AmeriScan: April 13, 2000


WASHINGTON, DC, April 13, 2000 (ENS) - Thousands of workers with illnesses resulting from work in the nuclear weapons industry will be compensated, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced today. "For decades, government ignored mounting evidence that workers who were contributing to our nation's defense were themselves being put at risk," said Vice President Al Gore. "While we cannot undo their suffering, today this administration begins the process of healing by admitting the government's mistakes, designing a process for compensating these workers for their suffering and by becoming an advocate for Department of Energy workers throughout the nuclear weapons complex."

The proposal, if approved by Congress, would compensate more than 3,000 workers. The legislation would give a lump sum or a package of benefits including lost wages, medical expenses and job retraining. Covered will be workers with pulmonary diseases caused from breathing particles of beryllium, workers with cancers caused by workplace radiation exposure and specific groups of workers at the department's Paducah, Kentucky; Portsmouth, Ohio; and Oak Ridge, Tennessee sites. The announcement is the culmination of a series of actions by the administration over the past 10 months to compensate people who developed illnesses from exposure to dangerous chemicals and radiation while building America's nuclear defense. "We are moving forward to do the right thing by these workers," said Energy Secretary Bill Richardson. "The men and women who served our nation in the nuclear weapons industries of World War II and the Cold War labored under difficult and dangerous conditions with some of the most hazardous materials known to mankind. This is a fair and reasonable program. It will compensate workers and get them the help they have long deserved."

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WASHINGTON, DC, April 13, 2000 (ENS) - Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman today announced a new $210 million, 15 year partnership with Pennsylvania to improve the water quality and wildlife habitat of the watersheds of the Chesapeake Bay. "Reducing runoff contaminants will return our investment many times in healthier wildlife, recreation and clearer water in Pennsylvania's rivers and streams and in the Chesapeake Bay," said Glickman, speaking to the Agriculture Earth Day celebration on the National Mall. Pennsylvania now joins Maryland and Virginia in programs to reduce the Bay's excessive nutrient load which results in toxic algal blooms and a reduction of oxygen. The voluntary program will pay farmers who plant hardwood trees, establish grass filter strips and riparian forest buffers, and undertake other conservation practices on environmentally sensitive land. The new vegetation will filter sediment and nutrients from runoff water and also provide shelter, nesting areas, and food for wildlife. More information is available at:

Landowners nationwide can now receive more money for participation in the Conservation Reserve Program, Glickman said. The new financial incentives - up to $350 million in the next three years - include signing bonuses and more money for instituting and maintaining conservation practices. "Higher payments should persuade more landowners to participate, protecting ever more environmentally sensitive land along streams, rivers, wetlands, and public water supplies," Glickman said. "In difficult economic times for farm country, this additional $350 million will mean more cash in farmer's pockets."

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WASHINGTON, DC, April 13, 2000 (ENS) - The nationís dirtiest electric power plants emit more than two billion tons of pollutants each year, contributing to smog formation, global warming, and other health and environmental problems. The figures comes from a new report released today by U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) and Clear the Air, the National Campaign Against Dirty Power. The report coincides with todayís Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee hearing on electric industry deregulation. The groups were joined by Senator Jim Jeffords, a Vermont Republican who has authored the Clean Energy Act (S.1369), a bill to clean up polluting power plants.

The report documents pollution from 594 of the nationís most polluting power plants, ranking the dirtiest plants, dirtiest states, and dirtiest companies for each of four harmful pollutants. "Lethal Legacy: The Dirty Truth About the Nationís Most Polluting Power Plants," is the first study to analyze 1999 preliminary data submitted by the electric power industry to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The electric power industry is the nationís largest industrial source of smog and soot forming air pollution, toxic mercury and carbon dioxide, the leading cause of global warming. "Today Americans choke on smog and soot pollution, eat poisonous fish, and confront the real life consequences of global warming because of these dirty power plants," said Rebecca Stanfield, staff attorney for U.S. PIRG. "Any federal bill to deregulate this industry must include strong standards to dramatically reduce this pollution." "It is long past time for this industry to make a transition to clean, safe energy sources," said Senator Jeffords. "The public can no longer tolerate the health and environmental threats caused by continued reliance on old, dirty coal plants." The U.S. PIRG report is available at:

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WASHINGTON, DC, April 13, 2000 (ENS) - Forest activists from the Pacific Northwest and around the world marched to the White House today calling on the Clinton administration to end old growth logging in U.S. forests and to promote forest protection in international agreements. "With less than five percent of the ancient forests remaining in the U.S., the time to end old growth logging is now," said Randi Spivak, president of American Lands. "The clean water, fish and wildife habitat and quality recreation experiences provided by old growth forests far outweigh their value cut down." The activists want forest protection provisions built into trade agreements, the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, and the actions of international lending organizations like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF).

