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AmeriScan: January 5, 2005

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Weyerhaeuser Will Pay $6.3 Million to Clean Kalamazoo River

WASHINGTON, DC, January 5, 2005 (ENS) - Forest and paper giant Weyerhaeuser has reached a $6.3 million settlement with the Justice Department and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to clean up contamination of the Plainwell Mill and 12th Street Landfill in Plainwell, Michigan, which are portions of the Kalamazoo River Superfund site.

The settlement will require Weyerhaeuser to reimburse the EPA for approximately $138,000 in costs incurred in connection with the mill and landfill.

In addition to paying EPA’s past costs, Weyerhaeuser will pay $6.2 million which EPA will use to fund the cleanup of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contamination in the Kalamazoo River.

Weyerhaeuser is one of several companies responsible for PCB contamination at the Kalamazoo River Superfund Site, which includes the mill, the landfill, a portion of the Kalamazoo River, and other areas.

The PCB contamination at the site resulted from the paper companies' production and processing of carbonless copy paper continaing PCBs along the river between the 1950s and 1970s.

The EPA estimates that there are hundreds of thousands of pounds of PCBs in the soil and sediment at the site. Investigations at the site indicate that PCB contamination has had an adverse impact on bird and fish populations. For several decades, fish consumption advisories have urged consumers to limit the type and amount of fish that they eat from the river.

“Cleaning up the mill and landfill are important steps to keeping additional PCBs from getting into the Kalamazoo River,” said Richard Karl, director of the Superfund Division for EPA Region 5, headquartered in Chicago. “And the money Weyerhaeuser will pay under the settlement will kick start the ongoing study of how best to clean up the river itself.”

The settlement also requires Weyerhaeuser to withdraw its objections to a related settlement with Plainwell, Inc., its corporate parent and several affiliated companies, which is now pending in bankruptcy court. Implementation of the Plainwell settlement will make additional cleanup funds available for cleanup and investigation of the site.

“This settlement demonstrates that even at big, complicated sites, with creative enforcement we can fashion settlements that are fair to all parties and keep the cleanup moving forward,” said Thomas Sansonetti, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division.

The settlement does not resolve Weyerhaeuser’s liability for the cleanup of PCBs at any part of the site other than the mill and landfill. Nor does it resolve Weyerhaeuser’s liability for natural resource damages at the site.

The settlement agreement was filed Monday with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan and is subject to a 15 day public comment period.

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New York Protects 104,000 Forest Acres From Development

ALBANY, New York, January 5, 2005 (ENS) - The state of New York has reached agreement with The Nature Conservancy and Lyme Timber Company to ensure the protection of 104,000 acres of Adirondack forestland formerly owned by Domtar Industries, Inc. in the Sable Highlands region of Clinton and Franklin counties.

Governor George Pataki announced Tuesday that the state will acquire working forest easements on more than 84,000 acres and will eventually acquire an additional 20,000 acres purchased from Domtar by The Nature Conservancy.

The agreement represents the third largest land acquisition in New York state history.

"During the past 10 years, New York has led the nation in land conservation efforts, successfully protecting nearly 800,000 acres of open space for future generations," Pataki said. "Today's agreement marks another milestone in our protection of the Adirondack Park that will preserve more than one hundred thousand acres of prime forestland and open up new public recreational access, while continuing to sustain a critical aspect of the North Country's economy.

Pataki has committed to the protection of more than 900,000 acres of land across New York since 1995. "With today's announcement, he said Tuesday, "we are well on our way to fulfilling the ambitious goal I set in 2002 to protect more than one million acres within 10 years."

He credited "innovative partnerships with the private sector and numerous land conservation organizations" for success in land protection.

The Lyme Timber Company, a private timber investment company headquartered in Hanover, New Hampshire, has purchased 84,448 acres of forestland from Domtar Industries and will continue harvesting timber on the property.

