AmeriScan: June 1, 2005

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U.S. Begins Energy Dialogue With India

WASHINGTON, DC, June 1, 2005 (ENS) - India and the United States have agreed to collaborate on energy development.

Supervised by a Steering Committee, five Working Groups with members from both countries will address oil and natural gas, electric power, coal and clean coal technology, energy efficiency, renewable energy, new technologies such as hydrogen, and nuclear power.

U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman and Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission of India, Dr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia met Tuesday in Washington to launch the new bilateral Energy Dialogue, fulfilling a commitment made during a September 2004 meeting between President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The goal of this dialogue is to promote increased trade and investment in the energy sector by working with the public and private sectors to identify areas of cooperation and collaboration.

"Energy demand is increasing here at home and around the world, particularly in countries like India where there is dramatic economic growth," Bodman said. "By working together, the United States and India can help secure clean, reliable, affordable sources of energy to keep both our economies and the economies of the world expanding."

The U.S. – India Energy Dialogue will build upon existing energy cooperation between the two countries and will develop new avenues of collaboration.

Secretary Bodman named David Garman, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, as the U. S. co-chair of the Steering Committee, and Dr. Ahluwalia named Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran as the Indian co-chair.

The Steering Committee will set goals and timelines for the Working Groups and ensure their coordination on crosscutting issues such as energy security, future energy scenarios, and trade and investment. The first working group meetings are expected to take place within the next several months.

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Senate Energy Bill Sidesteps Arctic Drilling

WASHINGTON, DC, June 1, 2005 (ENS) - The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed a bipartisan energy bill Thursday by a vote of 21-1. The bill avoids the two most controversial issues that have derailed past versions of energy legislation - drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the release of MTBE manufacturers from liability for water contamination.

The bill directs the Secretary of the Interior in cooperation with the State of Alaska, North Slope Borough, Arctic Slope Regional Corporation and other federal agencies, to establish a long term effort to improve coordination and collection of scientific information needed by regulatory and land management agencies in managing public resources on the North Slope of Alaska.

But the legislation stops short of authorizing oil exploration and extraction from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, an issue that has roused fierce debate across the country for years.

The bill modernizes and expands the nation’s electricity grid, and encourages the design and deployment of advanced nuclear technologies, clean coal technologies and hydrogen technologies aimed at moving America away from its dependence on foreign oil.

For nuclear energy, the bill requires the Energy Secretary to support education in nuclear engineering and nuclear-related technologies through grants to university departments for research and support for facilities.

It requires the secretary to investigate new techniques to reduce the volume and toxicity of spent fuel from commercial nuclear reactors. And the bill creates a program to study measures to improve the safety and security of nuclear facilities from natural disasters and deliberate attacks.

The legislation establishes requirements for energy and water savings in Congressional Buildings and requires an annual reduction in the consumption of energy by federal buildings. The bill also reduces U.S. oil consumption by one million barrels of oil per day by 2015.

The bill’s conservation and efficiency measures will save 1.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas by 2020 - equivalent to current annual consumption of New York State, according to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEE).

The bill also reduces peak electric demand by 2020 by 50,000 MW – equivalent to the capacity of 170 300-MW power plants, according to an analysis released by ACEE.

The legislation creates the Next Generation Lighting Initiative, a public-private partnership to develop advanced solid-state lighting devices. These devices are longer lasting and more energy efficient and cost-effective than incandescent or fluorescent lighting.

The measure eases and streamlines exploration and drilling for oil and gas on federal lands by designating energy facility rights-of-way and corridors on federal land, including national forests.

The legislation provides incentives for natural gas production from deep wells in the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

The bill directs the Secretary of Energy, in cooperation and consultation with Secretary of Transportation, Secretary of Homeland Security, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and governors of coastal states, to convene at least three forums to discuss siting issues for liquid natural gas (LNG) terminals - siting, safety, and emergency response. The purpose of the forums is to identify and develop best practices related to LNG and to foster cooperative efforts.

The Interior Department is directed to make an assessment of oil and gas resources in the Outer Continental Shelf.

For renewable energy, the bill requires the Energy Secretary to conduct cutting-edge research and development of renewable sources, including bioenergy from celluosic feedstocks, concentrating solar power, ocean energy, and cogeneration of hydrogen and electricity from renewable sources.

The bill is expected on the Senate floor for a vote later this month. If the Senate approves the measure, a conference committee will attempt to reconcile it with the House version of energy legislation passed earlier this year.

