AmeriScan: September 20, 2000

PROTESTERS ARRESTED AT GORE HEADQUARTERS IN WASHINGTON

OLYMPIA, Washington, September 20, 2000 (ENS) - Ten protesters were arrested outside Vice President Al Gore’s campaign headquarters in Olympia on Tuesday. Hundreds of activists had occupied the headquarters to protest Gore’s ties to Occidental Petroleum, which plans to drill for oil on sacred U’Wa Indian lands in Colombia. The activists entered the headquarters around noon in a small group, which later grew to about 200 people, said Gore spokeswoman Maria Meier. The standoff lasted more than seven hours, during which Gore’s campaign workers spoke with the peaceful protesters. At around 5:30 pm, Walt Bowen, chairman of the Thurston County Democratic Party, asked police to remove the protesters. The police gave the protesters a choice - leave, or be arrested. Most left, but 10 stayed behind and were arrested.

Three demonstrators remained inside Gore headquarters locked together with bicycle locks. Around 7:30 pm, police managed to separate the final three protesters, who were not arrested. A spokesperson for the protesters, environmentalist Kim Marks, said the activists wanted to draw attention to the plight of the U’Wa. The tribe considers the land where Occidental plans to drill sacred ground, and has threatened to commit mass suicide if Occidental is allowed to proceed. Vice President Gore’s family owns $500,000 worth of Occidental Petroleum stock. His father Tennessee Senator Albert Gore, Sr., served on the company's board for 28 years.

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DEFENSE DEPARTMENT WARNS CHEATING POSSIBLE UNDER BIOWEAPONS PACT

WASHINGTON, DC, September 20, 2000 (ENS) - A Department of Defense (DOD) official told a House Committee last week that the DOD supports protocols now being negotiated under the international Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention, even though they may not prevent countries from cheating. Because of the nature of biological weapons, the new convention regarding their use will not be able to provide "the kind of effective verification that exists in other arms control treaties," said Dr. Susan Koch, deputy assistant secretary for threat reduction policy. "That is, it will not provide a high degree of confidence that we could detect militarily significant cheating," said Koch, testifying before the Subcommittee on National Security, Veterans Affairs and International Relations, of the House Committee on Government Reform.

Koch said that unlike chemical weapons, "comparatively small amounts of biological weapons can be militarily significant" and can be produced quickly. "These factors all serve to limit the utility of traditional arms control verification tools," she said. However, Koch continued, although "This Protocol will not 'solve' the problem of biological weapons proliferation, even among the BWC (Biological Weapons Convention) States Parties who opt to join ... it can contribute to the more limited goal of strengthening confidence in BWC compliance by enhancing international transparency in the biological sphere." On that basis, she said, "We see this as an important and useful contribution to our nonproliferation efforts." Parties to the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention are now working to complete enforcement and compliance protocols for participating countries to follow.

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NERVE AGENT LEAK FOUND IN UTAH BUNKER

TOOELE, Utah, September 20, 2000 (ENS) - A leak of about one teaspoon of the nerve agent VX from a bulk container was identified last week in the storage area of Deseret Chemical Depot. The storage area is adjacent to the Tooele Chemical Agent Disposal Facility (TOCDF) where the munitions are being disassembled and destroyed. The container of VX was in an earth bermed bunker used for agent storage. Routine monitoring of the bunker revealed the chemical agent leak. VX is a lethal gas that attacks the nervous system.

A trained team of workers, wearing protective gear, entered the bunker and proceeded to segregate and monitor containers until the leaking container was identified. The container was found to have a leaking valve. The valve was replaced with a plug and the container returned to the bunker to await incineration at TOCDF. The bunker continues to be filtered and monitored for leaking agent. The Deseret Chemical Depot says there was no danger to the surrounding communities or the environment. Under the international Chemical Weapons Convention, Congress has ordered the U.S. military to destroy the nation’s entire chemical weapons stockpile by 2007. Many of these weapons are 40 years old or more and were built to deter other countries from using chemical weapons of their own. There are nine sites across the U.S. involved in storage or destruction of these weapons, including Deseret.

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AMERICANS CONSUMING LESS ENERGY THAN 30 YEARS AGO

WASHINGTON, DC, September 20, 2000 (ENS) - Energy use in the U.S. fell 42 percent between 1970 and 1999, and carbon emissions fell by 47 percent, shows a new study issued Tuesday by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). These large reductions lowered energy bills for consumers and businesses, cut pollutant emissions and reduced U.S. dependence on oil imports. The study, "National and State Energy Use and Carbon Emissions Trends," shows that progress throughout the country is uneven. Some states have much lower energy and carbon emissions intensity, and have experienced higher rates of decline in energy and carbon intensity, than other states.

