AmeriScan: September 26, 2000


WASHINGTON, DC, September 26, 2000 (ENS) - A New Jersey testing laboratory and three of its supervisors have pleaded guilty to conspiring to mislead investigators about a scheme to falsify chemical analyses of hundreds of millions of gallons of reformulated gasoline (RFG). The testing lab, Caleb Brett USA, Inc., pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to make false statements to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Three company managers - Jay Fulmer, Anthony Santiago and Edward Bachar - pleaded guilty to charges of obstructing the EPA’s investigation.

All the defendants participated in a scheme to change testing data on samples of RFG to make them appear to comply with EPA standards for the cleaner burning fuel. As a result, EPA estimates that 200 million to 300 million gallons of gasoline distributed in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut from 1995 to 1997 were certified to meet RFG pollution standards when in fact they did not. RFG is a cleaner burning gasoline required to be used in nine major metropolitan U.S. areas with the nation’s worst ozone air pollution problems. Caleb Brett, an independent testing lab for the petroleum industry, could be liable for more than $500,000 in fines or up to twice the amount it gained from the scheme to falsify records. Each of the managers faces possible jail terms and between $250,000 and $500,000 in fines.

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ASHEVILLE, North Carolina, September 26, 2000 (ENS) - As the global climate changes, extreme weather events such as droughts, floods, heat waves, heavy rainfall, tropical storms and hurricanes are expected to increase, a team of scientists said Friday. The team, led by David Easterling of the National Climatic Data Center, reached this conclusion after reviewing hundreds of studies that used data and climate models to examine past and future changes in climate extremes. Their work, which includes reviews of studies using observations, modeling, and impacts, is reported in the September 22 edition of the journal "Science."

"Our review shows consistency between our climate models and what we have observed in the 20th century. Models of 21st century climate suggest that many of these changes in climate extremes are likely to continue," Easterling said. "We also found that extreme weather events have had increasing impact on human health, welfare, and financial losses. This trend is likely to become more intense in the years to come both as the climate continues to change, and society continues to become more vulnerable to weather and climate extremes." Recent years have seen weather events cause large losses of life and tremendous increases in economic hardship. Losses caused by catastrophes, defined as greater than $5 million, have grown in the U.S. from about $100 million a year in the 1950s to $6 billion per year in the 1990s. The annual number of catastrophes grew from 10 per year in the 1950s to 35 per year in the 1990s.

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NEW YORK, New York, September 26, 2000 (ENS) - In a decision upholding environmentalist claims that New York City is spraying dangerous chemicals in its fight to control the West Nile Virus, a judge has refused to throw out a lawsuit challenging the pesticide spraying campaign. But Judge John Martin did reject an appeal by the No Spray Coalition for a preliminary injunction banning such spraying. In his decision, Martin denied a motion by lawyers for the city to "dismiss Plaintiffs’ claim that the City is violating the Clean Water Act by spraying insecticides directly over the rivers, bays, Sound, and ocean, in order to give Plaintiffs the opportunity to conduct discovery on this issue."

"This is a blow to the [Mayor Rudy] Giuliani administration’s attempt to have this lawsuit dismissed," said Mitchel Cohen, a member of the board of directors of the No Spray Coalition and the Brooklyn Greens/Green Party of New York. "Although the Judge denied our request for an injunction, he upheld our right to prove to the court that the City has illegally sprayed insecticides directly over the waters surrounding New York City, and is in violation of the Clean Water Act, jeopardizing the health and safety not only of the people of New York City, but of the entire environment, lobsters, fish, crabs, butterflies and bees." The City has been spraying insecticides to control populations of mosquitoes implicated in carrying the deadly West Nile Virus, blamed for the deaths of six New York residents last year. This year, the virus has been found in mosquitoes and birds in several states, including New Jersey, Connecticut and Maryland.

