AmeriScan: January 11, 2007

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Egg Processor Pays $1 Million for Fouling Nebraska Waters

WASHINGTON, DC, January 11, 2007 (ENS) - Discharge and dumping of poultry waste into Nebraska waters has resulted in a $1 million fine for M.G. Waldbaum Company, a subsidiary of Minnesota-based Michael Foods Inc.

The Clean Water Act violations involve Waldbaum's egg processing facility and seven associated poultry farms near the city of Wakefield, Nebraska.

The settlement, reached on Thursday, is a joint federal-state effort. The million dollar penalty will be divided equally between the state and the federal government.

The company is alleged to have overloaded the wastewater treatment lagoons at the city of Wakefield’s publicly owned treatment works.

Charges also include allowing pollutants from a large pile of poultry waste to enter Logan Creek without a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, NPDES, permit at its Husker Pride poultry concentrated animal feeding operation, CAFO, one of the seven Waldbaum poultry farms.

The company also allegedly dumped process sludge waste from its egg processing facility at two of its other poultry farms rather than spreading it on the ground in accordance with state standards.

As part of the settlement, Waldbaum has committed to comply with the schedule in its current NPDES permit for construction of a wastewater treatment plant to treat the effluent from its egg processing facility.

Construction of the new plant is scheduled for completion in 2009 at an estimated cost of $16 million.

As part of the settlement, Waldbaum also has agreed to apply for a NPDES permit for its Husker Pride poultry farm CAFO and to develop and implement manure management plans at its other six poultry farms.

The EPA estimates that actions under this agreement will result in annual reductions of 60 pounds of phosphorus, 18,250 pounds of biochemical oxygen demand, 61,000 pounds of total suspended solids, and 41,600 pounds of ammonia, a component of poultry manure.

Excessive amounts of ammonia in wastewater can be harmful to fish and other aquatic organisms. Excessive amounts of phosphorus and suspended solids harm waterways by depleting the dissolved oxygen needed by aquatic life.

Concurrent with this settlement, a Clean Water Act settlement with the city of Wakefield, is being filed for numerous NPDES permit violations at its publicly owned treatment works – many due to overloading of its lagoons by effluent from Waldbaum’s egg processing facility.

Under the agreement, the City of Wakefield will pay a civil penalty of $20,000, comply with the Clean Water Act and its NPDES permit, prohibit treatment of wastewater from Waldbaum, and conduct increased influent and effluent monitoring and reporting.

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New Jersey Enacts Kiddie Kollege Environmental Law

TRENTON, New Jersey, January 11, 2007 (ENS) - New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine today signed legislation to help ensure that child care and educational facilities are environmentally safe for the children attending them.

“This bill will help identify and remediate educational facilities and child care centers located on environmentally high risk sites,” Governor Corzine said. “This puts New Jersey at the forefront of states nationally in protecting children from environmental contaminants while at child care facilities and schools.”

According to the new law, if a child care or educational facility located on an environmentally high risk site applies for a local building permit, it must meet two sets of criteria before the municipality issues the permit.

First, it must obtain certification for indoor environmental quality from the Department of Health and Senior Services.

Second, it must demonstrate that the site has been remediated to Department of Environmental Protection, DEP, standards and that a “no further action letter” from the DEP has been obtained.

Fines for violating a provision of the certification process, knowingly making false statements in any application or record will result in a fine of $25,000 per day for a first violation and $50,000 per day for a second violation.

Environmentally high risk sites include sites that were previously used for industrial, storage, or high hazard purposes; known or suspected to be contaminated; industrial sites that are subject to the provisions of the Industrial Site Recovery Act, or used as a nail salon, dry cleaning facility or gasoline station.

The bill was passed to address the problems of mercury contamination that occurred at Kiddie Kollege, a child care center in Franklin Township that was built on the grounds of what had been a thermometer factory.

Kiddie Kollege voluntarily shut down on July 28, 2006 after testing revealed abnormal levels of mercury inside the building.

“The discovery of mercury at Kiddie Kollege was devastating to the parents, children and residents of Franklin,” said Senator Fred H. Madden Jr., a Democrat representing Camden and Gloucester who sponsored the bill. "This legislation is not about pointing fingers and placing blame, but instead we want to ensure that what happened at Kiddie Kollege never happens again.”

