AmeriScan: April 26, 2006

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Judge Blocks Bush Bid to Cut Public Out of Forest Decisions

MISSOULA, Montana, April 26, 2006 (ENS) - A federal judge Monday rejected three Bush administration rules that blocked public scrutiny of U.S. Forest Service decisions.

The ruling by U.S. District Court Chief Judge Donald Molloy came in a lawsuit filed against the Forest Service by The Wilderness Society, American Wildlands, and Pacific Rivers Council.

Judge Molloy issued a nationwide injunction against a rule that required members of the public to submit substantial comments on a Forest Service project or else lose the right to challenge that project.

"The substantive comment requirement was a serious problem because under these rules members of the public might not even know that a project threatened their interests until after the Forest Service deadline for public comment," said Earthjustice lawyer Doug Honnold, who represented the conservationists in the case. "Whether you're a hunter, hiker or neighboring landowner, the Bush rule could cut you out of the process."

The ruling replaces the illegal rule with a prior rule that had governed the Forest Service appeals process from 1993 until the illegal rule replaced it. That prior rule allows appeal of a Forest Service project by members of the public who simply express interest in the project.

Judge Molloy also declared unlawful two Forest Service rules that allowed the government to cut the public out of National Forest management by having the secretary of under secretary of agriculture sign a Forest Service project decision or by exempting a project from environmental analysis requirements.

Those two rules previously were also invalidated by a federal court in California in a separate lawsuit over the Forest Service appeal rules.

"Our National Forests and wildlife are owned by every American. And every American should be able to participate in deciding how these lands are managed," said Shawn Regnerus of American Wildlands. "This decision ensures that right."

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Alabama Power Settles New Source Review Case for $200 Million

WASHINGTON, DC, April 26, 2006 (ENS) - The Alabama Power Company has agreed to pollution controls and other measures expected to cost more than $200 million to settle a case brought the federal government under the New Source Review (NSR) provisions of the Clean Air Act.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency Wednesday announced the partial settlement of a case alleging violations of the against the Alabama Power Company James H. Miller, Jr. Plant, a coal-fired power plant near West Jefferson, Alabama.

Under the consent decree filed in federal court, Alabama Power is required to reduce emissions from the Miller plant of two harmful pollutants - sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) - by 28,000 tons per year.

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

Emissions from power plants are carried on the wind, causing air quality problems in downwind states.

"The control technology which Alabama Power will install as a result of this consent decree will achieve major air pollution reductions and improvements in air quality," said Stan Meiburg, EPA deputy regional administrator in Atlanta. "This settlement has tremendous significance for our ongoing effort to ensure cleaner air for all."

Today's partial settlement resolves the claim the federal government filed in 2001 as part of an initiative to bring operators of coal-fired power plants into compliance with the NSR provisions of the Clean Air Act.

The claim alleged that Alabama Power failed to complete construction of two units at the Miller plant (Units 3 and 4) within the time required to qualify as "existing" rather than "new" air pollution sources, and therefore the plants were required to comply with the New Source Review requirements.

The federal government also asserted claims as to four other Alabama Power coal-fired plants - Plant Barry in Mobile County, Plant Gaston in Shelby County, Plant Gorgas in Walker County, and Plant Greene County in Greene County - concerning the alleged modification of units at those plants in violation of NSR requirements. The federal government and Alabama Power have been exploring a separate resolution of those remaining claims under court-ordered mediation.

The consent decree will reduce SO2 emissions by nearly 23,000 tons and NOx emissions by about 5,000 tons per year, the federal agencies said.

Miller Units 3 and 4 will install and operate, by December 31, 2011, state-of-the-art SO2 pollution flue gas scrubbers to reduce SO2 emissions by at least 95 percent.

To further reduce SO2 emissions into the atmosphere, Alabama Power will purchase and retire $4.9 million worth of SO2 allowances - each allowance is equal to one ton of SO2 - under the acid rain trading program of the Clean Air Act. This is expected to reduce SO2 emissions nationwide by an estimated 6,600 tons.

