AmeriScan: February 6, 2007

* * *

Inter-American Commission Considers Global Warming-Human Rights Link

WASHINGTON, DC, February 6, 2007 (ENS) - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States has agreed to hold a hearing to investigate the relationship between global warming and human rights. The hearing is scheduled for March 1, 2007.

The hearing is in response to a request by Nobel Peace Prize nominee Sheila Watt-Cloutier and two environmental law organizations - Earthjustice and the Center for International Environmental Law.

They detailed the serious impacts that global warming is already having on human rights in the Arctic and throughout the hemisphere.

"This is very good news," said Sheila Watt-Cloutier, former chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference. "In the Arctic regions of Canada and the United States, warmer temperatures are melting the ice and snow that have formed the basis of our culture and survival for millennia."

The request for the hearing, sent to the Commission on December 5, 2006, said that because of the loss of ice and snow, communities have become isolated from one another; hunting, travel and other subsistence activities have become more dangerous or impossible; and drinking water sources have been jeopardized.

In addition, many coastal communities are already threatened or being forced to relocate, while others face increasing risks or costs; and transmission of Inuit culture to younger generations has become difficult or impossible.

These impacts jeopardize the realization of the Inuit's rights to culture, life, health, physical integrity and security, property, and subsistence.

Watt-Cloutier was nominated on February 1, 2007, for a Nobel Peace Prize for her advocacy of Inuit causes, including her tireless efforts to put a human face on the impacts of global warming.

On February 2, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest findings on climate change, concluding human pollution is "very likely" the cause of global warming.

"With the latest science released by IPCC, the human causes of global warming can no longer be denied," said Martin Wagner, an attorney from the US-based Earthjustice who has worked with Watt-Cloutier to draw attention to the impact of global warming on the Inuit's human rights.

"There can be no question that global warming is a serious threat to human rights in the Arctic and around the world. The Inter-American Commission plays an important role in interpreting and defending human rights in the hemisphere, and we are encouraged that it has decided to consider the question of global warming."

* * *

New Forest Service Chief Has Whistleblower Retaliation History

WASHINGTON, DC, February 6, 2007 (ENS) - U.S. Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth retired on Friday after six years as head of the agency.

He is succeeded by Abigail Kimbell, who comes to the job from her post as regional forester for the Northern Region - 25 million acres including national forests and grasslands spread over five states - Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Previously, Kimbell served as associate deputy chief for the National Forest System in Washington, DC, where she had responsibility for assisting in the development of the controversial Healthy Forest Restoration program established by the Bush administration.

As Chief of the U.S. Forest Service, Kimbell will oversee an organization of over 30,000 employees and a budget of just over $4 billion.

She is already running into controversy.

Two advocacy organizations, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, PEER, and the Government Accountability Project, GAP, say that Kimbell was responsible for the largest reprisal action ever undertaken against agency whistleblowers.

While she was supervisor of the Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming, Kimbell purged 44 whistleblowers. At one point, Kimbell sought criminal prosecution of her own staff.

But of those 44, eight ultimately won a $200,000 settlement with the agency in 2003, while Kimbell was promoted to Regional Forester.

In the late 1990s, the staff at the Bighorn National Forest raised concerns that included illegal timber sales and sweetheart concessions to favored timber companies.

They also warned of failure to meet reforestation commitments to restore habitat, and violation of wilderness protections and road construction through Native American sacred sites.

The whistleblowers’ original complaints resulted in the forced resignation of the previous Bighorn forest supervisor in 1997.

After Kimbell became supervisor, she purged virtually all of the original whistleblowers.

The advocacy groups now are urging Kimbell to adopt a zero tolerance policy against whistleblower retaliation and pledge to remove managers who engage in reprisals.

"The promotion of Abigail Kimbell sends a chilling message to the scientists, law enforcement officers and other specialists working within the Forest Service," said PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. "Ms. Kimbell can either allay these fears by taking affirmative steps to protect honesty or she can reinforce these concerns by inaction."

* * *

Air Pollution Violations Cost Ohio Plant $750,000

CINCINNATI, Ohio, February 5, 2007 (ENS) - A Cincinnati area nitric acid production facility will pay $750,000 in civil penalties to settle violations of the New Source Review provisions of the Clean Air Act uncovered by EPA.

The parent companies also agreed to install state-of-the-art pollution control equipment at the facility that will reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides by more than 200 tons per year.

The EPA issued Notices of Violation to Agrium US Inc. and Royster-Clark Inc. in October 2006 for making construction modifications to a North Bend, Ohio, facility in the mid-1990s without first obtaining necessary federal pre-construction permits and installing the required pollution control equipment.

The un-permitted modifications caused the facility to emit more NOx than allowed by federal law.

"This company increased its profits by ignoring environmental laws," said Granta Nakayama, EPA's assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assistance.

The facility releases NOx as part of its nitric acid production process. Nitric acid is used to make fertilizer, explosives and organic chemicals.

NOx causes severe respiratory problems, contributes to childhood asthma, acid rain, climate change, smog and haze, and impairs visibility in national parks. Emissions from nitric acid plants can be carried significant distances downwind, causing air quality problems in nearby states.

