AmeriScan: April 28, 2006

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United States, Canada Reach Accord on Softwood Lumber Trade

WASHINGTON, DC, April 28, 2006 (ENS) - A U.S.-Canadian trade dispute that has lasted more than 20 years and involved billions of dollars in trade in lumber may be at an end.

Under the seven year agreement, Canadian producers of softwood lumber, used primarily for construction, would be subject to a new export tax and Canada would receive back 80 percent of import taxes that have been collected by the United States over the last four years - about US$4 billion.

A framework agreement reached Thursday "shows how NAFTA partners can overcome differences and work together," President George W. Bush said in a statement announcing the accord.

NAFTA stands for the North American Free Trade Agreement, involving the United States, Canada, and Mexico, which entered into force in 1994.

Bush said that the “United States' close ties with our good friend and northern neighbor made this agreement possible.”

U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman said the agreement, “will resolve a long-standing dispute - ending litigation spanning more than two decades. After multiple lawsuits without resolution, we are now close to achieving what many thought would never happen. There are still a few details to be finalized, but we’ve worked hard to shape a smart, market-based solution. This wasn’t easy - as others who have tried before can attest."

Portman said it was the “strong determination” of President Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper that “armed these negotiations with the political will needed to deliver a good result.”

At issue was the U.S. claim that Canada was giving its sawmills subsidies by not charging them market interest rates to cut lumber on government land. In retaliation, the United States had been collecting tariffs that currently average about 11 percent but have been much higher.

Under the framework, the United States would revoke anti-dumping and countervailing duties. However, an export tax would be imposed if exports from Canadian provinces exceeded specified levels. In that case, Canadian provinces could choose between the export tax, or a combination of the export tax at a lower rate and a cap on the level of trade.

Canadian International Trade Minister David Emerson hailed the accord, noting that with current high prices for lumber, no import restrictions will be imposed. "When prices are lower," he said, "a [Canadian] province will be able to choose the export measure that works best for its industry."

In 2005, Canadian exports to the United States were valued at over $7 billion, representing two percent of Canada's total exports to the United States.

Before a final agreement is reached, lumber companies and associations in both countries must drop their legal complaints and the Canadian government must pass the new export tax legislation.

The major lumber exporting provinces are British Columbia accounting for about 57 percent of Canadian lumber exports to the United States in 2005, Quebec with a 16 percent share, and Ontario, the Maritimes, and Alberta collectively holding a 24 percent share.

The Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports, representing major U.S. lumber companies, said it would support the framework. A leading Canadian lumber producer, the Vancouver based Canfor Corporation, also backed the accord.

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Pipe Manufacturer, Company Officials Convicted of Environmental Crimes

WASHINGTON, DC, April 28, 2006 (ENS) - A New Jersey cast iron pipe manufacturer, Atlantic States Cast Iron Pipe Co., a division of McWane Inc., and four company officials were found guilty of violating environmental and worker safety laws, the Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday.

The charges include, among others, the regular discharge of oil into the Delaware River, concealing serious worker injuries from health and safety inspectors, and maintaining a dangerous workplace that contributed to multiple severe injuries and the death of one employee at the Phillipsburg, New Jersey plant.

After six days of deliberations, the jury returned guilty verdicts against five of six defendants: Atlantic States; plant manager John Prisque; maintenance supervisor Jeffrey Maury; finishing superintendent Craig Davidson; and former Atlantic States human resource manager Scott Faubert. They each face prison time for the convictions.

One defendant, Daniel Yadzinski, formerly the engineering manager at the plant, was acquitted on three counts.

U.S. District Judge Mary Cooper, who presided over the seven month long trial, the longest environmental crimes trial ever prosecuted by the Justice Department, scheduled the sentencing for the corporation and individual defendants for September 7, 2006.

The 34 count indictment charged Atlantic States, a subsidiary of McWane Inc. of Birmingham, Alabama, and the named managers, with conspiracy to violate federal clean air and water regulations and laws governing workplace safety, as well as obstruction of criminal and regulatory investigations by the EPA and Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The company and the four managers were each convicted of engaging in an eight year conspiracy to pollute the air and Delaware River in violation of the federal Clean Water and Clean Air Acts, expose its employees to dangerous conditions and impede federal regulatory and criminal investigations.