To reduce NOx, Alabama Power will, by May 1, 2008, commence year round operation at both units of the state-of-the-art, selective catalytic reduction (SCR) pollution control technology it currently operates during only five months of the year.

The proposed consent decree will be lodged with the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, for a 30-day public comment period. For more information, click here.

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Great Lakes Sediment Cleanup Defined

WASHINGTON, DC, April 26, 2006 (ENS) - How and where contaminated sediment will be cleaned up in the Great Lakes is the subject of a new rule announced today by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Acting under the authority of the Great Lakes Legacy Act, the agency has outlined how projects will be identified, selected and evaluated to clean up the sediment and reverse the environmental harm to Great Lakes rivers and harbors.

"The Great Lakes Legacy Rule is our roadmap for selecting the best, priority cleanup projects and leveraging public and private dollars to accelerate environmental progress," said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Benjamin Grumbles.

Contaminated sediment is a problem in the Great Lakes basin. In recent years, state and federal agencies have worked with local communities to clean up sediment through dredging and disposal, capping the contaminated material with clean material, allowing natural recovery of the materials in place, or a combination. From 1997-2004, approximately 3.7 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment were remediated from the Great Lakes Basin.

Projects that have received funding under the program include the Ashtabula River in northeast Ohio; the Black Lagoon in the Detroit River; Ruddiman Creek in Muskegon, Michigan, and Hog Island, near Superior, Wisconsin.

The cleanup of such "areas of concern" has been a priority of the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration, a cooperative effort to design and implement a strategy for the restoration, protection and sustainable use of the Great Lakes.

The collaboration includes the Council of Great Lakes Governors, Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, Great Lakes Congressional Task Force, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Great Lakes National Program Office.

The United States and Canada have designated 41 areas of concern around the Great Lakes.

Proposed funding for this effort has quintupled in four years. Congress appropriated $9.9 million in fiscal year 2004, $22.3 million in 2005, and $29.6 million in 2006 for Legacy Act cleanups. President George W. Bush has requested $49.6 million in the proposed 2007 budget.

Additional funding comes from state and local partners, who contribute at least a 35 percent match for each project. A request for projects will be issued within 90 days after the rule is published in the Federal Register. Proposals may be submitted at any time.

The final Great Lakes Regional Collaboration’s Strategy to Restore and Protect the Great Lakes was released in Chicago on December 12, 2005.

More information on Great Lakes Legacy Act: http://www.epa.gov/glla/ More information on Contaminated Sediments Program: http://www.epa.gov/glnpo/sediments.html

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Navy Seeks Permit to Use Sonar During RIMPAC Exercises

WASHINGTON, DC, April 26, 2006 (ENS) - NOAA Fisheries Service is seeking public comments on the U.S. Navy's proposal to conduct Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) anti-submarine arfare exercises around the Main Hawaiian Islands using tactical mid-frequency sonar.

The mid-frequency sound generated by the tactical sonar used in the exercises has the potential to disrupt the behavior of individual marine mammals in close proximity to the exercises. Up to 22 species of marine mammals inhabit this area of the Pacific. The Navy is requesting an authorization under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

RIMPAC is a multi-national training exercise that has been conducted every other year since 1968. This year, RIMPAC is scheduled to occur June 26 through July 28, with exercises using sonar planned on 21 days.

In their application for an Incidental Harassment Authorization, the Navy proposed several standard protective measures to be implemented during the RIMPAC exercises. NOAA Fisheries Service has worked closely with the Navy to develop a suite of additional mitigation and monitoring measures designed to reduce the likelihood of harassment. These additional measures would be required during RIMPAC.

"Our scientists believe these measures, if fully implemented, will avoid the potential for serious injury or mortality to marine mammals," said Dr. Bill Hogarth, NOAA Fisheries Service director. "These mitigation measures will significantly reduce the number of marine mammals exposed to levels of sound likely to cause a behavioral disruption. These safeguards are a result of the high level of cooperation that we have had with the Navy."