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Largest Known Calcite Expanse Found in New Mexico Cave

WASHINGTON, DC, June 1, 2005 (ENS) - A long underground calcite-coated passage has been discovered in New Mexico's Fort Stanton Cave by volunteers of the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management, Senator Pete Domenici said Tuesday.

Called the Snowy River passage, the white formation is believed to be the longest calcite expanse in the world. Mapped at more than two miles, a cave formation of this type and magnitude is not known of anywhere else, said Domenici, a New Mexico Republican.

The Snowy River passage was discovered in the Fort Stanton Cave by Bureau of Land Management (BLM) volunteers in 2001, but it was only Tuesday that their find was made public.

cave

The Snowy River passage floors the Fort Stanton Cave with white calcite. (Photo courtesy DOI)
After veteran speleologist John McLean and team members Lloyd Swartz, Don Becker and Andrew Grieco discovered the calcite, it became evident that the cave and its formations were unique and warranted special attention. BLM completed a two year environmental assessment of the site to ensure damage would not be done to this fragile cave environment.

But the exploration is not yet complete. When survey teams stopped the last expedition, the passage was 40 feet in diameter and continued to stretch beyond the limits of their lights.

Senator Domenici is writing legislation to protect the cave and its Snowy River Passage as a National Cave Conservation Area, a new type of designation. "My legislation would give the caves permanent protection by creating a Fort Stanton-Snowy River National Cave Conservation Area to protect, secure and conserve the natural and unique features of Fort Stanton Cave and the Snowy River passage, including the more than two mile long continuous calcite formation. The bill will instruct the BLM to prepare a map and legal description of Fort Stanton Cave, and to develop a comprehensive, long-term management plan for the cave area," the senator said.

“This designation for Fort Stanton Cave would be the first of its kind in the nation," said Interior Secretary Gale Norton. "We look forward to working with the scientific community, universities, and local partners in the creation of a workable plan to conserve the Fort Stanton Cave including the unparalleled Snowy River discovery.”

The legislation would authorize the conservation of the unique features and environs in the cave for scientific, educational and other public uses deemed safe and appropriate under the management plan.

It would protect the caves from mining and mineral leasing operations, and also protect existing surface uses at Fort Stanton, including recreational opportunities. The conservation area designation would not affect private land owners in the area, Domenici said.

The BLM would be authorized to work with colleges, universities, scientific institutions, and researchers to further understanding of the geologic, hydrologic, mineralogic, and biologic significance of the Snowy River passage.

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Shelving of Tulsequah Mine Project Threatens Alaska Salmon

JUNEAU, Alaska, June 1, 2005 (ENS) - Heavy metal pollution from the Tulsequah Chief mine may continue without adequate cleanup due to a May 17 announcement from the mining company, Redcorp Ventures Ltd., that it is placing the project on hold due to economic problems.

Redcorp’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Redfern Resources Ltd., owns 100 percent of the Tulsequah Chief mine in northwestern British Columbia.

A key issue is whether Environment Canada will enforce a cleanup order and its June 30 deadline to stop the ongoing heavy metal pollution. The Tulsequah Chief mine annually pollutes the Tulsequah River with nearly 15 tons of heavy metals and has dumped more than 200 tons of these toxics into the river since 1990, according to British Columbia government documents.

The Tulsequah River is a major tributary of the Taku River. There are salmon spawning and rearing areas near the mine site in the Tulsequah and downstream in the Flannigan Slough area of the Taku. Heavy metals can be very harmful to invertebrates young salmon feed on, salmon eggs and juvenile salmon - the toxics are persistent and they bioaccumulate.

“Redfern has allowed toxic pollution to leach into the Tulsequah River upstream of vital salmon spawning and rearing areas and Canadian regulators have allowed this to continue for over 10 years,” said Chris Zimmer of the Transboundary Watershed Alliance, a nonprofit organization with offices in Juneau, Whitehorse and Vancouver.

“Now that Redfern has admitted that the project is uneconomic, we are worried that the site won’t ever be cleaned up," Zimmer said.

The information on heavy metals pollution comes two weeks after Redcorp Ventures Ltd., Redfern’s parent company, announced that the project is now on hold due to “increased capital and operating expenditure estimates and a reduced resource estimate” and that more work will be needed to make the project “financeable.”

“The project is in financial trouble and this raises serious questions about whether Redfern will clean up the acutely lethal heavy metal pollution.” said Zimmer. “Redfern’s financial ills also call into question whether the company can pay for the expensive water treatment plan and other mitigation measures they committed to during the approval process. We hope Canadian officials see the danger in approving a project that can’t pay for itself.”

