AmeriScan: February 10, 2005

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Poll: Republicans, Democrats Both Reject Arctic Drilling

WASHINGTON, DC, February 10, 2005 (ENS) - A bipartisan national survey has found that by a margin of 53 percent to 35 percent, Americans oppose proposals to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The bipartisan telephone poll of 1,003 registered voters was conducted January 13-17, 2005, by Republican firm Bellwether Research and Democratic pollsters Lake, Snell, Perry and Associates. The two firms co-authored the survey and each analyzed the results.

The poll was commissioned by the Alaska Coalition, an alliance of national and local groups who favor protection for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The poll found that 44% of respondents strongly oppose drilling, while just 25% strongly support it. Only about 10% were undecided on this issue.

“Voters believe there are some places that should simply be off-limits to oil drilling and the Arctic Refuge is one of them,” said Celinda Lake of Lake, Snell, Perry and Associates, the Democratic polling firm that co-authored the bipartisan survey. “They believe we have a moral responsibility to protect this unique area, and the abundant birds and wildlife that live there, for future generations.”

“One of the most striking findings from this poll is the degree to which voter opinion on the issue of drilling in the Arctic Refuge has solidified, moving from the realm of public policy issue to value,” said Christine Matthews, of Bellwether Research & Consulting, the Republican polling firm that co-authored the bipartisan survey.

“Only about 10 percent of Americans are undecided on this issue – most people know where they stand when it comes to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.”

Senate Energy Committee Chairman Senator Pete Domenici, a New Mexico Republican, has announced his desire to attach a drilling proposal to the Senate budget resolution to circumvent the Senate’s normal process for contentious legislation.

But an overwhelming majority – 73 percent v. 18 percent – of those polled do not want that to occur. They agreed with a statement that the issue of drilling in the Arctic Refuge is “too important to the American public and future generations to be snuck through” in the budget process, and disagreed with drilling proponents’ argument in favor of allowing drilling as part of the budget.

Even among those who support drilling in the Refuge, a majority opposes inserting the issue in the budget bill. Opposition to this plan is strong and consistent across age, gender, party and other demographic groups. Even among Republicans and those who voted for President Bush in 2004, a majority opposes using the budget process to open the Arctic refuge to oil drilling.

“When you pose the question in a simple, unbiased way, voters consistently say they want to see the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge the way it is: wild, unspoiled and free of oil drilling,” said Jim Waltman, director of wildlife and refuges for The Wilderness Society.

“Instead of doing permanent, irreparable harm to the caribou, polar bears and migratory birds that depend on the Refuge, Americans are yearning for a different energy future. We hope Congress will listen to what their constituents are telling them, and once again reject proposals to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.”

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Hudson River Park Funding Tops $230 Million

NEW YORK, New York, February 10, 2005 (ENS) - Construction of the Hudson River Park along Manhattan's West Side will receive another $10 million dollars in Port Authority of New York and New Jersey capital funding, New York Governor George Pataki announced on Wednesday.

This funding is in addition to the $5 million from the State Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) included in the Governor's Executive Budget, and shows how serious the state government is about completing the five mile long, 550 acre waterfront park on the Hudson, a National Heritage River.

"Eight years ago we seized an historic opportunity to create a world-class waterfront park along the Hudson River on Manhattan's West Side, and today, Hudson River Park is providing residents and visitors with improved recreational, cultural and educational amenities and new access to the scenic beauty of the Hudson River," Governor Pataki said.

"This new, additional funding will build on our commitment to fulfill the vision of Hudson River Park and ensure a lasting legacy for our children and generations to come."

To date, New York State has committed and funded $100 million for the Park's construction. The $5 million in proposed EPF spending, and the additional $10 million in Port Authority funds, will enable the state to match funds being committed by New York City, bringing total funding for park construction in the 2005-2006 Fiscal Year to $30 million.

Hudson River Park is a joint project between New York State and New York City to create a world class park that extends from Battery Park to 59th Street.

The park will include recreational piers, sports fields, and beaches, balconies and other places that provide access to the water for swimming and fishing. Including the river area between the piers, Hudson River Park will add over 550 acres of open space to New York City.

The park is being planned and built by the Hudson River Park Trust, a state-city partnership whose sole mission is to design, build and operate the facility.

The state and city together have now committed more than $230 million in design and construction funding to the park.

The Park's Greenwich Village segment opened in 2003 and the opening of Clinton Cove, between 54th and 57th Streets is anticipated this spring. The Chelsea section lies between them.

The $30 million in additional funding commitments will allow the Hudson River Park Trust to move forward with construction on the Chelsea segment of the park in the coming year.

