Environment News Service (ENS)
ENS logo
 








AmeriScan: July 11, 2005

* * *

Dupont Trades New Jersey Resources for Resource Damage

OLD BRIDGE, New Jersey, July 11, 2005 (ENS) - In one of the largest natural resource damage settlements in New Jersey state history, the state has agreed with E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Company to compensate the public for injuries to ground water at eight Dupont sites with resources rather than cash.

The settlement includes preservation of 1,875 acres of land, spending $1.8 million to plant 3,000 trees, payment of $500,000 to the state for water restoration projects and construction of a boat ramp along the Salem River. The preserved land is in Cape May, Gloucester, Middlesex, Passaic and Salem counties.

"This settlement exemplifies a new paradigm for companies to resolve their natural resource damage liabilities in New Jersey," said Acting Governor Richard Codey. "Longstanding damage claims are translating directly into permanent conservation of land and water resources, as well as expanded public access to natural resources."

The resource-to-resource form of compensation developed by the state avoids costly litigation and complex, time consuming monetary valuation of natural resource injuries by focusing on restoration and land preservation projects.

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) used this method after DuPont approached the state willing to settle its natural resource damage liability for contaminating 2,400 acres of ground water.

"This agreement underscores DuPont's continuing commitment to work in cooperation with the public sector to resolve environmental responsibilities related to our historical manufacturing operations and represents a significant success for both the environment and citizens of New Jersey," said A. Dwight Bedsole, director of DuPont's Corporate Remediation Group.

In the resource-to-resource compensation model, DuPont had to protect an equivalent area of land with a high aquifer recharge rate. Since DuPont only offered 1,875 acres as compensation, the DEP required additional environmental projects to make up for the acreage difference.

"The DuPont settlement represents the largest in-kind compensation package ever obtained for damages to the state’s ground water resources," said DEP Commissioner Bradley Campbell.

"New Jersey is the only state in the nation systematically pursuing natural resource damage claims, and this settlement illustrates our strong preference for on-the-ground restoration rather than cash recoveries," he said.

DEP is overseeing ground water testing and cleanup work by DuPont at all eight contaminated sites, which are either presently or formerly owned by the company.

"This is a major step in restoring the public’s interest in natural resources, from which they have been restricted for many years," said NY/NJ Baykeeper Andy Wilner. "The public is the owner and beneficiary of these natural resources and the DEP, as Trustee, represents our interest. We applaud the commissioner and the Department’s NRD program for this for resource to resource settlement."

The settlement, which resolves natural resource damage liability for ground water contamination at all eight sites, requires DuPont to place conservation easements on four undeveloped, uncontaminated properties and donate to the DEP two undeveloped, uncontaminated properties that are in the same watershed as the contaminated sites.

The lands preserved by conservation easement eventually will be transferred to DEP or land conservation organizations approved by the agency.

The Pompton Lakes parcels, 73 acres, in and adjacent to the Highlands, have been owned by DuPont since 1902 and will be transferred to DEP and added to Ramapo State Forest. Heavily forested, the land provides wildlife habitat and exhibits some of the highest aquifer recharge in the region.

The Duhernal parcel, 63 acres, is now jointly owned by DuPont, Hercules, Inc. and the Borough of Sayreville. The parcel is part of a larger forested area that recharges the aquifer used by Sayreville and Middlesex County communities as drinking water. Much of the property is uplands that could be developed if sold to a private entity as development encroaches.

The two Repauno parcels, 435 acres, are forested wetlands and emergent freshwater marsh adjacent to the Delaware River. Approximately 100 acres of this land recharges groundwater.

The 955 acres in the Salem Creek parcels are a mixture of open waters and wetlands and adjacent forested uplands. These parcels provide excellent fish and wildlife habitat, but recreational opportunities have been limited due to restricted access. Now, DuPont will construct a boat ramp with an access road and parking in Mannington Township as part of the settlement.

DuPont will contribute $500,000 toward the acquisition of 350 acres of undeveloped, forested property in Cape May County. The area is under development pressure and protecting this land is critical to maintaining water supplies. The parcel also serves as a critical refuge for migratory birds.

DEP’s voluntary program has resulted in the settlement of natural resource damages at 360 hazardous sites, the agency says. DEP is working with 95 additional responsible parties representing about 850 sites that seek to voluntarily resolve their liability for natural resource damages.

