AmeriScan: February 7, 2005

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Fuel Removed From Ship Grounded at Honolulu

HONOLULU, Hawaii, February 7, 2005 (ENS) - A grounded Chinese ship at the entrance to Barbers Point Harbor will not be the source of a major oil spill, U.S. Coast Guard officials said Saturday after removing the ship's fuel oil, but the vessel is damaging coral reefs and possibly a turtle resting area.

The 555 foot bulk carrier Cape Flattery, registered in Hong Kong, is managed by Pacific Basin Shipping HK Ltd. The ship was carrying cement and about 128,000 gallons of fuel oil and lubricants when it went aground on Wednsday near Honolulu.

More than 128,000 gallons of fuel oil was removed from the Cape Flattery Saturday. There are no reports of oil sheening or fuel pollution in the water.

Operations to remove portions of the 27,000 ton granular cement cargo from the ship began late Saturday night, and officials say 4,000 tons will need to be removed from the vessel before refloating operations can be attempted.

By removing the cargo from the Cape Flattery, salvage crews will have more options in safely removing the vessel from the reef.

The Unified Command continues to monitor the efforts to safely remove the Cape Flattery from the coral reef about 400 yards from the entrance of Barbers Point Harbor.

"We understand the urgency to have the Cape Flattery removed, but will not rush the operations," said Curtis Martin, the State on Scene Coordinator from the Department of Health. "Preventing damage to ship and the environment is vital."

The Marine Spill Response Corporation has deployed a 67 inch floating oil containment boom that encircles the Cape Flattery and the barge as an environmental protection measure.

Pacific Basin has its own response team on scene which continues to work alongside and in close co-operation with the Unified Command. The company has engaged the O'Brien’s Group to assist with the prevention of pollution risks. Two senior members of O’Brien’s team have been and will remain on site as Pacific Basin’s Qualified Individuals. "There have been no pollution incidents and no injuries," Pacific Basin said in a statement Sunday.

Representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, and the State Department of Land and Natural Resources are involved with the salvage operation to ensure coral reef and high interest wildlife concerns are addressed.

State coral reef biologist Dave Gulko said that large ancient heads of lobe coral, 12 feet in diameter and 300 to 400 years old, lie between the grounded ship and the shore. Gulko said he saw some scarring of the seafloor during a helicopter survey.

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Japanese Shipper Pays $2 Million for Dumping Oily Waste

PORTLAND, Oregon, February 7, 2005 (ENS) - Officials of Fujitrans Corporation, a Japanese transportation company, pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to four felony charges for discharging oily waste into U.S. waters in Oregon and California.

At sentencing in one of the largest plea agreement, Judge Garr King ordered defendant to pay $1,005,000 as a criminal fine in the District of Oregon, as well as a $335,000 fine in a related Central District of California case that was part of the same investigation.

Fujitrans also will pay $495,000, as community service, to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, for the benefit of the Columbia River Coastal and Estuarine Fund in Oregon, and $165,000 to the Channel Islands National Park of the United States National Park Service, located in Ventura, California.

The $2 million is one of the largest penalties in an ocean dumping case in Oregon, the U.S. attorney said.

The defendant was placed on probation for three years and is required to implement an environmental compliance program designed to prevent future violations.

The U.S. Attorney for Oregon, Karin Immergut applauded the actions of a former crew member, Arturo Claracay, who emailed federal authorities about the illegal pollution activities back in March 2002, which led to this prosecution.

At the time of sentencing, the government asked the court to award Claracay a portion of the total fine. The court agreed with the government’s request and awarded the whistleblower $360,000.

The MV Cygnus, a large ocean going bulk carrier, was illegally discharging its oily wastes overboard through a bypass hose. Large ocean going ships use a heavy fuel oil that must be treated on board ship to remove impurities and water before it can be burned in the ship's engine. This process creates oily waste that, under international treaty and U.S. law, must be burned on board in an incinerator or retained on board for eventual unloading ashore. The bypass hose routed the oily waste around the incinerator system and dumped it into the ocean.

Bilge water that is contaminated with oil cannot be discharged at sea unless run through a pollution control device, called an Oil Water Separator, that reduces the oil content of the wastes to less than 15 parts per million. The Cygnus chief engineer admitted that he falsified entries in the vessel’s Oil Record Book to cover up the illegal discharges of oily wastes into the ocean.

The M/V Cygnus had made visits to both the Port of Portland, Oregon and the Port of Long Beach, California.

The Fujitrans case was the latest in a series of recent federal criminal prosecutions along the West coast in which shipping corporations and engineers, have been convicted and sentenced for similar criminal behavior.

