Chosen AmeriScan: March 7, 2005 AmeriScan: March 7, 2005

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EPA's Performance Track Incentives Attract Corporations

WASHINGTON, DC, March 7, 2005 (ENS) - Seeking flexible and streamlined environmental permits, 54 new facilities from 25 states and Puerto Rico have qualified for membership in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) National Environmental Performance Track Program, the agency announced Friday.

Performance Track rewards facilities that voluntarily exceed regulatory requirements, implement systems for improving environmental management, work with their communities, and set three year goals for improvements in environmental performance.

Only facilities with a record of sustained compliance with environmental requirements are eligible to participate in this program.

“Performance Track recognizes these facilities as environmental leaders because they deliver results beyond what is expected or required by law,” said EPA Acting Administrator Steve Johnson. ”These facilities demonstrate on a daily basis that economic prosperity and environmental protection can go hand in hand.”

New Performance Track members have made strong commitments in a wide range of categories.

For example, the Coca-Cola North America Ontario Syrup Plant in Ontario, California has committed to reducing its water use by more than 2.2 million gallons over the next three years. That amounts to enough water to fill a regulation Olympic size swimming pool 8.7 times.

Fuji Hunt Photographic Chemicals in Orange Park, Florida, has committed to eliminating its use of the hazardous chemical hexane, preventing almost 264,000 pounds per year of this contaminant from entering the environment.

The Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire facility in LaVergne, Tennessee, has committed to reducing its annual energy use by the average amount of energy 1,550 households use in one year.

Eighteen companies with existing Performance Track facilities have expanded their membership today including, 3M, Baxter Healthcare, Georgia-Pacific, International Paper, Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Inc., and Rockwell Collins.

Some new Performance Track companies include, Brooklyn Navy Yard Cogeneration Partners, Sharp Manufacturing, Weyerhaeuser Structurwood, and Xerox Supplies Manufacturing Plant.

New federal government Performance Track members are Capulin Volcano National Monument in New Mexico, and Performance Track’s first National Forest, the Wallowa Whitman National Forest in Oregon.

The EPA offers incentives to Performance Track members for air emissions that include flexible permits, streamlined permits, and quicker attention to their requests from EPA staff.

For water permits, ongoing discussions focus on incentives that would be tied to the effluent guidelines planning process and state revolving fund program.

Waste regulations may be streamlined for Performance Track members, and facilities will be eligible for waivers or deferrals from Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) hazardous waste requirements as long as controls and management practices are equivalent.

The program currently has over 350 members in 46 states and Puerto Rico. To date, Performance Track members have collectively reduced their water use by 1.3 billion gallons and their generation of solid waste by nearly 970,000 tons, the EPA said. They have increased their use of reused or recycled materials by nearly 77,000 tons, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of 67,000 tons of carbon dioxide.

For a full list of Performance Track members and the benefits available to them, visit: http://www.epa.gov/performancetrack/

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New Maps Detail Pacific Island Coral Reef Ecosystems

WASHINGTON, DC, March 7, 2005 (ENS) - The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is offering a website and CD-ROM with digital geographic information system data, maps, and satellite imagery depicting the location and distribution of shallow water seafloor habitats for American Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

The information compiled by National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science’s Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment (CCMA) was released last week at the 13th meeting of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force in Washington.

“The availability of the images, maps and data represents a major milestone towards the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force’s recommendation to develop shallow water coral reef ecosystem maps for all U.S. waters by 2009,” said NOAA Administrator Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr.

Available at http://biogeo.nos.noaa.gov/products/us_pac_terr/order.shtml, the product is the fifth in a series of digital maps that characterize bottom habitats.

The Coral Reef Task Force was established in 1998 to develop and implement a comprehensive program of research and mapping to inventory, monitor, and identify the major causes and consequences of degradation of reefs.

The maps have been produced by CCMA and its partners for U.S. jurisdictions, including Florida; Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands; the main eight Hawaiian Islands and the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

Efforts are also underway to update the benthic habitats of Florida and to explore mapping coral reef ecosystems in the U.S. Freely Associated States, including the Republic of Palau, Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia.

The recently completed maps are characterized by unprecedented accuracy and detail, and represent the first comprehensive assessment of benthic habitats of the shallow water environments less than 99 feet water depth for these Pacific Island Territories.