State Parks Commissioner Bernadette Castro said, "With this commitment to Hudson River Park, Governor Pataki continues to champion innovative park design and development in New York City, building on his vision of transforming abandoned piers and a derelict waterfront into an urban oasis."

Hudson River Park begins at Battery Place with a bikeway and walkway that continues five miles along the entire length of the Park to 59th Street. This is the southernmost section of the Hudson River Valley Greenway Trail, which will eventually run 140 miles to Troy, north of Albany in upstate New York.

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$36 Million Cleanup of Tacoma Superfund Site Agreed

TACOMA, Washington, February 10, 2005 (ENS) - Occidental Chemical Corporation, the Port of Tacoma, Mariana Properties, Inc., and Pioneer Americas have agreed to complete the cleanup of contaminated sediments in the Hylebos Waterway of Commencement Bay in Tacoma, Washington. The cleanup is expected to cost about $36.5 million.

The Hylebos Waterway is part of the Commencement Bay/Nearshore Tideflats Superfund Site.

The consent decree was filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, according to the Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

This is the second of two consent decrees which together will clean up most of the Hylebos Waterway. This consent decree addresses the Mouth of the Hylebos area. The earlier consent decree, filed in September 2004, required other parties responsible for the contamination in the Hylebos to spend about $29.7 million to clean up the Head of the Hylebos.

The total cost for the Hylebos Waterway cleanup is expected to exceed $66 million.

The Commencement Bay Superfund Site is located in and near Tacoma, toward the southern end of Puget Sound. The Hylebos Waterway, in the eastern corner of the bay, was used for cargo, shipping and industrial manufacturing purposes over several decades.

Various facilities discharged contaminated wastewater, chemical wastes, sludges, and miscellaneous industrial waste into the waterway, resulting in the contamination of the channel bottom sediments and the intertidal area with a cocktail of hazardous substances, including chlorinated organic chemicals such as PCBs, pesticides and hexachlorobenzene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and a variety of metals.

Under the consent decree, the three companies and the Port of Tacoma agree to dredge and remove 625,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediments and to cap four acres of contaminated sediment in the Mouth of the Hylebos area.

The consent decree, which is subject to a 30 day public comment period, does not address the cleanup of the Occidental facility itself, which will be separately addressed.

Last year the government obtained commitments for cleanup at the Thea Foss Waterway and the Middle Waterway areas of the Commencement Bay Superfund Site.

Those settlements, together with the settlements for the Hylebos Waterway, secure cleanup work worth more than $120 million.

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Bring Salmon Back From the Brink, Westerners Urge Bush

WASHINGTON, DC, February 10, 2005 (ENS) - Seventy Members of Congress sent a letter to President George W. Bush Wednesday asking for drastic changes in recent federal salmon policies that they say jeopardize the survival of wild Pacific salmon and steelhead. The administration's current policies appear to abandon the recovery of self-sustaining, fishable populations of wild salmon and steelhead in the Northwest, the lawmakers say.

Led by Representatives Frank Pallone, of New Jersey, Jim McDermott, of Washington, Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and Sam Farr of California, all Democrats, congressional members from across the nation recognized the importance of protecting the unique Northwest sport and commercial fishing industry dependent on salmon and steelhead.

Steelhead and four species of Pacific salmon are now federally listed as endangered or threatened.

Recently released policies and decisions by the Bush administration include an up to 80 percent reduction in critical habitat safeguards for wild salmon and steelhead and a proposal to combine wild and hatchery fish numbers when determining whether a species should be protected under the Endangered Species Act.

The revised federal salmon plan treats dams as if they are part of the natural landscape and refuses to reverse the decline of salmon populations. The plan calls for $600 million to be spent annually on new, unproven gadgetry at the dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers.

"These three anti-salmon policies do not address the real problem with salmon declines in Idaho," said Kristin Troy, co-owner of a fishing and river outfitting company in Salmon Idaho and former Salmon Chamber of Commerce president. "My business and hundreds of other family businesses in rural communities throughout the Northwest need real solutions that will bring salmon back to our rivers."

Jeremy Brown, a commercial salmon fisherman from Bellingham, Washington, says, "The federal government wants to spend six billion dollars on a federal salmon plan that guarantees nothing but the continued decline of salmon dependent communities up and down the West Coast."

"This plan is a six billion dollar roadmap to extinction," said Trey Carskadon, Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, which represents 36,500 family wage jobs in Oregon, Washington and Idaho that are dependent on healthy rivers and streams.

He says for the Northwest's rural sportfishing communities, the Bush administration's salmon policies "will cost thousands of jobs and tens of millions of dollars."

On the other side of the coin, a study released Wednesday in Idaho concludes that a restored salmon and steelhead sport fishery would bring almost $550 million every year to the state's economy. That is a 170 percent increase from what Idaho saw from a limited fishery in 2001.