This law is the most recent action taken by the Corzine administration in response to the incidents that occurred at Kiddie Kollege.

Previous actions include an interagency task force to investigate how to improve communication among state agencies and local officials, improved tracking and prioritization of contaminated sites, and increased enforcement.

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Climate Change Hits Washington State Economy

OLYMPIA, Washington, January 11, 2007 (ENS) - Climate change is already affecting Washington's economy, according to a study requested by the Washington state departments of Ecology and Community Trade and Economic Development and released today.

A team of scientists and economists evaluated climate change in producing the state report, "Impacts of Climate Change on Washington's Economy." The study warns that economic effects are likely to grow in the Pacific Northwest as temperatures increase.

A warming Pacific Northwest, extreme weather, reduced snow pack and sea level rise are the four major ways climate change is disrupting Washington's economy, environment and communities.

Retreating glaciers, decreasing snow pack, lower summer stream flows, more wildfires, and rising sea levels are already apparent in Washington, the authors found.

They concluded that climate change impacts are already occurring in Washington state and their economic effects are becoming apparent.

The economic effects of climate change in Washington will grow as temperatures and sea levels rise, they said.

Although global warming and the economic disruption it causes will increase over time, new economic opportunities are already available, the study found.

After reviewing the report, Ecology Director Jay Manning said, "Our regional scientists expect our climate to warm three times faster than it has during the 20th century, and absent focused efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to prepare, to the extent possible, for the environmental and economic changes that cannot be avoided, damage to our northwest economy will only increase."

Juli Wilkerson, who directs Washington's Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development, said, "This is a global issue and we're already connected to trading partners who are facing climate change issues along with us."

"If we're flexible and responsive, we can seize opportunities to help reduce climate change effects and benefit our region economically. Our ability to export technology and expertise can help us all prepare for climate changes and it effects," she said

In Washington State, actions have already been taken to address global warming. In 2005, the Washington Legislature passed the Clean Car Act requiring cars, light trucks, SUVs and passenger vans to meet tougher emissions standards beginning with 2009 models.

The state has retrofitted 50 percent of school buses and 20 percent of local government diesel vehicles to reduce toxic diesel emissions. The state goal is to retrofit all eligible buses and public vehicles.

A two percent biodiesel or ethanol requirement for fuel suppliers is in place and the state has adopted high-performance green building standards.

In November 2006, Washington voters passed a clean energy initiative to increase the role of energy efficiency and renewable resources in the state's electricity system.

State agencies are buying hybrid vehicles and green power electricity. Several transit systems are switching to biodiesel mixes or compressed natural gas.

Governor Chris Gregoire and the Legislature passed the Columbia River Water Management Act to meet water storage needs for agriculture, communities and salmon. This will result in smarter use of water from melting snow and glaciers.

Ecology and CTED have published the report on their new multi-agency climate change web portal, which was launched today at: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/climatechange.

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FirstEnergy Honored for Power Restoration in Buffalo Snows

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona, January 11, 2007 (ENS) - The Edison Electric Institute Wednesday honored FirstEnergy Corp. with the association's Emergency Assistance Award for outstanding efforts to assist fellow utilities in power restoration during 2006.

Following back-to-back, recordbreaking snow storms on October 12 and 13 in western New York state, FirstEnergy sent 167 employees and 64 company trucks from its headquarters in Akron, Ohio to assist Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation in its electricity restoration effort.

Some 265,000 Niagara Mohawk customers lost power due to wet, heavy snows that brought tree limbs down on power lines.

Crews from five of FirstEnergy's operating companies spent 11 days in the greater Buffalo area helping to restore power, working at a time when travel in most of the area was limited and working conditions were extremely hazardous. They worked a total of 28,000 employee hours without an accident.

"FirstEnergy responded quickly and effectively to a call for help following unprecedented snow storms," said EEI President Tom Kuhn. "The company's response was in keeping with our industry's unswerving tradition of helping fellow companies and their customers in times of enormous need."

"Whether it is moving crews within our own service area or responding to mutual assistance requests such as the Buffalo snowstorm, it is rewarding to know that FirstEnergy's storm restoration process continues to be recognized as one of the best in the industry," said Charles Jones, FirstEnergy's senior vice president for energy delivery and customer service.