During the RIMPAC exercises, the Navy will implement safety zones around all vessels using active sonar, and will reduce power or shut down sonar operations if marine mammals are seen within the zones.

At night or low visibility times, the Navy will use infrared or passive acoustics.

If marine mammals cannot be fully detected out to the prescribed safety zone, sonar will be powered down as if a marine mammal were present immediately beyond their visual range.

During the RIMPAC exercises, with the exception of three closely monitored choke-point exercises, mid-frequency sonar will not be operated in canyon-like areas, in constricted channels, or within certain distances around the islands.

Choke-point exercises involve vessels moving through constricted channels, sweeping the area with sonar, similar to operational situations where they would anticipate submarine ambushes.

During the choke-point exercises, the Navy will use additional dedicated shipboard marine mammal observers; use additional dedicated aerial and vessel-bound observers, and land-based observers; and contract with experienced cetacean researchers to monitor the behavior of marine mammals in the vicinity of the exercises.

NOAA Fisheries Service will accept comments on the application and proposed authorization through May 24. Comments should be addressed to: Steve Leathery, Chief of the Permits, Conservation, and Education Division; Office of Protected Resources, NMFS; 1315 East West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910.

Comments may be sent by e-mail to PR1.011806L@noaa.gov. A copy of the application and federal register notice may be obtained by contacting the same office.

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Apple Computers Offers Free Recycling of Old Machines

CUPERTINO, California, April 26, 2006 (ENS) – Apple Computer announced Friday that it will offer free recycling of old computers to consumers who buy new Macs.

With its announcement, Apple joins Dell and Hewlett Packard in providing free computer recycling. Unlike Dell and HP, Apple has not yet announced any public collection goals. HP has announced a goal of collecting one billion pounds of products and supplies for recycling by 2007. Dell’s goal is 280 million pounds by 2009. Apple said it would announce the details of its program in June.

“Apple is committed to supporting our customers and protecting the environment throughout the entire product life cycle, from purchase through to retirement,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. “Now we are making it even easier for Apple’s customers to safely and affordably recycle their used computers and iPods.”

Apple shareholders, who filed a resolution calling for a study to improve recycling, are encouraging Apple to vigorously promote its new policy.

Hoping to give Apple a competitive advantage, shareholders want to ensure that Apple widely publicizes this new program so that consumers will consider a company’s recycling policy when choosing which computer to buy.

“We applaud Apple for launching this recycling program and want to ensure that consumers know about it,” said Robin Schneider, vice-chair of the Computer TakeBack Campaign, in attendance at the shareholder meeting as an Apple shareholder.

“Given the growing e-waste crisis, consumers want to know that their old computers are being recycled responsibly. By promoting and making it easy for consumers to recycle, more environmentally-minded consumers will choose Mac, serving Apple shareholders very well.”

The Computer TakeBack Campaign has been pressuring Apple Computer to improve its recycling program since January 2005, with protests at Apple’s headquarters and the San Francisco MacWorld convention. In response to pressure around the short product lifespan of its iPod products, Apple announced free iPod recycling at its U.S.stores last June. However, many consumers still do not know about the recycling program because Apple has not widely publicized it.

Now that Apple will offer free recycling of both iPods and computers, The Computer TakeBack Campaign will work to promote the program and ensure that Apple is making it is easy for consumers to recycle. The campaign will also continue to pressure Apple to stop lobbying against legislation in states that would establish electronics takeback and recycling programs.

Apple also announced that the fifth generation iPod®, iPod nano and iPod shuffle are 100 percent compliant with the upcoming restrictions of hazardous substances (RoHS) in California and Europe, which are recognized as the new global standard for environmental regulation.

iPod’s RoHS compliance comes months ahead of the July 1 deadline set by the European Union, and most of the materials covered by the RoHS directive, including mercury, cadmium, chromium VI and brominated flame retardants, were voluntarily eliminated from all Apple products years ago.

