AmeriScan: March 12, 2002
EMISSIONS TRADING NOT WORKING, GROUPS CHARGE
LOS ANGELES, California, March 12, 2002 (ENS) - Two community groups in California have sued nine Los Angeles companies for emitting more than 700,000 pounds of nitrogen oxides (NOx) without purchasing sufficient pollution credits.
Our Children's Earth (OCE) Foundation and Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) filed the lawsuits in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, alleging that the companies emitted excess NOx by failing to comply with federally approved Regional Clean Air Incentive Market (RECLAIM) rules. OCE and CBE reported these violations to the South Coast and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and went forward with the suits after those agencies failed to act.
"These types of market based credit trading programs are being touted as the silver bullet for reducing air pollution by the George W. Bush administration. In truth, programs with gaps like these allow an irresistible opportunity for everyone to cook the books," said Tiffany Schauer, OCE executive director. "Who's watching the store? When the only people interested in accountability are environmental watch dogs, it means the system is broken and needs repair."
Created by the South Coast Air Quality Management District in 1993, RECLAIM is a so called cap and trade air pollution trading program designed to control emissions of NOx in the greater Los Angeles area. NOx leads to the creation of ozone, the principal element of smog.
Under RECLAIM, each participating facility is given an annual allocation of pollution credits, called RECLAIM Trading Credits (RTCs), which equals the maximum amount of pollution which they can release. Facilities must hold credits equal to their actual emissions.
If a facility wants to pollute above their allocation, they must offset that excess by buying RTCs. If they under pollute, they can sell their excess RTCs. Each quarter, RECLAIM participants must hold sufficient RTCs to cover the amount of NOx emitted by the participant up to that point in the year.
The lawsuits allege that several companies violated the Clean Air Act by failing to purchase sufficient pollution credits. As a result, more smog causing pollution was released than allowed by federal law.
The greater Los Angeles area is among the smoggiest in the nation and ozone levels in are often twice the federal health standard. Many major sources in the South Coast air basin have maintained the same levels of pollution, and some have even increased their pollution since the creation of the RECLAIM program.
The two largest NOx source categories, refineries and power plants, have increased their emissions over the past eight years.
"These lawsuits will help reduce air pollution and hold polluters and regulators accountable," said Scott Kuhn, CBE staff attorney. "We told the government about these violations two months ago, but they have not taken action to enforce the law."
TEXAS BANS DEER IMPORTS TO BATTLE DISEASE
SAN ANTONIO, Texas, March 12, 2002 (ENS) - The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission (TPW) has voted to suspend the importation of white-tailed deer into the state to reduce the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD).
CWD is a form of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy similar to mad cow disease, but found only in elk and deer. The disease causes a degeneration of brain tissue in affected animals.
On Monday, TPW held an emergency session to discuss measures of protecting the state's multi-billion dollar hunting and livestock industries against the threat of CWD. They voted to close the state's borders to deer imports after reviewing recent cases of CWD in both captive and free ranging deer populations in several other states.
Jerry Cooke, TPW game mammal branch chief, said that according to available research, CWD does not pose a threat to livestock or humans.
"The biological and epidemiological nature of CWD is not well understood and has not been extensively studied, but it is known to be communicable, incurable and invariably fatal," he told commissioners. "At the current time, there is no live test for CWD; animals suspected of having the disease must be euthanized in order to obtain brain tissue for definitive diagnosis. Affected animals may take years before exhibiting symptoms of the disease, making it difficult to track and contain spread of infection."
The Texas Animal Health Commission has already banned the import of white-tailed deer, mule deer, black-tailed deer and elk into Texas from Colorado and Nebraska due to the presence of CWD in free ranging herds in those states. Free ranging CWD also has been detected in populations in Wisconsin and Wyoming, and in captive herds in Montana, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska.
TPW's decision extends the import ban to any source outside Texas.
Since TPW published a proposal to suspend deer imports, 243 deer have been brought into the state - almost half the total number of deer imported during all of last year - including 16 animals from Wisconsin, where CWD was confirmed in random testing of deer taken by hunters.
"The suspension of importation of deer at this time is a wise and responsible course of action," said TPW executive director Bob Cook. "This action is intended to minimize the risk of disease transmission that could cause incalculable harm to one of the state's most prized natural resources."
ENTERGY FUNDS METHANE RECOVERY PROJECT
NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana, March 12, 2002 (ENS) - Entergy Corporation is planning a project to capture and convert methane vented from abandoned underground coal mines into electricity.