Under the agreement, New York state will acquire a working forest conservation easement on more than 84,000 acres of these lands that will require sustainable forest management and timber harvesting, prohibit residential development and restrict subdivision, and create a balance of public recreational access and continued traditional private recreational leasing on the property.

Also as part of the agreement, The Nature Conservancy has purchased 19,960 acres of the remaining Domtar property, which it will hold for ultimate transfer to the state. Of these lands, 16,918 acres will be added to the State Forest Preserve including Lyon Mountain and its state fire tower, the highest peak in the northern region of the park, and a portion of Ellenberg Mountain.

The remaining 3,042 acres, located in the Town of Dannemora, will become State Forest land. The state will pay up to fair market value for the property, with the price to be determined by a state administered appraisal process. Local property taxes will continue to be paid on all of the properties.

Tom Morrow, The Lyme Timber Company's director of forestland investment, said, "The Lyme Timber Company is pleased to be the new owner of this substantial timberland holding. We expect the transition to be seamless to the local communities. Lyme will continue sustainable forestry operations and regular timber harvests, which are important to the local economy. We also have a great deal of experience managing conservation easement lands and look forward to working with The Nature Conservancy and New York state to ensure public access to a portion of the lands, while also keeping intact the long tradition of leasing to hunt clubs."

Raymond Royer, Domtar President and Chief Executive Officer said, "Domtar acquired these lands in 1962 and we have been good stewards of the property. We are especially pleased that Lyme will continue to maintain certification under the Forest Stewardship Council."

Henry Tepper, Director of the Nature Conservancy of New York, said, "In the last five years alone, Governor Pataki and New York state have secured a tremendous natural legacy of protected lands for current and future generations. The Conservancy is honored to work with them on the Sable Highlands Project, adding to other successful collaborations in the region that include protecting 26,500 acres in the western/central Adirondacks, 5,000 acres at Camp Cedarlands, and 45,000 acres on the Tug Hill Plateau."

The agreement provides full public recreation rights to more than 47,000 acres of lands and waters that are not under public lease agreement and have not previously been open to the public.

Information regarding today's announcement and the Sable Highlands region, can be found on the DEC website at: www.dec.state.ny.us/website/dlf/sable.html.

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Reporters Try to Block Tampa Fox TV Station's License Renewal

TAMPA, Florida, January 5, 2005 (ENS) - Two television journalists have filed a challenge to the broadcast license renewal application of WTVT Fox-13, claiming the station knowingly aired false and distorted news reports about the risk of cancer from growth hormones in milk.

Veteran journalists Jane Akre and Steve Wilson filed the petition Monday against the Tampa station, which is part of Rupert Murdoch's Fox Television corporation.

The petition to the Federal Communications Commission claims that the licensee is not operating in the public interest and "lacks the good character to do so."

The "Tampa Bay Business Journal" quotes WTVT General Manager Bob Linger as saying Monday that the station has received the petition and is preparing a timely response, which he expects will fully vindicate the station.

The conflict began in 1997 while Akre and Wilson, who are married, worked on a story about bovine growth hormone (BGH), a Monsanto product.

The journalists say they discovered that "a large share of America’s milk supply has quietly become adulterated with the effects of a synthetic hormone (bovine growth hormone, or BGH) secretly injected into cows."

The BGH stimulates the production of another hormone called IGF-1 that speeds up the cow's metabolism, causing her to produce up to 30 percent more milk.

But the report at issue had the narrator saying that there is "a growing body of scientific evidence of a link between IGF-1 and human cancers which might not show up for years to come."

Akre and Wilson claim that pressure from Monsanto convinced WTVT to fire them and "sweep under the rug" the link between BGH and cancer.

The station did not air the couple's report although they rewrote it dozens of times in an attempt to satisfy the station and Monsanto while still informing the public about the risk that milk from BGH treated cows may pose a risk of cancer.

In one of the versions, Dr. Samuel Epstein, a medical doctor and professor emeritus at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, says "…there are highly suggestive if not persuasive lines of evidence showing that consumption of this milk poses risks of breast and colon cancer." Another medical doctor is quoted making the same connection, and a Monsanto spokesman balances the report by stating the corporation's confidence that the hormone is safe.

