AmeriScan: February 19, 2004

Food Giant Funds Kansas Wetlands Restoration

DECATUR, Illinois, February 19, 2004 (ENS) - Food processing giant Archer Daniels Midland announced Monday that it will make a $200,000 contribution to Ducks Unlimited, Inc. (DU) to fund restoration of the McPherson Valley wetlands in cooperation with the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP).

The grant is part of a settlement agreement reached between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and the state of Kansas, to resolve alleged Clean Air Act violations at 52 ADM plants in 16 states.

The settlement announced April 9, 2003, covers releases of nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds and hazardous air pollutants. Under the settlement, ADM will implement broad environmental improvements at plants nationwide that will result in a reduction of at least 63,000 tons of air pollution a year.

As part of the settlement, ADM will donate up to $6.5 million in the support of environmental causes in areas where the company maintains operations, including Kansas. This $200,000 donation satisfies part of that commitment.

The McPherson complex is one of the largest wetland areas in Kansas. The wetlands shelter thousands of waterfowl, pheasant, quail, doves, other birds and wildlife and play an important role in water quality management, and in helping to prevent and contain flooding.

The grant will enable Duck Unlimited and the Kansas state agency to protect, restore and maintain these wetlands that support the continent's waterfowl and wildlife.

Brian Peterson, ADM senior vice president of corporate affairs, said the grant reflects the company's "commitment to safeguarding and improving the environment" for "generations to come."

Originally stretching over 9,000 surface acres, this chain of 52 wetlands was degraded through ditching, beginning around 1910. Before to any restoration activity, fewer than 10 of the original natural wetlands remained.

The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks began restoration of the McPherson wetlands in 1987. By purchasing lands from willing sellers, DU and KDWP have expanded the wetland base to 4,010 acres.

"We are delighted that ADM chose to contribute to the continued restoration of McPherson Valley Wetlands," said Alan Wentz, group manager of conservation for Ducks Unlimited. "The public-private partnership that has worked so effectively to restore this historic wetland, will benefit greatly from ADM's contribution but in the end, it will be the wildlife and the people who enjoy them that benefit the most from today's announcement."

The grant will enable DU and KDWP, together with other conservation partners and area landowners, to maintain and enhance existing wildlife habitat, and buy more acreage from willing sellers.

They will replace an antiquated pump with a new, environmentally friendly model, and maintain dikes, ditches and water control structures. They will construct roads allowing better access to the wetlands for hunters, naturalists and other visitors, and seed non-wetland acres with native prairie grasses and other plants.

ADM is one of the world's largest processors of soybeans, corn, wheat and cocoa, and a producer of soy meal and oil, ethanol, corn sweeteners and flour. Headquartered in Decatur, ADM has over 26,000 employees, more than 270 processing plants and net sales for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2003 of $30.7 billion.

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Bush Administration Extends Dual Fueled Vehicle Incentive

WASHINGTON, DC, February 19, 2004 (ENS) - The Bush administration announced a four year extension Wednesday of the "dual fueled" vehicle incentive, which allows automakers to gain fuel economy credits for making vehicles that can run on ethanol.

The Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it expects the extension will prompt automakers to produce more duel fueled vehicles than they would if the incentive were not extended.

To date, 3.4 million dual fueled vehicles have been produced and 182 retail outlets nationwide offer E-85 fuel, an alternative fuel that is a blend of gasoline and ethanol.

"Diversifying the fuels we use will help protect the environment while achieving greater energy independence and security for our nation," U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said. "Extending this incentive will encourage manufacturers to produce dual-fueled vehicles and retailers to provide pumps for these fuels."

But critics say the incentive does very little to encourage alternative fueled vehicles and is a loophole in the federal fuel economy standards that will cause the United States to consume an extra 40 million to 110 million barrels of oil in the 2005 to 2008 time period.

"It is like putting an extra half-million new cars on the road each year," said Therese Langer, transportation program director for the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). "This move helps to ensure that our reliance on oil imports will continue to rise."

The dual fuel credit arose from efforts in the late 1980s to increase the use of alternative fuels by ensuring the existence of a vehicle population that could use these fuels.