The project is part of a larger, voluntary program adopted by the energy company to reduce its net emissions of climate changing greenhouse gases.
Entergy says the methane recovery project, being developed by North West Fuel Development, will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 400,000 metric tonnes through 2005. Trexler and Associates, a leading climate change mitigation services provider and project developer, advised Entergy on evaluation and selection of the project, and on the selection of North West Fuel Development to implement the project.
"This project is part of Entergy's environmental initiative to respond to the threat of global warming in a positive and responsible way,'" said Dr. Marty Smith, Entergy's climate change coordinator.
As part of the project, Entergy will help fund the installation of an additional 600 kilowatts of methane fueled power generation at the site of a sealed coal mine in Cadiz, Ohio.
In offsets involving coal mine methane, methane vented from abandoned underground coal mines is captured and converted into electricity or upgraded to pipeline quality for use with natural gas. Methane is believed to be 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide in warming the global climate.
In May 2001, Entergy became the first U.S. utility company to announce a commitment to stabilize its domestic greenhouse gas emissions at year 2000 levels through 2005, and to develop a long term target to achieve additional reductions.
The company has partnered with conservation group Environmental Defense to develop a program to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from Entergy's plants in the United States that generate electricity through burning fossil fuels.
Entergy owns, manages, or invests in power plants generating more than 30,000 megawatts of electricity in the U.S. and abroad, and delivers electricity to about 2.6 million customers in portions of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.
$2.2 MILLION SUPPORTS PHYTOREMEDIATION STUDIES
WASHINGTON, DC, March 12, 2002 (ENS) - Almost $2.22 million in grants has been awarded to seven universities to study the ability of plants to treat soils contaminated by heavy metals or organic chemicals.
The research will study phytoremediation, or the use of plants to degrade, remove or stabilize toxic compounds from contaminated soil and water in ways that are less expensive and less disruptive than traditional cleanup techniques.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Science Foundation are sponsoring the grants to help foster innovative scientific solutions to the worldwide problem of soils contaminated with heavy metals and organic chemicals, which can affect human health, ecosystem function and agriculture.
Funding for the joint initiative was made available through the Joint Program on Phytoremediation, a federal research effort involving EPA, the National Science Foundation and the Departments of Defense and Energy.
Three grants were awarded through EPA's Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program, and are designed to clarify the mechanism of phytoremediation of organic contaminants. These three grants will go to the University of California, University of Connecticut and Washington State University.
The University of California at Riverside will evaluate plant species that produce a specific group of chemicals for use in phytoremediation, and the ecology of chemical degrading bacteria that live in the root systems of these plants. The University of Connecticut will investigate the role of plant roots in the phytoremediation of persistent organic pollutants in soil.
Washington State University will study spartina cordgrasses for their potential use as a phytoremediation tool in marine and estuarine sediments. More information on these grants is available at: http://es.epa.gov/ncer/grants/phyto01.asp
The National Science Foundation will sponsor three multidisciplinary research projects to investigate the genetic components of phytoremediation of heavy metals in soils. These grants will go to Cornell University, Perdue University and a joint grant to Northwestern University and the University of Florida.
Cornell will study the molecular basis for heavy metal accumulation and tolerance in one plant species. Purdue University will perform a study to attempt to identify genes for metal accumulation in an entire plant genome, the Brassicaceae family.
Northwestern University and the University of Florida will perform research to clarify the mechanisms of arsenic uptake, translocation, distribution and detoxification by brake ferns. More information on these grants is available at: http://www.nsf.gov/bio/ibn/ibndevelop.htm
FORMER TEXAS ENVIRONMENTAL OFFICIAL CONVICTED
LAS CRUCES, New Mexico, March 12, 2002 (ENS) - The former director of the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission office in El Paso has been convicted of allowing the dumping of thousands of gallons of animal rendering waste in a Southern New Mexico landfill.
Hector Villa III, the last of several defendants to be convicted in the case, was found guilty of eight Water Quality Act violations. Five counts were for illegal dumping and three counts for failure to report illegal dumping, each carrying a possible 18 month prison sentence and/or a fine of $5,000.
Villa, an environmental consultant in El Paso, Texas, owns and operates Frontera Environmental, and is a former regional director of the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission, the environmental enforcement agency in Texas. He also has served as the federal representative to the Pecos River Commission.
