AmeriScan: July 19, 2006

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Timetable for Yucca Mountain Has Nuclear Waste Arriving in 2017

WASHINGTON, DC, July 19, 2006 (ENS) - The U.S. Energy Department now says the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump in Nevada could be open to accept high-level radioactive waste at the end of March 2017. If constructed, Yucca Mountain would be the first high-level nuclear waste geologic repository in the United States.

Under the schedule, announced today by Ward Sproat, director of the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, the department would submit its license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on June 30, 2008 and get authorization to begin construction on Sept. 30, 2011.

Testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Committee's energy and air quality subcommittee, Sproat said construction could be completed on March 30, 2016 and Yucca Mountain could begin accepting nuclear waste on March 31, 2017.

Yucca Mountain, located at the edge of the Nevada Test site, is 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Approved by president George W. Bush and Congress in 2002, the repository is intended to contain at least 77,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel and waste from Defense Department weapons factories for thousands of years. The high-level waste is now sited at power plants and other facilities in 31 states.

The Energy Department is legally obligated to permanently dispose of the waste and the federal government has been collecting money from nuclear power plant operators for years to fund permanent storage, but the repository has run into many hurdles.

Nevada Congresswoman Shelley Berkley, who opposes Yucca Mountain as all Nevada elected officials do, says the proposed facility lacks an approved radiation standard that will protect human health and the environment.

"The Bush administration and its Republican allies in Congress will not rest until they turn Nevada into a nuclear garbage dump," Berkley said today. "They have wasted billions of dollars on this flawed flight of fancy that poses an unacceptable risk to Nevada families and our environment. While the White House may have ordered a ‘mission accomplished’ banner to go along with this new timetable, nothing will erase the long list of failures hanging over the Yucca Mountain Project.”

She points to seismic and volcanic activity at the site, legal challenges by the state of Nevada, and nationwide opposition to waste shipments which could release radioactive contamination in the event of an accident or terrorist attack.

Rather than allow waste to be dumped in Nevada, the state Congressional delegation supports legislation that would require waste to be kept on-site at nuclear plants in dry cask storage, where it can safely remain for the next 100 years.

The Yucca Mountain Task Force (YMTF) calls the timetable, "a sober step in the right direction toward meeting the Federal Government’s longstanding commitment to U.S. electricity consumers and utilities, who have invested $28 billion in this program including interest."

The Task Force includes the Nuclear Waste Strategy Coalition, U.S. Transport Council, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Prairie Island Community Council, Decommissioning Plant Coalition, and other organizations that collectively represent state regulatory authorities, nuclear utilities, and businesses with principal operations throughout the United States.

The Task Force said today, "The DOE’s plan to centralize management of spent fuel and high-level waste at one national facility in less than 11 years clearly stands in stark contrast to the Senate Appropriations plan to store this material at up to 31 sites for 25 years at the expense of ratepayers in 41 states."

The Task Force is urging rapid enactment of the pending Nuclear Fuel Management and Disposal Act, particularly funding reform. "We encourage a continued dialog and focus on this legislation - and the tremendous costs and implications of inaction - in the balance of this Congress."

Sproat told the subcommittee that one of his basic objectives is to "Address the impasse and growing government liability associated with unmet contractual obligations to move spent fuel from nuclear plant sites."

Sproat said independent, external assessments will be conducted on the draft license application, several key engineering processes, and the quality assurance programs at DOE, the primary Yucca Mountain contractor, and several national laboratories. Requests for proposals will be issued within the next few weeks seeking qualified experts to conduct these assessments.

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Lousiana Disaster Cleanup Plan Prepares for Future Hurricanes

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana, July 19, 2006 (ENS) - The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) has issued a new debris management plan to establish a framework for the proper management of debris generated by future natural disasters within the state. The plan builds on the lessons learned during the last hurricane season when hurricanes Katrina and Rita left millions of tons of debris scattered across the state.

The plan promotes reduction of the debris stream utilizing chipping, grinding, recycling or other methods. It promotes conservation and management by ensuring that adequate capacity exists for disposal and management of disaster-generated debris, including that generated by redevelopment and repopulation by businesses and residents.