In 1999, production of vehicles that can run on either E85 or gasoline soared as automakers took advantage of the credit to meet their fuel economy targets.

Less than one percent of the fuel consumed by the 3.4 million dual-fueled vehicles is ethanol due to the fuel's high cost and limited availability. At the same time, the credits allow manufacturers to sell more inefficient vehicles, resulting in an overall increase in the amount of gasoline consumed.

"Offering no strings attached fuel economy credits for these vehicles does not promote alternative fuel use - it contributes to the image of ethanol as a boondoggle," said ACEEE Executive Director Steven Nadel. "The way to promote E85 use and save oil is to tie dual fuel credits to the use of ethanol."

In 2002, a joint report by the Departments of Energy and Transportation, along with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, noted the increase in fuel consumption that the dual fuel credit has brought about to date and concluded that alternatives to the current credit system should be considered.

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Park Service Must Justify Snowmobile Policy in Court

WASHINGTON, DC, February 19, 2004 (ENS) - The controversy over snowmobiling in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks shows no signs of abating.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan said he will issue a "show cause" order asking the National Park Service to explain why it should not be held in contempt for allowing more snowmobiles into Yellowstone National Park than were allowed by his court order of December 16, 2003.

Judge Sullivan chided the government's "nonchalant" attitude toward his order, and scheduled a contempt hearing for March 9 at 10:30 am.

In December Judge Sullivan ruled that the Bush administration's plan to derail a Clinton era ban of snowmobiling in the two parks was illegal and ordered the Park Service to phase out the machines over two years. Critics object to snowmobiles in the national parks because they are noisy and pollute the air with smoky fumes.

But on February 10, Judge Clarence Brimmer in U.S. District Court in Cheyenne, Wyoming ruled that the Clinton era restrictions on snowmobiles would cause irreparable harm to companies that rely on snowmobiling in the parks due to lost business.

Judge Brimmer ordered the National Park Service to reverse course and develop "fair and equitable" snowmobile rules. The agency promptly increased the number of snowmobiles allowed in the two national parks from 633 to 920.

The temporary plan includes the requirement that the additional 287 snowmobiles must meet standards for cleaner, quieter machines and also require continuation of guided group requirements.

U.S. Interior Department Secretary Gale Norton said the interim rule "avoids both extremes of allowing unregulated use of snowmobiles and a complete ban."

Environmentalists, who have long fought to rid the parks of snowmobiles, say the ruling by Judge Brimmer is inappropriate and almost unparalleled, and have appealed the decision.

Hawaii Allows Open Air Biopharm Tests With Little Oversight

HONOLULU, Hawaii, February 19, 2004 (ENS) - Documents recently produced by the state of Hawaii's Department of Agriculture (DOA) in a lawsuit seeking access to government records regarding open air field tests in Hawaii of "biopharmaceutical" crops reveal that state regulators regularly approves the field tests based on documents stripped of any information that would allow the DOA to assess the tests' risks to public.

Biopharm crops have been genetically modified to produce industrial chemicals and drugs, and the release of their pollen and seed might affect public health and the environment.

The documents entered in evidence reveal that all information about the identity of the biologically active substances the crops are designed to produce, and even location of the tests, are apparently removed before the DOA receives them and issues its decision.

In a motion heard by the state circuit court last week, plaintiff Center for Food Safety (CFS), a national nonprofit organization represented by Earthjustice, sought to compel production of all documents in DOA's possession.

In response, DOA said the blank documents were all it received from the individual field test permittees and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prior to giving its approval.

"The documents produced show total abandonment of any oversight role by the state of these potentially harmful activities," said Isaac Moriwake, attorney for Earthjustice. "When our own state officials are content to remain completely ignorant of these activities happening in our own backyards, we have reason to be very concerned."

Hawaii has had more than 4,500 open air field tests of genetically engineered crops - more than any other state.

The DOA has only one staff person assigned to oversee all field tests of genetically engineered crops in the state.

"Given the obvious risks of growing drugs in food crops, one would hope that the state does more than rubber stamp blank documents," said CFS attorney Peter Jenkins. "That is not what we have seen in our lawsuit so far."