Villa was a consultant to the Valley By-Products plant, which renders animal parts into useful products. Between 1997 and 1999, the plant illegally disposed of thousands of gallons of rendering plant wastewater and animal wastes in two locations. More than half of the wastewater was dumped into the Elephant Butte irrigation system, which provides water to irrigated land in and around Las Cruces.
The remaining wastewater was dumped on a landfill on the mesa west of Las Cruces.
Villa knew that the landfill did not have a permit to accept the rendering wastes, but he allowed Valley By-Products to dump there without notifying the state. The improper disposal of rendering plant wastewater can contaminate groundwater supplies and create a public health risk.
Richard Jerome, president of Valley By-Products of Vinton, Texas, and Henry Medina, owner of Southwest Septic Service in Las Cruces, New Mexico, have also pleaded guilty in the case. Natalie Jerome, corporate secretary for Valley By-Products and Richard's daughter, had also been charged with the same felony counts as her father, but the charges were dismissed as part of her father's plea agreement.
Larry Gorzeman, owner of Gorzeman Dairy, has pleaded guilty to one felony count that carries a basic sentence of 18 months and a possible $5,000 fine.
"New Mexico's water is precious and protecting our water quality is vital. The illegal dumping of animal rendering waste in an Elephant Butte Irrigation District drainage ditch can not be tolerated," said New Mexico Attorney General Patricia Madrid. "This has been a difficult and lengthy investigation and prosecution. Hopefully, this successful conclusion to the case sends an important message that New Mexico will hold violators of the Water Quality Act accountable."
BILL WOULD OUTLAW POLAR BEARS IN TRAVELING SHOWS
WASHINGTON, DC, March 12, 2002 (ENS) - A bill introduced today in the U.S. House of Representatives would bar the use of polar bears in traveling shows or circuses.
Representative Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat, introduced the Polar Bear Protection Act in response to an ongoing situation in Puerto Rico, where seven polar bears, used as a main attraction of the Mexico based Suarez Brothers Circus, have been subjected to tropical heat and alleged inhumane treatment.
"It is a tragedy that anyone would take polar bears, the universal symbol of Arctic wildlife, a world away from their natural habitat and force them into a life of doing tricks for entertainment," said Wayne Pacelle, senior vice president at the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). "We commend Representative Blumenauer for introducing this legislation that if passed into law will prevent other polar bears from having to endure the misery associated with constant travel, coercive training and intolerably warm climates."
The bill carries about 40 original cosponsors. More than 70 members of the U.S. House and Senate have also signed letters urging the federal government to take action to ensure the humane treatment of the bears.
"This is a unique piece of legislation that could go a long way in preventing this sort of animal abuse in the future," said Naomi Rose, HSUS marine mammal scientist. "We are thankful for the support of so many legislators on this issue."
The Suarez Brothers Circus has been using the polar bears in their act in Puerto Rico for about 10 months since obtaining a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to import the animals and display them. During the import permit application process and ever since, there has been a national outcry about the treatment of the bears, with evidence of the Circus committing numerous violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).
The polar bears have been kept in temperatures reaching 112 degrees, often without air conditioning or access to pools of cold water, and confined to transport vehicles for extended periods of time, in one instance for 55 hours.
The Suarez Brothers Circus has applied to the USFWS for an export permit to take the bears to perform on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten, part of the Netherlands Antilles. The HSUS has asked USFWS to deny the application, and to investigate the Circus' alleged violations of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Lacey Act, which protects animals in trade.
Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confiscated one of seven polar bears, moving her to the Baltimore Zoo. Other U.S. zoos have pledged to provide homes for the remaining bears.
FIRE ANTS COULD COST CALIFORNIA MILLIONS
DAVIS, California, March 12, 2002 (ENS) - If the imported red fire ant becomes established in California, the insect could cost Californians from $387 to $989 million a year, says a researcher from the University of California at Davis.
"There's no way of predicting how far and how fast the ants will spread in California," said Karen Jetter, a postdoctoral researcher at the UC Davis-based Agricultural Issues Center. Jetter and colleagues released their findings on the potential economic impact of the fire ant in the January issue of "California Agriculture" magazine, published by the University of California's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
The fire ant, already established in several Southern states, was discovered in California's San Joaquin Valley almond orchards in 1997 and has since shown up in many parts of Orange, Riverside and Los Angeles counties. Last October, it also was found and destroyed on the Cal Expo grounds in Sacramento County.
The authors estimate that, in the absence of eradication efforts, it would take 10 years for the ant to become established and could inflict costs totaling from $3.9 to $9.9 billion during that period, mostly to households.
