Army Corps Held in Contempt Over Missouri River FlowsWASHINGTON, DC, July 22, 2003 (ENS) - A federal judge today held the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in contempt of court for disregarding an order to reduce flows in the Missouri River to protect endangered wildlife. If river flows are not reduced by 9:00 am on Friday, the court will impose a fine of $500,000 per day. If noncompliance with the order continues past July 31, "the Court will consider imposing more draconian contempt remedies upon the Corps and the Secretary of the Army," wrote Judge Gladys Kessler with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in her ruling.
The Corps has refused to implement the court's July 12 order to reduce releases of water from its dams to prevent submerging river sandbars where endangered birds make their nests.
"This court's injunction does not necessarily conflict with the District Court of Nebraska Order that the Corps comply with the Master Manual," ruled Judge Kessler.
"The Corps' deliberate choice to give a navigation based injunction priority over an endangered species protecting injunction hardly represents a good faith effort to comply with its federally mandated obligations," the judge wrote.
Judge Kessler repeated her order to the Army Corps to lower river flows and demanded that the agency file a status report no later than 11:00 am Friday.
"We have only one interest, and that is enforcement of the court's order," said David Hayes on behalf of the conservation group plaintiffs. Hayes is an attorney with Latham & Watkins and the former deputy secretary of the Department of the Interior. "We want low flows and we want them now."
"We regret that it has come to this, but we have been trying to negotiate a solution with the Army Corps for almost 10 years now, and their foot dragging has left the judge with no choice," said Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers and lead plaintiff in the case.
The Corps says it is under two conflicting court orders concerning operation of the river that are "irreconcilable." One order, issued by the U.S. District Court in Nebraska in May 2002, and affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit on June 4, requires the Corps to maintain sufficient flows for navigation as called for under the existing Missouri River Master Manual and the current Annual Operating Plan.
An injunction issued by the U. S. District Federal Agencies Reach Agreement on Course of Action for Missouri River Court for the District of Columbia on July 12 prohibits the Corps from implementing the summer flows set forth in the 2003 Annual Operating Plan and 2003 Supplemental Biological Opinion.
To date, Judge Kessler has found the agency's arguments that it is bound by these two conflicting rulings to be unpersuasive.
At the hearing on Monday, the attorney for the Department of Justice announced that the Corps has asked the U.S. District Court for Nebraska to modify the earlier order issued that required the Army Corps to maintain higher river flows that support barge traffic.
The plaintiff groups say that the Nebraska court's ruling looked only at the 2002 water year and did not examine endangered species requirements the Fish and Wildlife Service had delayed until 2003.
The Department of the Army and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced steps on July 15 to resolve these management issues on the Missouri River and attain the recovery of federally protected Missouri River species and the Missouri River ecosystem. The Bush administration announced it is adding $42 million to the 2004 budget for Missouri River ecosystem restoration.
The agencies began formal consultation Monday on a new Biological Assessment under the Endangered Species Act. Over the past year, the Corps says the agencies have made "great progress in resolving complex and controversial endangered species issues during the informal consultation period and expect this spirit of cooperation to continue."
New Process Stores Liquified Natural Gas in Salt CavernsWASHINGTON, DC, July 22, 2003 (ENS) - To ease an predicted shortage of natural gas, the Department of Energy is considering utilizing a new method of unloading and re-gasifying liquefied natural gas (LNG) directly from ocean tankers for storage in underground salt caverns.
Initial indications are that a salt cavern based LNG terminal can be built at about half the cost and twice the capacity of a conventional liquid tank terminal, the agency said today.
The process, known as the Bishop Process, was developed by Conversion Gas Imports (CGI) of Houston, Texas. The total cost of the feasibility study was $168,450, of which the Energy Department provided $134,750 and CGI contributed $33,700.
“The Bishop Process, if proven successful, has the potential to significantly increase world LNG trade and provide a highly secure, economical and flexible way to expand LNG imports and augment the nation’s energy supply,” Secretary Spencer Abraham said. “CGI’s report couldn’t have come at a more advantageous time. My meeting last month with the National Petroleum Council raised concerns about natural gas supplies in the United States. Innovative ideas such as the Bishop Process could make all the difference.”