The new ACEEE study scores and ranks all 50 states and the District of Columbia. "The top states such as New York, Hawaii, and California have done more to reduce energy bills and cut pollutant emissions including emissions causing global warming than low ranking states," said Howard Geller, executive director of ACEEE and coauthor of the study. "The top states cut their energy use per capita about 10 to 20 percent during 1970-97, while the worst states saw their energy use per capita rise 30 to 90 percent during this period." Alaska, North Dakota and Louisiana are the worst ranked states for energy use. The main factors that cause these differences among states include differences in energy prices, degree of urbanization, presence of energy intensive industries and energy efficiency efforts. "While differences in energy prices have the strongest correlation to overall score, the top states have done more to promote energy efficiency than have the low ranking states," said Toru Kubo, the report's coauthor. "Therefore, our study recommends policies that states and the federal government could adopt to maintain high rates of decline in energy intensity and curtail growth in carbon emissions in the future." More information is available at: http://aceee.org/pubs/e001.pdf

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FLUORESCENT LAMPS BECOMING MORE ENERGY EFFICIENT

WASHINGTON, DC, September 20, 2000 (ENS) - The Department of Energy (DOE) has adopted new standards for the energy efficiency of fluorescent lamp ballasts in commercial and industrial applications. The savings from existing and new fluorescent standards, including today's fluorescent lamp ballasts standards, should be about 18 quads by 2020 - more energy than is used by all U.S. homes in one year. "The savings from the new fluorescent lamp standards will be enough to supply power to 13 million homes across the country for one full year," said Energy Secretary Bill Richardson. "Lighting accounts for approximately 14 percent of all electricity consumed in the United States."

The efficiency of electronic ballasts, a major component in fluorescent light fixtures, has a direct impact on energy consumption. Electronic ballasts are far more efficient than magnetic ballasts, because they raise the electrical frequency to levels that improve the efficiency of the fluorescent tube. Since 1989, existing lighting and appliance efficiency standards have saved 3.8 quads and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. The new standards are based on an agreement between the lighting industry and energy efficiency advocates. Parties to the agreement include the Natural Resources Defense Council, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, the Alliance to Save Energy, the Oregon Department of Energy and the National Electrical Manufacturers Association. The new standards, which take effect April 1, 2005, are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 19 million metric tons of carbon and by 60,000 tons of nitrous oxide over the next 20 years - the equivalent of eliminating the emissions of one million cars for 15 years.

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CALIFORNIA ELECTRIC CAR OWNERS GET BREAK ON POWER BILLS

TRUCKEE, California, September 20, 2000 (ENS) - An electricity supplier that provides power from renewable sources plans to offer electricity at a low flat rate to owners of electric vehicles (EV). The program will also offer free electricity for recharging electric vehicles for up to 5,000 miles of use each year. TenderLand Power Company is making its 8 cents per kilowatt hour flat rate electric generation plan available to more electricity customers in California. New customers who want to enroll in the flat rate plan are now placed on a waiting list pending the purchase of additional renewable power. The company will waive the waiting list requirement for all EV owners. The 8 cent rate is guaranteed for one year and will remain in place for five years.

"TenderLand is focused on the successful development of new renewable power generation projects in California and, in this regard, providing as many of our customers as possible with a reasonable flat rate for renewable electric service," explained TenderLand’s chief financial officer Ken Keddington. "Adding electric vehicle users to our flat rate plan program is a natural extension of our commitment to renewables." The company will install a meter in the customer’s home to monitor power usage to recharge an EV, and will credit that amount of power to the customer’s monthly bill. The program begins January 1, and is limited to two EVs per customer. "We hope to expand the flat rate and electric vehicle programs even further as we undertake the building of additional renewable power plants," Keddington added. "California's mandate for the wide use of electric vehicles, coupled with a renewable power option for recharging of batteries, will result in a completely clean pollution free fuel cycle for car owners."

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DROUGHT, HEAT MAKE MISSISSIPPI AN AGRICULTURAL DISASTER AREA

JACKSON, Mississippi, September 20, 2000 (ENS) - The entire state of Mississippi has been declared an agriculture disaster area due to drought and excessive heat. Mississippi joins Montana in the second such declaration this week, which make farmers eligible for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) emergency loans. "The extreme weather has severely impacted soybeans, cotton, other major crops and pasture lands in Mississippi," said Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman. "USDA is working to help farmers recover from this serious situation."