The plan also encompasses the legislative goal to reduce debris 50 percent by volume prior to disposal in a landfill.

Known as the Comprehensive Plan for Disaster Clean-up and Debris Management, the plan aims to conserve landfill capacity and to protect natural resources to the maximum extent that is practical, the agency said.

Hurricane Katrina came ashore on August 29, 2005. Along with the human tragedies, the storm left in its wake more than 22 million tons or 55 million cubic yards of debris, including thousands of orphan drums of unknown origin and content, over 350 thousand flooded and abandoned cars, over 60 thousand damaged vessels, over 1.5 million units of white goods, over 500 thousand units of electronic goods, 140,000 to 160,000 flooded homes and recovery problems never before faced by the citizens of Louisiana or anywhere else in the United States.

Three weeks later, on September 23-24, Hurricane Rita struck the southwest part of the state, leaving another 2.4 million tons or 6 million cubic yards of debris, flooded cars, damaged vessels, orphan drums and thousands of electronic and white goods. The storm surge from Hurricane Rita devastated the parishes of Cameron, Vermilion and Calcasieu and re-flooded parts of St. Bernard Parish and the Lower 9th Ward in Orleans Parish.

The magnitude of the tasks that faced the state after such destruction made it apparent that a proactive posture is needed to prepare for future catastrophic events.

The new plan details how local governments can select appropriate landfill and burn sites, techniques for recycling building materials and handling hazardous wastes.

To read the Comprehensive Plan for Disaster Clean-up and Debris Management, visit: http://www.deq.louisiana.gov/portal/

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Florida's Ocean Economy Forecast to Grow 70 Percent in 10 Years

TALLAHASSEE, Florida, July 19, 2006 (ENS) - Ocean tourism and recreation for 2005-2015 in Florida is projected to grow by 73 percent, creating more than 268,000 new jobs, according to a new economic report issued by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The Florida Ocean and Coastal Economies report estimates the value of Florida’s ocean and coastal market as part of Governor Jeb Bush's "Action Plan for Healthy and Resilient Coasts."

“The report is an important part of the Governors’ Action Plan to protect and preserve the Gulf of Mexico,” said Stephanie Bailenson, director of Florida’s DEP Coastal and Aquatic Managed Areas. “The information and findings from the study will be used to strengthen protection of Florida’s marine and coastal resources.”

The Governors’ Action Plan is the result of 12 months of collaboration between the Gulf States, a 13-agency federal workgroup, interested citizens and other partners. The action plan is a part of the Gulf of Mexico Alliance, a coordinated response to the Bush administration's Ocean Action Plan calling for development of regional goals and priorities to safeguard the nation’s oceans.

Conducted by the National Ocean Economics Program (NOEP), the report uses information from 1990 - 2003 to provide a picture of Florida’s marine economies.

It shows that Florida produced $23.2 billion from transactions of marine resources and operative industries.

The report shows a big difference between the inland and shoreline economies in Florida. Florida’s inland economy Gross State Product (GSP) is almost $200 billion compared to over $402 billion for the state’s shoreline economy, a difference of almost 300 percent.

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States Partner to Manage Electronics Waste

LANSING, Michigan, July 19, 2006 (ENS) - Michigan has teamed up with four other Midwest states to develop a regional policy for effectively managing electronic waste. A large number of computers, televisions, and other electronic products are currently being thrown away because of limited access to environmentally sound recycling options, and local communities have limited resources to address this problem.

The Midwest Policy has the support of environmental agencies in Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa, with endorsement expected from Minnesota shortly.

The Midwest Policy offers a consistent approach across the region to manage electronic waste, and better protect the environment, said Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director Steven Chester.

This effort is parallel to the Northeast Regional Electronics Management Project undertaken by the 10 Northeastern states under the auspices of the Council of State Governments and the Northeast Recycling Council, Inc.

The Midwest policy builds on model legislation written by the Northeastern states and revised this month. The legislation requires electronics manufacturers to collect, transport, and recycle a specific amount of electronic products based on their sales within the state by weight of products sold.