LNG, natural gas that has been transformed to a liquid by cooling it to minus 260 degrees Fahrenheit, currently is unloaded from tanker ships and stored in above ground storage tanks that are designed to hold the LNG before it can be re-gasified.
The Bishop Process entails receiving LNG directly from an offshore tanker, pressurizing and warming it to 40o F, and then injecting the natural gas into underground salt caverns for storage.
Salt formations suitable for LNG receiving terminals are found offshore and in coastal areas of Canada, the United States, Mexico, Great Britain, Europe, Brazil and China. The Gulf of Mexico is particularly rich in salt formations, CGI says.
In the United States, there are over 1,000 salt caverns being used for hydrocarbon storage and delivery, including the Strategic Petroleum Reserve’s four sites.
The Bishop Process eliminates the need to build expensive above ground cryogenic storage tanks, and increases the storage capacity potential of LNG imports.
The process is considered a success based on its use of a novel low cost seawater heat exchanger. Traditional heat exchangers, which use natural gas to heat the LNG, cannot keep up with tanker offloading rates at marine terminals.
CGI’s unique high volume, high pressure heat exchanger enables shorter unloading times. Ship unloading can be accomplished miles from the storage caverns, providing further security and siting flexibility.
Before industry moves forward in constructing a LNG receiving facility based on the Bishop Process, field tests are required to determine the critical elements needed to reach operational success.
Critical elements to be addressed include engineering and evaluating a method to moor and offload a LNG ship offshore. An LNG pump capable of creating cavern injection, and also a heat exchanger that will economically warm the LNG at high pressures and high volumes, must be designed, constructed, and tested.
Small Drinking Water Utilities Get Funds for Security PlanningWASHINGTON, DC, July 22, 2003 (ENS) - Small drinking water utilities across the Uniited States will be able to better assess their vulnerabilities to terrorist attack with a grant totalling nearly $2 million to the National Rural Water Association (NRWA) announced today.
Through this grant award, NRWA will assist small community water systems serving populations between 3,300 and 10,000 people with security planning, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Assistant Administrator for Water G. Tracy Mehan III.
By June 30, 2004, these drinking water systems are required to submit vulnerability assessments to the agency under the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002.
Through a combination of training sessions, on-site technical assistance, and internet based tools, the NRWA will educate system personnel about the Act and provide assistance in preparing vulnerability assessments and emergency response plans.
Under this project, NRWA will assist approximately 4,400 community water systems in complying with the Act. The 4,400 systems serve between 3,300 and 10,000 people in the lower 48 states and the state of Alaska.
Community drinking water systems that serve populations of 50,000 to 100,000 will be able to access no cost security training through the City/County Management Association and the Water Environment Federation. These organizations are coordinating efforts to provide free vulnerability assessment and emergency response plan training for the nation's medium sized community drinking water systems.
To view training schedules for state, local and tribal officials, visit the EPA website at: http://www.epa.gov/safewater/security/index.html#training
Democratic Candidate Kucinich Pledges Eco-Friendly PresidencySEATTLE, Washington, July 22, 2003 (ENS) - Congressman Dennis Kucinich, an Ohio Democrat, made his first visit to Washington and Oregon as a Presidential candidate from July 18 to 20. He spoke to audiences in Seattle, Portland, and Eugene, making a number of environmental pledges.
Kucinich promised that on his first day as President, he would nullify the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and U.S. participation in the World Trade Organization. He would replace them with bilateral trade agreements that repect workers, family farmers, and the environment.
Kucinich marched in the 1999 protests again the WTO in Seattle, and said then that NAFTA and the WTO represent a "global race to the bottom" that only "enriches multinational corporations."
Kucinich pledged that as President he would support the Kyoto Protocol that limits the emission of greenhouse gases responsible for global climate change. The protocol was signed by President Bill Clinton, but President George W. Bush has refused to send it to the Senate for ratification, claiming that the treaty would be too costly for the American economy.