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Norton Pushes Renewable Energy Development on Public Lands

WASHINGTON, DC, February 7, 2005 (ENS) - Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton issued a report Friday that outlines the Bush administration's efforts to increase interest in the development and use of renewable energy resources on America's public lands. The report, "Renewable Resources for America's Future," shows that lands managed by the Department of the Interior provide 48 percent of the nation's geothermal energy, 17 percent of hydropower and close to 10 percent of the nation's wind energy production.

"Our assessment of renewable energy sources on public lands managed by the Department of Interior shows the potential for these lands to contribute greatly to the U.S. renewable energy supply," Norton said.

This report recommended seven actions, five of which directly relate to Interior programs and activities. The recommendations all focus on encouraging renewable energy development such as geothermal, biomass, wind, solar and hydropower on federal lands.

More than 260 million acres of land, mostly in the West, are managed by the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for multiple uses, including energy development. In February 2003, the BLM and the Department of Energy produced a report that identified BLM lands with high potential for renewable resource development.

As part of efforts to increase the development and use of renewable energy sources, the department took action to ensure that BLM considers future renewable energy development in all current and future revisions of land-use plans; appointed a Renewable Energy Ombudsman to answer questions from the industry and public regarding renewable energy production on public lands; and initiated assessments of renewable energy resources on tribal lands.

Since 2001, the BLM has processed 200 geothermal lease applications, compared to 20 in the preceding four years. Electricity is currently being produced at 34 power plants from BLM geothermal resources in three states.

In 2003, the Interior Department licensed two new 49-megawatt geothermal power plants in California, the first such approvals in over 10 years. The department also approved two geothermal power plant expansions and one new 30 megawatt power plant in Nevada.

Since 2001, the BLM has issued more than 60 rights-of-way for wind energy testing and development - quadrupling the number of permits nationwide. And as a result of increased interest in the development of wind on public lands, the agency is preparing a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement, addressing wind development, scheduled for completion this summer.

In 2004, thirteen applicants for wind right-of-ways withdrew their applications after the wind energy production tax credit expired at the end of 2003. But the report says the BLM anticipates that recent congressional reauthorization of the wind energy production tax credit for 2005 will create renewed interest in wind development on federal lands as well as pressure to bring existing right-of-ways into production by the tax credit deadline of January 2006.

"America's standard of living and our economic productivity are dependent on a stable and abundant supply of inexpensive energy," Norton said. "Our national energy strategy includes not only enhancing supplies of renewable and nonrenewable energy, but also placing an important focus on conservation and protecting the environment."

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Senators Propose First Tropical National Forest Wilderness

WASHINGTON, DC, February 7, 2005 (ENS) - New York Senators Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer, both Democrats, are trying again this session to pass a law that would designate 10,000 acres of El Yunque, the Caribbean National Forest (CNF) as the El Toro Wilderness.

The legislation mirrors a bill introduced by the Senators last Congress. The senators are working with Resident Commissioner Luis Fortuño who introduced a companion bill in the House of Representatives, also last week.

The U.S. Forest Service has publicly stated its support for the designation of the El Toro Wilderness Area which would protect about one-third of the forest.

"I am pleased to introduce this legislation today because El Yunque has long been recognized as a special area, worthy of protection. If this legislation passes, the El Toro Wilderness will be the only tropical forest wilderness in the U.S. National Forest System," Clinton said. "Wilderness designation will ensure that the forest will remain protected for the people of Puerto Rico for generations to come."

"El Yunque is the oldest and most beloved protected forest in Puerto Rico," Schumer said. "It deserves to be named a special conservation zone so that its valuable natural resources are protected from hazardous development and Puerto Rico maintains a safe supply of drinking water."

"This legislation is crucial to the protection of a unique forest system," Fortuño said. This bill will contribute greatly to the preservation of endangered species, and native flora and I am proud to be part of this bipartisan effort which will ensure the protection of our nation's only tropical rainforest."

The Caribbean National Forest Act would add approximately 10,000 acres of El Yunque to the National Wilderness Preservation System, a designation that prohibits intrusive activities, such as logging, road construction, power lines, or other human developments.

The wilderness area would be named the El Toro Wilderness, after the highest peak in El Yunque. Though the wilderness system includes over 105 million acres, the El Toro Wilderness Area would be the first in Puerto Rico.

Located 25 miles east of San Juan, the CNF is a biologically diverse area. Although it is the smallest forest in the national forest system, the CNF ranks number one in the number of species of native trees with 240.