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LOS ANGELES, California, September 26, 2000 (ENS) - California Governor Gray Davis has signed legislation that will notify parents when pesticides will be used at their children’s school. "Kids should not be exposed to dangerous and toxic materials when they go to school," said Davis. "This bill is another step forward to providing a safe and healthy learning environment for our children." The bill promotes least toxic pest management programs for school districts, and creates an annual notification program that will send parents a list of pesticides that may be used at their children’s school.

"To me, nothing is more important than the health and safety of our schoolchildren," Davis said. The bill, "will help raise awareness of pesticide issues, while protecting our children’s well being." The legislation, known as the Healthy Schools Act of 2000, provides a registry for parents who want to be advised before pesticide applications occur. When pesticides are used at schools, warning signs will be posted at treated areas 24 hours in advance of application and 72 hours thereafter. The list of pesticides sent home to parents will provide an Internet address for a Web site to be created by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR). The Web site will offer toxicological and other data about pesticides typically used at schools, as well as information on how to reduce pesticide use.

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BALTIMORE, Maryland, September 26, 2000 (ENS) - Maryland’s blue crab harvest last month was the lowest in the state’s history, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources said Monday. In August, Maryland fishers landed 2.9 million pounds of crabs from the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. In August 1999, that number was twice as high. This year’s August harvest was 59 percent lower than the average over the last seven years. Maryland officials say the 2000 harvest will now be the worst ever.

Blue crab harvests in the Chesapeake have been dropping for a decade due to overfishing, pollution, and loss of crab habitats like sea grass beds. Recent catches have also consisted of smaller crabs, as most are caught as soon as they reach the legal size limit. Last week, a 27 member 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. On Wednesday, the Bi-State Blue Crab Advisory Committee will meet to discuss the panel’s recommendations and other measures that could be taken to help protect and restore the Bay’s crab fishery.

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AUBURN HILLS, Michigan, September 26, 2000 (ENS) - DaimlerChrysler Corporation is testing a plastics recycling technology that could help make the company's vehicles 95 percent recyclable within the next few years. The technology could cut the cost of making new vehicles by millions of dollars each year. The company, which launched a five month pilot project this month, says the new recycling technology could reduce by one third the amount of automobile waste going into landfills, provide a source for high quality recycled plastics that can be used to produce new automotive parts, and result in cost savings in the production of new vehicles. The test could also open the door to a profitable new market for automobile recyclers in recycled plastics, polyurethane foams and copper.

The project represents the second phase of DaimlerChrysler's CARE (Concepts for Advanced Recycling and Environmental) Car Program. The program aims to increase the recyclability and recovery of automobiles and the use of recycled materials in new vehicles. "This project is not only good for the environment, it is good business for DaimlerChrysler," said Bernard Robertson, senior vice president, engineering technologies and general manager, truck operations. "By recycling the plastics from old cars and trucks, which today are simply dumped in landfills, we believe we can reduce the cost of producing new vehicles by millions of dollars a year." About 95 percent of all automobiles are recycled today, but recycling is limited to the 75 percent by weight of the vehicle that is metallic.

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ATLANTA, Georgia, September 26, 2000 (ENS) - Energy efficient affordable housing opened in Atlanta last Friday. The new single family homes use about 50 percent less energy than conventional houses. The 33 units will cost less than one dollar per day to heat and cool, said Department of Energy (DOE) officials. "The Fairburn Commons complex in the Atlanta suburb of Fairburn is just one example of how the Energy Department through the Building America Program is partnering with the housing industry to build highly energy efficient, affordable homes across the country," said Dan Reicher, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. "By owning one of these homes, residents can expect to reduce their energy use anywhere from 30 to 50 percent, while helping to maintain a cleaner environment."

The energy efficiency of Fairburn Commons is boosted by using cellulose insulation, a nontoxic fire retardant which reduces air leakage by 38 percent over standard insulation. It also makes an effective sound barrier. Ventilation is improved by bringing fresh air into the houses and mixing it with recirculating interior air. The indoor environment is improved by eliminating fumes from carpeting paints, stains and adhesives. The homes also feature durable, low maintenance materials and high quality energy efficient windows. Fairburn Commons was designed under DOE’s Building America program, using downsized heating and cooling equipment which lower homeowner utility bills. No taxpayer money was used to subsidize the construction of these 1,450 square foot to 2,200 square foot homes, which cost $115,000 to about $135,000. Three homes are completed and families are expected to move in later this year.