As President, Kucinich said he would reduce oil dependence, and spur investment in alternative energy sources, such as hydrogen, solar, wind, and ocean tides. He noted that some island nations are becoming submerged as a result of rising ocean levels, and that nations near the poles had already witnessed significant climate change.
Kucinich pledged to work toward decommissioning all American nuclear power plants as clean alternatives came on line, and to increase safety margins for those nuclear stations awaiting decommission. He asked local nuclear activists to provide him with detailed information regarding the Hanford Nuclear Reservation where 60 percent of the nation's high-level nuclear waste is stored, so he could devise a plan to protect Northwest residents from the threat of nuclear contamination from Hanford.
Kucinich also touched on forest issues. When asked whether he would support an end to all logging, mining, oil drilling, and grazing on federal public lands, Kucinich replied, "Yes. There is no reason for commercial exploitation of public lands."
Kucinich mentioned his vote in the House of Representatives earlier in the week against allowing snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.
Kucinich also pleased environmentalists by voting for a measure to uphold Protection of Inventoried Roadless Areas Rule on July 17, and by voting against President Bush's "Healthy Forests Initiative" in June.
Congress Members Appeal to Dow on Behalf of Bhopal Victims
A leak of 40 metric tons of the gas methyl isocyanate from Union Carbide’s pesticide factory in Bhopal on December 3, 1984, poisoned at least 500,000 people. More than 8,000 people died within three days and over 20,000 people have died to date as a result of their exposure.
An estimated 1,50,000 people continue to suffer from effects of gas exposure, which include diminished vision, cancer, respiratory, neurological and gynecological disorders. Second generation victims are known to be suffering from growth defects and severe menstrual disorders.
Dow Chemical purchased Union Carbide Corporation in February 2001. Dow's refusal to address these liabilities makes it a "party to the ongoing human rights and environmental abuses in Bhopal," stated the members of Congress in their letter to the company.
The letter, circulated by Dennis Kucinich, an Ohio Democrat who is co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, and Frank Pallone, a New Jersey Democrat, follows a meeting on Capitol Hill with Rashida Bi and Champa Devi Shukla, two women survivors and members of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB). At the meeting, organized in May by Kucinich and the ICJB, the survivors testified to the ongoing humanitarian and environmental crisis in Bhopal.
Following the meeting, Kucinich and Pallone drafted the Congressional sign-on letter.
All the Congressional Representatives who signed the letter are Democrats. In addition to Kucinich and Pallone, they include: Raul Grijalva of Arizona;Sherrod Brown of Ohio; Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas; Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin; Joseph Crowley, Maurice Hinchey and Edolphus Towns of New York; Rush Holt and Donald Payne of New Jersey; Barbara Lee, Hilda Solis, and Fortney Stark of California; Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut; Eni Faleomavaega of American Samoa; Jan Schakowsky of Illinois; and Ed Markey of Massachusetts.
The members of Congress demand that Dow provide medical rehabilitation and economic reparations for the victims of the tragedy; clean up contamination in and around the former factory site in Bhopal; and ensure that the Union Carbide Corporation, now a 100 percent subsidiary of Dow, appears before the Chief Judicial Magistrate's court in Bhopal, where Union Carbide faces criminal charges of manslaughter.
"It is disheartening to note that a company such as Dow, who professes to lead the chemical industry towards 'responsible care' shies away from its obligations when truly responsible care can be demonstrated," the letter states. "More disturbing is the manner in which Union Carbide and Dow Chemical have ignored the summons of the Bhopal court. This exposes a blatant disregard for the law."
The site has never been properly cleaned up and abandoned chemical wastes continue to poison over 10,000 inhabitants of the communities living in the vicinity of the abandoned factory, according to ICJB.
"Dow's continued refusal to accept or address its liabilities around the world completely undermines its claim of environmental leadership," declared G Krishnaveni, the U.S. coordinator for ICJB. "While Dow continues to evade and delay, people in Bhopal continue to die. After 18 years, it's high time that the company demonstrated some accountability, and we're happy that so many members of Congress have called on Dow to do just that."