Wilson and Akre sued the station in 1998 after they were released early from their contracts.

Fox maintains that it never asked Wilson and Akre to lie in their story. The station says the two were let go for insubordination and for refusal to be objective.

In August 2000, a jury awarded Akre $425,000, saying the station retaliated against her for threatening to blow the whistle on a false or distorted news report. The same jury decided the station had not harmed Wilson. That verdict was later overturned on appeal, but the station sought $2 million in attorneys' fees and costs. In August 2004, a judge ruled that the reporters did not have to pay those fees and costs.

Akre and Wilson have won several awards for their stance. They won the 2001 Goldman Prize for North America and in 1999 were awarded the Courage in Journalism prize from the Alliance for Democracy.

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World Bank Chooses Wind Power for DC Headquarters

WASHINGTON, DC, January 5, 2004 (ENS) - The World Bank will purchase renewable energy for all of its electricity usage at its Washington, DC office from WindCurrent, a Maryland based company that sells wind power to the mid-Atlantic power grid.

This purchase will represent enough electricity to power almost 8,000 average homes for a year, and is equivalent to eliminating the carbon dioxide emissions of more than 10,000 cars for a year or planting roughly 15,000 acres of trees, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) figures.

Produced using conventional electricity sources, including coal and gas, this would have generated an estimated almost 60,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

The Bank will purchase 85,000,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) annually of renewable energy certificates (RECs) which are allocated for each unit of power from a renewable energy power plant such as a wind farm.

"Wind power creates none of the hazardous emissions or mercury pollution that is associated with producing electricity from burning coal," said Jim Maguire, the founder of WindCurrent, a Baltimore company. "The World Bank is serving as a role model for other organizations who want to be environmentally responsible."

As a result of this investment, wind power from the mid-Atlantic region and the Midwest will be supplied to the power grid, replacing electricity generated from less environmentally friendly sources.

This commitment to renewable energy is part of an overall Greening Program by the Bank's General Services Department to focus on sustainable development within the organization, promoting waste management, environmentally and socially responsible procurement practices and energy conservation.

"Using renewable power will reduce our office's environmental footprint, increase demand locally, and set an example for other institutions in the Washington area and globally that using alternative energy is a sound and important choice," said General Services Department Director Van Pulley.

The move qualifies the Bank for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Green Power Leadership Club, a voluntary program that supports and recognizes outstanding green power purchasers. The Bank becomes the fourth largest purchaser in the program.

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New Jersey Offers Funding for Open Space Preservation

TRENTON, New Jersey, January 5, 2005 (ENS) - Funds for land acquisition and park development are once again available in New Jersey. Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley Campbell has opened the DEP Green Acres program's Spring 2005 funding round.

Municipalities, counties and nonprofit organizations seeking funding for projects should submit applications by February 15, 2004.

"I encourage local and nonprofit groups to take advantage of this chance to invest in New Jersey's quality of life by preserving natural and historic resources and recreational space," said Acting Governor Richard Codey.

Eligible land acquisition projects include the purchase of natural areas, historic sites, conservation areas, water bodies, and open space for active or passive recreation purposes.

Funding is also available for the development of outdoor park and recreation facilities. Eligible recreational projects include facilities that provide boating, fishing, swimming, outdoor games and sports, biking, picnicking, camping, or nature interpretation. Related costs incurred as part of the acquisition or development project also may be eligible for reimbursement.

"The availability of additional Green Acres funding presents an excellent opportunity for local and nonprofit groups to advance their recreation and conservation priorities," said Campbell. "I look forward to forming new partnerships and strengthening existing relationships with local and nonprofit officials who share DEP's interest in expanding New Jersey's network of protected open space."

