AmeriScan: April 25, 2006

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Two North Dakota Utilities Pay for New Source Review Violations

WASHINGTON, DC, April 25, 2006 (ENS) - Two utilities in North Dakota have agreed to reduce emissions of two harmful pollutants by more than 33,000 tons per year.

The Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced settlement of a case alleging violations of the New Source Review (NSR) provisions of the Clean Air Act - the first NSR settlement with a power plant utility in the western United States.

The case was brought against Minnkota Power Cooperative and Square Butte Electric Cooperative

These member owned rural utilities will reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) by about 23,600 tons per year and nitrogen oxides (NOx) by more than 9,400 tons annually from the Milton R. Young Station, a coal fired power plant near Center, North Dakota.

Sulfur dioxides and nitrogen oxides cause severe respiratory problems and contribute to childhood asthma. These pollutants are also contributors to acid rain, smog and haze, which impair visibility in national parks.

"The substantial reductions in SO2 and NOx emissions from the M.R. Young Station, a very large source of air pollution in this area of the country, will have an extremely beneficial impact on air quality in North Dakota," said Sue Ellen Wooldridge, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "We are pleased that Minnkota and Square Butte have decided to come into compliance and take on the responsibility for reducing the pollution from their plants."

Granta Nakayama, EPA assistant administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said, "EPA is committed to taking vigorous, nationwide enforcement action to ensure that companies make compliance with the standards of the Clean Air Act a top priority."

According to EPA estimates, the pollution controls and other measures required by today's consent decree are expected to cost the utilities over $100 million.

In 2005, the M. R. Young Station was the second largest source of NOx pollution in the nation by pounds of NOx per megawatt hour.

Under today's proposed consent decree, the utilities will install pollution controls at each of the two M. R. Young steam- generating units.

The initial NOx controls will be installed beginning in 2007, and all of the NOx controls will be operational by the end of 2011.

Minnkota and Square Butte will fund $5 million in renewable energy development projects, including wind power projects in their service area of North Dakota and Minnesota. The wind power generated will displace approximately five megawatts of coal-fired power and thereby further reduce emissions from these coal-fired plants.

This is the tenth settlement that the federal government has entered into to address Clean Air Act NSR violations by coal- fired power plants nationwide. The combined effect of the settlements achieved to date will be to reduce emissions of harmful pollutants by over 973,000 tons each year, through the installation and operation of about $5.6 billion worth of pollution controls.

The proposed consent decree will be lodged with the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota, and will be subject to a 30-day public comment period. A copy of the consent decree is onlinek at http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/open.html

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Brooklyn Waterfront to be Cleaned up, Redeveloped

NEW YORK, New York, April 25, 2006 (ENS) - New York Governor George Pataki and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg have announced funding that totals $36 million to clean up and redevelop the Bush Terminal Piers, one of the biggest brownfield sites in the city.

The city of New York will remediate the Bush Terminal Piers Open Space Site on the Sunset Park waterfront in Brooklyn between 43rd and 51st streets. Soil, groundwater, and sediment at and underneath the site became contaminated in the 1970s due to the unauthorized disposal of construction and demolition debris, as well as liquid wastes, including oils, oil sludges, and wastewater.

The remediation area consists of 14 acres of urban land that was created by landfilling between Piers 1 through 4 which were part of Bush Terminal. Most of the landfilled areas are covered with grasses or soils, with mature trees and two pond areas. The site is currently fenced to prevent public access.

Once the cleanup is complete, the city plans to redevelop the site as a public open space featuring athletic fields, walkways, natural areas, an environmental education center, a boat-building area, a fishing pier, seasonal restaurant booths, a community building, and a banquet hall. The project also includes pier rehabilitation, shoreline stabilization, wetlands and aquatic habitat enhancement, and the preservation of mature trees.

The funding includes a $17.8 million grant to New York City by the state - the largest grant ever awarded by the state for the remediation of a brownfield site.

In addition, New York City is contributing $9 million, and the federal government is kicking in $8 million. The state will provide an additional $700,000 Environmental Protection Fund grant and Councilmember Sarah Gonzalez helped to provide $500,000 to help transform this site into a recreational park.

