AmeriScan: July 26, 2006

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Nuclear Regulatory Commission to Create Office of New Reactors

WASHINGTON, DC, July 26, 2006 (ENS) - To prepare for the nuclear industry’s interest in licensing and building new nuclear power plants in the near term, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is reorganizing its Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation to create an Office of New Reactors.

The NRC is expecting several applications for new nuclear power plants in late 2007 and early 2008, with initial construction activities soon thereafter.

NRG Energy, Inc. has plans to build two new nuclear plants at the site of its South Texas Project nuclear facility. The facility is located on the Gulf Coast near Wadsworth, Texas, about 90 miles southwest of Houston.

NRG is the first company to announce that it will build a new nuclear plant, although several utilities are considering nuclear generating stations in other states - including Florida Power & Light Company, Duke Power, Santee Cooper and the South Carolina Electric & Gas Company.

The nuclear regulatory agency is also adding a new organizational unit, headed by a Deputy Regional Administrator for Construction in its Atlanta office, to oversee inspections related to expected new construction of nuclear facilities.

“This change will ensure we maintain our focus on the safe and secure operation of existing nuclear power plants, while enhancing our effectiveness in processing the anticipated new plant licensing workload,” said Executive Director for Operations Luis Reyes.

The new Deputy Regional Administrator position and organizational unit in Atlanta will focus on the agency’s Construction Inspection Program, which was announced earlier this year.

This program will be responsible for the agency’s oversight of any new nuclear power plant construction for the entire country. The reorganized Region II office will be better equipped to carry out construction inspection activities while maintaining its focus on ensuring safe operation of nuclear power plants in Region II.

The Office of New Reactors should be established by January 2007.

The Office of New Reactors will have full responsibility for licensing and program oversight of new reactor activities.

The Nuclear Reactor Regulation Office will retain full responsibility for licensing and program oversight for activities related to the current operating reactors.

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Hearing Set for Vermont Yankee Nuclear Plant License Renewal

WASHINGTON, DC, July 26, 2006 (ENS) - An Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) panel will hear oral argument on requests for a hearing on the Vermont Yankee license renewal application on Tuesday, August 1, and, if needed, on Wednesday, August 2, in Brattleboro, Vermont.

The ASLB is a quasi-judicial arm of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that deals with licensing matters.

Entergy, the owner and operator of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, submitted an application for a 20-year license extension on January. 25. The current NRC operating license for the plant, which is located in Vernon, Vermont, is set to expire on March 21, 2012.

Requests for an evidentiary hearing on the application were submitted by the states of Vermont and Massachusetts; the New England Coalition, a nuclear watchdog organization; and the Town of Marlboro, Vermont.

The ASLB panel will hear oral argument on the admissibility of some of the issues raised in these filings and determine, at a later date, whether a hearing should be granted.

The August 1st session is scheduled to begin at 9 am in the multi-purpose room at Brattleboro Union High School, 131 Fairground Road in Brattleboro. If needed, the oral argument will continue starting at 9 am on August 2 at the same location.

The sessions are open for public observation, but participation will be limited to the parties involved in the proceeding. Early arrival is suggested to allow for security screening for all members of the public interested in attending. Attendees are requested to refrain from bringing any unnecessary hand-carried items, such as packages, briefcases, backpacks and other items, that might need to be examined for security purposes.

Documents related to the Vermont Yankee license renewal application are available on the NRC website here.

Documents pertaining to the ASLB proceeding are available in the agency’s electronic document library here.

More information about the ASLB can be found here.

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Governor Schwarzenegger Joins Sierra Club

SACRAMENTO, California, July 26, 2006 (ENS) - California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, announced Monday that he has joined the Sierra Club to fight against the offshore oil bill the Senate is expected to vote on this week, as well as any weakening of the 25-year moratorium on coastal drilling. The first vote on the bill is scheduled for today.