Redfern has been in violation of Canada’s Fisheries Act for more than a decade at the Tulsequah site and is now in danger of missing the June 30 cleanup deadline, Zimmer warns.

The original Tulsequah Chief mine on the Tulsequah River was operated by Cominco Ltd. who barged gold, silver, copper, lead and zinc down the Tulsequah and Taku Rivers to Juneau, Alaska. Local residents recall the decline in salmon populations and the death of trees along the river bank. The mine was closed in 1957 due to low metals prices. The mine tailings at the Tulsequah site release acid mine drainage that continues today.

The property was purchased by Redfern Resources Ltd., a Vancouver based junior mining company, in 1987 with plans to re-open the Tulsequah Chief mine. Barging was deemed financially unviable, leaving only one other transportation option - the construction of a 160 kilometer (99 mile) access road through the pristine Taku watershed.

The mine was first granted a project certificate in 1997, but the Taku River Tlingit First Nation launched a legal challenge and had the certificate struck down in BC Supreme Court in 2000. The BC Liberal government appealed that decision, but lost that challenge as well in a BC Appeal Court decision in 2002.

In December 2002, the BC government defied the BC Supreme and Appeal Courts, the Federal government, and the Taku River Tlingit First Nation by approving the Tulsequah Chief mine and road proposal.

Redfern’s decision to shelve the project has not changed the company's desire to get final project approval from the Canadian federal government and apparently has not raised any concerns with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which continues to prepare for a final federal decision.

“Instead of expediting a final decision for this mine and road, Canadian agencies should be focusing on cleaning up this mess,” said Zimmer. “Why would DFO consider approving a project when even the company says it isn’t economical and when they apparently can’t clean up the existing mess? This delay is a prime opportunity to take a step back and develop a long term watershed plan.”

Find out more from the Transboundary Watershed Alliance at: http://www.riverswithoutborders.org/

The Taku River Tlingit First Nation documents on the mine are found at: http://www.gov.trtfn.com/lands/tulsequah/index.htm

Visit the Redcorp Ventures site at: http://www.redcorp-ventures.com/index.html

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New York Governor Envisions Empire State Greenway

ALBANY, New York, June 1, 2005 (ENS) - Governor George Pataki dreams of creating an Empire State Greenway that will link the Great Lakes with New York City, forming one continuous corridor from the Niagara River along the Erie Canal and down the Hudson River.

"The Empire State Greenway will stretch from Buffalo to Albany and on down to New York City and comprise one of the largest Greenways in the nation," Governor Pataki said.

The Niagara Greenway and the Hudson Greenway have been started, and on Friday the governor announced the launch of the Erie Canal Greenway - the essential link in the green chain.

"Nearly two centuries ago, the bold vision of Governor DeWitt Clinton and other pioneers to link the Hudson River with the Great Lakes became a reality, giving rise to an era of unprecedented prosperity and growth across New York State," the governor said.

"Throughout its history, the Erie Canal has served as a shining symbol of the ingenuity and greatness of the Empire State," he said. "Let us now take bold steps to add a new chapter to this remarkable legacy by making the Canal the centerpiece of our commitment to leave a cleaner, healthier environment for future generations of New Yorkers to come. Let's create the Erie Canal Greenway."

Pataki announced that he is recommending Carmella Mantello to serve as director of the New York State Canal Corporation. Mantello is currently the executive director of the Hudson River Valley Greenway Communities Council, executive director of Greenway Conservancy for the Hudson River Valley, Inc. and director of the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area, . Mantello's appointment as Canal Corporation Director is subject to approval by the Canal Corporation Board of Directors.

Mantello said, "My experience in working with local communities along the Hudson Valley has made me appreciate how important partnerships are in preserving and developing riverfront space. I look forward to bringing that experience to the people and communities all along the Canal System and the Greenway areas."

Under Mantello's leadership, the number of communities having joined the Hudson River Valley Greenway Communities Council has grown to 222, the Greenway Land Trail has grown to over 525 miles of trails, and the Greenway Water Trail now includes over 70 designated sites and 10 campsites from Waterford, Saratoga County to Battery Park, Manhattan.

The governor's announcement comes as the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Commission (ECNHCC) is poised to release its draft Management Plan for public comment. The Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor is one of 27 nationally designated heritage areas or corridors in the country. The 27 member federal Commission is in the process of developing its preservation and management plan for the Erie Canalway Corridor.

The Commission's Management Plan, which will be released for public comment this summer and finalized by the end of the year, will be instrumental in establishing a roadmap for the future of the Canal System.

