AmeriScan: June 14, 2006

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South Central Farmers Evicted, Treesitter Daryl Hannah Jailed

LOS ANGELES, California, June 14, 2006 (ENS) - A three year struggle of South Central Los Angeles farmers to save their gardens came to a climax Tuesday morning as Los Angeles police, firefighters and about 65 sheriffs deputies raided the contested farm land, arresting 45 people.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and other city officials negotiated with landowner Ralph Horowitz for hours even as law enforcement officials removed protesters from the property.

The farm, covering 14 blocks, was one of the largest urban community gardens in the United States.

Bulldozers cut a 30 foot wide lane through farmer’s plots to get to a large walnut tree where more than 30 people were chained together in lockboxes bolted to steel drums filled with concrete.

Celebrities Daryl Hannah and John Quigley were among the 45 arrested. They were sitting high in the tree and had to be removed by a Fire Department ladder truck.

Hundreds of farm supporters arrived on the scene, but were prevented from entering the farm by Los Angeles police in riot gear. Unable to gain access, protesters sat down in the street blocking traffic on a major avenue for hours until police cleared the street. Bulldozers uprooted the gardens late into the evening; some farmers wept on seeing their plots destroyed.

At a news conference Tuesday afternoon the mayor said Horowitz turned down $16 million, an offer that met the asking price for the land. Talks broke down because Horowitz wanted the farmers evicted, the mayor said.

Horowitz said he had been paying more than $25,000 a month to maintain the property that the farmers were utilizing for free. He was offended, he said, by what he claimed were anti-Semitic remarks directed at him.

The land, located on an industrial corridor in an economically depressed area of the city, was seized from Horowitz in 1986 after the city used eminent domain in an attempt to build an incinerator at the site.

Community activists turned back the incinerator plan, and residents began to use the land for garden plots where families could grow their own food.

Horowitz successfully sued to get the land back. Three years ago, he paid $5 million to reacquire the property, but the farmers refused to leave.

The farmers' cause won the support of folk singer Joan Baez, actor Martin Sheen, and tree-sitting celebrity Julia Butterfly Hill.

On June 6, Hill wrote, "From my vantage point in the walnut tree not only do I see luscious green life growing amongst the concrete. I also see beauty, hope, possibility and a vision for the world that inspires me beyond belief. It is growing from every plot, from every heart, and from every person I see coming to this place."

As the bulldozers turned the gardens back into the soil, the farmers' spokesman Tezozomoc said, "Let's not mourn but continue to fight for its life and the livelihood of the South Central Farmers! Over 50 arrests have been made, a few demonstrators have suffered blows from batons and the bulldozers were sent in to demolish the blooming crops, indigenous plants and 14 years of love that have been put into the farm. We are continuing to stand strong with tears in our eyes."

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Oregon Governor Will Sue to Stop First Roadless Timber Sale

SALEM, Oregon, June 14, 2006 (ENS) - Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski says he intends to file for a temporary restraining order in the Federal District Court in San Francisco to stop the federal government from proceeding with the sale of timber in the South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area of the Siskiyou National Forest.

Citing the need to protect roadless areas in the region of the 2002 Biscuit fire, Governor Kulongoski said that the federal timber auction held June 9 would foreclose his ability to influence the management of Oregon’s unroaded national forests when he petitions the federal government later this year.

The U.S. Forest Service is moving forward with the timber sale despite the governor’s March 9th letter requesting the agency not do so.

"This timber sale, coming four years after the Biscuit Fire occurred, is unneeded and unwise," said Kulongoski. "Opening this particular roadless area to salvage logging now – when we are in the process of preparing a petition to the federal government on the proper management of those areas - contradicts the assurances the Bush Administration has made that the governors’ opinions on such issues will be respected."

Earlier this year, Oregon and three other states filed suit in federal court over the repeal of the 2001 roadless rule and the adoption of the 2005 rule. Briefs have been filed and the case is slated for oral arguments in the Federal District Court on August 1, 2006.

A temporary restraining order would preserve the status quo during the court proceedings and prevent any irreparable harm that would result from the logging.

The governor asked Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers to file for a temporary restraining order when it became clear that the timber auction had produced a potential buyer for the area known as Mike’s Gulch, which encompasses about 400 acres of forest.