* * *

Interagency Meeting May Address Ship Strikes on Rare Whales

WASHINGTON, DC, July 11, 2005 (ENS) - Citing unspecified "national security" concerns, the commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard says the service cannot act alone to impose speed restrictions that might protect the endangered North Atlantic right whale, according to an exchange of letters released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

Ship strikes cause more deaths among the 300 remaining North Atlantic right whales than another other cause. U.S. Coast Guard and Navy vessels account for nearly one-quarter of all reported ship strikes on whales. Since the first of the year, five percent of the total female breeding population has been killed, as well as two near term calves.

Commandant Admiral Thomas Collins says "interagency consultations with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other agencies are "necessary to develop a U.S. government position regarding vessel speed or routing regulations to promote recovery of the North Atlantic Right Whale."

Collins says the Coast Guard is "happy" to work with NOAA to arrange an interagency meeting that will address ship strikes on the endangered whales.

In a letter to Admiral Collins dated May 9, William Hogarth, head of NOAA Fisheries, wrote that he is "asking once more" for the Coast Guard to be of "assistance in reducing the risk of mortality to right whales as a result of ship strikes."

Hogarth sought Coast Guard cooperation in putting out an advisory to shippers that includes "language from NOAA recommending speeds of 12 knots or less in areas used by right whales, when consistent with navigational safety."

In his June 9 reply, Admiral Collins says that that such a measure "could be viewed as Coast Guard endorsement of speed restrictions." Collins added that issues "regarding vessel speed or routing regulations" raise "national security," legal and "other policy interests" that "must be considered along with recovery of right whales."

"The real message from Admiral Collins is that the Coast Guard leadership places protecting its bureaucratic turf far above protecting the world’s threatened natural resources," said New England PEER Director Kyla Bennett, a former federal biologist whose organization is pushing for adoption of long stalled proposed rules by NOAA that would require reduced ship speeds, rerouting and channel restrictions to minimize ship traffic in sensitive calving and migratory areas.

"The American delegation to the International Whaling Commission has condemned Japan for seeking to kill whales for commercial purposes while our Coast Guard supports killing whales to avoid commercial inconvenience," Bennett said.

The Coast Guard and Navy both contend that NOAA lacks legal authority over commercial shipping and over Navy and Coast Guard vessels.

NOAA’s stalled rule is based on the existence of such legal authority. On June 22, NOAA took its first step toward adoption of the rule by publishing a notice that it is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement on its right whale ship strike reduction strategy.

"The problem is that the right whale has no time left for further political wrangling – it is a species headed straight for extinction," Bennett said.

This year 28 right whale calves were born, but these young animals are the most vulnerable to ship strikes. NOAA right whale experts say the population cannot afford one more premature death.

* * *

Vernal Pool Species Habitat Blocks Lucrative Housing Development

WASHINGTON, DC, July 11, 2005 (ENS) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates conservation of 15 vernal pool species will cost $965 million over the next 20 years in "lost development opportunities" for homes that are not built on sites now inhabited by small freshwater shrimp and plants.

The 15 species dependant on the seasonally flooded wetlands known as vernal pools are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Four freshwater shrimp were listed as endangered species in 1994. Eleven vernal pool plant species were listed in 1997.

In a draft economic analysis released today, the Service bases the $965 million figure on an estimate that 259,814 housing units would normally be built in the 36 counties where critical habitat is proposed.

Critical habitat would result in a reduction of 1,618 housing units, according to the analysis prepared for the Service by CRA International, an Oakland consulting firm.

The analysis says that "roughly half of all economic impacts are attributable to less than five percent of designated acres" of critical habitat. In each of three California counties, the lost development impacts exceed $100 million: Sacramento $374 million, Butte $154 million, and Placer $120 million.

In releasing the analysis, the Service reopened the public comment period on both the proposal to designate critical habitat for the vernal pool species and on the draft economic analysis. The closing date for comments is July 20.

The species at issue are four types of freshwater shrimp – the Conservancy fairy shrimp, longhorn fairy shrimp, vernal pool tadpole shrimp and vernal pool fairy shrimp. One species, the vernal pool fairy shrimp, is also found in Oregon.

The 11 plants are the Butte County meadowfoam, hairy Orcutt grass, slender Orcutt grass, San Joaquin Valley Orcutt grass, Sacramento Orcutt grass, Solano grass, Greene's tuctoria, Colusa grass, succulent owl's clover, Hoover's spurge and Contra Costa goldfields.