A $65.4 million, five year eradication program is being coordinated by the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the nursery industry to prevent, lessen or delay the projected losses from the ant's arrival in California.
Based on the biology of the fire ants, the researchers think it is unlikely that they will be eradicated during the first five year funding period. The project will be reviewed, however, and considered for extension based on progress made during the first five years.
In agriculture, the ant's large mounded nests can damage mowing and harvesting equipment, irrigation lines, and electrical equipment. The ants girdle and kill young citrus trees and attack cattle and other livestock. They also damage vegetable and melon crops by eating developing fruit, seeds, roots and tubers and subject nursery and hay crops to quarantine regulations.
ADS LINK HUMAN, ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS
WASHINGTON, DC, March 12, 2002 (ENS) - A new national advertising campaign targeting college students highlights the connection between human rights violations and environmental degradation worldwide.
Sierra Club and Amnesty International USA are sponsoring the campaign, produced by San Francisco based ad firm Collaborate, who worked on MTV's Rock the Vote campaign. The ads, which will appear in nine college newspapers coast to coast, are made to resemble bulletin board items, with banners like "Help Wanted", or "Need Extra Cash?"
Closer inspection reveals that the ads spotlight citizens in nations around the world who have been jailed, beaten, tortured and even murdered for their efforts to defend the environment.
"This ad campaign will connect students and local grassroots activists already working on this campaign with individuals and groups that want to join in holding corporations responsible for their human rights records," said Heidi Craig, an Amnesty International vounteer leader in Seattle and a lead organizer on the campaign. "Whether you hear this message on your radio or read it in your college paper, it is a challenge to take action to defend the people who defend the earth."
The ads urge support for the International Right to Know initiative, which would help provide long term institutional support for environmentalists by giving communities access to information on the environmental practices of foreign corporations doing business in the U.S.
"International Right to Know is a major step towards reversing a vicious cycle of environmental degradation and human rights abuse, by building accountability and transparency in the global economy, while empowering communities with information," said Sam Parry of the Sierra Club. "But it won't be achieved unless U.S. citizens, with students at the forefront, demand that global trade be green, fair, and open."
The International Right To Know initiative is supported by more than 200 human rights, labor, environmental, and faith-based organizations around the country. It would require U.S. companies doing business overseas to make public the same or similar information on their foreign operations that they must now disclose when they operate at home.
In addition to newspaper ads, the campaign also includes an interactive website, flyers, Email updates, and radio public service announcements, which are being distributed across the nation. More information on the campaign is available at: http://www.defendtheearth.org
DR. PEPPER SPONSORS GREEN SPRING BREAK PROJECT
PLANO, Texas, March 12, 2002 (ENS) - Through March 30, students on spring break from colleges and universities around the country can help plant sea oats along the eroding dunes of Panama City Beach, Florida.
For the second consecutive year, soft drink company Dr. Pepper will work with the city officials of Panama City Beach to enlist the support of vacationing college students to help preserve the beaches of the number one spring break destination in the United States by planting several thousand sea oats plants.
The students will be bused from the Dr. Pepper Cabana Cafe, a 30,000 square foot, alcohol free site built on the sand in front of the Summit Resort, to predetermined areas throughout the 27 miles of Panama City beach.
Supervised by Dr. Pepper and Panama City Beach officials, the students will plant sea oats along the eroding dunes of the beach. They will also learn about the environmental importance of how sea oats, a grass like plant, can help sand dunes become less prone to erosion during high tides and strong winds, preserving the beach for future generations to enjoy.
"We want to encourage the students visiting the fully functional [Dr. Pepper Cabana Cafe] oasis to take time out of their vacation schedules and give something back to the community," said Cindi Clark, Dr. Pepper's senior vice president for marketing. "Planting sea oats along the pristine shores of Panama City Beach is sure to give them a sense of pride, and cause them to realize the importance of taking care of our planet."
The preservation effort will be funded by the recycling of about 50,000 Dr. Pepper cans and bottles expected to be collected during spring break. Dr. Pepper will donate all of the proceeds toward the purchase of the sea oat plants.
Last year, Dr. Pepper's contribution enabled the Panama City Beach officials to purchase and plant more than 3,000 sea oats during the three weeks of spring break.
"Last year's beach preservation efforts were a complete success," said Lee Sullivan, Mayor of Panama City Beach. "We are extremely excited that Dr. Pepper has once again agreed to assist our city in eliminating the erosion of our beautiful beaches."
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