The forest has 50 varieties of orchids and over 150 species of ferns. The area is rich in wildlife with over 100 species of vertebrates, including the endangered Puerto Rican parrot. The only native parrot in Puerto Rico, they numbered nearly one million at the time that Columbus set sail for the New World. Today there are fewer than 35 of these parrots. The Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Puerto Rico's Department of Natural Resources and the Environment have initiated a recovery program for the Puerto Rican parrot.

Wilderness designation will ensure that the forest home of the parrot will remain protected and the ongoing recovery efforts, consistent with the Wilderness Act, will continue.

The CNF receives over 10 feet of rain each year. As a result, the major watersheds in the CNF are able to provide water to over 800,000 residents. The forest is used by hikers, bird watchers, picnicers, swimmers and sightseers.

"The Caribbean National Forest is one-of-a-kind, a very special part of our national forest heritage," said William Meadows, president of The Wilderness Society. "Even though it is the smallest of the 155 forests in the system, it is home to the largest number of native tree species with over 240. Some of the trees in El Toro are more than 1,000 years old."

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Martex Puerto Rico Farms Cited for Pesticide Violations

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, February 7, 2005 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has filed a 338 count complaint against Martex Farms for failing to provide employees applying pesticides with the required protective equipment, decontamination supplies and information on the pesticides being applied."

Martex owns numerous large commercial farms covering thousands of acres in Puerto Rico and has over 300 employees.

The EPA claims the company has violated the worker protection provisions of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) at its farms in Juaca and Coto Laurel and is seeking over $400,000 in civil penalties.

In late 2003, Martex received several Notices of Warning for worker protection violations at its farms and was reinspected by the Puerto Rico Department of Agriculture and EPA inspectors in April 2004 as part of a large worker protection enforcement initiative in Puerto Rico.

Violations found during the reinspection included failure to post specific information regarding what kinds of pesticides are being applied where and when and failure to provide adequate decontamination supplies and protective equipment for Martex employees.

"Pesticides are toxic, which is why they should be handled carefully and only used according to directions on the labels," said Kathleen Callahan, acting EPA Region 2 Administrator. "This company cut corners and put its workers at risk."

Martex Farms has the opportunity to plead its case before an administrative law judge or to contact EPA to negotiate an informal settlement of the matter.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that chemical workers suffer from high rates of illnesses commonly associated with chemical use. Tens of thousands of such illnesses are reported each year.

Workers may be injured from direct spray, drift or residue left by pesticides applications; handlers face additional risks from spills, splashes, inhalation and inadequate protective equipment.

Among other requirements, agricultural employers are required to restrict entry to treated areas, provide notification of pesticide applications, post specific information regarding what kinds of pesticides are being applied where and when, assure that employees have received safety training, post safety information; provide decontamination supplies, and provide access to emergency assistance when needed.

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New Jersey Developers Get Brownfields Liability Protection

TRENTON, New Jersey, February 7, 2005 (ENS) - To promote the cleanup of contaminated sites in New Jersey, Acting Governor Richard Codey signed legislation last week that provides qualified developers with liability protection against natural resource damage claims at brownfield sites across the state.

New Jersey Dpartment of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley Campbell said, "This new law rightly puts the costs of injuries to our ground water supplies and other natural resources on the backs of polluters, while encouraging cleanup and redevelopment of blighted sites."

"The governor's action provides innocent companies assurance that they will not be held liable for costs related to natural resource injuries," he said.

The legislation also provides brownfield developers liability protection for off-site contamination and makes changes to the statute of limitations under which DEP can assess NRD claims.

"Brownfield redevelopment projects not only help create jobs and new economic opportunities, but they can be a potential source of new property tax revenue for municipalities," said Assemblyman John McKeon, chairman of the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee. "We should do all we can to continue the promotion of such redevelopment efforts."

"Because of their location and commercial zoning status, brownfield sites are becoming increasingly attractive in the eyes of commercial developers," McKeon said. "These liability protections give yet another incentive for increased restoration and redevelopment while continuing to protect our region's important natural resources."

"This law is just plain common sense," said state Senator Henry McNamara. "This law will encourage companies that specialize in redeveloping old industrial sites to work with local officials and the state to rebuild cities and older suburbs rather than contributing to sprawl."

"This legislation is long overdue and personally, as Mayor of Northvale, will benefit my municipality," said Assemblyman John Rooney.

The liability protections apply to developers that already acquired or will acquire property on or after January 6, 1998, which is the effective date of the Brownfield and Contaminated Site Remediation Act.