Testing conducted by Greenpeace in 1999 found chemicals that cause cancer, brain damage, and birth defects in soil and groundwater in and around the factory site,at levels up to 50 times higher than U.S. Environmental Protection Agency safety limits. Mercury levels were 20,000 to six million times higher than levels accepted by the World Health Organization.
Bark Beetles Invade Western EvergreensSACRAMENTO, California, July 22, 2003 (ENS) - Four years of severe drought have left the forests of San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego counties in Southern California stressed and vulnerable to a bark beetle infestation that has affected hundreds of thousands trees that are now dead or dying.
In California, the beetles have created an extreme fire hazard, prompting Governor Gray Davis to declare a state of emergency in March. The declaration reduces red tape and provided landowners with the regulatory relief necessary to quickly remove dead and dying trees from their property.
It is the responsibility of the property owner on private property to remove trees infested with bark beetles, and due to the extreme fire danger, and the danger of falling trees, officials encourage prompt removal of dead standing trees. "Don't wait to receive a notice requiring their removal. Contact a licensed contractor for tree removal and trimming," the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) says.
"Mother Nature has us in a precarious position, but we are prepared to meet her challenge," said Governor Davis in May after a helicopter tour of some of the worst infested areas. "You can't always prevent wildfires, but you can prepare for them. And that's exactly what we're doing."
"Trees on more than 150,000 acres have died and an estimated 75,000 residents are threatened by catastrophic wildfire, injury and property damage from falling trees," said Governor Davis.
The CDF has been taking steps to protect public safety identifying significant evacuation routes into and out of these hard hit areas. These routes would be used in the event of a wildfire not only for evacuation of residents but also for response by emergency vehicles.
Local CDF Units are also working with communities to identify fire safe evacuation centers such as schools and community centers that would be safe locations for residents to go in the event of a wildfire. CDF conservation camp crews have been busy removing trees that might be susceptible to falling and blocking evacuation routes, or threaten evacuation centers.
The situation now threatens more than 75,000 mountain community residents as well as nearby densely populated urban areas, the governor said. The three counties have already spent more than $6 million on eradication efforts and an estimated $125 million will be needed for additional dead and infested tree removal costs.
The bark beetle problem has affected nearly every state on the West coast. In May, Arizona declared a state of emergency because of the bark beetle infestation. The most heavily impacted Arizona forests are the Tonto, Apache-Sitgreaves, and Prescott National Forests, and the San Carlos Apache Reservation and adjacent state and private lands, according to Tom DeGomez, a forest health specialist with the University of Arizona Forest Health Working Group and the Arizona Bark Beetle Task Force.
Some stands in these forests have 80 to 90 percent tree mortality, DeGomez wrote, while other stands have less than one percent mortality. Mortality in piñon pine woodlands are equally high. A late season survey of 28 square miles of piñon woodland southeast of Flagstaff revealed 700,000 dead trees or more than 90 percent of the mature piñon trees in the area.
Overcrowded forest conditions coupled with drought lead to the high probability of beetle attack, DeGomez wrote.
In Wyoming and northwest Colorado, the spruce bark beetle population increased dramatically during 2001 and will continue to grow at current rates for the next two to three years, according to foresters on the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests.
The U.S. Forest Service says the populations of several species of pine bark beetles have exploed over the last few years. In 2002 conditions were especially favorable for these insects because a regionwide drought weakened trees' normal way of resisting these insects. Consequently, millions of trees were killed in Arizona and New Mexico, and agency says.
Vacuum Technique May Control Insects in Wooden CratesBLACKSBURG, Virginia, July 22, 2003 (ENS) - Insect experts believe the Asian Longhorn Beetle was introduced into the United States in wooden shipping crates from China. The beetle has attacked thousands of trees in and near New York and Chicago since 1999 when it was first discovered.
Between 1995 and 1998, 97 percent of the potential forest pests detected by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) border inspectors were found on solid wood packing material.