Two years after enactment of this law, it will be illegal for anyone to throw unwanted electronics away in municipal solid waste facilities.

Matt Hale, director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Solid Waste, has expressed the agency’s support for this initiative.

"A more formal forum where all states can come together will be helpful for states to share ideas and experiences as they develop policy and programs," said Hale. "It is hoped that this project will have a positive effect by reducing the likelihood that one state’s policies will have a detrimental impact on neighboring states.”

To read the latest version of the electronics recycling legislation, visit the Council of State Governments, Eastern Regional Council at: http://www.csgeast.org/enrgwaste.asp

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$500 Rebates Reduce Costs of Hybrid Vehicles in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania, July 19, 2006 (ENS) - The government of Pennsylvania is offering a new round of funding for the state's Hybrid Electric Vehicle Rebate Program, which provides $500 rebates to consumers who buy new hybrid electric vehicles.

“Pennsylvania is changing the way America thinks about and uses energy,” Governor Ed Rendell said, announcing the fresh infusion of funding. “Hybrid electric vehicles have been an early success in our push toward technologies that not only reduce our dependence on imported oil, but also help to clean up our environment."

“While the commonwealth continues to invest in a broad array of advanced energy technologies, the first step into the future of alternative energy for many people will be when they buy a hybrid electric vehicle," the governor said.

This is the second round of funding for the Hybrid Electric Vehicle Rebate Program, offered through the Alternative Fuels Incentive Grant (AFIG) program administered by the state Department of Environmental Protection. The initial rebate offering was so popular that the program issued $1.5 million in rebates in less than 10 months.

The Governor’s 2006-07 General Fund budget expands funding for alternative energy initiatives by $3 million, including funding to restart the rebate program.

In 2004, Governor Rendell signed into law an act that expanded the AFIG program, including offering the user-friendly rebates instead of grants to residents who purchase hybrid electric vehicles.

To qualify for the $500 rebate, the hybrid electric vehicle must be registered in Pennsylvania and operate primarily within the commonwealth. The rebate will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis as long as funds are available. Rebate request forms and required documentation must be submitted no later than six months after the vehicle is purchased.

Rebates will be provided only for the purchase of the cleanest and most fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles that use the hybrid technology to increase fuel economy while reducing emissions. So-called mild hybrids that use the technology to increase a vehicle’s power and performance rather than reducing emissions will not qualify for the rebates.

The governor decided last year to replace conventional state vehicles with hybrid vehicles. In the coming fiscal year, the commonwealth will purchase 30 hybrids and set in motion a process to build its hybrid fleet so that by 2011, at least 25 percent of the state’s fleet will be hybrids.

To claim the Hybrid Electric Vehicle Rebate, vehicle purchasers must submit a completed form to: Department of Environmental Protection, HEV Rebate Program, P.O. Box 8772, Harrisburg, PA 17105-8772.

Include a copy of a valid Pennsylvania vehicle registration. The name appearing on the vehicle registration card must appear on the dealer invoice. Also include a copy of the bill of sale and proof of the vehicle purchase. This can be a copy of the front and back of a cancelled check, the finance agreement, or an invoice indicating a zero balance due and receipt of payment in full. A rebate will not be issued unless DEP receives all required documentation.

Find rebate forms, along with additional information about the program, at the DEP website, www.depweb.state.pa.us, Keyword "Alternative Fuels," or by calling Cleo Arp, Grant Officer, at 717-772-8912.

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Illinois Seals Giant Junkyard

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois, July 19, 2006 (ENS) - Illinois EPA Director Doug Scott has sealed a five acre property in Wauconda, Lake County due to health and safety concerns resulting from heaps of unpermitted waste materials found on the site.

Materials dumped on the site include junk vehicles, boats, construction equipment, windows, white goods, auto parts, plastic, office waste, commercial wastes, lead acid batteries, metals, landscape waste, asphalt shingles and demolition debris, pipes, conduit, used tires on and off their rims, and other miscellaneous junk.