For the individual defendants, the conspiracy count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, and a fine of $500,000 for the company.

The privately held McWane Inc. and its divisions are among the largest manufacturers in the world of ductile iron pipe with more than a dozen plants in the United States and Canada. McWane's products are used primarily for municipal and commercial water and sewer installations.

Atlantic States was named in all counts of the indictment, and was also convicted on five counts of making materially false statements to state and federal environmental agencies and the federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA); four counts of obstructing OSHA investigations; 22 counts of violating the federal Clean Water Act and one count of violating the Clean Air Act.

"As a multiple offender, McWane has time and again shown a disturbing indifference towards the health and safety of their workers and a blatant disregard for the natural environment we all share," said Sue Ellen Wooldridge, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division.

"The conviction of Atlantic States and its managers after a trial of unprecedented length sends a clear message: neither EPA nor the public will tolerate knowing and rampant environmental misconduct," said Granta Nakayama, EPA's assistant administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

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Delaware Bay Oil Spill Closes Waterways, Oyster Beds

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania, April 28, 2006 (ENS) - Crews from the U.S. Coast Guard, Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) are working to recover and clean up oil spilled in the upper Delaware Bay on Tuesday.

The sheen is a narrow band of oil five to six miles long, near the center of the bay in the main shipping channel, east of Port Mahon in Kent County, Delaware. The cause of the spill is under investigation.

Shorelines impacted in Delaware by the spill include Port Mahon, Kelly Island and Pickering Beach. These areas have been reported to have light amounts of tar balls ranging from dime to baseball size. There is also a report of a scattered concentration of tar balls four-miles off of Bowers Beach, which oil skimming vessels are in the process of recovering.

As a preventive measure, the NJDEP has closed 70,000 acres of New Jersey's oyster beds to prevent potential environmental contamination. The Captain of the Port of Philadelphia has also issued a safety broadcast to mariners informing them of the obstructions to navigation due to the deployment of protective booming.

Under direction of the Captain of the Port of Philadelphia, protective booming which will limit or prohibit access to waterways has been placed in Back Creek, Nantuxent Creek, Fortescue Creek and Dividing Creek on the New Jersey side of the Delaware Bay.

On the Delaware side of the bay, water access to Bombay Hook Wildlife Refuge from Leipsic River south to Mispillion River will be obstructed.

Six shoreline cleanup and assesment teams continue to monitor from Leipsic River south to the Mispillion River on the Delaware side of the bay and in the vicinity of Fortescue on the New Jersey side. Preventive booming has also been staged at Roosevelt Inlet in the event that any oil makes it that far south.

Impacts to wildlife include reports of several birds having been oiled. The species of birds impacted are seagulls, black bellied plovers, dunlin, ruddy turnstones and willets. None of these species are endangered.

The Coast Guard urges the public to avoid coming in contact with any tar balls on the beach or in the water. Brief contact with a small amount of oil, while not recommended, will do no harm. However, some people are especially sensitive to chemicals, including the hydrocarbons found in crude oil and pertoleum products.

To report sightings of oiled shoreline or wildlife, contact the United States Coast Guard at 1-877-864-4660 extension 4807.

An undetermined amount of oily product was spilled.

Miller Environmental, Clean Ventures Marine and Delaware River and Bay Cooperative have been contracted for the recovery and clean-up operations.

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Reducing Diesel Pollution the Goal of Southeast Consortium

ATLANTA, Georgia, April 28, 2006 (ENS) - Reduction of diesel emissions in the Southeast is the goal of a new consortium of federal, state and local government agencies, non-profit and industry organizations.

Organized as the Southeast Diesel Collaborative, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hosted a conference this week that focused on strategies to promote clean renewable diesel and emerging technology for the agriculture, heavy construction and on-road sectors.

During the conference, EPA and the eight Southeastern states marked this collaborative effort with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signing ceremony. The MOU articulates the common goals of the collaborative and bolsters the relationships between these diverse stakeholders.

"The partnerships formed through this collaborative will benefit the health of residents living in the Southeast," said EPA Deputy Regional Administrator Stan Meiburg. "By working together, the Southeast Diesel Collaborative enables us to maximize our resources and reduce diesel emissions."