"The U.S. continues to ignore the impacts of trade agreements and the unsustainable development promoted by the IMF and World Bank," said Antonia Juhasz of American Lands. "We need an international trade and development policy that protects forests here and overseas, not one that promotes more logging regardless of the consequences." Activists gathered at U.S. Forest Service Headquarters and unfurled a 200-foot long banner depicting an old growth tree that has been logged. After several speeches, activists marched to the White House where activists called on Vice President Al Gore to support ending old growth logging. "As long as old growth falls in the Pacific Northwest, public controversy will forever plague the Northwest Forest Plan," said Doug Heiken with Oregon Natural Resources Council. "Jobs are a big concern. But the answer doesn't lie in liquidating old growth forests, it lies in restoring the landscape that can provide family wage jobs and sustain forest dependent communities."

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WASHINGTON, DC, April 13, 2000 (ENS) - Twelve prominent scientists, including two former EPA officials, have sent a letter to EPA Administrator Carol Browner urging tighter restrictions on the pesticide chlorpyrifos, sold as Dursban. The EPA is expected to issue its final risk assessment for chlorpyrifos, the nationís most widely used pesticide, in the next few weeks. "For the protection of current and future generations of children in the United States, we urge that you take deliberate action in this last year of the Clinton-Gore administration to tightly restrict the agricultural use of chlorpyrifos and to ban outright all applications of chlorpyrifos in the residential setting, schools and childcare facilities," the scientists wrote.

The EPAís own preliminary assessment of chlorpyrifos, released late last year, found evidence that the chemical can affect the nervous system in humans. The pesticide is found in more than 800 products, including pet collars, pest control products, and lawn and garden insecticides. Recent studies indicate that exposure may cause severe and lasting nerve damage in infants and children. The authors of the letter hail from major universities and medical schools. The lead authors on the letter are both former EPA officials. Dr. Phil Landrigan, director of the Center for Childrenís Health and the Environment at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, served as senior advisor on childrenís health for the EPA in 1997 and 1998. Dr. Lynn Goldman, adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University, School of Hygiene and Public Health, served as assistant administrator for the EPAís Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances from 1993 to January 1999.

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WASHINGTON, DC, April 13, 2000 (ENS) - The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) has launched a $6 million effort to elevate the environment as a major issue in the 2000 elections. The advertising campaign will inform voters about the environmental voting records of candidates - both Democrat and Republican - for Congress and the Presidency. "The time is right for environmental issues to move to the forefront of this year's campaigns," said LCV president Deb Callahan. "The nation is enjoying relative peace and prosperity and voters can afford to focus on issues that pertain to their quality of life. Voters are beginning to understand that Congress has been chipping away at our environmental laws. No other issue more completely affects each American - from the quality of the water we drink and air we breathe, to the health of our communities and the legacy we leave our children - than the issue of environmental protection."

As part of its "Earth Day to Election Day" campaign strategy, the LCV Action Fund, LCV's political action committee, unveiled a new "Environmental Champions" campaign to promote the strong environmental records of select Republican and Democratic congressional candidates in tight races. U.S. Representatives Chris Shays, a Connecticut Republican, Joseph Hoeffel, a Pennsylvania Democrat, and Jay Inslee, a Democrat from Washington state, were named the first "Environmental Champions" of 2000. The "Environmental Champions" list could expand to 10 candidates later in the year. A list of the candidates endorsed by LCV is available online at:

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NEW YORK, New York, April 13, 2000 (ENS) - The New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) aims to have the cleanest bus fleet in the world, Governor George Pataki announced Wednesday. The state has an unprecedented plan to step up the purchase of new clean fuel buses and retrofit existing diesel buses to reduce pollution. "This historic plan will ensure that the MTA has the cleanest bus fleet, not only in the nation, but in the world," said Pataki. "New York is the capital of the world, so it is only fitting that we are ensuring it has the cleanest bus fleet in the world. The governor and state legislators have agreed to expand the cityís MTA Capital Plan to ensure that funding is available to carry out the initiative.