Agrium, a Colorado corporation, purchased the plant from Royster-Clark, a Delaware corporation, last September.

The settlement will be filed with the Southern District Court of Ohio for 30 days to allow for public comment. The companies are required to pay the penalty within 30 days after the court approves the settlement.

* * *

Boat Fire Spills Oil in Washington's Gig Harbor

GIG HARBOR, Washington, February 6, 2007 (ENS) - The Washington state Department of Ecology, the U.S. Coast Guard and others are responding to an oil spill at the Peninsula Yacht Basin Marina in Gig Harbor.

A boat fire was reported to Ecology at 9:30 pm on Monday night. State and federal authorities immediately dispatched investigators and responders to find the 46 foot pleasure craft X-TA-SEA on fire.

The vessel had about 200 gallons of diesel on board. An unknown amount has spilled into the water. The City of Gig Harbor placed hard boom around the marina. Absorbent pads are also being used to recover the diesel oil. Diesel oil has been reported outside the boom.

The owner of the vessel hired Global Diving and Salvage Company who is on scene and working cooperatively with state and federal responders. Ecology and Coast Guard will conduct a helicopter flyover as soon as weather permits.

Oil spilled into the water forms oily patches that spread out quickly. Such oil slicks can cover many acres of surface water. Ecology is monitoring for oil visible in surrounding water and shorelines inside Gig Harbor.

Ecology, The City of Gig Harbor, and the Coast Guard are working together to ensure that the spilled diesel oil is recovered and to protect the marine environment.

In the summer of 2005, Gig Harbor became the first local government in the state to receive mobile fast-strike oil spill response equipment, allowing local first responders to attack a spill as soon as it is detected rather than waiting for a federal or state response.

As a result of a supplemental appropriation by the Legislature and Governor Chris Gregoire in 2006, Ecology is delivering mobile spill response equipment to fire departments, ports, tribes and other local responders in 60 critical locations around the state.

* * *

Cummins Engine Pays California $1.1 Million

SACRAMENTO, California, February 6, 2007 (ENS) - Cummins Engine Company, manufacturer of heavy duty diesel engines, has paid $1,092,500 to the state of California for allegedly violating its 1998 settlement agreement with the state Air Resources Board to perform clean air projects and certify its engines to reduce smog-forming emissions such as oxides of nitrogen, NOx.

"We are very pleased that Cummins is taking steps to reduce excess emissions from the heavy duty engines in question, and that they are cooperating by instituting recalls and retiring emissions credits," said California Air Resources Board Executive Officer Catherine Witherspoon.

Among the violations of the 1998 settlement agreement, Cummins obtained state certification for 11,600 heavy duty engines equipped with emission control systems that did not meet emissions requirements.

The company is alleged to have omitted 26,347 engines from eligibility for the Low NOx Rebuild (Chip Reflash) program, and failed to complete work on and to submit reports for agreed upon emission reduction projects in a timely manner.

ARB investigated these violations jointly with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which entered parallel agreements to settle these violations.

As part of the latest settlement agreements Cummins also is required to recall the 11,600 engines nationwide that did not meet state emissions requirements. In addition, Cummins will retire emissions credits from further use.

Emissions credits are a market mechanism, created to help industries meet various emissions standards; they are bought, sold and traded by refineries, power plants, and other emissions sources.

Cummins is reimbursing 979 tons of NOx to the U.S. and to California through ARB to compensate for the excess tons generated by the prohibited emission control devices, and 1042 tons of NOx for its non-compliance with the earlier settlement agreement.

All monies are being paid to the California Air Pollution Control Fund, established to mitigate various sources of pollution through education and the advancement and use of cleaner technology.

* * *

Wildlands Inc. Opens Solano Mitigation Bank

ROCKLIN, California, February 6, 2007 (ENS) - Wildlands, Inc., a private mitigation and conservation banking firm based in Rocklin, today announced the opening of its latest mitigation bank in Solano County.

The 627 acre North Suisun Mitigation Bank is dedicated to mitigation of habitat impacts to endangered vernal pool species as well as the endangered California Tiger Salamander. The bank serves portions of a 12-county area including Solano, San Joaquin, Contra Costa, Napa, Yolo, Colusa, Sutter, Yuba, Placer, El Dorado and Sacramento.

"The North Suisun Mitigation Bank provides much needed habitat to mitigate the impacts of numerous development projects along the Interstate 80 corridor," says Sandy Person, vice-president, Solano County Economic Development Corporation.

Bank credits are purchased by the public and private development communities to fulfill permit obligations of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, United States Fish & Wildlife Service and California Department of Fish and Game.

Specific credits available include vernal pool creation, vernal pool preservation, and breeding ponds for California Tiger Salamanders.

The bank area also protects habitat for rare plants - Heckard’s Peppergrass, Alkali Milk-Vetch, Brittlescale and Carquinez Goldenbush.

For more information about the North Suisun Mitigation Bank, please contact Julie Maddox at (916) 435-3555.

Wildlands has been in business since 1991. With mitigation and conservation projects throughout California and Washington state, Wildlands has preserved and protected over 20,000 acres of habitat, offering mitigation and conservation credits to public and private developers.

* * *