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AmeriScan: April 14, 2005

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Clinton Begins Work as UN Envoy for Tsunami Recovery

NEW YORK, New York, April 14, 2005 (ENS) - "No one could possibly be better qualified," said UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan Wednesday, formally introducing former U.S. President Bill Clinton as his special envoy to head United Nations tsunami recovery operations.

Triggered by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake December 26, 2004, the giant wave killed more than 200,000 people in 11 Indian Ocean countries and left up to five million others in need of basic services. Whole towns, thousand of houses and fishing boats, coastal infrastructure and factories were smashed to pieces.

Annan originally announced in February his intention to appoint Clinton to the specially created position, but the formal introduction was delayed first by the former president's initial mission to the devastated area on behalf of U.S. President George W. Bush and then by his surgery to remove scar tissue after a heart operation.

Clinton will work to ensure that donors not only pledge but disburse the money needed for recovery and reconstruction, and that the funds in fact reach the most needy communities. After previous natural disasters, that has not always happened, Annan said.

"It's vitally important that we have someone capable of sustaining international interest in the fate of the survivors and their communities," Annan told a news conference at UN Headquarters, and someone with vision and commitment to ensure that this time the international community really does follow through and support the transition from immediate relief to longer-term recovery and reconstruction."

Annan called "truly amazing" the international response in which billions of dollars have been pledged to the UN and other organizations for relief and recovery after the tsunami

Clinton praised UN officials for their "terrific job" in emergency relief and recovery so far, but said now "the most difficult period is upon us."

"My job is to ensure first of all that the money which has been committed by the donor countries be invested," Clinton said, "that we assure the donors that it is spent effectively, responsibly and in a transparent manner."

He said it is now necessary to coordinate the work of the UN, governments and nongovernmental organizations, to rebuild the areas better than before, with improved housing, schools, sanitation and a more diversified economy.

Clinton emphasized that he would make sure the finances that have been promised are provided and that the money is "well spent and accountably spent." The former President will also mobilize support for a regional early-warning system and disaster mitigation mechanisms.

"Now, if we do all these things, then we will have a model which not only the United Nations, but the NGO community and the world can use in future crises," he said.

"If we can do a good job here," Clinton said, "if we do our job, if we can report back to not only the big donors and the governments, but the NGOs and individual donors, if we can be accountable, if we can be transparent and if we can be effective, I hope that then the Secretary-General will be able to issue a call, if we ever get an ultimate resolution of what should be done in Darfur, for example, and in Somalia, for people to help there, and then we'll know what we're worth because we'll have a model here."

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Senator Blocks EPA Nominee Vote as Bush Blocked His Clean Air Bill

WASHINGTON, DC, April 14, 2005 (ENS) - Senator Tom Carper, a Delaware Democrat, today announced that he will block a confirmation vote on the nomination of Stephen Johnson to be head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The senator this morning officially placed a “hold” on the nomination, meaning it cannot be brought to the Senate floor without prolonged debate.

“I do this with a heavy heart and with much regret because I think Stephen Johnson is well-qualified to head the EPA,” said Carper. “He would serve the agency well – if the White House would let him. Unfortunately, the White House doesn’t have a good history with that."

Carper

Senator Tom Carper of Delaware has placed a hold on the nomination of Stephen Johnson to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (Photo courtesy Office of the Senator)
Carper said the Bush White House has "stymied the effectiveness of its past two administrators – both friends of mine, Christie Whitman and Mike Leavitt," and says he does believes the administration would also "hinder Mr. Johnson’s ability to fulfill congressional requests and work with Congress to develop sound environmental policy.”

Carper said he placed the hold on Johnson's nomination because of the Bush administration’s continued refusal to deliver information he has repeatedly requested on how to cut air pollution from power plants.

For the past two years, the senator says he has requested a detailed, technical analysis of the economic, health and environmental impacts of clean air legislation he introduced to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, mercury and carbon dioxide.

The administration has conducted such an analysis of the President’s “Clear Skies” proposal but has "consistently refused" to conduct such an analysis of the Carper plan, the Clean Air Planning Act, the senator said.