The revised Capital Plan includes $250 million for an enhanced Clean Fuel Bus program. The Department of Environmental Conservation will work with MTA and the environmental community on new emissions performance standards for all MTA buses to ensure they meet or exceed those achieved by Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) buses. All existing diesel buses will be converted to clean technology, and 550 new clean fuel buses will be purchased. A new heavy duty laboratory will be built to fully test all developing clean fuel technologies for future use. All bus depots that continue to support diesel buses will introduce low sulfur fuels.

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ATLANTA, Georgia, April 13, 2000 (ENS) - A partnership involving conservation organizations and universities in the United States and Africa is utilizing new technology to protect endangered mountain gorillas. The effort will put remote sensing satellite technology into the hands of field scientists and trackers working to protect the gorillas, while helping the African nation of Rwanda rebuild its national university and recover from a devastating 1994 war and genocide. The project, which carries on the work of slain American naturalist Dian Fossey, will also demonstrate how advanced technologies can help in the struggle to protect other endangered species.

"Our first goal is to use modern day technology to bring new clout to field conservation, ecosystem management and endangered species protection," explained Clare Richardson, president of the Atlanta based Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International. "Because we are a field conservation organization, it is imperative that we aggressively pursue more efficient ways to collect data, then have experts available to analyze that data, especially as it applies to habitat." Because habitat loss poses the single greatest threat to the mountain gorillas, the first applications of the new technology will be to assess the existing gorilla habitat, said Nickolas Faust, principal research scientist at the Georgia Tech Research Institute. "The carrying capacity of the area can be assessed by examining the quantity of preferred gorilla food," explained Dr. H. Dieter Steklis, chief scientist for the Fossey Fund. "Based on that, we can determine how many gorillas the habitat can sustain." The information could aid managers of parks in Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda, which shelter the estimated 600 mountain gorillas that survive in the wild.

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ROCKVILLE, Maryland, April 13, 2000 (ENS) - The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) plans to ask the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Board on Energy and Environmental Systems to study alternatives for controlling low level radioactive materials generated by nuclear power plants. The agency wants NAS to conduct a nine month study and provide recommendations on possible alternatives for managing and disposing of the contaminated materials. The agency may integrate the NAS study into its overall approach for the control of solid radioactive materials.

Over the past year, the NRC has been seeking comment on its decision making process through public meetings and publication of a paper outlining alternative courses of action. NRC has scheduled public meetings at its headquarters in Rockville, Maryland, on May 3 and 9 to discuss this issue. On May 3, starting at 9:30 am, the NRC will be briefed on the details of the staff paper summarizing the stakeholders' views. From 9 am on May 9, the Commission will hear comments and concerns from invited citizens groups, tribal and state governments, federal agencies, organizations from private industry, and workers. Both meetings are open to the public for observation. More information and documents are available at:

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WASHINGTON, DC, April 13, 2000 (ENS) - The Center for Environmental Citizenship (CEC) has transformed its Washington, DC office into an eco-friendly model for small businesses and nonprofits - for less than $2,000. The expanding staff felt crunched for space, so they solicited the help of a volunteer architect to design innovative, conservation minded solutions to make the best of their limited resources. The renovated office, unveiled at an EcOffice Open House Wednesday night, uses recycled and recyclable materials, energy saving lighting, nontoxic paints and cleansers. "Everyone wants to work in a pleasant office space," said Susan Comfort, executive director of CEC. "We wanted more - to show that it is possible to design an eco-friendly office on a tight budget. We did that, and now we even save money."

The group is a nonprofit formed to encourage college students to be environmentally aware citizens. Staffers built desks from Phenix Dakota Burl Biocomposite, a wood free board product made from compressed sunflower seed shells. The boards cost $664 after a 10 percent discount from Phenix Biocomposites. Screens between desks were made from 100 percent hemp canvas, bought at a 50 percent discount from Hemp Supply for $25. Shelving was made from formaldehyde free particleboard and recycled steel brackets. Pine boxes were installed on recycled steel poles above desks for personal items. The walls and furniture were brightened with colorful milk based paints and clear non-toxic shellac. Compact fluorescent and full spectrum light fixtures provide more efficient lighting. The office uses recycled sources for copy paper, toilet paper and paper towels. "At first, we had a hard time finding eco-friendly products because thereís just not enough demand," said Griz Dwight, the recent University of Pennsylvania architecture graduate who donated his personal time to help CEC. "The sunflower board we used for the desks is very strong with an interesting surface... I hope to use it in future projects."