Developers must have acquired the property after any discharge of a hazardous substance occurred. In addition, developers cannot be responsible for the discharge of a hazardous substance at the property or be corporate successors to the discharger or any other liable person. Lastly, the liability protections do not apply to developers that have already agreed to the payment of compensation for natural resource damages.

The new statute also provides developers liability protection for cleanup costs related to contamination that has migrated beyond their own property.

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Pennsylvania Cleans Chesapeake Tributaries

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania, February 7, 2005 (ENS) - Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell is chairman of the Chesapeake Executive Council this year, so he is making a stronger than usual effort to meet the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement goals for nutrient and sediment reduction in the Chesapeake Bay watershed with a strategy to clean up the rivers and streams that run into the Bay.

More than half of Pennsylvania is within the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The state’s tributary strategy is intended to improve water quality in the 13 sub-basins that make up the Susquehanna and Potomac river watersheds. The strategy embraces a suite of best management practices for nonpoint and point sources - agriculture, wastewater treatment plants, urban stormwater and septic systems - to meet Pennsylvania’s nutrient and sediment reduction goals.

Among the initiatives:

Other efforts include water quality protection on farms, the new manure-to-energy project, expanding the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program in which landowners receive federal grants for conservation initiatives, increasing forests, restoring wetland acreage, and then use of poultry litter to generate renewable energy.

Pennsylvania is the first among the states involved in the 2000 Chesapeake agreement to meet the goal to preserve permanently from development 20 percent of the land area in our Bay watershed. More than 2.9 million acres have been set aside

Rendell said, "Pennsylvania is ready for the next phase of this historic challenge. Our strategy brings new vigor to usher in the next generation of watershed protection and build on the gains we have achieved to provide cleaner water resources at home and deliver cleaner water downstream to restore the world’s most productive estuary."

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Boulder Faces Alien Snail Invasion

BOULDER, Colorado, February 7, 2005 (ENS) - Tiny, invasive New Zealand mud snails, Potamopyrgus antipodarum, recently have been found in Boulder Creek. This is the first discovery of the mud snail in Colorado and could have detrimental impacts on the environment, city officials said in a statement Thursday.

The Colorado Wildlife Commission has already closed a three mile stretch of Boulder Creek to fishing due the possible spread of this highly invasive snail.

The city of Boulder, in cooperation with the state, has enacted an emergency closure of all access to a stretch of the Boulder Creek and several Open Space and Mountain Parks properties adjacent to the creek.

The fast-spreading invertebrate could push out native species and compromise the long term health of the region’s aquatic ecosystems. Officials with the Colorado Division of Wildlife are concerned about the possible spread of this invasive species to other waterways that feed off of Boulder Creek.

"We share the Division’s concern and are working together to to assess the potential impacts of the snails and explore options for management," said Heather Swanson, wildlife ecologist for the city of Boulder.

The New Zealand mud snail is native to the Southern Hemisphere. U.S. biologists first discovered the snails in Idaho’s Snake River 20 years ago. Aside from Colorado, they have spread into Montana, California, Arizona, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming, including Yellowstone National Park.

The only other known population in the United States is in Lake Ontario between New York and southeastern Canada.

The tiny mud snails, at only two to five millimeters in length, are difficult to contain once they have invaded an aquatic ecosystem, and are so small they cannot be skimmed from waters.

The snails can cling to birds and other wildlife and are also thought to be spread by human and domestic pet activities, including hiking and fishing. They can be spread by boots, waders, and most anything they come in contact with. Highly resilient, the snails can survive several days out of water and can withstand a wide range of temperatures. The invertebrates can even pass unscathed through the digestive tracts of fish.

Because they are self-reproducing "live bearers" that give birth to well-developed clones, it only takes one New Zealand mud snail to start a new colony in a stream or river.

Officials stressed that public awareness is crucial to stopping the spread of exotic species in Colorado’s streams, rivers and lakes because of the difficulty of removing them once they have arrived.

The Board of Directors of the Boulder Flycasters has endorsed the actions of the city and the Division of Wildlife in the closure of Boulder Creek.

"We appreciate the cooperation of the public during this closure to ensure that humans do not further spread thee snail beyond their current distribution," said Swanson. "We are working with local and national experts to find the best steps to control or manage these snails and will reassess the need for the closure as this process progresses."

The closure stretches from 55th Street Road east to 95th Street and will be enacted today through April 12. The fishing closure will also expire on April 12. Open Space and Mountain Parks will then reevaluate the closure and decide on a long-term strategy for management in cooperation with the Colorado Division of Wildlife.