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EL PASO, Texas, September 26, 2000 (ENS) - Energy Secretary Bill Richardson has signed an agreement with several universities along the U.S.-Mexico border to promote economic growth and reduce pollution in the border region. "Today's agreement is an important step towards leveraging the department's vast expertise and technology needed to fuel economic growth and environmental health along the border region," said Richardson at a signing ceremony in El Paso on Friday. "By partnering with the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) and other universities, we will focus on new ways to protect the environment and boost the economic future of the Southwest Border region, its land and its people."

Under the DOE initiative called the Southwest Border Energy and Technology Collaboration Program, the agency will join with universities in border states to develop new sustainable technologies and energy resources. These collaborative efforts will help to reduce pollution while introducing new energy related manufacturing options. As an example, much of the growth in the El Paso-Juarez area is tied to energy dependent factories. These industries would benefit from alternative energy efficient materials processing and recycling technologies. Richardson directed the DOE’s Carlsbad Office to coordinate the activities of this partnership - the first time a regional DOE office will be accessible to border communities and universities. The DOE’s network of national labs will lend expertise, as will the Materials Corridor Council, which includes UTEP, University of Houston, New Mexico Tech, University of New Mexico, Arizona State University, University of Arizona, University of California, San Diego and University of California at Riverside.

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WASHINGTON, DC, September 26, 2000 (ENS) - Ten hospitals in the Washington, DC region have pledged to phase out their use of mercury containing products. "Our pledge to go mercury free is an act of preventive medicine," said Robert Malson, CEO of the District of Columbia Hospital Association and spokesperson for the 10 hospitals. "As health care providers, we have special responsibility to do no harm. As we’ve learned about the environmental and human health risks of mercury, and about the availability of alternatives, we’ve come to understand the need for hospitals to phase out the use of this potentially harmful chemical. With this pledge, the majority of our city’s hospitals are committing to phase out their use of mercury containing products, thereby making the practice of medicine ‘mercury free’."

The hospitals also plan to each host an in house exchange program to encourage staff to bring in mercury thermometers from their homes for a free digital replacement supplied by Health Care Without Harm, a nonprofit group working to eliminate pollution in health care practices. Thanks to a parallel initiative by the Washington, DC Department of Health, during the month of October, District residents can bring their home mercury thermometers to any of the city’s 33 firehouses to exchange them for digital versions. Medical waste incineration accounts for 10 percent of airborne mercury pollution. Mercury thermometers discarded in home trash cans is the largest single source of mercury in solid waste.

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GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK, Montana, September 26, 2000 (ENS) - Two large adult mule deer bucks were killed September 18 in Grand Teton National Park. The deer, apparently killed for their trophy size antlers, were discovered by park rangers. Both bucks had been shot. One buck’s antlers had been removed. The second deer’s antlers were intact, and park rangers speculate that someone may have passed near the scene of the poaching, causing the poachers to flee. The killing of wildlife in national parks is a federal offense and can be prosecuted as a felony. Conviction carries heavy penalties including imprisonment, fines, seizure of equipment and restitution for damage to or loss of property and resources.

Through "Park Watch" and "Jackson Hole Crimestoppers," a reward of up to $5,000 is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons involved. Grand Teton National Park’s chief ranger, Colin Campbell, urges anyone with information to contact the park at 307-739-3327. "This is one of the most appalling kinds of crimes, killing beautiful and gentle animals in cold blood, simply for a wall trophy," said Park superintendent Jack Neckels. "Thousands of visitors who have delighted in seeing these animals in the park, over the last few years, are now robbed of that great pleasure and discovery. The gene pool for the park’s mule deer population has also been diminished."