Thirty-four distinct benthic habitat types within 11 unique ecological zones were mapped directly into a GIS using visual interpretation of satellite images. In all, CCMA delineated and mapped 174 square miles of unconsolidated sediment, 76 square miles of submerged vegetation, and 51 square miles of coral reef and colonized hardbottom.

CCMA’s benthic habitat maps have seen a variety of management applications since the first products were delivered in 2001 for the Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, including identifying no-anchor zones within U.S. National Park Service marine parks and monuments and assessing marine resource abundance and distribution inside and outside of marine protected areas.

The maps are also used for evaluating and citing potential marine protected areas, and developing coral ecosystem monitoring strategies.

At the meeting, NOAA deputy assistant secretary for oceans and atmosphere Timothy Keeney announced that NOAA will propose listing staghorn and elkhorn corals as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. This would be the first listing of any coral species as threatened or endangered under the act.

Coral reefs are among the world's most endangered ecosystems. Coral reefs protect coastlines from storm damage and prevent erosion. The oldest and largest structures made by living organisms on the planet, they provide shelter and food for as many as 10 million animal and plant species.

Interior Secretary Gale Norton told the Task Force meeting that federal and state agencies were doing a good job of protecting coral reefs, and emphasized the importance of continuing to build partnerships to protect the fragile ecosystems from destruction.

"Through a partnership of federal agencies, states and territories, we have identified the biggest threats to coral reefs and are now in the process of implementing a strategic plan to reduce and eliminate these threats," Norton said.

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Overseers Chosen for $500 Million Los Angeles Clean Water Bond

LOS ANGELES, California, March 7, 2005 (ENS) - The nine members of a committee that will oversee the expenditure of the $500 million Proposition O Clean Water and Beaches bond measure approved by Los Angeles voters in November have been selected. The committee was formed to ensure the funds are spent on cleaning up Los Angeles City storm water, rivers, and beaches.

In Los Angeles County, about 100 million gallons of contaminated water and debris drain through the storm drain system each dry day. One hundred million gallons would fill the Rose Bowl 1.2 times. On rainy days, the daily flow can increase to 10 billion gallons.

The appointees to the Proposition O Citizens Oversight Committee announced in February by Los Angeles Mayor Jim Hahn and City Council President Alex Padilla include a mix of scientists, water experts and environmentalists.

Mayor Hahn’s appointees to the Proposition O board are Mark Gold, Tiger Kang, Craig Perkins and Teresa Villegas.

“I am so pleased to have such a wonderful team working to protect our water and make sure that it meets water quality standards,” Hahn said. “Together, we’ll be able to enact stormwater management projects and ensure that our water and beaches remain clean.”

Holder of a doctorate in environmental science and engineering. Mark Gold currently serves as the executive director of environmental group Heal the Bay. Gold also chairs the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Project Steering Committee, sits on the State Water Board’s Clean Beach Advisory Group and served on the EPA’s Urban Wet Weather Federal Advisory Committee.

“By selecting this group of environmental leaders, Mayor Hahn and Council President Padilla are demonstrating their commitment to clean water,” said Gold. “I strongly believe in the improvements this bond money can accomplish and am excited to work with a group of people known for their successful efforts in environmental protection.”

Tiger Kang is founder and president of the Pacific Volunteer Association, a non-profit organization designed to encourage participation in Los Angeles through volunteering. Major PAVA events have included Coastal Cleanup Day, the Great Los Angeles River Cleanup and Bridging of 2 Communities.

Craig Perkins is the director of environmental and public works management and former environmental programs manager for the City of Santa Monica. He is a member of the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Project, the California Urban Water Conservation Council and the Sustainable Policies Institute Board.

Teresa Villegas recently opened MTV Environmental Consulting, a consulting business that focuses on community organizing, environmental research and policy. She previously served on the California Air Resources Board and as the legislative director for The Trust for Public Land.

The balance of the nine member committee was selected by City Council President Alex Padilla, and includes Cecelia Estolano, former California Coastal Commissioner, Jose Sigala, board president of Friends of the Los Angeles River, Mary Nichols, former California Secretary of Resources, Cynthia McClain-Hill, also a former California Coastal Commissioner, and Francine Diamond, chair of the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board.

The Proposition O oversight committee will oversee funds for projects to remove trash, bacteria and storm water pollution from the city's rivers, lakes, beaches and ocean to make sure that they are allocated properly.