Funding is available for land acquisition and park development projects in more populated communities. This round, funding incentives again will be offered to Densely Populated municipalities and counties with 5,000 or more people per square mile, Highly Populated counties with 1,000 people per square mile, and Highly Populated municipalities with total populations over 35,000. Urban Aid municipalities also will be eligible for additional funds.

Local governments that lack an open space tax are eligible for 25 percent matching grants for land acquisition projects, whereas local governments with an open space tax qualify for 50 percent matching grants for such projects.

The demand for local acquisition and development funding continues to exceed by far Green Acres' available funding. Campbell says the DEP encourages local governments to consider supplemental acquisition funding available through the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Financing Program (EIFP), a low-cost loan program for projects that protect or improve water quality, including many land acquisition projects.

Applications and details are available at www.nj.gov/dep/greenacres.

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Florida School Board Agrees to Conserve 10 Acres

WALTON COUNTY, Florida, January 5, 2005 (ENS) - After years of litigation and negotiations, the Walton County School Board agreed last night to accept the terms of a settlement agreement that will preserve protected land surrounding South Walton High School.

The agreement will connect on-campus trails to the Point Washington State Forest, create a 10 acre conservation area, provide a safe path for students to travel to a local convenience store, and offer an area for science and environmental teachers to educate students on conservation and nature.

The Walton County Board of County Commissioners voted to accept the terms of the settlement agreement in December 2004.

The settlement agreement was the culmination of a lawsuit brought by Earthjustice on behalf of Susan and Bruce Paladini. Earthjustice filed and negotiated a lawsuit agreement with Walton County in 1999 to create natural greenways and trails through the New Town Center lands and to preserve protected wetlands from development.

The county then sold a portion of the land to the local school district, which immediately began construction on the property. In December 2002, Earthjustice filed additional litigation against the school district seeking recognition of the requirements of the earlier settlement agreement.

In April 2003, Earthjustice also sued the county to enforce preservation of wetlands and construction of greenways and trails on the portion of the property still owned by the county. Yesterday’s unanimous board decision accepting the terms of the agreement is "a victory for students, teachers and the community," Earthjustice said.

“This settlement proves that the county and the school board are committed to preserving these important areas for recreation and education,” said Earthjustice attorney Monica Reimer. “This will certainly give students and families a chance to enjoy the natural settings of their county.”

Susan Paladini, a caretaker of a local nature preserve, said she already participates in field trips with South Walton High School science and environmental teachers and students and looks forward to expanding the program to their school sites to tailor courses that will focus on preserving conservation areas and trails.

“This trail goes right through the middle of the campus,” Paladini said. “We plan to work with the students to develop and maintain this trail, and as years go by the trail will be restored to much of its original beauty. This is a chance for students to come back in five or 10 years and really see the work they did in high school develop into a wonderful natural setting.”

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Gecko Feet Key to Self-Cleaning Adhesives

PORTLAND, Oregon, January 5, 2005 (ENS) - "How geckos manage to keep their feet clean while walking about with sticky feet has remained a puzzle until now," said Kellar Autumn, associate professor of biology at Lewis & Clark College on Monday. Autumn's new research on gecko feet may yield synthetic self-cleaning adhesives, with applications from nanosurgery to aerospace.

Autumn led an international team of scientists from a range of disciplines. Their research, published in the January 2005 issue of "Proceedings from the National Academy of Sciences of the United States," found that the microscopic adhesive hairs, or setae, that create the gecko's adhesive qualities are also the first known self-cleaning adhesive.

According to Autumn, gecko setae isolated from the gecko become cleaner by themselves. "Geckos don't groom their feet, and the adhesive on their toes is much too sticky for dirt to be shaken off. Conventional adhesives like tape just get dirtier and dirtier, but we discovered that gecko feet actually become cleaner with repeated use."

"Our mathematical models suggest that self-cleaning in gecko setae is a result of geometry not chemistry," said Autumn. "This means that synthetic self-cleaning adhesives could be fabricated from a wide variety of materials."