If the sale proceeds, it will be the first time that the federal government has logged in roadless areas since a new rule regarding such lands was adopted by the Bush Administration in 2005.

The rule allows for an 18 month period in which governors can petition for continued protection of unroaded forestlands previously protected by the 2001 Roadless Rule that was repealed in 2005.

Governor Kulongoski opposed repeal of the 2001 Rule and expressed serious concerns about the rule that replaced it. He also supports placing Oregon’s 1.9 million acres of roadless areas back into protected status.

"I am not against salvage logging and restoration; in the right time and in the right place," said Kulongoski. "But salvage logging in the Biscuit now is not the right time and not the right place."

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Maryland Senator Pledges New Money for Oceans Protection

WASHINGTON, DC, June 14, 2006 (ENS) - Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, senior Democrat on the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee, today celebrated Capitol Hill's Oceans Week with a pledge to fight for a greater federal investment in important oceans programs.

Senator Mikulski announced her position at a press conference Tuesday, where she received the report she had requested from the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative (JOCI), "From Sea to Shining Sea: Priorities for Ocean Policy Reform."

The JOCI is a collaborative effort of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and Pew Oceans Commission to catalyze ocean policy reform. The primary goal of the JOCI is to accelerate the pace of change that results in meaningful ocean policy reform.

Senator Mikulski organized a bipartisan group of her Senate colleagues to request the report as part of a national initiative to increase visibility and conservation for oceans.

"I asked for this report to give us a framework for future action - things we can accomplish today and tomorrow. As the senior Democrat on the subcommittee that funds the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), our premier ocean agency, I will fight this year to make a down payment on oceans programs," said the senator.

The report recommends 10 steps Congress can take to better fund and assist the implementation of the commission's previous proposals to ocean policy reform. It calls for Congress to adopt a statement of national ocean policy that acknowledges in legislation the importance of oceans to the nation's economic and ecological health and establishes a framework for all other ocean legislation.

Congress should establish a strengthened NOAA in law, enact legislation to create incentives for ecosystem-based management, and secure additional funding to support management, science and education programs, the two commissions advise.

Joining Senators Mikulski in this initiative are Republicans John Sununu of New Hampshire, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Olympia Snowe of Maine, Richard Shelby of Alabama and Ted Stevens of Alaska.

Democrats behind the initiative include Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, Barbara Boxer of California, Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, and Maria Cantwell of Washington.

A copy of the report is online at: www.jointoceancommission.org.

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Wayne County Airport Admits De-Icing Chemical Discharge

DETROIT, Michigan, June 14, 2006 (ENS) - Wayne County Airport Authority, which operates Detroit Wayne County Metropolitan Airport, pleaded guilty last week to a misdemeanor violation of the Clean Water Act, the Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced.

The Airport Authority admits that it negligently failed to report a May 16, 2001 discharge of turbid water into the Frank and Poet Drain, a waterway that leads to the Detroit River, in violation of the airport’s discharge permit.

“Public entities – including the largest airports in the country – must comply with our nation's environmental laws, and they are not immune from criminal prosecution if they fail to meet their legal obligations,” said David Uhlmann, chief of the Justice Department's Environmental Crimes Section.

The Airport Authority has agreed to pay a fine of $75,000. An additional $25,000 will be paid as community service to Friends of the Detroit River, a non-profit organization dedicated to conserving, preserving, and restoring the watershed of the Detroit River.

The Airport Authority will also serve a four-year term of probation. As a condition of probation, the airport will undertake and complete construction and use of a force main, or pumped sewer line, to connect Pond 3W at the Airport to sanitary sewer lines leading to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department’s treatment plant in Detroit.

The planning of the force main project has been underway for a number of months, and its cost currently is estimated at $8.5 million.

The airport maintains a number of large ponds on-site that collect stormwater runoff. During winters, aircraft deicing fluids – primarily propylene glycol – are used on aircraft. Run-off from the deicing is collected in a separate pond, Pond 3W.

Ordinarily, Pond 3W discharges to a sanitary sewer system that conveys the glycol-contaminated storm water to the Wyandotte Wastewater Treatment Plant. In May 2001, the airport operated under a Clean Water Act permit, which stated that any unusual characteristics of the discharge, including unnatural turbidity and color, must be reported immediately to the Southeast Michigan District Supervisor of the Surface Water Quality Division.