The sealed property is over five acres, and includes a wetland. Scott said the actual amount of waste cannot be estimated due to the immense size and extent of dumping. Many areas of the site are inaccessible due to the amount of waste deposited on the land and the potential physical hazards that exist on the site.

The property is owned by John Tarkowski and is located at 27275 W. Lakeview Drive South, in the Lakeland Estates Subdivision.

Tarkowski has a long history of illegal dumping and ignoring directives by the state to remove the wastes.

The Illinois Attorney General filed a complaint in 2004 in Lake County Court alleging open dumping and requesting an injunction and civil penalties against Tarkowski. A default judgment was entered against Tarkowski on April 20, 2006. It required that Tarkowski begin removal of the waste. Two compliance dates have passed without any waste being removed.

During the last inspection to check for compliance with the order, the Illinois EPA inspectors took mosquito larvae samples for testing. Tests showed two types of mosquitoes present that are carriers of West Nile virus.

The Seal Order will remain in effect until rescinded by Director Scott. It restricts public access to the site, and prohibits entry by anyone except authorized personnel in the performance of official duties.

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Federal Government Plans to Recover Kauai Cave Species

HONOLULU, Hawaii, July 19, 2006 (ENS) - Two tiny endangered cave animals found only on the island of Kauai now have a final plan that details the steps needed to brfing them back from the brink of extinction.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today the availability of the Final Recovery Plan for the Kauai Cave Arthropods.

The Kauai cave wolf spider and Kauai cave amphipod exist only in the lava tubes and cave-bearing rock in Kauai's Koloa Basin. The known population for the Kauai cave wolf spider - perhaps fewer than 30 individuals - is regularly found in a single cave, and population surveys for the Kauai cave amphipod indicate a range from eight to over 300 individuals.

The cave amphipod is regularly found in three caves, including one where the cave wolf spider is found.

"These unique and highly specialized species are often overshadowed by Hawaii's charismatic species such as the green sea turtle, Hawaiian monk seal and others, but deserve just as much attention if not more," said Patrick Leonard, field supervisor for the Fish and Wildlife Service's Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office.

"The implementation of this plan by the Service, state and other partners will ensure the recovery of the species and raise awareness for these little known cave species," Leonard said.

The Kauai cave wolf spider is a mid-size (0.50 to 0.75-inch) hunting spider that has completely lost its eyes as part of its adaptation to life in lava tubes. Instead of building webs, it chases and grabs its prey or may utilize sit-and wait ambush tactics.

Unlike most wolf spiders that produce 100 to 300 spiderlings per clutch, the Kauai cave wolf spider is believed to produce fewer than 30 spiderlings per clutch. Newly hatched spiderlings are unusually large and are carried on the back of the female for only a few days.

The Kauai cave amphipod is a small (0.25 to 0.4-inch) pale landhopper that resembles a shrimp. Like the cave wolf spider, the Kauai cave amphipod has lost its eyes. It feeds on the decaying roots of surface vegetation that reach into the cave system, as well as rotting sticks, branches, and other plant materials. This amphipod is believed to be a food source for the Kauai cave wolf spider.

Under the recovery plan, known cave systems where the Kauai cave wolf spider and amphipod exist will be protected, and currently and recently occupied habitats will be enhanced.

To protect the cave systems, human entry will be controlled. Destruction of native plant communities above the cave systems will be prevented, a fire control plan will be developed, nonnative predators and competitors will be controlled, bio-control organisms, bio-pesticides, insecticides and herbicides will not be allowed.

To enhance the cave habitats, the growth of appropriate plants whose roots provide food and debris for the cave amphipod will be encouraged and cave humidity will be increased. These cave-dwelling species require high humidity, perhaps as much as 100 percent.

These two species were first discovered in 1971 and much about their conservation needs remains unknown. Research will be conducted to gain additional knowledge of the species and their needs.

Public education activities are encouraged to broaden knowledge of the Kauai cave species in the Koloa and Poipu area, and to engender public support for these unique creatures. Providing technical expertise and/or funding to implement land uses friendly to these species also is encouraged.

The recovery plan is available online at: http://pacificislands.fws.gov.

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