Carper said the administration's refusal is against historical precedent and that the analysis is necessary if Congress is to pass clean air legislation this year.

“The EPA and other federal agencies have historically provided unbiased scientific information on legislation before Congress,” said Carper. “For the past several years, however, the EPA has been constrained from doing this. I’ve repeatedly been denied an analysis of my proposal, presumably because the White House is afraid of what it might show."

But Carper says the agency has "a duty to provide technical assistance to Congress."

Carper said his move to block the nomination is not about partisan politics, nor obstructionism. "My goal here isn’t to stand in the way of anything. My goal is to get clean air legislation done this year," he said.

A Senate committee last month did not approve the President’s clean air plan because "lawmakers on both sides of the aisle believe we can do better, that we can write a stronger clean air law," Carper said. "The EPA should stand ready to help Congress do its job, not stand in its way.”

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Pentagon Drops Cleanup and Resource Conservation Duties

WASHINGTON, DC, April 14, 2005 (ENS) - The Pentagon has reduced its environmental responsiblities in a policy shift that eliminates Clinton era protections. The change originates in a directive signed on March 19 by outgoing Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who is moving on to head the World Bank.

Under the Wolfowitz directive, the Pentagon will confine its anti-pollution work to activities that directly “sustain the national defense mission.”

The new "Environmental Safety & Occupational Health" directive cancels the Clinton era “Environmental Security” directive. The new policy eliminates provisions for:

  • “Reducing risk to human health and the environment by identifying, evaluating, and where necessary, remediating contamination resulting from past DoD activities”
  • “Protecting, preserving, and, when required, restoring, and enhancing the quality of the environment”
  • “Conserving, and restoring where necessary, the natural and cultural heritage represented on DoD installations within the United States.”
In an apparent concession to criticisms leveled when Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) posted a draft of the new policy in December, the final version was changed to add as policy “to protect DoD personnel from accidental death, injury or occupational illness” and “to protect the public from risk of death, injury, illness, or property damage because of DoD activities.”

“These changes show that protecting the public and even their own personnel from environmental threats is an afterthought,” said PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “One additional change to the final policy is opening ‘dialogue’ on environmental issues, which is ironic coming in a document that was developed in secret in the utter absence of dialogue.”

At the same time, the U.S. Army issued an Earth Day 2005 message that justifies using natural resources to support military training.

As "the Army’s most precious resource," soldiers need "a realistic training environment in which they can test their equipment, hone their skills, and prepare for combat. They deserve a healthy environment in which they and their families can live safely. We must nurture the environment with an eye toward partnerships so that our neighbors understand and support our mission," the Army says in a message approved March 7.

"Over the past 35 years, the Army has joined the Nation in celebrating Earth Day on April 22nd. The Army’s Earth Day theme this year, “Sustaining the Environment for a Secure Future,” reflects our commitment to meet the current and future needs of Soldiers, their families, and the Nation through the sound stewardship of environmental resources," the Army states.

The new policy directive reduces Pentagon compliance with anti-pollution rules by dropping requirements that it obey “regulations, Executive orders, binding international agreements” and other federal “environmental, safety, occupational health, explosives safety, fire and emergency services, and pest management policies.”

In its place, the Pentagon pledges only to abide by “applicable law and DoD policy.”

The new Directive says that the Pentagon “will evaluate all activities…and make prudent investments in initiatives that support mission accomplishment, enhance readiness, reduce future funding needs, prevent pollution, ensure cost effective compliance, and maximize the existing resource capability.”

Department of Defense directives define the agency’s mission and responsibilities. By its terms, this Directive covers all “DoD operations, activities, and installations worldwide, including Government-owned/contractor-operated facilities.”

See the new directive at: https://www.denix.osd.mil/

Review the Pentagon’s Five-Year Plan to Exempt Itself from Environmental Laws at: http://www.peer.org/watch/federal_info.php?row_id=3

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Wisconsin Joins States' Mercury Lawsuit Against EPA Mercury Rule

MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin, April 14, 2005 (ENS) - Wisconsin will join nine other states in a lawsuit against the Bush administration that seeks tougher federal mercury emissions standards.