Nearly 76 percent of Los Angeles city voters supported Proposition O. The City must now develop criteria for $500 million in projects to clean up Los Angeles’ most polluted rivers, lakes and beaches.

Of the $500 million allocated for Proposition O:

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Golf Course Wetlands Clean Storm Water, Prevent Floods

WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana, March 7, 2005 (ENS) - Surface water cleanup and flood prevention are improved by constructing wetlands in planned communities, say Purdue University scientists who completed a long term study of the management system.

The research, begun in 1998 on three constructed ponds on a newly renovated golf course on the university campus, showed that 11 of 17 measurable chemicals in surface water were reduced after running through the system, said Ron Turco, soil microbiologist and senior author of the report.

"Constructed wetlands on golf courses and in planned communities are a very good water management system," Turco said. "When you build houses, roads and driveways, lots of hard surface is added, leaving no place for water to go. Building dikes and levees just moves the water problem somewhere else, causing flooding elsewhere."

The researchers evaluated a three-pond system on Purdue's Pete Dye designed Kampen Golf Course. They studied the quality of the water from when it entered the golf course until it exited into a holding pond or a recovering natural wetland, the Lilly Nature Center's celery bog, in West Lafayette.

Golf course architect Dye was instrumental in designing Purdue's Kampen course and securing support for the use of the wetlands. Spence Restoration Nursery provided the wetland plants and Heritage Environmental, Indianapolis, provided water sample analysis.

Constructed wetlands act as a holding area that can provide recycled water for irrigation, a system the scientists used on the golf course, he said.

Because golf courses are mostly open surfaces, as opposed to all the hard surfaces in subdivisions and shopping malls, water can soak into the soil and flow into a constructed wetland, he said. As surface water flows from adjacent roads and parking lots onto a golf course and into the constructed wetlands, nutrients, suspended solids, organic metals, trace elements, pesticides and pathogens are removed or even eradicated.

"Wetlands actually add a positive aspect to the water balance of a given region because they are basically infiltration sites," Turco said.

"Use of constructed wetlands can be significant in water management and water quality just by their use on the approximately 16,000 U.S. golf courses the National Golf Foundation lists," Turco said. "In addition, many new home developments are planned around golf courses, and these developments need ways of containing, cleaning and directing water runoff, especially during storms."

The wetlands also are of aesthetic value on golf courses and residential areas, and they create homes for wildlife and plants, he said. Using the recycled water for irrigation ensures that the wetlands remain wet and the recycled surface water is less expensive than pumping ground water.

The 11,000 water plants placed in the ponds, along with microbes, are responsible for retaining or degrading the various chemicals associated with surrounding urban sprawl and the golf course itself.

Some of the chemicals found in entering water included atrazine, chloride, nitrate, ammonia, nitrogen, organic carbon, phosphorus, aluminum, iron, potassium and manganese. In all, 83 chemicals were monitored, but only 17 were present in measurable amounts.

Using four water quality monitors, the scientists measured how much water entered and how fast it flowed through the system, and then compared data taken during both storm and non-storm days.

Wetlands must be designed so they have enough capacity to handle the runoff in the particular water management area, Turco said. Water flow speed and water depths must vary to ensure that the microbes remain active so they can degrade contaminants.

The United States Golf Association, Indiana Water Resources Research Center and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 provided funding for this study. Findings are published in the February issue of the journal "Ecological Engineering."

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Indian Creek Discharges Cost Colorado Developers Big Bucks

LOVELAND, Colorado, March 7, 2005 (ENS) - Marketed as a "Colorado dream in a stress-free environment," the Indian Creek Ranch property development, 16 miles from the Breckenridge ski slopes, has turned into a $440,000 stressful headache for the developers.

The Loveland development group will pay $330,000 to correct environmental damage it caused on Indian Creek and adjacent wetlands in violation of the Clean Water Act and pay a penalty of $110,000, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Denver office.

The U.S. Department of Justice filed a civil complaint and lodged a proposed consent decree on February 10, 2005 against Frederic M. Bernstein, Henry Y. Yusem, K & J Properties, Inc., Y & B Properties, LLC, Indian Creek Investments, LLC, and ICR, LLC of Loveland for the unauthorized discharge of fill material into Indian Creek and its adjacent wetlands.