"For too long the residents of Sunset Park have been without access to their waterfront," said Mayor Bloomberg. "This unprecedented $17.8 million state grant, combined with city and federal funding, will allow a comprehensive clean up and help New Yorkers reclaim this potentially stunning waterfront site. I want to thank EDC President Andy Alper and Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe for their hard work on this project."

"The cleanup of contaminated brownfield sites creates new opportunities to return these abandoned or underutilized properties to productive use," Governor Pataki said. This is an exciting project that will rid the site of contamination and allow the city to create a new park, expand recreational opportunities, and protect green space."

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Grant Funding of $1 Million Offered to Improve Anacostia River

WASHINGTON, DC, April 25, 2006 (ENS) - To mark the 36th anniversary of Earth Day, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Transportation have pledged $1 million to help improve the health of the Anacostia River, which is heavily impacted by polluted stormwater runoff. The money will fund projects to accelerate environmental restoration of the river and protection of its watershed.

“The nation’s capital is a great place to show how innovation and cooperative conservation can reduce stormwater pollution, advance sustainable transportation infrastructure, and accelerate environmental progress,” said Benjamin Grumbles, EPA’s assistant administrator for the Office of Water, announcing the new funding on April 19. Federal, state and local supporters of the river clean-up assembled for the event, which included a boat tour of the river.

“This seed money will help grow the partnerships to make the Anacostia one of the greatest urban river restoration and watershed protection stories of the century,” said Jeffrey Shane, DOT’s under secretary of transportation for policy.

the two agencies are soliciting proposals from organizations interested in applying for the million dollar funding. The deadline for submitting proposals is July 19.

Up to three grants or cooperative assistance agreements will be selected for funding. At least one selected will have to focus on integrating transportation planning with watershed management. The projects will have a performance period of three to five years.

Between 75 percent and 90 percent of the Anacostia's pollution is caused by stormwater runoff, a problem closely tied to sprawl and overdevelopment throughout the watershed, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a nationwide environmental group with its headquarters in Washington, DC.

Part of the problem is the District of Columbia's century-old sewage and flood control system, which is designed to overflow when it rains. As a result, a mix of untreated sewage and stormwater spills into the river.

NRDC and other Anacostia advocates are promoting low-impact development as a solution to the problem of stormwater runoff. This approach uses strategically placed beds of native plants, rain barrels, green roofs, porous surfaces for parking lots, sidewalks and courtyards and other tools to help rainfall evaporate back into the atmosphere or soak into the ground, rather than polluting the river.

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New Jersey's Radioactive School Site But One of Hundreds

TRENTON, New Jersey, April 25, 2006 (ENS) - A plan to purchase land and build a high school on a contaminated former uranium processing facility site in Union City was not vetoed by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

Instead, it is one of as many as 200 contaminated sites that have been expedited for school construction under a secret Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the state’s Schools Construction Corporation (SCC).

State officials have refused to disclose the list of all known contaminated school sites purchased by the SCC and reviewed by DEP under the memo.

The Union City site was part of the Manhattan Project, the effort during World War II to develop the first nuclear weapons by the United States in collaboration with the United Kingdom and Canada.

"The full extent of environmental and financial malfeasance that has engulfed the $8 billion program, one of the nation’s largest public works programs, now appears to be finally dawning on top aides to Governor Jon Corzine," said PEER today.

The New Jersey government did not respond to earlier warnings sent by PEER, including one as recently as February 9, 2006.

“For an environmental agency to look the other way at putting a public school on a contaminated Manhattan Project site shows just how corrupt things are in New Jersey,” said New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe, noting that the Union City school construction fell through only because SCC ran out of funds rather than from environmental objections.

“We would hope that the Corzine administration would wake up and realize that not only SCC, but DEP and its pathetic site remediation program, need more than cosmetic measures; they require major surgery,” Wolfe said.

Today PEER released both a copy of the Memorandum of Understanding between the DEP and the and an analysis detailing major flaws in DEP oversight, failures in ambient monitoring of schools at known contaminated toxic waste sites, acquisition of contaminated land, and breakdowns in school site cleanups.

In addition, the MOU lacked any public involvement or opportunity for independent review of the school siting decisions.

One year ago, the New Jersey Inspector General issued a scathing report finding lax oversight had led to a series of major failures, triggering suspension of construction.