Sometime during the second week in April, 2001, the valve connecting Pond 3W to the sanitary sewer became clogged. Deicing materials, mostly ethylene glycol and propylene glycol, gradually turned the water in Pond 3W turbid and odorous.

Attempts to clear the pipe failed, as did efforts to pump water from Pond 3W to the sanitary sewer.

On May 16, 2001, Airport personnel opened a gate connecting Pond 3W to two other ponds and then opened an outfall valve that allowed these ponds to discharge directly to the Frank and Poet Drain.

Some 25 million gallons of water were discharged from the Airport from the three ponds. The discharge of the turbid, odorous water was not reported to the Southeast Michigan District Supervisor of the Surface Water Quality Division, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, as required by the facility’s NPDES Permit.

The discharge was discovered during the course of an investigation of a fish-kill observed near the mouth of the Frank and Poet Drain, as it enters the Detroit River, two days after the discharge.

Stephen Murphy, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan said, “Protecting the purity of our water system requires constant diligence. This is a very positive result for our community.”

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KFC Sued Over Trans-Fat Frying Oil

WASHINGTON, DC, June 14, 2006 (ENS) - The parent company of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) is the target of a class action lawsuit filed Monday by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) over the partially hydrogenated oil used to fry the chicken.

The suit filed by the Washington, DC, law firm of Heideman Nudelmen & Kalik, P.C., claims that partially hydrogenated oil is chemically altered and laden with trans-fats that kill an estimated 50,000 Americans per year.

"This lawsuit is meant to serve as wake-up call to the food industry that changes must be made to protect the consumer from known dangers to his or her health," said attorney Richard Heideman.

The suit was filed in Superior Court of the District of Columbia against Yum! Brands based Louisville, Kentucky. It asks that the court prohibit KFC from using the partially hydrogenated oil, or that signs be posted in KFC outlets notifying customers that many KFC foods are high in trans-fat.

The plaintiff in the case is retired physician Arthur Hoyte, of Rockville, Maryland. He had purchased fried chicken at KFC outlets in Washington, DC, and elsewhere, not knowing that KFC fries its foods in partially hydrogenated oil.

"If I had known that KFC uses an unnatural frying oil, and that their food was so high in trans-fat, I would have reconsidered my choices," said Dr. Hoyte. "I am bringing this suit because I want KFC to change the way it does business. And I'm doing it for my son and others' kids so that they may have a healthier, happier, trans-fat-free future."

"Grilled, baked, or roasted chicken is a healthy food-and even fried chicken can be trans-fat-free," said CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson. "But coated in breading and fried in partially hydrogenated oil, this otherwise healthy food becomes something that can quite literally take years off your life. KFC knows this, yet it recklessly puts its customers at risk of a Kentucky Fried Coronary."

Jacobson says KFC meals can be "startlingly high" in trans fat. Besides chicken, KFC's biscuits, potato wedges, pot pie, and several desserts all contain hefty amounts of trans fat from partially hydrogenated oil.

One Extra Crispy chicken breast has 4.5 grams of trans-fat. A large order of Popcorn Chicken has seven grams of trans-fat, and KFC's Pot Pie contains 14 grams of trans-fat. A typical three piece Extra Crispy combo meal, with a drumstick, two thighs, potato wedges, and a biscuit has 15 grams of trans-fat - more than an individual should consume in a week, Jacobson says.

Once thought to be harmless, trans-fat is now known to be more harmful than saturated fat, since it simultaneously raises LDL cholesterol, which promotes heart disease, and lowers HDL cholesterol, which protects against it.

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Spanish Firm Opens Wind Turbine Factory in Pennsylvania

EBENSBURG, Pennsylvania, June 14, 2006 (ENS) - Governor Edward Rendell Monday cut the ribbon to mark the official opening of Gamesa Corp.’s manufacturing facility for wind turbine generator blades – its first in North America – at the South Park Industrial Complex in Cambria County. More than 230 people will work at the new plant.

The Spanish wind energy company is investing $84 million to locate its U.S. headquarters and four manufacturing facilities in Pennsylvania.

