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AmeriScan: July 15, 2005

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Canada Joins EPA Sponsored Effort to Cut Methane Emissions

WASHINGTON, DC, July 15, 2005 (ENS) - On Thursday, U.S. environmental officials welcomed Canada into a U.S. sponsored international partnership that promotes the recovery and use of the greenhouse gas methane.

The Methane to Markets Partnership prevents methane from entering the atmosphere to trap the heat of the Sun close of the planet, raising Earth's surface temperature.

Instead, methane can be utilized to provide energy to communities, businesses and industry.

Canada joins 15 other nations in the Methane to Markets Partnership, sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

"An innovative program like Methane to Markets is a model for future environmental solutions because it takes a great idea, adds new technology and promotes international cooperation," said EPA Administrator Steve Johnson. "The world will benefit from Canada's expertise and participation in this program."

Canadian Environment Minister Stéphane Dion said, "By participating in this exciting international initiative, Canada will have the opportunity to promote and market Canadian expertise in the area of methane-emissions-reducing technologies, particularly in the oil and gas sector."

"Our participation in the Methane to Markets Partnership demonstrates Canada's commitment to both technology transfer and technology deployment as a way of achieving global greenhouse gas reductions," Dion said.

By 2015 the Methane to Markets Partnership has the potential to deliver annual reductions in methane emissions of up to 50 million metric tons of carbon equivalent or recovery of 500 billion cubic feet of natural gas, according to the EPA.

"If these projections are achieved, they could stabilize or reduce global atmospheric concentrations of methane," the agency said Thursday.

This would be equivalent to cutting the greenhouse gas emissions of 33 million cars, planting 55 million acres of trees, or eliminating emissions from 50 500 megawatt coal-fired power plants; or providing enough energy to heat approximately 7.2 million households for one year, the EPA calculates.

The Methane to Markets Partnership currently targets three major sources of methane - landfills, underground coal mines, and natural gas and oil systems.

Partners come from the private sector, development banks, researchers, and other organizations.

In addition to Canada, Methane to Markets countries include Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Colombia, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, South Korea, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

To learn more about Methane to Markets, visit: http://www.epa.gov/methanetomarkets/

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Entergy Fined for Nuclear Plant Operator Asleep at the Switch

WASHINGTON, DC, July 15, 2005 (ENS) - The Nuclear Regulatory Commission today proposed a $60,000 civil penalty for Entergy Nuclear Operations, Inc., for violations that occurred at the Pilgrim nuclear power plant on June 29, 2004 when a control room supervisor fell asleep in a chair while on duty.

After the NRC learned of the event, the agency’s Region I Office of Investigations began an investigation at the plant, which is located in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Investigators determined that the control room supervisor was asleep and therefore neither alert nor attentive to his duties. A reactor operator, observing the supervisor asleep, deliberately failed to take immediate actions to awaken him, inform appropriate site personnel and file a report on the event, investigators found.

The shift manager, "in careless disregard of requirements," the NRC said, failed to inform appropriate site personnel and file a report on the event. And in a fourth violation of agency requiredments the control room supervisor was not being relieved of duty and subjected to fitness-for-duty testing.

The Commission says "public safety was still assured" because another reactor and senior reactor operator were also on duty in the control room at the time.

“Although there was no actual safety consequence resulting from this event because there were no plant conditions that warranted immediate action, it is important for licensed operators to be alert and attentive to their control room duties at all times so that they can adequately monitor the reactor, manipulate reactor controls, and react to any plant transients,” NRC Region I Administrator Samuel Collins wrote in a letter to Entergy regarding the enforcement action.

“It is also important that when licensed operators are not alert or attentive to their duties, appropriate action must be taken to immediately correct the situation and inform management," Collins wrote.

In addition to the fine proposed for Entergy, the NRC is issuing a Severity Level III violation to the reactor operator involved; a Severity Level III violation to the control room supervisor; and a Letter of Reprimand to the shift manager. The Letter of Reprimand for the shift manager is based on a settlement agreement reached under the NRC’s Alternate Dispute Resolution Process.

It acknowledges that under the agreement, the shift manager will conduct outreach to peers at Pilgrim and other licensed operators in the nuclear industry regarding his experience and lessons learned. These commitments have been put in place by a confirmatory order.

Entergy has taken several steps in response to the event, including conducting training on behavioral observation and other topics, as well as senior managers meeting with plant personnel to discuss the event, fitness-for-duty obligations and safety conscious work environment requirements.

The company will have 30 days to respond to the enforcement action.

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Most Fuel off Ship Grounded in Northwestern Hawaiian Islands

HONOLULU, Hawaii, July 15, 2005 (ENS) - Most of the diesel fuel has been taken off the 145-foot vessel Casitas that ran aground in the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge, on July 2.

The vessel was under contract to NOAA and was on a debris removal mission when it ran aground on the northern edge of Pearl and Hermes Atoll 86 miles east southeast of Midway Island.