Wisconsin joins New Jersey, California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, and Vermont in the case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

"Wisconsin is a leader in controlling mercury emissions," said Governor Jim Doyle, a Democrat, announcing the legal move on Monday. "But unfortunately, we can't stop mercury from other states from polluting our waters. It’s time for the Bush administration to follow the Clean Air Act and ensure that Wisconsin’s citizens are protected from the devastating economic and health risks of mercury pollution."

Mercury, at high levels, may damage the brain, kidneys, and developing fetus, according the federal Agency for Toxic Substances, a division of the Centers for Disease Control.

Mercury enters the air from mining ore deposits, burning coal and waste, and from manufacturing plants. It enters the water or soil from disposal of wastes. Methylmercury may be formed in water and soil by small organisms called bacteria. Methylmercury then builds up in the tissues of fish; larger and older fish tend to have the highest levels of mercury.

"Mercury has a devastating cumulative effect on our environment and represents a clear threat to public health," Doyle said. "Every year thousands of pounds of mercury are released into the air and are then deposited into our soil and bodies of water. Most frightening is that our children are among the most vulnerable to its damage."

Currently, all of Wisconsin’s fresh water bodies are under a mercury advisory to limit the consumption of fish. Many of the 49 million fish that will be harvested from Wisconsin waters this year are not safe for people to eat.

Women of child-bearing age and children under the age of 15 are advised not to eat large sport fish - walleye, northern pike, and bass – more than once a month and panfish – bluegill and crappie – more than once a week. Men are warned not to eat walleye and northern pike more than once a week.

"If we are going to succeed in protecting the health and welfare of Wisconsin’s citizens we must have a strong, effective federal policy to decrease emissions of our neighbors," Doyle said. "Unfortunately, the Bush Administration does not see this as a priority and has proposed regulations that fail to protect our most vulnerable citizens from the devastating impacts of mercury pollution. I wish we had a federal government that held our same priorities and recognized the devastating effect of mercury emissions. But it’s clear that we don’t."

The rule finalized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on March 15 limits mercury emissions from new and existing coal-fired power plants, and creates a market based cap-and-trade program that will permanently cap utility mercury emissions in two phases - the first phase cap is 38 tons beginning in 2010, with a final cap set at 15 tons beginning in 2018. These mandatory declining caps are coupled with penalties for noncompliance.

"The EPA claims their rule will reduce mercury emissions," said Doyle, "but yet they’re allowing 19 states to actually increase emissions between now and 2010. And the EPA has proposed rules that will require only a 21 percent reduction in mercury emissions by 2010 because they claim that is the best that current technology can do."

The governor said that technology is more advanced that the agency admits. He pointed to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' approval of permits for two coal-fired power plants – WPS at Weston and WE at Oak Creek – that will achieve an 80 percent reduction in mercury emissions.

"Wisconsin is showing that it can have high environmental standards while using proven economically viable technologies," said the governor.

The states suing the Bush administration are headed by both Republican governors - such as California, Massachusetts and New York - and Democratic governors - such as New Mexico and New Jersey.

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Philadelphia Shipyard Signs $1 Billion Eco-Friendly Tanker Deal

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania, April 14, 2005 (ENS) - On the skids and headed for closure four years ago, Kvaerner's Philadelphia Shipyard today announced a $1 billion deal to build 10 double hulled tankers and the formation of a new wholly owned, U.S. subsidiary that will charter the environmentally sound ships in the domestic shipping market.

The management team says the deal is the largest of its kind in American commercial shipbuilding.

The ships will be chartered for at least five years at a cost of more than $500 million after delivery to Overseas Shipholding Group, Inc. and will be put to work to serve the Jones Act domestic shipping market. The 80 year old Jones Act requires that all cargo moved between U.S. ports be carried in U.S. built cargo ships.