Vernal pools are havens for California’s diminishing native plants and play a critical role in an ecosystem that supports birds of prey, migratory waterfowl and shorebirds, as well as frogs, toads, salamanders, and pollinating insects.

In its notice, the Service advises that it is considering excluding from critical habitat the areas that represent 80 percent of the costs of the designation. It asks for comments on the possibility of excluding "35 or 50 of the highest cost areas, representing 90 percent and 95 percent of the costs respectively."

The Service is under court order to publish, by July 31, a final critical habitat rule for land previously excluded in five California counties - Butte, Sacramento, Solano, Merced and Madera. All proposed critical habitat in the five counties was excluded in the 2003 rule.

On August 6, 2003, the Service designated 740,000 acres of critical habitat for the species in 30 California counties and one Oregon county. The final designation was a reduction from the 1.7 million acres the Service originally proposed as critical habitat on September 24, 2002.

Find the locations of the critical habitat designated in the Federal Register of August 6, 2003.

In January 2004 the Butte Environmental Council filed suit challenging the exclusions. In an October 28, 2004 order, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California directed the Service to reconsider and to provide opportunity for public comment on the exclusion, then publish final critical habitat in two actions.

The first action occurred on March 8, 2005, when the Service confirmed its exclusion of 136,358 acres due to non-economic reasons. That land had originally been excluded because it was covered by protective measures, including Habitat Conservation Plans, state wildlife lands and Department of Defense lands.

The second review directed by the court relates to the five counties originally excluded for economic reasons. The Service advised the court that "at a minimum, it is appropriate to reopen the comment period, reanalyze all of the areas" excluded and make a new determination.

It is that process which led to the new economic analysis. The court directed the Service to complete its reconsideration of the critical habitat exclusions in the five counties and publish a final critical habitat rule by July 31, 2005. Under the court order, the designated critical habitat in the other 31 counties remained in place during this process.

When specifying critical habitat, the Endangered Species Act requires the Service to consider economic and other relevant impacts of the designation. If the benefits of excluding an area outweigh the benefits of including it, the Interior Secretary may exclude an area from critical habitat, unless this would result in the extinction of a listed species.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is no friend of the Endangered Species Act. Instead its official position is that "recovery of listed species will come through voluntary cooperative partnerships, not regulatory measures such as critical habitat."

In all of its public statements about critical habitat, the Service says that "in 30 years of implementing the Endangered Species Act, the Service has found that designation of critical habitat provides little additional protection for most listed species, while preventing the agency from using scarce conservation resources for activities with greater conservation benefits."

Comments on the proposed critical habitat and the draft economic analysis may be submitted to: fw1_vernalpool@fws.gov or by fax to: 916/414?6710, or by mail to: Field Supervisor, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2800 Cottage Way, Suite W-2605, Sacramento, CA 95825.

* * *

Ohio Plans to Expand Harbor Basin in Western Lake Erie

COLUMBUS, Ohio, July 11, 2005 (ENS) - The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) today filed permit applications with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, seeking to expand the harbor basin at Middle Bass Island State Park in Lake Erie.

The permits, mandated by the federal Clean Water Act, must be secured before construction can begin on the Middle Bass Island State Park Phase I marina and campground development project.

As part of the application process, ODNR outlined plans for an expanded harbor with 360 boat slips, a boat launch ramp, a redesigned entrance from the lake side and other recreational amenities.

About $11.4 million in state and federal money will fund the proposed project, which would be constructed in several phases through 2009.

"Our proposal for the harbor at Middle Bass Island will expand recreational opportunities and benefit the area’s unique environment at the same time," said Dan West, Ohio State Parks chief. "It will also play an important public safety role for boaters in Lake Erie’s western basin, where the need for transient docking has never been greater."

Key to the proposed redesign of the harbor is a dredging effort to remove the harbor’s center peninsula and round out the overall configuration of the facility.

Fill from the dredging would be used to expand the park’s existing temporary campground, located to the west of the harbor, and enhance a wetland and hiking trail on the north side. Moving the harbor’s lakeside entrance to the north of its current location is aimed at improving both water quality and fishing in the area, the agency says. The redesigned harbor would feature a sand beach, located just south of the new entrance, as well as fishing access.