The Unified Command is still in phase one of its operation plan to remove fuel and oil from the Casitas. The Coast Guard Cutter Walnut's crew removed the diesel fuel on board the Casitas and is now en route to Oahu.

The motor vessel American Quest has begun removing the remaining miscellaneous oils from the Casitas. Due to the complexity of the spaces, this evolution may take considerably longer than the removal of the diesel fuel.

Phase two will be to remove the Casitas from the reef.

Overflights show no oil spreading from the stricken vessel, although a half-mile long slick was spotted two days after the wreck occurred. No oiled wildlife has been reported.

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Discharge Permits Issued for Boston Petroleum Storage Facilities

BOSTON, Massachusetts, July 15, 2005 (ENS) - Newly issued water discharge permits for seven bulk petroleum storage facilities located along Chelsea River will help provide better protection to people and the environment in Chelsea and Revere, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits are designed to control and limit the extent to which contaminants found in petroleum products can migrate into the storm water and from there into Chelsea Creek. The EPA says the permits are an important component of continuing broader public and private efforts to restore the health of Chelsea Creek and Boston Harbor.

The NPDES permits were developed by the EPA in close collaboration with state counterparts at the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, and with public input from the community.

"The new permits for Chelsea Creek will provide a greater level of protection for the environment and for peoples’ health," said Robert Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England Office. "The community had many good suggestions for the permits, and we are grateful for their participation."

"We appreciated the opportunity to participate in the development of these permit limitations," said Aaron Toffler, a representative of the Chelsea Creek Restoration Partnership, a group that advocates for the health of Chelsea Creek.

"Although not all of our recommendations were included in the permits," Toffler said, "EPA has gone out of their way to allow for public participation, and we look forward to working together in the future."

The NPDES permits address potential adverse impacts to sustainable fish populations, aesthetics, and recreation due to the discharge of storm water from these facilities.

The permits are for the following seven bulk petroleum storage facilities - Chelsea Sandwich, LLC; Coastal Oil of New England, Inc., Chelsea Terminal; Gulf Oil Limited Partnership; Global REVCO Terminal, LLC; Global Petroleum Corp.; Global South Terminal, LLC; and, Irving Oil Terminal, Revere.

Storm water accumulating within these facilities has the potential to come in contact with contaminants found in petroleum products during the receipt, storage, and distribution of these materials.

By enacting the new permits, EPA is establishing specific water quality and technology-based effluent limitations and monitoring requirements, including more stringent limits for contaminants like benzene, a toxic pollutant.

The permits require each facility to update and maintain storm water pollution prevention plans and initiatives that will prevent the occurrence of discharges from activities and operations which could contribute pollutants to Chelsea Creek.

The facilities are required to make yearly certifications to EPA that they are keeping up with their storm water program requirements.

The permits require that the facilties identify and control maximum flow rate for their oil-water separators to ensure that the water quality of the creek is protected.

Chelsea Creek, which flows from the mouth of Mill Creek between Chelsea and Revere, to Boston's Inner Harbor, is a Designated Port Area with a stretch of waterfront set aside primarily for industrial and commercial use. For centuries, it has been flanked by working industries which use the channel to transport raw materials and finished goods.

More information on the new permits, including EPA’s response to comments, is online at: http://www.epa.gov/region1/npdes/chelseacreekfuelterminals/index.html

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New Hampshire Seeks to Keep Boats from Fouling Coastal Waters

CONCORD, New Hampshire, July 15, 2005 (ENS) - The state of New Hampshire has asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to designate its coastal waters as a zone where discharges of treated and untreated boat sewage would be prohibited within three miles of the shore.

The state has proposed that all of the New Hampshire coastal waters be designated a No Discharge Area. To qualify for a No Discharge designation, the applicant must show there are enough pumpout facilities where boaters can get their holding tanks pumped for proper disposal.

A petition requesting EPA approval was submitted by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES). The petition is subject to a public comment period, which will end on August 22.

“The New Hampshire coastline provides important economic and recreational resources," said Robert Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England Office. "Establishing No Discharge Areas can help improve coastal water quality throughout New England, resulting in cleaner beaches and shellfish beds, and healthier boating overall.”

The New Hampshire request calculates that the state’s coastline supports an estimated 4,593 boats, of which only 962 are large enough to have a “head” or toilet on board. The pumpout facilities include five that are fixed or shore based, and one that is a pumpout boat.

New Hampshire was one of the first states in the country to establish No Discharge Areas when it designated all its inland waters as no discharge in 1975. The current N.H. application would emulate the lake boating inspection program on the state’s coastline. Boat sewage can lead to health problems for swimmers, closed shellfish beds and the overall degradation of marine habitats.

“A No Discharge Area in New Hampshire’s coastal waters will help to improve water quality by reducing nitrogen and bacteria found in human wastes,” said Department of Environmental Services Commissioner Michael Nolin. “New Hampshire’s coastal waters are host to a wide variety of fish and shellfish. Any efforts to help reduce pollution to these sensitive areas will be beneficial.”

