaii Department of Public Safety, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, Kamehameha Schools, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey - Biological Resources Division and the U.S. Forest Service. The goals of the partnership include protecting and managing land across ownership boundaries, controlling feral animals and invasive plants, and creating an environment that will aid the recovery of rare and endangered species. With the help of inmates from the Kulani Correctional Facility, the Partnership has erected fencing to control the spread of feral pigs, the greatest threat to native ecosystems in the area. Within the fenced area, the Partnership is focusing on restoring rare plants and native birds, including the Hawaiian hawk, Hawaiian goose and Hawaiian hoary bat.