In a teleconference hosted by Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope, the governor underlined the club's concern that if the Senate bill passes, it would be merged with a House bill sponsored by Representative Richard Pombo, a California Republican, that could "lead to the weakening of the moratorium that has protected our California coasts for 25 years."

"For anyone to think that this will bring gas prices down is making a big mistake," Schwarzenegger said.

Instead the governor said he favors alternative fuels, new technologies, hydrogen fueling stations, hybrid and electric cars as better solutions.

Pope said he was delighted Governor Schwarzenegger was joining the Sierra Club and others to oppose this bill and expose it as ruse to open up every inch of the nation's coastline to potential drilling.

The Senate bill would open up a huge chunk of Florida's Gulf Coast to oil and drilling, and give away more than a third of the billions of dollars in oil leasing revenues over the next 50 years to four coastal states - Florida, Texas, Alabama, and Louisiana - even though the drilling would take place in federal waters.

While states would still have the power to block drilling, Pope said the Pombo bill would give the oil industry an advantage in every state - each state legislature would have to pass two bill every five years, one to stop oil drilling, another to stop gas drilling.

Other speakers in the teleconference included Dan Jacobson, from Environment California, who emphasized energy efficiency and renewable energy are the cheapest and cleanest ways to generate energy, and the Sierra Club's Melinda Pierce, who talked about how Democratic Senators Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein of California as well as Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico and Robert Menendez of New Jersey are leading the opposition.

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Ship Owners Pay $3.25 Million in Largest Marine Sanctuary Settlement

WASHINGTON, DC, July 26, 2006 (ENS) - The owners and operators of the foreign-flagged container vessel, Med Taipei, have agreed to pay $3.25 million to the United States to resolve allegations that the 15 containers lost overboard in 2004 resulted in long-term damage to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS).

The settlement between MBNMS, located off the coast of California, and the owners of the vessel - All Oceans Transportation Inc., Italia Marritema SpA and Yang Ming Transport Corporation - represents the largest damages awarded to date regarding a national marine sanctuary, the Department of Justice and the Department of Commerce said Tuesday.

In February 2004, the containers fell overboard from the Med Taipei when the vessel was traveling on rough seas from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

The 15 containers, each 40 feet long by 8 feet wide by10 feet tall, contained a variety of cargo – furniture, thousands of tires, several hundred thousand plastic items, miles of cyclone fencing, hospital beds, wheel chairs, recycled cardboard and clothing items.

In June 2004, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) found one container full of car tires during a research project. The container was discovered by a remotely operated vehicle in 4,000 feet of water, 17 miles northwest of Pinos Point in outer Monterey Bay.

MBARI took photographs of the container it discovered, and the serial number was easily identified and traced back to the ship.

A U.S. Coast Guard report showed that the containers were inappropriately loaded on board the vessel – there were faulty welds on anchor points for the containers, as well as missing d-rings from the deck of the vessel.

“The funds provided as a result of today's settlement will be used to restore habitats within the national marine sanctuary, an area of high biological productivity and diversity,” said Sue Ellen Wooldridge, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. “These alternative restoration projects will help mitigate some of the anticipated resource injuries.”

“It is important for shipping companies to execute due diligence when carrying cargo through national marine sanctuaries, as they will be expected to correct any damages that occur from their operations,” said William Douros, acting west coast regional superintendent for the National Marine Sanctuary Program. “It is also important that any lost cargo is reported immediately.”

The potential impact of the lost containers on natural resources includes the crushing and smothering of benthic organisms, the introduction of foreign habitat structure and shifts in local ecology.

In addition, there is likely to be an expanding benthic footprint over time as the containers degrade and collapse, spreading their contents along the ocean floor.

There is potential for entrapment of marine species by the cyclone fencing, ingestion of plastic wrappers and bags as they are released from the containers over time, as well as deposition of plastics and other oil-based products. MBNMS has elected to use the settlement monies to undertake restoration projects in identified areas rather than to remove the remaining containers, whose locations are not known.