In addition, iPod power adapters now exceed Energy Star efficiency requirements and already meet California’s stricter a

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Hoboken Residences Contaminated with Mercury Demolished

HOBOKEN, New Jersey, April 26, 2006 (ENS) - A Hoboken industrial building converted to residences and then found to be contaminated with mercury has been cleaned up, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The clean bill of health allows the agency to proceed with the final steps to remove the Grand Street site from the Superfund List, a list of the most contaminated hazardous waste sites in the United States.

The EPA has reached a proposed settlement with the General Electric Company (GE) under which the company has agreed to pay an additional $3 million to cover costs the agency incurred during the cleanup.

The Grand Street Mercury Superfund site is a former industrial building that was converted into residential studio spaces, a townhouse, an asphalt-covered parking lot, and several adjacent residential properties.

EPA began its response at the site after samples collected by the local health department showed that 20 residents, five of whom were children, had elevated levels of mercury in their urine.

Mercury, believed to be associated with prior manufacturing operations of mercury vapor lamps and mercury connector switches, was found throughout the site.

The property was placed on the Superfund list after mercury vapor was detected inside residences at levels far exceeding health based criteria. EPA found mercury between floor layers and absorbed into wood, brick, and other porous surfaces.

Contamination was found to be so significant that EPA ordered GE to demolish the buildings and remove the soil from the former industrial property and adjacent residential properties. Residents living in the apartments were relocated.

“The building was in poor shape when we began our work and many people’s lives were at risk,” said EPA Regional Administrator Alan Steinberg. “It has now been demolished, contaminated waste has been removed, and we have returned the site to a state on which homes can be built without fear of further mercury contamination.”

The settlement proposal will be open for public comment for 30 days. A notice announcing the dates of the public comment period will be published in the Federal Register.

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Environmental Review Ordered for Honolulu Food Irradiator Proposal

HONOLULU, Hawaii, April 26, 2006 (ENS) - The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board today ordered an environmental review of a proposal by Pa‘ina Hawaii, LLC to locate a nuclear food irradiator at Honolulu International Airport.

The order accepts an agreement reached last month between community group Concerned Citizens of Honolulu, represented by Earthjustice, and the NRC staff to prepare an environmental assessment to evaluate threats to the facility from airplane crashes, tsunamis, hurricanes, floods, and other accidents.

The board had previously granted Concerned Citizens’ October 3, 2005, petition for a hearing on the irradiator to evaluate safety and environmental concerns.

“We applaud the board’s decision, which recognizes the compelling public interest in thorough environmental review of this controversial proposal,” said Concerned Citizen member David Paulson.

"We are particularly pleased the people who would be threatened if this irradiator were built are going to have the chance to have their voices heard and to ensure the NRC takes a careful look at the many threats to public health and safety and the environment.”

Under the agreement, the NRC staff will hold at least one public meeting in Honolulu at which the public will have the opportunity to offer comment on a draft environmental review, which is expected to be completed in December 2006. The NRC will also accept written comments.

The environmental review will analyze a proposal by Pa‘ina Hawaii, LLC, to build and operate an irradiator next to the Reef Runway to treat fruit and vegetables for fruit flies. The facility would contain up to one million curies of cobalt-60.

Noting in a January 2005 order the potential “consequences of siting an irradiator on the ocean’s edge at the Honolulu Airport, subject to the risks of aircraft crashes, tsunamis, and hurricanes,” the Board had questioned the NRC staff’s prior failure to perform any environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act.

“The law requires the NRC to prepare a full-blown environmental impact statement if the proposed irradiator has any potential to cause significant harm to public health or safety or the environment,” explained Earthjustice attorney David Henkin. "We’re confident that, once the agency looks at the facts, it will realize the folly of placing up to a million curies of radioactive material at a site that is vulnerable to so many potential disasters, both natural and human-caused.”

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