“Huge sums of taxpayer funds dedicated for the education for New Jersey’s most disadvantaged children have instead been spent in a way that needlessly put children and educators at risk,” said Wolfe. “We again urge Governor Corzine to adopt a public site selection process so that parents and educators are informed and involved and that known toxic waste sites are only an option of the very last resort.”

PEER is also urging that work at contaminated locations already under construction be halted and that permanent cleanups, as well as design or construction changes, are immediately adopted to address toxic contamination. For those sites where schools are already built, PEER is advocating that parents and educators are notified and that additional cleanup measures and monitoring take place immediately.

View the February 9, 2006 PEER letter to Governor Elect Corzine http://www.peer.org/docs/nj/06_24_4_corzineltr.pdf

Look at the DEP Memorandum of Agreement with the Schools Construction Corporation http://www.peer.org/docs/nj/06_24_4_dep_moa.pdf

See the June 2005 cursory review by DEP of the Union City school site http://www.peer.org/docs/nj/06_24_4_dep_review.pdf

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New York, New Jersey Get $27 Million Urban Wetlands Program

NEW YORK, New York, April 25, 2006 (ENS) - To mark Earth Day 2006, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today broke ground on a $4.3 million Woodbridge Creek Ecosystem restoration project to build and preserve wetlands in New Jersey.

Land for the site was donated by the Township of Woodbridge and property access granted by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority.

This project is part of the ongoing $27 million environmental mitigation program in the Hudson Raritan Estuary and being implemented in conjunction with the $1.6 billion New York and New Jersey Harbor Deepening Project.

The overall program will require more than 1.5 million plants to be placed throughout the region.

"Working with our local, state and federal partners, we are capitalizing on opportunities to create and preserve wetlands in one of the most urbanized, industrialized areas in the nation," said Col. Richard J. Polo, Jr., the Army Corps' New York District commander.

"While these restoration projects are being undertaken to mitigate impacts from the harbor deepening project, the overall program will have long term, positive effects on our estuary long after the deepening projects are complete," he said.

"Let there be no doubt. The Corps is committed in deed and action to environmental cleanup and enhancement," said Col. Polo. "Nearly $30 million of construction work is and will be undertaken with this groundbreaking and more than 1.5 million new plants are being planted in the restored wetlands. The environment isn't a side consideration, nor does it take a back seat to the critical federal channel deepening work. They go hand-in-hand."

"The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is firmly committed to environmental stewardship while ensuring that we continue to enhance our ability to handle increased commerce to the region," said Richard Larrabee, director of the Port Commerce Department.

"Wetlands protect drinking water supplies by filtering out contaminants, provide high quality open space and serve as critical habitat for significant populations of New Jersey's fish and wildlife, including threatened and endangered species," said DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson. "The DEP's participation in this partnership to restore urban wetlands demonstrates our commitment to protecting and enhancing this priceless natural resource."

In addition to the site in Woodbridge, N.J. other project areas include:

- $3.3 million for the Joseph P. Medwick Park restoration in Carteret, New Jersey, awarded to Dawson Corporation of Clarksburg, N.J.;

- $5.4 million for the salt marsh mitigation project at KeySpan Corporation in Staten Island, New York awarded to New York Concrete Corporation of Staten Island;

- $13 million for the Elder's Point (East) Island restoration in Jamaica Bay, New York, awarded to Galvin Brothers of Great Neck, New York.

The Corps and the Port Authority will be restoring approximately 23 acres of tidal wetlands with an additional 27 acres being set aside for state preservation. This restoration work will offset potential, unavoidable shallow water habitat impacts related to the deepening of the Port of New York and New Jersey. The project was awarded to Rencor Inc. of New Jersey.

In coordination with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the DEP, the project also allows for the restoration of 17.5 acres of tidal wetlands to provide compensatory restoration for the 1990 Exxon Bayway oil spill. The combined sites, including preservation areas, total nearly 70 acres and will be set aside as a wetland conservation area for the State of New Jersey.

Overall, the program will be mitigating, preserving and restoring more than 143 acres of wetland areas to re-establish tidal flow in the region. Once tidal flow to the areas has been reestablished, water and sediment quality should be improved, which is expected to promote the return of native fish and wildlife.

The Hudson-Raritan Estuary, which surrounds the Port of New York and New Jersey, is more than 42,000 square kilometers, making it one of the largest estuaries on the east coast and one of the most populated with 20 million people in the region.