On August 30, 1999 and on May 15, 2000, officials from EPA Region 8 had ordered Bernstein to stop discharges into Indian Creek, its wetlands or tributaries and to submit a plan for assessing and restoring the damage to the creek.

After the developer failed to comply with the orders, EPA referred the case to the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) for civil action. Since half of the defendants filed for bankruptcy in October 2002, the DOJ has been negotiating a settlement for the claims.

The EPA is concerned about removal and stabilization of the sediment that was pushed down the river bank and into the creek, as well as the full impact of the proposed development activities on Indian Creek and its adjacent wetlands and tributaries.

The developer impaired or destroyed two acres of stream channel and adjacent wetlands.

“EPA acknowledges the complexity of the negotiations that were required in light of the bankruptcy action and appreciates the developer’s willingness to perform the restoration,” said EPA Region 8 Assistant Administrator Carol Rushin, Office of Enforcement, Compliance and Environmental Justice.

“Colorado’s scarce waters and wetlands must be protected from all forms of pollution that are discharged by un-permitted activities," Rushin said.

Property owners or contractors planning to conduct earth moving activities near wetlands, river, streams, ponds, and other water bodies should always contact the U.S. Corps of Engineers regulatory office in Littleton before they start work to see if they need a permit at 303-979-4120.

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More NYC School Buses Get Equipment to Cut Diesel Emissions

NEW YORK, New York, March 7, 2005 (ENS) - The New York Power Authority (NYPA) intends to expand its Clean School Bus Program, installing control devices to cut harmful diesel emissions on 1,500 to 2,000 New York City school buses by about 40 percent. The initial plan announced in 2004 covered 1,000 buses.

The emissions reductions result when school buses are equipped with diesel oxidation catalysts and fueled with ultra-low sulfur diesel.

The NYPA program is already providing cleaner fuel for 2,800 school buses in New York City, more than two-thirds of the school buses operating in the city.

"Expanding this program to retrofit additional buses is another step in the right direction to improve air quality in New York City and protect the health of our school children," Governor George Pataki said.

The $6 million program had initially sought to retrofit up to 1,000 school buses. NYPA had estimated that this initial plan to use a combination of emission controls, including diesel oxidation catalysts and diesel particulate filters, with cleaner fuel would have produced annual reductions of 8.5 tons of particulate matter emissions.

The expanded program involving 1,500 to 2,000 buses equipped with diesel oxidation catalysts and fueled with ultra low sulfur diesel is expected to reduce particulate matter emissions by up to 12.5 tons annually.

After completing installation of the first 1,000 diesel oxidation catalysts, NYPA will install emission reduction devices on an additional 500-1,000 buses, and will continue to evaluate all available technologies to ensure the best match to the remaining fleet.

"With the assistance of the New York City Department of Education, the Power Authority's Clean School Bus Program is helping to significantly cut diesel emissions that can contribute to asthma and other respiratory illnesses," Pataki said.

"This initiative is part of our two-pronged approach that is helping to install pollution reducing technology on existing diesel buses while we seek to ensure that in the future, every new school bus purchased in the state will run on clean fuel," he said.

NYPA has signed an agreement with Lubrizol Engine Control Systems to purchase and install 1,000 diesel oxidation catalysts, the first of which will begin to be installed on buses operating in the Bronx later next month.

Lubrizol Engine Control Systems' diesel oxidation catalysts have been certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reduce tailpipe emissions on certain bus engine types by 40 percent, when used in conjunction with clean burning ultra low sulfur diesel fuel.

In cooperation with the NYC Department of Education, the Power Authority signed a long term agreement to pay the cost differential for purchasing ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel.

The cleaner burning fuel supplied by the agreement is already working to reduce emissions by 10 percent on the 2,800 school buses participating in the program. NYPA began funding the transition to cleaner fuel in March 2004.

In addition to the clean fuel agreement with the NYC Department of Education, NYPA has reached separate emission control installation agreements with the major providers of pupil transportation services in New York City - Amboy Bus Company, Jofaz Transportation, Consolidated Bus Transit Inc. and Pioneer Transportation Corporation.

New York Power Authority Chairman Louis Ciminelli said, We believe this combination of clean fuels and emission controls is a sustainable effort which can be repeated with other school bus operators in New York City."

NYPA's Clean School Bus Program is part of its $23 million initiative to offset emissions from the installation of small, clean power plants at six sites in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.