"The Potential Economic Impact of Restored Salmon and Steelhead Fishing in Idaho" by Dr. Don Reading of Ben Johnson Associates was reviewed and endorsed by the Office of the Mayor, Riggins, Idaho; City of Stanley, Idaho; Stanley-Sawtooth Chamber of Commerce; Lemhi County Economic Development Association and North Custer County Economic Development Association.

It is based on current economic data, and fisheries data from the 1950s, when full salmon and steelhead fishing seasons were last allowed in Idaho.

Reading's estimates based on the spike of good salmon returns in 2001 show that season provided the region more than $1.9 billion and almost 18,000 jobs.

"Even the historically modest salmon and steelhead returns that we saw in 2001 meant more than $1.9 billion to our region," said Carskadon. "If annually harvestable runs were to be reestablished, the boost throughout our economy would be tremendous, with major business and job growth in a cluster of industries, including boat building, outdoor gear, outfitting, restaurants and hotels."

"Wild salmon are an important economic asset," said John Sterling, program director of the Conservation Alliance, a group of more than 80 outdoor businesses that support habitat protection efforts. "More fish means more people fishing and using our member companies' products.

Neither the Idaho study nor the Oregon and Washington 2001 numbers include any of the economic benefits from commercial or tribal fishing.

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Feds Miscalculated Harm to Fish From Shell LNG Port

WASHINGTON, DC, February 10, 2005 (ENS) - A proposed Shell USA Oil and Gas liquefied natural gas deepwater port facility in the Gulf of Mexico will not harm fish species as much as the environmental impact statement declares, two federal agencies now say.

The U.S. Coast Guard and Maritime Administration said Wednesday that a calculation error was made in the original environmental impact statement (EIS), so they are revising the EIS to lower estimates for potential impacts to red drum and other fish species of concern.

The Coast Guard identified a calculation error after the original EIS was published that had erroneously placed the potential annual impact to red drum as equivalent to 8.5 percent of the 2002 Gulf of Mexico commercial and recreational harvest.

The revision states that instead of 8.5 percent, the proposed facility could annually cause the death of eggs and larvae equivalent to 0.8 percent of the 2002 harvest of red drum, if they had grown to harvestable size.

The revised percentage is in comparison to the red drum harvest, not the entire fish stock, and does not predict direct losses to the fish harvest.

Other species studied included red snapper, Gulf menhaden and Bay anchovy, which were found to have impacts of 0.01 percent or less of the 2002 harvest or equivalent.

"It is unfortunate that the error wasn’t discovered prior to the release of the final environmental impact statement," said Mark Prescott, chief of the Coast Guard’s deepwater port standards division. "We realize some may feel that even these lower values are too high, but it is important that opinions and decisions are based on the best possible and most accurate information attainable."

Fish larvae and eggs would be impacted by the facility’s regasification system that warms the liquefied gas from negative 260 degrees Fahrenheit to its natural state for pipeline transport to shore.

Larger fish will likely be able to escape the system, either because of screens on the intakes or the fish’s ability to swim away from the pumps that feed the system.

The actual changes to the final environmental impact statement have been submitted for publication in the Federal Register, and can be viewed when published at the Department of Transportation’s docket management system website http://dms.dot.gov/search using docket number 16860.

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Endangered Aplomado Falcon Proposed for Reintroduction

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico, February 10, 2005 (ENS) - The endangered northern aplomado falcon could be reintroduced into its native skies above New Mexico as an experimental population under the Endangered Species Act.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wednesday proposed to reintroduce the rare birds into the Chihuahuan desert grasslands of New Mexico.

Under the proposal, northern aplomado falcons in all of New Mexico and Arizona will be considered a "nonessential experimental population" under the Endangered Species Act.

falcon

Aplomado falcons are endangered because their grassland habitat has been altered by overgrazing and brush invasion. Changing rangeland into farmland has destroyed large areas of habitat, and pesticide contamination has also reduced their numbers. (Photo courtesy USFWS)
A non-essential, experimental population places no burden on private landowners and asks federal agencies to confer with the Service on activities that might impact the birds.

The Service proposes to begin releases of captive raised falcons in the summer of 2006. Up to 150 falcons could be released annually for 10 or more years until a self-sustaining population is established.

The proposed reintroductions are part of a larger recovery effort already underway for the falcon across its range.

The northern aplomado falcon population in the United States has gone from zero birds in 1994 to at least 39 pairs producing at least 179 young by 2004.

Falcons have been reintroduced on national wildlife refuge lands in Texas, and the state also has a reintroduction program geared to private landowners with more than 1.4 million owned acres enrolled.

The northern aplomado falcon was listed as endangered in 1986. The state of New Mexico listed this falcon as endangered in 1990, and Arizona gave it the same designation in 1995.