The Emergency Assistance Award is presented annually to U.S. and foreign companies that are members of the Edison Electric Institute, EEI, an industry association. Its domestic members generate 75 percent of all the power generated by electric utilities in the country.

Winners are chosen by a panel of judges following a national and international nomination process, and awards were presented during EEI's winter CEO meetings in Scottsdale on Wednesday.

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Florida Proposes to Downgrade Manatee Protection

WASHINGTON, DC, January 11, 2007 (ENS) - The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, FWC, is proposing to downgrade the protected status of the Florida manatee from endangered to threatened despite record death totals in 2006.

A preliminary report from the commission says there were 416 manatee deaths in state waters last year, up from 396 deaths in 2005.

"The fact that the manatee did not merit classification as endangered is a tribute to the commitment made to manatee conservation over the past 30 years. This effort has few parallels in conservation biology," said FWC’s Imperiled Species Management Section leader Kipp Frohlich.

In order to change manatees’ classification to threatened, the commission must adopt the state’s first manatee management plan.

Today is the last day for public comments before the commission finalizes the plan.

"This so-called ‘recovery’ plan is premised on false assumptions, propelled by unrealistic hopes, and chock full of bureaucratic double-talk," said Jerry Phillips, a former enforcement attorney with the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Phillips now serves as Florida director for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, PEER, a national association of employees in natural resources agencies.

The report indicates watercraft-related mortalities and red tide contributed to more than half of the total deaths in 2006 in instances where scientists could determine the cause of death.

Although it is projecting a 30 to 50 percent decline in manatee population over the next 60 years, the state plan lays out no concrete steps to combat what it admits are growing threats that include more propeller deaths and maimings, says Phillips.

The commission expects worsening habitat destruction, saying, "Losses of warm-water refuges over the next several decades present one of the most serious long-term threats to manatees in Florida.”

“Red tide represents a major natural source of mortality for manatees in the southwestern region that is beyond the control of managers," the commission said.

PEER faults the commission for failing to require any tighter speed limits, "despite the current chaotic county-by-county speed policies that hinder consistent protections," Phillips said.

The commission's plan undermines enforcement by urging warnings to violators rather than fines, even in egregious cases, PEER says, adding that the plan weakens harassment protections by advocating that law enforcement must show that the harm caused to the animal was intentional or the result of negligence.

The plan proposes a population goal of 2,500 manatees but does not explain why this level provides a safety net for the species' long-term survival.

View the manatee management plan here.

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$11,000 Reward Offered in Arizona Wild Horse Deaths

PHOENIX, Arizona, January 11, 2007 (ENS) - A coalition of animal welfare groups and Arizona residents isoffering a reward of $11,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the shooting deaths of at least seven wild horses in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, near Pinedale, Arizona.

Bodies of six of the horses were discovered last week. A seventh horse was observed limping with a wound in his side and may have been a victim of the same shootings. In August, a young wild chestnut stallion was found dead in the Pinedale area, having been shot in the head.

The reward is being offered by the Animal Defense Council, the Animal Welfare Institute, In Defense of Animals, the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs & Wild Burros, The Humane Society of the United States, and Tucson horse advocates Julianne French and Carol Grubb.

A representative of these groups has contacted the Arizona Department of Agriculture and is working with that agency to solve the crime.

Killing these horses may be a violation of the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act, in which case each violation is punishable by a fine of up to $100,000 and one year in prison. Shooting a horse and causing that horse to suffer also is a criminal act under the Arizona Cruelty to Animals law. Persons convicted of animal cruelty can be sentenced to jail time.

Anyone with information about those responsible for this crime should call attorney Anthony Merrill at 602-364-7174 or submit information by email to: reportabuse@awionline.org.

Anyone with information also can contact the Arizona Department of Agriculture at 1-800-294-0305 (select option 3).

Concerned citizens who would like to contribute to the reward fund should send checks to the Animal Welfare Institute/Heber Wild Horse Reward Fund, P.O. Box 3650, Washington, DC 20027.

The Animal Welfare Institute, In Defense of Animals, and the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs & Wild Burros, are plaintiffs in an ongoing civil lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service to protect the Heber wild horses. Merrill is lead attorney in the case.

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