Aside from the Ebensburg plant, three new advanced technology plants are planned for Bucks County, where wind mill blades and towers will be manufactured and nacelles, which house the wind turbines will be assembled.

“Alternative energy development is helping to power Pennsylvania’s economy,” the governor said. “We are attracting private investments and creating manufacturing jobs that will keep our commonwealth growing, improve our environment and enhance our already strong national leadership in building a clean energy future.”

Wind energy is a key part of Governor Rendell’s strategy to build a diversified energy base that ensures greater security for Pennsylvania, creates jobs and improves the environment.

Pennsylvania now generates 153 megawatts of power with renewable sources, enough clean energy to power 70,000 homes.

There are more than 5,000 megawatts of untapped wind power in the state, with the potential to generate 45 billion kilowatt-hours annually, enough to power more than five million homes.

Gamesa President Alfonso Basagoiti said the opening “reinforces the long-term commitment of the company with the U.S. wind power market and which is strengthened by a solid base of a significant order book in the wind turbine sales.”

Gamesa, headquartered in Victoria, Spain, is the only vertically integrated wind-energy company in the world, manufacturing the parts for wind-energy units and then developing the wind farms. “Advanced energy technology is about achieving both environmental protection and economic development – at the same time,” Governor Rendell said.

A testament to the effectiveness of the Governor’s economic development policies is the recent report from the Corporation for Enterprise Development showing that Pennsylvania jumped from 46th in 2004 in short-term job growth to 15th last year. The state economy has added more than 122,000 jobs since Governor Rendell took office in 2003.

Site Selection magazine ranks Pennsylvania among the top 10 states with the most new and expanded corporate facilities, outperforming the entire Northeast - the first time since at least 1999 that our commonwealth ranked first in the region. Pennsylvania went from seventh in 2004 to sixth last year in the number of manufacturing facility projects underway, according to the magazine.

Site Selection magazine also ranked Pennsylvania fourth nationally in the number of new manufacturing facilities in 2005. Since 2002, the number of new manufacturing projects in the state has nearly tripled to 76 projects in 2005.

This optimism on Pennsylvania’s economy is supported by the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, whose 2005 economic survey revealed that about 80 percent of its members expect to increase their investments in Pennsylvania in the next 12 months.

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Washington State Tightens Oil Spill Prevention, Response Rules

OLYMPIA, Washington, June 14, 2006 (ENS) - The Washington state Department of Ecology is seeking public comment on a set of three proposed rules designed to prevent oil spills into Washington waters and to improve response readiness.

The agency is proposing to update state rules regarding how oil will be transferred over water involving tank vessels, cargo and passenger ships, oil storage facilities, marinas and, for the first time, tank trucks and rail cars.

The proposed rules establish spill prevention and response standards for facility and vessel operators who transfer oil to or from vessels. The draft rules would require operators to follow safe oil transfer practices to prevent spills.

Under the proposal, some vessels and oil-handling facilities would be required to deploy an oil-spill containment boom prior to transferring oil.

The new rules would expand Ecology's current oil transfer inspection program, adding more field inspectors to oversee fueling activities.

The proposal updates the state oil spill contingency plan rule that requires tank vessels, cargo and passenger ships, oil storage facilities, and pipeline companies to demonstrate that they can mount an effective, timely response if they spill oil.

The proposed rule focuses on early spill response actions, staging response equipment throughout the state, and conducting scheduled and unannounced spill readiness drills.

"Oil spills, especially those that happen during oil transfers, can and should be prevented," said Dale Jensen who manages spill prevention, preparedness and response activities for Ecology. "Our goal is to prevent oil spills to Washington waters and ensure that if a spill does occur, a clear plan is in place to minimize environmental and economic damage."

The public comment period for all three draft rules is open until July 26. Ecology will hold five meetings to share information and collect public comments:

Written comments and questions regarding the proposed rules can be submitted to Department of Ecology, P.O. Box 47600, Olympia, Wash., 98504-7600, or faxed to 360-407-7288. For comments or questions about the draft oil transfer rules, contact Jason Reichert at 360-407-7390 or email: oiltransferrule@ecy.wa.gov. Email comments and questions about the proposed oil spill contingency plan rules to Elin Storey at: eabr461@ecy.wa.gov or call 425-649-7111.

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