Although no falcons have been documented in Arizona since the 1940s, sporadic falcon sightings have occurred in New Mexico. A breeding pair in Luna County, New Mexico successfully hatched three chicks in 2002 but no chicks have been documented since then.

Residents, state officials, farmers, recreationists and others are encouraged to comment on the draft proposal and accompanying environmental assessment to reintroduce the falcons.

"We believe establishing a nonessential population will help ensure the long-term survival and recovery of this species," said Dale Hall, director of the Service's Southwest Region. "Experimental reintroductions can be a great aid in the recovery of threatened or endangered species," said Hall.

Find the proposed rule and the draft environmental assessment online at: http://www.fws.gov. A public hearing will be held March 15 at the Corbett Center Student Union, Jordan Street and University Avenue, in Las Cruces, New Mexico from 7 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. The informal question and answer session begins at 6 p.m.

Comments on the proposed rule can be mailed or delivered by hand to the New Mexico Ecological Services Field Office, 2105 Osuna Road NE, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87113. Comments may be faxed to 505-346-2542 or emailed to R2FWE_AL@fws.gov.

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Torres-Martinez Desert Cahuilla Tribe to Study Water Needs

SAN FRANCISCO, California, February 10, 2005 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded the Torres-Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians $100,000 for a water feasibility study on the reservation, as part of the agency's Tribal Border Infrastructure program.

The Torres-Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians are located in the Riverside and Imperial counties west of Los Angeles, near the Coachella Valley.

The study will evaluate the existing water and wastewater systems, especially water needs at densely populated trailer parks.

It will look at projected future infrastructure needs based on 10 and 20 year growth projections, as well as regional drinking water and wastewater infrastructure to correct existing deficiencies and future needs.

The funding announcement was made at the Regional Operations Committee Meeting in Laughlin, Nevada, sponsored by the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe. EPA officials and representatives from 100 tribes met to discuss tribal environmental concerns and how to solve them.

"With this water study grant, the EPA remains committed to improving the quality of life of the children and families of the Torres-Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians," said Laura Yoshii of the EPA.

"Secondly, we continue to build tribal capacity to manage Indian Country environmental programs, so that all tribes have a strong voice in decisions that affect their land, air and water resources," she said.

"The Torres-Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians continue to build for a better future," said Faith Morreo, vice chairwoman of the Tribe. "The better the environment we offer our people now, the healthier they'll be tomorrow."

Funding for this project is provided by the EPA's Tribal Border Infrastructure program which funds high priority water and wastewater infrastructure projects for Tribes within 100 km (62 miles) north of the U.S.-Mexico Border. The program funds are part of special congressional appropriations for the U.S.-Mexico border region.

Between 1996 and 2003, EPA's Tribal Border Infrastructure Program provided $28.4 million to improve the drinking water and wastewater systems for tribes within 62 miles of the U.S.-Mexico Border. This has provided 7,765 homes with safe drinking water, and 1,888 homes with better wastewater disposal facilities.

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DaimlerChrysler Fined For Indiana Air Pollution

KOKOMO, Indiana, February 10, 2005 (ENS) - DaimlerChrysler Corporation has been fined $110,000 for alleged clean air violations at the company's Kokomo Transmission Plant in Kokomo. The plant puts out 2.3 million transmissions per year.

In addition to the fine, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued an administrative consent order that requires DaimlerChrysler to remove three coal-fired boilers at the plant. The company intends to replace them with cleaner burning natural gas boilers.

The EPA said this action will cut annual sulfur dioxide emissions by 700 tons, nitrogen oxides by 100 tons and particulates - smoke, ash, soot - by 60 tons.

These actions resolve EPA allegations that DaimlerChrysler violated federal clean air regulations by making significant modifications to its plant, increasing air pollutant emissions without getting a permit requiring control of these emissions and without adding required control technology.

EPA officials said the company also failed to provide enough information about these modifications in its Clean Air Act operating permit application.

Exposure to sulfur dioxide can impair breathing, aggravate existing respiratory diseases like bronchitis and reduce the ability of the lungs to clear foreign particles. Sulfur dioxide can cause acid rain and contribute to fine particle pollution. Children, the elderly and people with heart and lung conditions are the most sensitive to sulfur dioxide, the agency says.

Nitrogen oxides contribute to the formation of gound-level ozone, or smog, which occurs when a mixture of air pollutants is baked in the hot summer sun.

Smog can cause respiratory problems, such as coughing and wheezing, shortness of breath and chest pain. People with asthma, children and the elderly are especially at risk.

Inhaling high concentrations of particulates can lead to heart and lung diseases. Children, the elderly and people with heart and lung diseases are the most sensitive.