David Meehan, Kvaerner Philadelphia's CEO said, "This is a proud moment for us as a company that is building the highest quality ships our nation's maritime economy depends on."

He said while performance and productivity are continually improving, the management team recognizes they are in a fiercely competitive marketplace.

Meehan said the new fleet of tankers will meet the international standards for double hulled tankers which must be in service by 2015, replacing an aging fleet of single hulled tanker vessels.

He said the disastrous crude oil spill from a single-hull tanker in the Delaware River last year is a stark reminder to his team of the vital need for their new ships.

A ceremonial contract signing was held at the shipyard along the Delaware River attended by more than 1,000 workers, customers, suppliers, and friends of the yard, including former President Bill Clinton, who served as the keynote speaker.

He signed into law the 1993 National Shipbuilding Initiative that helped a struggling American maritime industry through streamlining regulations and a $220 million new technology support package. Clinton said he was proud to play a role in the successful, bi-partisan public-private partnership that set the stage for the shipyard revitalization.

Clinton

Former President Bill Clinton (left) at the Kvaerner Philadelphia Shipyard today with Kjell Inge Rokke, the main shareholder of Kvaerner ASA (Photo courtesy Kvaerner)
"I never lost faith in the American shipbuilding industry and neither did so many of our public servants, workers and private businesses," Clinton said. "I salute the men and women of Kvaerner Philadelphia Shipyard for showing all of us once again that it is possible to achieve great things even in the face of seemingly impossible odds. Today's announcement is good news for the workers here, for America's maritime industry and for the environment."

On the site of America's first naval base, completely rebuilt by Kvaerner to world-class specifications, company officials were also joined by Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, Mayor John Street, Congressman Curt Weldon, and other local, state, and federal officials who came together under the red-white-and-blue banner, "Building the Future."

Brad Mulholland, the former president of Matson Navigation Company, Inc is serving as CEO of the new subsidiary. He said the new, MT-46 Veteran Class, 46,000 ton tankers will be among the most efficient tankers ever built.

The ship design is being provided through an exclusive, five year agreement with Hyundai Mipo Dockyard. The order includes an option for two additional tankers. It calls for the first delivery in 2006 and order completion by 2010.

Kjell Inge Rokke, the main shareholder of Kvaerner ASA, is a self-made industrialist who believed that the Philadelphia yard could compete in the Jones Act market. He thanked former President Clinton for his contributions to the American maritime industry and to the health and safety of the world and praised the shipyard workers.

"I am proud to be able to show how well the people at the yard have stood up to the challenge of turning this Navy yard into the most competitive yard in the Jones Act market," Rokke said. "Based on the foundation of bold political decisions in the 1990s, a committed work force now produces great ships, built efficiently and with love and care. I lived and worked in the United States for 15 years, and I know this is a can-do country. We have proven that we are the can-do shipyard in the United States."

Rokke's business interests include the Aker Group, Norway's largest employer in the private sector and Kvaerner, the parent company of both KPSI and newly-formed ASC. The Aker Group is a global technology and service provider to the oil, gas energy and process industries, the fifth largest shipbuilding group in the world, and one of Europe's leading providers of fresh fish to consumer markets.

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New York Budget Agreement Benefits Adirondack Park

ALBANY, New York, April 14, 2005 (ENS) - The Adirondack Park’s largest environmental advocacy organization today praised the New York State Legislature and Governor George Pataki, a Republican, for increasing the size of the Environmental Protection Fund.

Adirondack Council Executive Director Brian Houseal said his organization is pleased that the fund will grow from $125 million to $150 million over the next 12 months and remain at the higher level in future years. This increases the state’s open space protection account from just above $30 million to $40 million annually.

Houseal said the additional open space funding is needed for major projects that had been announced but not completed.

In the Adirondack Park, they include a 260,000 acre conservation agreement with International Paper in 34 Adirondack towns; a similar agreement and purchase from Domtar Industries, which owned 105,000 acres in Franklin and Clinton counties; and, the Tahawus Tract purchase and conservation agreement covering 10,000 acres in Newcomb, on the southern edge of the High Peaks Wilderness.