If EPA approves the designation request, New Hampshire will be the second New England state to designate all of its coastal waters as No Discharge.

Other areas in New England with No Discharge areas include:

  • All of Rhode Island’s marine waters, including Block Island’s Great Salt Pond;
  • In Massachusetts: Barnstable, Harwich, Waquoit Bay, Nantucket Harbor, Wellfleet, and Buzzards Bay (including Wareham and Westport);
  • In Connecticut: Stonington Harbor, Groton/Mystic area;
  • In Vermont: Lake Champlain, Lake George, and Lake Memphremagog.

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California Spotted Owl Reviewed for Endangered Listing

WASHINGTON, DC, July 15, 2005 (ENS) - Members of the public have one more month to comment on the health of the of the California spotted owl, a subspecies of spotted owls that ranges from the northern Sierra Nevada and the Central Coast ranges south through the mountains of southern California.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service intends to complete its 12-month review of the species' situation by March 14, 2006, then decide whether or not to propose listing the owl as threatened or endangered.

The decision to proceed with a 12-month review was based on new information that has become available in the last two years.

The spotted owls now face the rapid spread of a competitor species, the barred owl, and the impact of wildfires on the species.

This is the Service's second review of the California spotted owl in three years, both triggered by petitions and/or lawsuits by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign and other environmental organizations.

This sequence began in February 2003, when the Service found that listing of the California spotted owl was not warranted because the overall magnitude of threats did not rise to the level requiring protection under the Endangered Species Act.

In May 2004, the petitioners filed a lawsuit challenging that finding. Then in September 2004, they submitted a new petition to list the California spotted owl.

In March, the Federal District Court for the Northern District of California stayed the litigation to allow the Service to respond to the new petition, and directed the Service to report on the status of that response by June 13. The Service filed that report with the Court on Monday.

The petition contends that several changes have taken place in the last two years which may affect the status and distribution of the California spotted owl.

They include further range expansion of the barred owl, which hybridizes with the California spotted owl and takes over its territory.

Barred owls have expanded their range 200 miles southward in the Sierra Nevada over the past two years. In one indication of its concern about barred owl predation, the Service has authorized the experimental take of up to 20 barred owls in the Klamath National Forest where barred owls recently moved into an area where they displaced spotted owls. The California Academy of Sciences was given the research permit.

In addition, 28 California spotted owl territories were seriously affected by wildfires in the San Gabriel, San Bernardino and San Diego Mountains in 2002 and 2003.

The petitioning groups cite revisions to the Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment; new state forestry regulations; and potentially relevant analyses of population dynamics.

Taken together, the Service concludes in its 90-day review that this may be substantial information and therefore justifies the more detailed analysis that occurs in a status review and 12-month finding.

The two other spotted owl subspecies, the northern and the Mexican spotted owls, have been listed as threatened since the early 1990s.

Steve Thompson, manager of the Service's California/Nevada Operations Office, said, "We strongly encourage the public, the scientific community, affected industries and other stakeholders to submit all the additional information they may have, along with their comments, so that the finding we make is based on the best available science."

Comments may be submitted by mail to the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, 2800 Cottage Way, Room W-2605, Sacramento, CA 95825.

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Arizona, Sonora Adopt Plan to Improve Border Air Quality

PHOENIX, Arizona, July 15, 2005 (ENS) - The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) and the Mexican state of Sonora's Secretariat of Urban Infrastructure and Ecology (SIUE) have entered into a partnership to improve air quality on both sides of the border, focusing particularly on the town of Ambos Nogales.

ADEQ Director Steve Owens said Thursday that at the recent Arizona-Mexico Commission meeting in Tucson, he and SIUE Secretary Humberto Daniel Valdés Ruy Sánchez signed the Plan of Action for Improving Air Quality in Ambos Nogales.

"Improving air quality in the Ambos Nogales area is a top priority for ADEQ," Owens said. "We will continue to cooperate with our neighbors in Sonora to make the environment cleaner and healthier for residents along the border."

The officials said they will collaborate to protect children's environmental health through improving air quality.

Under the plan Arizona and Sonora officials will work towards reducing vehicle emissions through public education, data collection and promoting alternative fuels use; building major new transportation corridors and bridges; creating a local ride-sharing contest, bicycle lanes, and other activities to promote alternative transportation and reduce the use of single occupancy vehicles.

They pledged to start recycling programs to reduce emissions from residential trash burning.

Officials will be conducting a thermally designed housing and alternative heating/cooking device pilot program, to reduce the need for wood burning in home heating and cooking.

Both towns will work towards reducing dust pollution caused by erosion by encouraging vegetation planting efforts and engineering solutions. They will also try paving or otherwise stabilizing unpaved roads and parking lots on both sides of the border.

Ambos Nogales is the site of the first intensive air quality border study conducted by the ADEQ. The study concluded that unpaved roads were the primary source of the air polluting particulates in Ambos Nogales and organic compounds resulting from the operation of motor vehicles, including commercial trucks, were the dominant cause of hazardous air pollutants on both sides of the border.

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