According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, nearly 80 percent of the Hudson-Raritan Estuary's tidal salt marshes have been lost and even less of its 224,000 acres of freshwater wetlands remain.

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Long Island Sound Getting Cleaner

STAMFORD, Connecticut, April 25, 2006 (ENS) - A new report on the health of Long Island Sound by the Long Island Sound Study (LISS) tracks for the first time the water quality of the Sound by its three distinct basins. The report shows that while progress is being made to clean up the Sound, there are still challenges ahead.

"Sound Health 2006: A Report on Status and Trends in the Health of the Long Island Sound" includes a water quality index that shows, on average, water quality in the Sound was good 54.3 percent of the time and fair 41.2 percent of the time from 1991-2004.

As expected, the western basin, with its densely developed shoreline, is the most stressed, with fair water quality the majority of the time. Water quality improves in the central basin, and in the eastern basin water quality is good 86 percent of the time.

The water quality index, developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's EPA Office of Research and Development for the National Coastal Assessment, includes five measures of water quality - dissolved oxygen levels, the amount of chlorophyll a (an indicator of planktonic algae), water clarity, and concentrations of two nutrients, nitrogen and phosphorous.

These measures were evaluated from May to October, the time of year when pollution has the greatest effect on water quality.

The report also highlights progress made in a number of areas since a Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan was developed by the Long Island Sound Study in 1994. For instance, sewage treatment upgrades have resulted in 47,000 fewer pounds of nitrogen a day entering the Sound since the peak year of 1994.

Still, over the past three years, nitrogen discharges increased by about 8,000 pounds a day in the Sound, mainly as a result of nitrogen treatment being suspended while upgrades are under construction. Over-enrichment of nitrogen fuels the excessive growth of aquatic plants and leads to a harmful depletion of oxygen in the Sound.

The Sound Health 2006 report characterizes the health of the Sound using more than 20 different indicators such as water quality, living resources, land use and development, and public awareness.

Both sharp changes and general trends in the values of those markers can indicate improved or worsening environmental health. This year’s report updates a report published in 2003, and is available online at http://www.longislandsoundstudy.net.

The LISS partners — the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and several other federal and state agencies, universities, and municipal programs — provided the data for the report.

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Internet Wildlife Trader Sentenced to 25 Months in Prison

MIAMI, Florida, April 25, 2006 (ENS) - A Pennsylvania man who sold more than $200,000 worth of endangered species’ parts, hides and mounts through his website and retail shop in Port St. Lucie, Florida, was sentenced 25 months in prison Friday by a federal court in Miami.

Kevin McMaster, of Greensboro, was also ordered to serve three years of supervised probation upon his release from prison and pay a $250 special court assessment.

McMaster recently relocated to Greensboro, from Port St. Lucie where he operated a website known as Deadzoo.com and a retail store, Exotic & Unique Gifts, businesses.

He admitted to selling federally protected wildlife parts, including tiger, snow leopard and jaguar skins as well as a gorilla skull and baby tiger mounts between 2003 and 2004.

Special agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began investigating McMaster’s illegal wildlife trade in November 2003 after an agent in Illinois received an unsolicited email message from McMaster offering “cat skins” for sale. The agent eventually purchased two Bengal tiger skins for $15,300; a snow leopard skin for $7,000 and a clouded leopard skin for $4,500.

Agents searched McMaster’s Florida home in December 2004 and obtained evidence of additional illegal sales.

In addition to his own website, McMaster offered to sell protected wildlife using other websites such as eBay and Taxidermy.net.

Tim Santel, resident agent in charge at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Law Enforcement Office in Springfield, Illinois, said the Internet provides users with a false sense of anonymity and security that encourages some people to engage in illegal activities.

“The Internet is helping to grow the illegal wildlife trade, but it’s also providing law enforcement with the means to investigate and track down the traders,” said Santel, who led the investigation. “Today’s sentencing demonstrates the Internet is not a safe haven for anyone engaged in the illegal buying or selling of protected wildlife.”

McMaster was charged in December 2005 with two felony violations of the Lacey Act, a federal wildlife protection law, and two misdemeanor violations of the Endangered Species Act. McMaster pleaded guilty in federal court in January 2006.

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