"Of utmost concern in the proposed construction project is protecting the endangered Lake Erie water snake," the ODNR said.

s "Our construction plans take special care to avoid disturbing the wintering and breeding grounds of this rare species, and the project will enhance the snake’s habitat in the marina area," promised West.

As part of the proposed mitigation plan, ODNR plans to restore 39 acres of high quality wetland and the fisheries in the Middle Harbor area of nearby East Harbor State Park in Ottawa County.

If all permit applications are approved, construction on the harbor and campground development project will begin late in 2007 and conclude in time for the 2009 recreational season. The Middle Bass Island State Park harbor would be closed to boating during that period.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency will hold a public meeting in late August to accept citizen comment on the permit applications.

* * *

Parrot Becomes the First Bird to Comprehend Zero

WALTHAM, Massachusetts, July 11, 2005 (ENS) – A Brandeis University researcher has shown that an African grey parrot with brain the size of a walnut understands a numerical concept akin to zero – an abstract notion that most humans do not understand until age three or four, and that can challenge learning disabled children

Alex, the 28 year old parrot who lives in a Brandeis lab run by comparative psychologist and cognitive scientist Dr. Irene Pepperberg, spontaneously and correctly used the label "none" during a testing session of his counting skills to describe an absence of a numerical quantity on a tray.

This discovery prompted a series of trials in which Alex consistently demonstrated the ability to identify zero quantity by saying the label "none."

Pepperberg's research findings, published in the current issue of "The Journal of Comparative Psychology," add to a growing body of scientific evidence that the avian brain, though physically and organizationally somewhat different from the mammalian cortex, is capable of higher cognitive processing than previously thought.

Chimpanzees and possibly squirrel monkeys show some understanding of the concept of zero, but Alex is the first bird to demonstrate an understanding of the absence of a numerical set, Pepperberg said.

"It is doubtful that Alex's achievement, or those of some other animals such as chimps, can be completely trained; rather, it seems likely that these skills are based on simpler cognitive abilities they need for survival, such as recognition of more versus less," she explained.

Alex had previously used the label "none" to describe an absence of similarity or difference between two objects, but he had never been taught the concept of zero quantity.

"Alex has a zero-like concept; it's not identical to ours but he repeatedly showed us that he understands an absence of quantity," said Dr. Pepperberg.

Historically, the use of "zero" to label a null set has not always been obvious even in human cultures, which in many cases lacked a formal term for zero as recently as the late Middle Ages.

The value of number research lies mainly in its ability to help determine the extent of animal cognition and animals' potential for more complex capacities.

Pepperberg's studies on the avian brain are continuing with research into Alex's ability to count, as well as add and subtract small quantities.

Her research uses a training method called the model rival technique, which may hold promise for teaching autistic and other learning disabled children who have difficulty learning language, numerical concepts and even empathy.

The model rival technique involves two trainers, one to give instructions, and one to model correct and incorrect responses and to act as the student's rival for the trainer's attention.

The model and trainer also exchange roles so that the student sees that the process is fully interactive.

The student, in this case, a middle-aged parrot, tries to reproduce the correct behavior.

So far, results using this learning technique with small groups of autistic children have been very promising, said Pepperberg.

"This kind of research is changing the way we think about birds and intelligence, but it also helps us break down barriers to learning in humans," Pepperberg said, "and the importance of such strides cannot be underestimated."

* * *

Global Warming Increases Sensitivity of Oysters to Pollution

BARCELONA, Spain, July 11, 2005 (ENS) - Dr. Gisela Lannig from the University of North Carolina presented her work on cadmium poisoning in eastern oysters, Crassostrea virginica, today at the Society for Experimental Biology annual meeting in Barcelona, Spain.

Oysters are cold-blooded creatures, so their body temperature changes with environmental temperature.

Lannig observed that cadmium levels increased the basic metabolic rate of oysters at 20ºC and 24º.

For oysters at a higher temperature, 28ºC, cadmium did not increase the basic metabolic rate, but it reduced the oysters' chances of survival.

"One possible mechanism for this observation is increased damage of mitochondria in cadmium-exposed oysters with increasing temperature," Lannig explains.

"These organelles become significantly more sensitive to cadmium as temperature rises, so that cadmium levels which were not damaging to mitochondria at lower temperature become strongly toxic with increasing temperature."

Cadmium circulates continually between air, water and soils. As it moves easily through the food chain, high levels are reported in seals.