Governor Pataki directed the Canal Corporation to work closely with the Commission in both the development and future implementation of the Greenway plan, and called on the state's Canal Recreationway Commission to adopt the plan and work closely with the federal ECNHCC in the future.

The fundamental concept behind a Greenway is to partner with communities and assist them in local grassroots planning that balances their economic and environmental resources. A potential Greenway designation would incorporate a more regional approach to land-use planning, tourism, recreational trail development and other collaborative initiatives.

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Clean Harbors San Jose in Violation of Clean Water Act

SAN JOSE, California, June 1, 2005 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ordered a large industrial waste management facility in San Jose to comply with federal Clean Water Act requirements for wastewater the company discharges to the city’s sewer system and municipal wastewater treatment plant.

Clean Harbors Environmental Services operates more than 100 waste management facilities across the nation. The firm accepts and treats wastewater from industrial facilities and site cleanups.

The EPA inspected the Clean Harbors facility on Berryessa Road in San Jose on January 12, 2004 and determined the company violated federal water pollution standards by discharging wastewater with oils and solvents without a permit, discharging wastewater to the city’s sewer system that exceeded limits for titanium, not adequately sampling its wastewater, and not following sample reporting requirements.

The EPA determined that Clean Harbors did not sample its wastewater for all required pollutants before discharging it to the San Jose sewer system; did not submit all results of sampling conducted to the city as required by federal law; diluted the waste streams as an alternative wastewater treatment; collected wastewater samples that were not reflective of the company’s actual wastewater discharge; and did not consistently use correct analytical sampling methods.

Finally, the agency determined that Clean Harbors submitted incomplete and inconsistent information in response to a formal EPA request made in August 2004.

“Industries such as Clean Harbors, whose business is the management and disposal of a wide variety of wastes containing toxic chemicals, must comply with federal water pollution control standards to protect the city’s sewers, municipal wastewater treatment plant and the sensitive South San Francisco Bay environment,” said Alexis Strauss, director of the Water Division in the EPA’s Pacific Southwest region.

The EPA’s order to Clean Harbors requires the facility to immediately comply with federal regulations by demonstrating that its wastewater is being correctly treated and monitored.

The order also requires Clean Harbors to provide engineering reports with proposed changes to its wastewater treatment system; to provide updated operating procedures; to monitor correctly for cyanide; and to sample its wastewater for a year and send the results to EPA to verify the facility is complying with the order.

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Milwaukee School Builds a Rain Garden

MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin, June 1, 2005 (ENS) - Milwaukee is building a rain garden at the Lloyd Street School to help handle storm water runoff, and the project received a boost on Friday with the announcement of a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5.

The grant is part of EPA Region 5's Great Cities Program that focuses on an urban environmental challenge in one major city in each of the six Region 5 states - Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Indianapolis, Minneapolis and Milwaukee. The program is designed to achieve measurable environmental results in each city, in one year or less.

The money will help transform a paved schoolyard into an area of native plants and vegetation that could help lessen urban storm water runoff, improve water and air quality and save the school money.

"We don't expect all of Milwaukee's environmental problems to be solved with this one project," said EPA Acting Regional Administrator Bharat Mathur. "This grant is a challenge to the city to leverage the success of this project and make it a sustainable effort that will have a significant impact on the sewer overflow problem."

"We are extremely pleased to receive funding from the Environmental Protection Agency," said Mayor Tom Barrett. "The money will be used to create a rain garden at Lloyd Street School which is another creative and useful tool to help lessen storm water run off during heavy rainstorms."

"We are happy to see this project coming to Lloyd Street School through our partnership with the City of Milwaukee and EPA," said Superintendent William Andrekopoulos. "The bioretention pond will be an area of green space in the city where children will be able to learn about the importance of the environment and how a fun place can contribute to our wellbeing."

Like many older cities, Milwaukee has a combined sewer system which means that during periods of heavy rain or snow excess storm water mixes with sewage. Vegetation absorbs rain, reducing the amount of storm water entering the city's combined sewer system and helping to prevent overflows that pollute lakes, rivers and streams.

Minimizing the amount of pavement which retains heat will keep nearby buildings cooler in the summer, saving energy and reducing cooling costs.

Replacing grass with deep-rooted native plants conserves water, eliminates the need for fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides that can seep into ground water, and helps clean the air because polluting gasoline lawn mowers are no longer needed.

The grant will also help develop an environmental education curriculum at the school. The success of this demonstration project may lead to similar efforts elsewhere in Milwaukee.

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