Center for Food Safety has asked the court to compel the DOA to provide detailed, itemized justifications for any information it was seeking to withhold.

The state agency had previously attempted to withhold a wide range of information under broad claims of "confidential business information."

Last week the court agreed with Center for Food Safety and ordered the state agricultural agency to produce detailed justifications within 60 days.

"We are pleased that the court recognized the need for DOA to do its due diligence and explain why any of this information should be withheld from the public," said Jenkins. "The industry routinely tries to conceal its activities at the expense of the public safety and right to know."

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Judge Upholds Maine's Regulation of Mercury From Cars

BANGOR, Maine, February 19, 2004 (ENS) - A federal judge has upheld Maine's automobile switch law, which aims to prevent pollution from auto switches that contain mercury.

The law requires automakers to pay a $1 bounty to junkyards and scrap dealers for each mercury switch brought to a consolidation center. It also requires automakers to set up the centers and provide for collection and shipping of the mercury switches to recycling centers. They must also phase out some uses of mercury and label mercury components in new cars.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers filed suit to block the law, which was enacted July 25, 2002.

The ruling issued Tuesday by U.S. District Court Judge John Woodcock rejected the industry group's argument that the law is unconstitutional.

"The decision is a total win for the health of Maine people and our environment," said Jon Hinck, staff attorney for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. "Most importantly, the judge has confirmed that carmakers need to pay to deal with the toxic parts they put into their vehicles."

Carmakers used switches containing mercury for many years in lights located under hoods and in trunks, and more recently in Antilock Brake Systems, which together account for about 99 percent of all the mercury in cars.

When vehicles are crushed at the end of their useful life, mercury in the switches is released into the environment from disposal of residues and from melting of scrap metal for recycling in electric arc furnaces. Mercury is damaging to the human nervous system and can harm the brain, kidneys, and developing fetus.

Many U.S. manufactured cars and some older European models contain mercury. The European manufacturers phased out mercury in light switches by 1995. U.S. automakers failed to follow suit until this year, and only after being spurred into action by efforts like Maine's.

Maine is the first state in the nation to pass a law to require automakers to pay to prevent mercury pollution from old cars.

Automobile scrapping is the fourth largest source of mercury pollution nationwide, behind waste incineration, coal fired power plants and commercial/industrial boilers. It is estimated that about 10 tons of automotive mercury are released each year in the U.S.

Nationwide, about 400,000 pounds of mercury is currently on the road in North America, according to a report by the Clean Car Campaign, a coalition of national and regional environmental groups.

"This decision upholds the right of the people of Maine to protect our health and environment from deadly poisons such as mercury," said John Dieffenbacher-Krall, the codirector of Maine People's Alliance. "We look forward to a time when corporations will take responsibility for their toxic products without forcing citizens to defend against litigation that attempts to overturn constitutional acts of the people's representatives."

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Cubs Raised By Humans Can Grow Into Wild Bears

FRAMINGHAM, Massachusetts, February 19, 2004 (ENS) - Orphaned bear cubs raised in captivity can develop into wild animals capable of surviving on their own, finds a three year joint study by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) and Idaho Black Bear Rehabilitation (IBBR).

The researchers say the study debunks the myth that cubs raised in captivity necessarily become dependent on humans.

"Bears are a solitary species and do not imprint on humans the way many social species do," said wildlife biologist John Beecham, who designed the study. "They are equipped genetically with all the behaviors they need to survive in the wild and do not need to be taught those behaviors by their mothers, so they are good candidates for release programs."

The study is ongoing and so far has tracked the survival of 19 released cubs.

Researchers tracked the bears using specially designed radio collars.

They considered a successful release as one where the cubs survived at least 30 days without becoming a "nuisance bear" or starving to death.

Though the collars were designed to fall off after three to four months, some stayed on past that point.

The research showed that the greatest threat the cubs faced were hunters - Idaho permits both a spring and fall bear hunt.

There appear to be three key elements for a successful reintroduction into the wild, the researchers said.

The bears need the opportunity to socialize with other bear cubs during early development in rehabilitation, they need adequate high quality habitat in release area, and minimal contact with humans for about 10 days after release.