Similar EPA hosted diesel reduction consortia already exist in the Mid-Atlantic states, the Midwest and the West Coast states.

EPA also announced that a $100,000 grant will be available May 15 to fund projects within the Southeast to demonstrate effective emission control technologies and strategies, methods or approaches to reducing diesel emissions as part of the Southeast Diesel Collaborative. Projects may include, but are not limited to, a variety of emissions reductions solutions such as: add-on technology, engine replacement or rebuilds, and idle reduction technologies or strategies.

The Southeast Diesel Collaborative is a partnership composed of leaders from federal, state and local government, the private sector and other stakeholders in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

The goal of the collaborative is to improve air quality by encouraging the use of clean, renewable energy and by reducing diesel emissions from existing engines and equipment from the agriculture, heavy construction and on-road sectors.

The Southeast Diesel Collaborative is part of EPA’s National Clean Diesel Campaign, a program combining regulatory measures with voluntary initiatives to reduce the pollution emitted from diesel engines across the country. Visit the National Clean Diesel Campaign at: http://www.epa.gov/cleandiesel.

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EPA Controlling Fugitive Dust at Nevada Mine

YERINGTON, Nevada, April 28, 2006 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is conducting soil capping work at the Anaconda Mine site in Yerington to prevent contaminated dust from blowing offsite.

Work began in early April to move clean soil from areas of the mine to build a soil cap over a 100 acre area contaminated with sulfide tailings. This work is considered time-critical to ensure contaminated tailings do not spread further at the mine site or off the property.

“The sulfide tailings were considered an imminent and substantial threat requiring immediate action” said Tom Dunkleman, the EPA’s Superfund on-scene coordinator for the Pacific Southwest region. “Work is proceeding smoothly and we are confident we will complete the cap on schedule.”

Water trucks are run continuously to reduce dust during the work and air monitors have been set up around the work area to ensure dust is kept to a minimum. In total, eight basins within the 100 acre area will be capped.

The capping work consists of using bulldozers to push vat leach tailings material from adjacent areas of the mine site onto the sulfides tailings. One excavator is being used to load three 35-ton dump trucks with the cover material, which is placed over the sulfides tails and spread by the bulldozers.

A February action memo initiated by the EPA’s Superfund cleanup manager, Jim Sickles, requested the EPA’s emergency response group perform the work to eliminate the environmental and health threat from the sulfide tailings area.

The tailings work is the second phase of response activity at the site. In February the EPA removed 119 electrical transformers containing PCBs from the facility, disposing them at the Clean Harbors hazardous waste facility in Coffeyville, Kansas.

To date, cost of the emergency clean up work is approximately $600,000.

Originally known at the Empire Nevada Mine, the site began operation around 1918. In 1953, Anaconda Minerals Company acquired and began operating the site. In 1977, Atlantic Richfield Company acquired Anaconda and assumed its operations.

In June 1978, Atlantic Richfield terminated operations and in 1982, Atlantic Richfield sold its interests in the private lands within the site to Don Tibbals, a local resident, who subsequently sold his interests with the exception of the Weed Heights community to Arimetco, Inc. the current owner.

Arimetco operated a copper recovery operation from existing ore heaps within the site from 1989 to November 1999. Arimetco has terminated operations at the site and is currently managed under the protection of the United States Bankruptcy Court in Tucson, Arizona.

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Connecticut Plans Stormwater Management for Niantic River

WATERFORD, Connecticut, April 28, 2006 (ENS) - The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is planning a public workshop in May that will be open to anyone interested in managing polluted runoff to the Niantic River and its watershed.

The workshop will feature a presentation on the Niantic River Watershed Management Project by a consulting team – which is led by Kleinschmidt Associates of Essex – retained by DEP.

The Niantic River Watershed Management Project is a planning effort focusing on the management and protection of the water quality and aquatic habitats of the Niantic River Watershed.

The Niantic River Watershed Plan will be the culmination of a one-year research and modeling effort that is looking at ways to best manage polluted stormwater runoff and other nonpoint source pollution in the Niantic River Watershed.

The process of developing a plan for the watershed is at its mid-point and stakeholders are being asked to participate in the project’s public workshops.