The proposed consent decree outlining the settlement was lodged in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California Tuesday. It is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. A copy of the consent decree is online at: http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/open.html.

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Bush Administration Set to Log Oregon Old Growth Forest

ASHLAND, Oregon, July 26, 2006 (ENS) - The public comment period for the proposed Westside Timber Sale in western Oregon closed Monday, with a warning from conservation groups that the sale will clearcut more than two square miles of old growth forest. The conservationists say the logging will destroy habitat for the imperiled spotted owl and ruin salmon spawning streams.

“Timber sales like Westside mark a return to an old-growth logging program the likes of which we have not seen since the 1980s,” said Sean Cosgrove forest policy specialist for the Sierra Club. “We had hoped destructive logging like this was a thing of the past – but the Bush administration is planning to make old logging projects like this commonplace.”

The Westside logging sale, being proposed in the middle of fire season, has nothing to do with fuels reduction or protecting communities, a coalition of four forest conservation groups said Monday.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) plans to log 3,374 acres in the Cow Creek Watershed. These streams flow into the salmon-bearing South Umpqua River.

After clearing these old growth stands, the BLM will create fire-prone industrial tree plantations, resulting in increased fire risk and harm to fish and wildlife. Over 10 miles of new logging road would be punched into the Middle Fork Cow Creek watershed, threatening water quality and fishing tourism in the area, the groups warn.

”The Bush administration previewed plans earlier this year that would liquidate the old growth reserves and drastically weaken protections for old growth forests managed by the BLM,” said Randi Spivak, executive director of the American Lands Alliance. “This is a bankrupt strategy that will leave a diminished legacy for the next generation.”

The BLM detailed for the public some of the alternatives it might consider in an upcoming Environmental Impact Statement, which all call for increased logging. The BLM document includes a new interpretation of the law that prioritizes logging over all other values and uses of these publicly owned forests.

According to documents obtained from the administration by the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, which are not posted on the BLM's website, the Medford BLM plans on removing thousands of acres of habitat for the spotted owl over the next few years, pushing that imperiled species closer to extinction.

Spotted owl numbers are rapidly declining across the Northwest.

In other areas of the Pacific Northwest mature and old growth forests are not being logged, because forester managers focus on thinning existing tree plantations and reducing hazardous fuels around communities.

“Most federal managers of old-growth forests are focused on fire hazard projects, but the BLM is moving in the opposite direction to cut down the most fire-resistant and ecologically rich part of the landscape,” said Lesley Adams, spokeswoman for the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, a forest conservation organization located in southwest Oregon.

The President’s FY 2007 budget would have doubled logging in the Pacific Northwest and the administration has proposed weakening rules designed to protect salmon and clean water.

Most recently the BLM and Forest Service reissued plans to eliminate protection for over 600 old growth dependent species by eliminating the Survey and Manage requirements of the Northwest Forest Plan. The administration’s first attempt to remove these wildlife protections was ruled illegal by a federal court.

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Wetlands Permit Violations Cost New Jersey Developers $1.7 Million

TRENTON, New Jersey, July 26, 2006 (ENS) - The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has imposed penalties totaling more than $1.7 million against two developers and a land-clearing company for separate violations of freshwater wetlands regulations in Mercer, Morris and Salem counties.

“Freshwater wetlands play a vital role in protecting drinking water supplies, providing habitat for significant populations of fish and wildlife, and preventing erosion and flooding,” said Commissioner Lisa Jackson. “The penalties imposed in these three cases should leave no doubt about the strength of our resolve to conserve New Jersey’s environmentally sensitive wetlands and keep them healthy for future generations.”

In Mercer County, the DEP assessed a $630,000 penalty against Beazer Homes, New Jersey Division, for multiple violations of a freshwater wetlands permit the DEP issued in 2000 to allow development of Wellington Manor at Hopewell, a subdivision on Pennington Road in Hopewell Township.