The IBBR says it provides all three of those conditions for their cubs.

During the rehabilitation process, orphaned cubs live together in an outdoor enclosure where their interaction with humans is limited to contact with one caregiver.

Once they are old enough and have reached a healthy weight, the cubs are released by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game into remote wilderness areas. If they are released during the winter, they are placed into either natural or man-made dens so they can hibernate until spring.

"This study shows that given the proper rehabilitation and release methods, orphaned cubs are very capable of surviving in the wild," said Victor Watkins, WSPA's wildlife director. "We hope that this project will serve as a model and be duplicated in areas where bear populations are at risk."

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36 States Share $1 Billion From Mineral Revenues

WASHINGTON, DC, February 19, 2004 (ENS) - U.S. Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton announced Tuesday that 36 states received more than $1 billion during 2003 as part of their share of federal revenues collected by the department's Minerals Management Service.

Norton said the $1,096,699,888 distributed to states during the year was nearly 46 percent more than 2002 payments to states that totaled $753 million.

"Responsible energy development on public lands and offshore areas contribute greatly to states and local governments," Norton said. "The money enables local governments to fund important projects for the betterment of communities and the lives of Americans."

The funds represent the states' cumulative share of revenues collected from mineral production on federal lands located within their borders and from federal offshore oil and gas tracts adjacent to their shores.

A state is entitled to a share of the mineral revenues collected from federal lands located within that state's boundaries.

For the majority of onshore federal lands, states receive 50 percent of the revenues while the other 50 percent goes to various funds of the U.S. Treasury, including the DOI Reclamation Fund.

Alaska receives a 90 percent share as prescribed by the Alaska Statehood Act.

States may also receive appropriations from the offshore royalty-funded Land and Water Conservation Fund to help them with park and land acquisitions.

In addition, coastal states with producing federal offshore tracts adjacent to their seaward boundaries receive 27 percent of those mineral royalties.

Remaining offshore revenues collected by the Minerals Management Service are deposited in various accounts of the U.S. Treasury, with the majority of those revenues going to the General Fund.

During calendar year 2003, the state of Wyoming again led all states by receiving more than $503 million as its share of revenues collected from mineral production on federal lands within its borders, including oil, gas and coal production.

New Mexico's share was more than $318 million and Colorado received $62.7 million. Other states sharing revenues included Utah with more than $54.4 million, Louisiana with $31.5 million, Montana at $26.9 million, and California with more than $25.3 million.

"In many cases states share their revenues with counties, which apply the money to meet needs like infrastructure improvements and school funding," said Johnnie Burton, director of the U.S. Minerals Management Service.

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Southern California Gets $150 Million for Wildfire Recovery

WASHINGTON, DC, February 19, 2004 (ENS) - U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman announced Wednesday that her department will provide $150 million to help southern California wildfire recovery efforts and to address the tree mortality emergency in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, San Bernardino and Ventura counties.

Last fall wildfires in southern California burned 739,597 acres, took 22 human lives and cost more than $250 million to contain.

Veneman said the funding is in addition to the more than $9 million for emergency environmental restoration work in southern California that the U.S. Department of Agriculture provided in November of 2003.

"The Bush administration remains committed to longterm recovery and prevention efforts in communities impacted by devastating wildfires," said Veneman. "These funds will provide technical and financial assistance to local project sponsors to help heal the watershed and prevent further damage following a natural disaster."

The funds are being made available through the Natural Resources Conservation Service's Emergency Watershed Protection Program.

Numerous cities and urban communities have infrastructure - basins, waterways, culverts, roads, homes and businesses - that are at significant risk from mud and debris flows expected from the burned areas.

Existing debris basins may be overloaded from increased sediment and debris flows if significant rainfall occurs and several domestic water supply reservoirs are at risk from debris and sediment contamination.

Rehabilitation efforts will provide sound erosion control measures that are economically and environmentally defensible.

Measures funded through the EWP grants include: reseeding burned areas; placing sediment traps on slopes; constructing trash racks to trap large rocks and boulders; enlarging existing debris basins to increase capacity; and placing sandbags and other barriers to protect property.

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