The watershed protection plan for the Niantic River is intended to guide efforts to improve water quality throughout the basin and to set a foundation for future watershed protection.

DEP and its consulting team are developing the plan in cooperation with the four towns that make up the watershed - East Lyme, Montville, Salem, and Waterford. The overall goal of the project is the development of a holistic watershed protection plan.

One of the stakeholders is a new environmental organization has been established in southeastern Connecticut, Save the River-Save the Hills. The organization's mission is to preserve the health of the Niantic River Estuary and the natural beauty of the Oswegatchie Hills.

The group works to encourage boat owners to use designated pump out facilities, and to ensure that that the planned development of an 800+ unit condominium complex does not pollute the Niantic River Estuary.

Save the River-Save the Hills has the support of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, The Connecticut Sierra Club and the Friends of the Oswegatchie Hills Nature Preserve.

This project is federally funded through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management and administered by the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, Office of Long Island Sound Programs and Bureau of Water Management.

A workshop April 27 focused on the water quality issues in the watershed and how the consulting team is using geographic information systems and modeling to better understand current and future threats to water quality.

The second workshop in May will focus on the management recommendations included in the plan. For more information about the Niantic River Watershed Protection Plan and the May workshop, please contact Mary-Beth Hart of DEP at 860-424-3034. Visit the project website online at: http://www.kxchange.com/nrwp/

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Survival of Ice Age Squirrel Depends on Computer Model

TUCSON, Arizona, April 28, 2006 (ENS) - Researchers from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in England, working with scientists at the University of Arizona, have developed a computer model to identify the biggest threats to the rare Mount Graham Red Squirrel that has survived since the Ice Age.

The Mount Graham Red Squirrel, isolated for the last 10,000 years in a small area of coniferous forest on Mount Graham in the Pinaleno Mountains of Arizona, has a unique shape, genetic make-up and behavioral characteristics. It is a recognized subspecies and is protected under the Endangered Species Act.

The squirrel shares Mount Graham with the Mt. Graham International Observatory operated by the University of Arizona. The mountain is part of the Coronado National Forest.

The British academics are applying expertise developed while working with the threatened UK red squirrel in one of its last strongholds in Europe, Kielder Forest on the Scottish border. With around 10,000 red squirrels, Kielder hosts England's largest remaining population. The UK red squirrel is a different species from the Mount Graham variety despite the similar names.

In Kielder, Newcastle University's Dr. Peter Lurz and colleagues used the computer model to create a conservation strategy for the forest, assisting with planting and logging plans to help maintain a viable red squirrel population. Here, the reds' biggest threat is the introduced grey squirrel, which out-competes them for food and transfers a deadly virus.

In the United States, the new computer model, which mimics population dynamics in response to different threats, will help evaluate and refocus existing efforts to save Mount Graham Red Squirrel.

Although conservation measures are already in place, concerns about the animal's viability have increased as numbers have been cut in half since 1999, dropping from 562 to a recent low of 214.

As with the British red squirrel, one of the Mount Graham red squirrel's threats is an introduced species of squirrel. The Abert's tree squirrel likes to eat similar types of food to the reds and also plunders the food middens they build to see them through the winter.

Other threats include damage to its habitat by insects and huge forest fires, as well as predation from birds of prey like the Mexican Spotted Owl and the Northern goshawk and mammals like the bobcat.

Lurz, a research associate based at Newcastle University's Institute for Research on Environment and Sustainability, began working on the project when the Arizona University team attended an international squirrel symposium in North East England hosted by Newcastle University.

"I think the important thing to remember is that there are multiple threats facing the Mount Graham Red Squirrel, and their survival depends on how these are best managed," he said.

John Koprowski, associate professor with The University of Arizona's School of Natural Resources, who is working on the project, says said current conservation methods, such as limiting access to the mountain, restricting hunting and an existing squirrel refuge do not appear to be stopping the squirrel's decline.

"It's very important that we preserve the Mount Graham Red Squirrel, which has survived since the last Ice Age," Koprowski said. "Its decline in recent years is an indication of something changing on the mountain, and we need to find out what it is."

Details of the model are published in the academic journal "Biological Conservation." The project is funded in part by the Arizona Game and Fish Department and the Rocky Mountain Research Station of the U.S. Forest Service.

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