In these cases, non-profits such as the Conservation Fund of Virginia, the Adirondack Nature Conservancy and the Open Space Institute of Manhattan provided the up-front money to make the purchase agreements, and have been awaiting reimbursement.

Reimbursement will make it possible for those groups to move on to the state’s next acquisition priorities.

“Just as important is the $3 million added for providing professional planning assistance to small towns in the Adirondacks, the Catskills and other rural areas that are being overwhelmed by new development proposals and threatened by tax-inflating sprawl,” Houseal said. “Our towns are changing too rapidly for local governments to keep up. They need this help right away.”

Many Adirondack towns also need Environmental Protection Fund money for drinking water filtration and sewage treatment.

Houseal said the Adirondack Council is pleased that Governor Pataki vetoed legislation that would have imperiled the most important source of acid rain research funding to which the state has access - the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

“Somehow, the Legislature was under the mistaken impression that the annual budget of NYSERDA was too insulated from public input,” Houseal said. “They sought to make its budget part of the annual statewide budget negotiations. But NYSERDA is overseen both by state-appointed officials and a citizens advisory panel. NYSERDA looks five years ahead in deciding which programs it will fund."

Houseal said long term monitoring of lake chemistry in the Adirondacks and Catskills is dependent upon NYSERDA grants. Some of the studies have been conducted continuously for 25 years or more. If wrangling over the state budget caused an interruption of just a few months, some of the programs would be ruined, he explained. Houseal said the Council will urge the Legislature not to override the Governor’s veto.

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Lower Manhattan Rebuilds to Green Standard

NEW YORK, New York, April 14, 2005 (ENS) - A ceremonial groundbreaking was held in Lower Manhattan today on the first environmentally friendly building to be constructed without using government incentives since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

The Millennium Tower Residences, in the south neighborhood of Battery Park City, will contain 236 condominium apartments in a 35 story, 340,000 square foot tower, located at West Street and First Place. It is the fourth environmentally responsible building to go up in Battery Park City.

New York Governor George Pataki joined officials from the Battery Park City Authority and the developer, Millennium Partners, for the ceremony. "This beautiful, environmentally responsible, 35-story condominium tower is being built at full taxes, demonstrating once again, that Lower Manhattan has a bright future," the governor said.

The Millennium Tower Residences, which will have panoramic views of the Hudson River, the Statue of Liberty and the Financial District, will be completed at the end of 2006. The project was designed by Handel Architects, who is also the designated designer for the World Trade Center Site Memorial.

The Millennium Tower Residences will be 25 percent more efficient than current New York State codes. Strategies include advanced mechanical systems for the entire building, and solar rooftop panels to lessen the need for outside electricity. The tower roof garden will be landscaped to capture and recycle rainwater for re-use for irrigation.

With its innovative water use reduction strategies, including on-site recycling of waste water to supply flush water for toilets, the Millennium Tower Residences will use 33 percent less water than a comparable non-green building.

Interior materials, including flooring, paint, wallboard and electric fixtures, will be chosen based on low emissions of volatile organic compounds, which have been identified as allergens.

Externally, the building will rely on recyclable construction materials, including steel, wood and even concrete drawn primarily from local sources to reduce energy and transportation costs.

Each unit will receive air that has been treated for desired year-round humidity levels, and the air handling system will filter 85 percent of all particulates from the outside, reducing soot and airborne toxins.

Philip Aarons, a founding partner for Millennium Partners, said, "We are particularly excited because this signature property will go beyond the pioneering 'green' guidelines set out by the Battery Park City Authority and achieve LEED gold-certification in environmental design."

The Battery Park City Authority (BCPA) is a public benefit corporation created by the New York State Legislature in 1968 to develop a 92 acre site at the southwestern tip of Lower Manhattan. Parcels are leased to developers who build in accordance with BPCA guidelines, which now incorporate "green" provisions mandating state-of-the-art environmental specifications to maximize energy efficiency and minimize water usage.

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