All 82 counties in Mississippi were designated as agriculture disaster areas, making qualified family sized farm operators in these counties eligible for low interest emergency loans. Contiguous counties in adjacent states, including Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee are also eligible for emergency aid. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of this declaration to apply for the loans to help cover part of their actual losses. USDA's Farm Service Agency will consider each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available, repayment ability and other eligibility requirements. Producers in some Mississippi counties and contiguous counties may also be eligible for the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP), which provides cost share assistance to supply water for livestock and other conservation measures. About $3 million is now available through the ECP. USDA has already approved emergency haying and grazing on Conservation Reserve Program acreage, providing assistance to approved producers whose pastures have been decimated by drought. More information is available at: www.fsa.usda.gov/

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WASHINGTON ARMY BASE FINED FOR LEAKING STORAGE TANKS

FORT LEWIS, Washington, September 20, 2000 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to fine the U.S. Army's Fort Lewis Army Installation $469,661 for violations of federal underground storage tank (UST) regulations. The penalty - the largest UST penalty ever proposed for a U.S. defense installation - is part of an administrative complaint and compliance order issued Monday. Specific violations outlined in the complaint involve 32 of 62 regulated UST systems on the base, with 10 of the systems having more than one violation. The violations were discovered and shared with base personnel during inspections in January of 1994 and September of 1999. The Washington Department of Ecology participated in the 1999 inspection.

Most drinking water in the Fort Lewis area comes from shallow groundwater sources which are vulnerable to contamination. EPA found numerous UST violations, including leak detection problems, at the Fort Lewis Logistics Center which is within one mile of Sequalitchew Springs, one of several drinking water sources on or near the Fort. "Anyone who lives on or near a U.S. Army base should expect the same environmental safeguards that everyone else enjoys," said Chuck Findley, acting EPA regional administrator in Seattle. "Many of the violations at Ft. Lewis involved inoperative or malfunctioning leak detection equipment. Base personnel have had 10 years to upgrade their facilities and know that leak detection is our first line of defense in protecting the purity of our groundwater and safeguarding the public from potentially dangerous leaks of gasoline." Tim Hamlin, manager of EPA's Groundwater Protection Unit, added, "We hold the Army to the same standards as everyone else. That's what today's action is intended to do. It's really a matter of equal treatment under our laws."

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COMPREHENSIVE MAPPING UNDERWAY IN HAWAIIAN CORAL REEFS

HONOLULU, Hawaii, September 20, 2000 (ENS) - On Tuesday, a team of scientists and educators departed on a month long research expedition to conduct the first ever comprehensive mapping of the extensive coral reef system of the Northwestern Hawaiian islands. The 26 member team will conduct their mission aboard the vessel Rapture, operated by Certified Marine Expeditions. The Rapture, and a sister vessel, the NOAA ship Townsend Cromwell (which departed September 8), will explore the remote archipelago as part of a comprehensive, interagency effort of federal, state, university and conservation research agencies that have joined forces to assess the condition and health of these coral reefs. These reefs represent almost 70 percent of all U.S. reefs.

The Townsend Cromwell will the lead the way, conducting video assessments of vast reef areas and pinpointing sites that warrant further study. Researchers aboard the vessel Rapture will then follow up with a closer assessment of these target areas using scientific transects and other data collection techniques. The first accurate and detailed maps of the Northwestern Hawaiian islands and their reef habitats will also be produced from new satellite images and other remote sensing information. A media and education team, comprised of professional photographers, writers and educators, will document the research trip and will send, via satellite, daily news updates and images to communities across Hawaii and around the globe. A website (http://explorers.bishopmuseum.org/nwhi) will carry these updates and educational materials for elementary school students and teachers.

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PERFORMERS ROCK THE ENVIRONMENTAL VOTE IN MONTANA

BOZEMAN, Montana, September 20, 2000 (ENS) - An all star line up, including the Grammy Award winning Indigo Girls and Bonnie Raitt, with special guest Joan Baez and blues band Indigenous will rock across the state of Montana for seven stops between September 30 and October 4, 2000, marking the launch of the fourth Honor the Earth Concert Tour. The primary focus of the Montana leg of the tour is to Get Out the Indian Vote and Save the Yellowstone Buffalo. The Indian vote is often the swing vote in close Montana elections. The Montana rallies and shows will advocate for the election of pro-Indian, pro-buffalo candidates. Recent statewide polls indicate that the Yellowstone buffalo issue is a top priority for Montana voters. Native people have a deep cultural and spiritual relationship with the buffalo and the issue has particular meaning and could be a determining factor in voter turnout.

"The elections in Montana represent clear cut choices for Indian people, our land and in particular, the buffalo," said Honor the Earth spokesperson Winona LaDuke, who is running for vice president with Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader. "In the year 2000, it's time to right the historic injustices of the past and create just and honorable relationships with Native people." An 11 am rally at the Lame Deer High School on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation will kick off the Honor the Earth Montana leg on September 30, followed by a concert that night at the Shrine Theater. From there, artists will perform in Browning on the Blackfeet Reservation, Great Falls, Bozeman, the Arlee Pow-Wow grounds on the Flathead Reservation (Salish-Kootenai Nation) and in Missoula.