"Who knows, maybe a gecko-inspired robot with sticky, self-cleaning feet will walk on the dusty surface of Mars someday," he speculated.

The setae on the bottom of a gecko's feet are only as long as two diameters of a human hair. That's 100 millionths of a meter long.

Each seta ends with 1,000 even tinier pads at the tip. These tips, called spatulae, are only 200-billionths of a meter wide - below the wavelength of visible light.

In 2002, Ronald Fearing, a researcher at the University of California at Berkeley, was able to produce two artificial hair tips, while Autumn and colleagues concluded that "both artificial setal tips stuck as predicted and provide a path to manufacturing the first dry, adhesive microstructures."

The team's research is supported by the National Science Foundation and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a U.S. military research agency. Find out more online at: http://www.lclark.edu/faculty/autumn/pnas05.html

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Scientists Document Wet Martian History

PASADENA, California, January 5, 2005 (ENS) - The most dramatic findings so far from NASA's twin Mars robot rovers - evidence for a wet and possibly habitable environment in the arid planet's past - passed rigorous scientific scrutiny for publication in a major research journal.

Eleven reports by 122 authors in Friday's issue of the journal "Science" present results from the rover Opportunity's three month prime mission.

Opportunity bounced to an airbag landing on January 24, 2004. It is exploring a region called Meridiani Planum, halfway around Mars from where its twin rover, Spirit, landed three weeks earlier.

Sedimentary rocks Opportunity examined, "clearly preserve a record of environmental conditions different from any on Mars today," report 50 rover team scientists led by Dr. Steve Squyres of Cornell University and Dr. Ray Arvidson of Washington University.

"Liquid water was once intermittently present at the Martian surface at Meridiani, and at times it saturated the subsurface. Because liquid water is a key prerequisite for life, we infer conditions at Meridiani may have been habitable for some period of time in Martian history," write Squyres, Arvidson and other co-authors.

One type of evidence that Meridiani was wet is the composition of rocks there.

The rocks have a high and variable ratio of bromine to chlorine, indicating "the past presence of large amounts of water," write Dr. Rudi Rieder and Dr. Ralf Gellert of Max-Planck-Institute for Chemistry, Mainz, Germany, and co-authors.

Their paper and another by Dr. Phil Christensen of Arizona State University and collaborators report an abundance of sulfur-rich minerals in the rocks, another clue to a watery past.

Clinching the case is identification of a hydrated iron-sulfate salt called jarosite in the rocks, as reported by Dr. Goestar Klingelhoefer of the University of Mainz, and Dr. Richard Morris of NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston and their co-authors.

Structures within the rocks add more evidence, according to Dr. Ken Herkenhoff of the U.S. Geological Survey, and co-authors. Plentiful cavities, about the size of shirt buttons, indicate crystals formed inside the rocks then dissolved. Minerals carried by water formed peppercorn size gray spheres, nicknamed "blueberries," that are embedded in the rocks. Certain angled patterns of fine layers in some rocks tell experts a flowing body of surface water shaped the sediments that became the rocks.

Several characteristics of the rocks suggest water came and went repeatedly, as it does in some shallow lakes in desert environments on Earth. That fluctuation, plus the water's possible high acidity and saltiness, would have posed challenges to life, but not necessarily insurmountable ones, according to researchers.

If life ever did exist at Meridiani, the type of rocks found there could be good preservers of fossils, according to Squyres, Dr. John Grotzinger of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, and co-authors.

"Formal review and publication this week of these amazing discoveries further strengthens the need for continued exploration by orbiters, surface robots, sample-return missions and human explorers. There are more exciting discoveries awaiting us on the red planet," said Dr. Michael Meyer, chief scientist for Mars exploration at NASA Headquarters, Washington.

Opportunity and Spirit have driven a combined 5.75 kilometers (3.57 miles), nearly five times their goal for mission success. They are still in good health after operating more than three times as long as the three month prime missions for which they were designed.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena has managed the Mars Exploration Rover project since it began in 2000.



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