The DEP determined that Beazer Homes developed two acres of freshwater-wetland transition areas above what the permit authorized, failed to construct three acres of freshwater wetlands to compensate for the loss of wetlands, failed to implement appropriate soil- and sediment-control measures on the site, and failed to file deed restrictions ensuring that natural areas would forever remain undeveloped.

In addition to the fine, the DEP requires Beazer Homes to immediately correct all violations and return the affected area to its original condition.

In Morris County, the DEP issued a $763,500 fine to developers Anthony and Golnaz Mortezai and Deerfield Estates/Resamir Estates for violating freshwater wetlands and stream encroachment permits on the construction sites of their Mount Olive housing development.

State inspectors found that the developers overcleared vegetation in exceptional resource value freshwater wetland transition areas.

They also failed to implement approved soil and sediment control measures, failed to file required deed restrictions, and failed to purchase mitigation credits to offset development of regulated areas.

In addition, the developers submitted inaccurate plans when they applied to the DEP for permits required to develop the site.

The DEP has suspended the developers’ freshwater wetlands permit for permit application inaccuracies and for ongoing violations that were degrading a high quality waterway and causing sedimentation of local streams and water bodies.

The DEP’s enforcement order also requires immediate steps to prevent degradation of water quality and restore cleared areas to their original condition.

In Salem County, the DEP took enforcement action against Stella Oldmans, LLC, and Edward Stella Jr., of Oldmans Township, for clearing up to 15 acres of freshwater wetlands and rerouting a stream on his Route 130 property.

In addition to issuing a $378,000 penalty, the DEP ordered Stella to restore the site by regrading and replanting and returning the stream to its original location. Stella agreed to suspend clearing and grading activities at the site until the company submits a site restoration plan.

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Xethanol to Produce 90 Million Gallons of Cellulosic Ethanol Annually

NEW YORK, New York, July 26, 2006 (ENS) - Xethanol Corporation, a biotechnology driven ethanol company, plans to construct a 50 million gallon per year cellulosic ethanol plant on the site of a former Pfizer pharmaceutical manufacturing complex in Augusta, Georgia, the company announced Thursday.

The Augusta plant is expected to begin producing ethanol by mid-2007, using non-edible plant materials such as waste wood from the forest industry.

Ethanol blended transportation fuel is seen as a substitute for the dwindling global supply of fossil fuels. Especially valuable is cellulosic ethanol made from feedstocks that do not divert food products, such as corn, from the marketplace.

PRAJ Technology, an India based bio-ethanol technology company will provide detailed engineering services, process design and licensing as well as the supply of vital sections of the process plant.

PRAJ was also selected to provide the same services for Xethanol's new 41 million gallon per year facility at its Blairstown, Iowa site.

Christopher d'Arnaud-Taylor, chairman and CEO of Xethanol, said, "Having completed our due diligence on the site, we decided to raise the capacity of this plant to 50 million gallons per year. It is being designed to run on a variety of feedstocks and we are already securing the necessary feedstock streams from the forest products industry to run at capacity when we begin production by mid-2007."

Lucas Rice, Xethanol's vice president of operations, said, "This site is a prime example of Xethanol's strategy of exploiting shuttered industrial capacity and converting facilities that already have existing infrastructure to produce ethanol. In doing so, the company is able to save significant time and money in bringing facilities on line. This site, in particular, has millions of dollars in equipment and infrastructure in place and ready to use for ethanol production."

Xethanol executives say the company's goal is to be the leader in the emerging biomass-to-ethanol and biofuels industry. "Xethanol's mission is to optimize the use of biomass in the renewable energy field and convert biomass that is currently being abandoned or land filled into ethanol and other valuable co-products. The company is especially interested in co-producing xylitol, a sugar alcohol that is used as a sugar substitute in gums, candies and dental products.

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