Now wood scientists at Virginia Tech have been experimenting with a vacuum drying project they hope will benefit wood pallet and container manufacturers and hardwood sawmill businesses across the nation.
"The vacuum controlling system eliminates the need for a heating system, saves energy, and does not release ozone depleting chemicals into the Earth's atmosphere," says Zhangjjng Chen, one the researchers working on the project at the Center for Unit Load and Design in the wood science and forest products department of Virginia Tech's College of Natural Resources.
"Plant sanitary measures currently require that wood pallets and containers, which pack goods that are imported or exported, should be heat treated or fumigated," Chen explains.
In response to these requirements, the Center for Unit Load and Design is developing the basis for vacuum control of insects in solid wood packaging materials, which would serve as an alternative to the current method of eliminating insects in wood.
Chen and his research partners project that low pressure, achieved by applying a vacuum to a system, will create an environment sufficiently low in oxygen that will eliminate the insects in several hours to days. Their research indicates that there may be an opportunity to apply this technology to eliminate insects in wood.
The material being tested is freshly cut red oak. Larvae of the longhorn beetle, Hylotrupes bajulus, will be used for all of the evaluations and will serve as a substitute for the Asian Longhorn Beetle, Anoplophora glabripennis, because the life stages of the two insects are approximately the same.
Between 24 and 30 million shipping containers filled with goods reach U.S. ports each year according to a 2000 estimate. About half of the ocean borne shipments and nine percent of the airborne shipments are packaged in wood, according to the USDA and the U.S. Forest Service statement in 2000. Each of these shipments is an opportunity for insect invaders that feed on or live in wood to be carried to the United States.
The wood packing crates often accompany the imported goods to warehouses across the country. Used wood packaging is sometimes stored in the open air, giving insects the chance move to adjacent trees.
The Virginia Tech vacuum drying technique may keep insects out of the wooden containers and reduce the need for toxic fumigants.
Turtle House Foundation New Arm of Oldest Turtle GroupGAINESVILLE, Florida, July 22, 2003 (ENS) - The author of a successful book about the problems affecting sea turtles has established a new foundation that will work with the world’s oldest sea turtle protection group to turn the attention generated by the book into direct action to save the endangered marine animals.
The award winning book, "Fire in the Turtle House: The Green Turtle and the Fate of the Ocean," has drawn international attention to a mysterious, tumor causing disease that is killing off unknown numbers of already endangered sea turtles around the world.
The book’s author, Osha Gray Davidson, has set up the Turtle House Foundation to receive a portion of the book’s royalties, as well as contributions generated by readers. Through a new agreement between the author and the Caribbean Conservation Corporation (CCC), management of the foundation and the funding it receives will be handle by the CCC.
Davidson's book tracks the efforts of scientists, marine biologists and veterinarians to unravel this complicated biological and environmental puzzle and keep the turtles from extinction.
Calling the book "an urgent call to action,” David Godfrey, executive director of Caribbean Conservation Corporation, said, “Green turtles are important indicators of the health of the world’s oceans. If they are in trouble, then we are in trouble.”
“The Caribbean Conservation Corporation is a world leader in protecting sea turtles,” said Davidson. “I’m thrilled that the Turtle House Foundation can contribute to the organization’s work.”
Under a new partnership, the Turtle House Foundation will now function as a program of the nonprofit Caribbean Conservation Corporation. CCC and Davidson will work together to direct contributions generated by the book toward effective sea turtle protection programs.
The CCC was formed in the 1950s as a direct result of another book about the plight of sea turtles. Dr. Archie Carr wrote “The Windward Road” in 1957, the book that first alerted the world to the indiscriminate killing of green turtles throughout the Caribbean. "The book spawned an international movement to study and protect sea turtles and led directly to the formation of CCC," the organization said.
Davidson is the author of several books including "The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South," which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and "The Enchanted Braid: Coming to Terms with Nature on the Coral Reef," a finalist for the Natural World Book Prize.
"Fire in the Turtle House" will be released in paperback in August, and a German edition will be published by Marebuchverlag this fall. To find out more, visit CCC’s website at: http://www.cccturtle.org.