In humans, cadmium interferes with calcium metabolism and deposition in bones. The bones get soft and lose bone mass and become weaker. This causes the pain in the joints and the back, and increases the risk of fractures. In extreme cases of cadmium poisoning the body weight alone might cause a fracture.

Cadmium poisoning also affects the kidney, which loses its ability to remove acids from the blood.

* * *

20th Anniversary Farm Aid Back to Its Chicago Roots

CHICAGO, Illinois, July 11, 2005 (ENS) - Farm Aid founder Willie Nelson and co-founder John Mellencamp today announced that the nation's leading family farm advocacy organization will mark its 20th anniversary by returning to Illinois - the state where it began.

Farm Aid 2005 will urge Americans to choose food from family farms. The 20th anniversary celebration will kick off with a week of food and music events in Chicago. Pre-concert events will showcase the city's efforts to promote family farm food by linking rural and urban communities.

The events will culminate with Farm Aid's 20th anniversary all-star fundraising concert to take place on September 18 at the Tweeter Center in Tinley Park, Illinois.

The 20th anniversary concert will feature Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews, plus other top artists to be announced later.

Nelson

Willie Nelson announces the return of Farm Aid to Chicago today in the Windy City. (Photo by Paul Natkin courtesy Farm Aid)
"From small towns to folks in the city, everybody knows family farm food is the best," said Farm Aid President Nelson. "It's good to be back in Illinois where it all started. This state is showing how good food can connect places like Champaign and Chicago."

"It inspires us to think about family farmers every day," Nelson said. "I'm looking forward to playing on the Farm Aid stage, playing music with my friends."

"Farmers have a tremendous impact on the quality of food that we eat," said Farm Aid Board Member Mellencamp. "Farm Aid is always a great show, but even more important is that Farm Aid helps the consumer and the family farmer work together for the benefit of all of us."

Farm Aid week in Chicago will include the County Fair at the Garfield Conservatory on September 17, a film festival, possible small-venue performances, educational and restaurant events, as well as the release of Farm Aid's book, "FARM AID: A Song for America." During the week, Farm Aid will spotlight activities at Chicago-area farmers markets.

Farm Aid began in 1985 when Willie Nelson, inspired by comments from Bob Dylan at Live Aid, along with Neil Young and John Mellencamp, hosted a day-long music benefit for family farmers in Champaign, Illinois. The event was held to raise awareness about the loss of family farms and to raise funds to keep farm families on their land.

Dave Matthews joined the Farm Aid Board of Directors in 2001.

In the past 20 years, Farm Aid has raised more than $27 million. Through public education and direct grants, Farm Aid supports national, regional and local efforts to build and strengthen family farm food systems.

"Right now, America is on the cusp of a "good food" movement, promoted and supported by Farm Aid," said Farm Aid Executive Director Carolyn Mugar. "The American public recognizes family farmers as their resource for food that is local, humanely raised, organic, and sustainable, and consumers are reaching for these foods in grocery stores, at farmers markets, in schools and even in hospitals. This demand offers growing economic opportunity for family farmers to thrive."

"I am pleased to welcome Farm Aid to Chicago to celebrate its 20th anniversary," said Mayor Richard Daley. "Chicago is committed to supporting small businesses and improving the quality of life for its residents, and Farm Aid helps family farmers do their job of producing the highest quality food for our City and for people all over the country."

For the third year, Silk Soymilk is the presenting sponsor of the Farm Aid concert. "Silk Soymilk is proud to present Farm Aid's 20th anniversary concert," said Mike Keown, senior vice president of marketing for WhiteWave Foods. "We salute the important role that family farmers serve in promoting sustainable agriculture and providing healthy food to American families."

Tickets for Farm Aid 2005 are on sale July 30 at 10 a.m. CDT and are available at all Ticketmaster outlets, the Tweeter Center box office, charge by phone in Chicago at 312-559-1212, or online at http://www.tweetercenter.com/chicago.

Farm Aid will offer special advance sale tickets to its FarmYard members. For more information about Farm Aid's 20th anniversary, visit: http://www.farmaid.org

* * *



  Let's Keep the Upper Lillooet River Wild! Three-time EUEC Keynote Speaker Gina McCarthy Confirmed to Head the EPA Aquaponics Revolutionizes Local Food Growing by Recycling 90% Water
WW TRANSMIT