Other elements of the program include the installation of eight 200 kilowatt fuel cells at New York City wastewater treatment facilities. The fuel cells now produce electricity from waste gases which previously had been burned off, emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

The program has also included deployment of zero emission electric vehicles and energy-efficiency projects throughout New York City.

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Two Men Face Prison for Interstate Trafficking of Live Deer

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota, March 7, 2005 (ENS) - Five years in federal prison and/or a $250,000 fine are the maximum penalties facing two Minnesota men who admitted interstate trafficking in live deer.

In late February, Michael James Rozell of Mora, and Brian Henry Becker of Madelia pled guilty in federal court in Minneapolis to felony counts of violating the Lacey Act involving the illegal trade of deer in interstate commerce.

The two men captured more than 30 live whitetail deer in Minnesota and transported them across state lines for sale to out-of-state shooting preserves.

Of concern to state and federal officials is the risk posed by the interstate sale of the whitetail deer without meeting tuberculosis testing requirements by the Minnesota Board of Animal Health.

In early 2001, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Special Investigations Unit (SIU) began an investigation using SIU Investigators as well as DNR conservation officers. Both overt and covert operations gathered information about the activities of the two men.

SIU is a plainclothes unit that investigates, gathers evidence and prosecutes major commercial violators of natural resource laws. The scope of the investigation eventually included the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who along with Department of Natural Resources (DNR) investigators, reviewed sales receipts, travel vouchers and bank records.

They determined that from 1999 through 2002, Rozell and Becker transported and sold the deer. The exact dollar value of the operation "was difficult to determine with accuracy," investigators said. Still, SIU investigators and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agents documented the transfer of tens of thousands of dollars during this period.

DNR Chief Conservation Officer Col. Mike Hamm said, "Rozell and Becker are arguably two of Minnesota's largest illegal traffickers of live whitetail deer, posing a serious threat to the health of the state's wild deer population."

"A Michigan hunter was recently diagnosed with bovine tuberculosis after he cut his hand while field dressing an infected deer," Hamm said. "This appearance of bovine TB in a human is rare, but underscores the human health risk of the disease in free-ranging deer."

Bovine tuberculosis is a bacterial disease that affects primarily the lungs and sometimes the digestive tract of livestock, deer and other wildlife.

Case agents for the state and federal wildlife enforcement agencies say the investigation is still ongoing and a federal indictments has been handed down to a shooting preserve operator in Oklahoma.

The investigation continues in at least two other states with additional federal prosecution a possibility.

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Environmental Justice Small Grants Funding Available for Nonprofits

BOSTON, Massachusetts, March 7, 2005 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is seeking applications for the Environmental Justice (EJ) Small Grants program, and is holding a series of conference calls for potential applicants to discuss eligibility criteria in March. EPA New England expect to award three $25,000 grants through the program.

Under this new funding opportunity, projects are sought from community organizations that address a community's exposure to multiple environmental harms and risks.

This program will fund two types of projects. First, projects will be funded that address pollution in more than one environmental medium, such as land, air and water, called multi-media projects

Second, research projects will be funded that are specific to hazardous substances as defined under the Superfund Act, formally known as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA).

Only community groups that are nongovernmental, not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organizations located in the affected community are eligible for the Environmental Justice Small Grants program.

The focus of this year's program is on collaborative partnerships, and applicants must demonstrate how they plan to collaborate with other entities such as businesses, academic institutions, environmental organizations and federal, state and local governments, to complete their proposed projects.

The EJ Small Grants program started with $500,000 in 1994. After reaching a high of $2.5 million in total grant awards in 1998, the program funding steadily declined to the fiscal year 2004 when funding was only $423,000.

This year, the EJ Small Grant funding is up to a total of $750,000. Of that amount, $250,000 is available for CERCLA research projects only.

Funding is being divided equally among the 10 federal regions, so each region expects to award a total of $75,000 in grants.

The EPA says that funding levels for this fiscal year do not permit the Office of Environmental Justice to fund both the EJ Small Grants program and the Collaborative Problem-Solving Cooperative Agreement program, so, the the EJ Small Grants program was chosen for funding.

The deadline to submit completed application packages for the 2005 EJ Small Grants program is midnight on Monday, April 4, 2005.

The EPA's New England office is sponsoring three conference calls on the following dates and times in March to go over eligibility criteria for the EJ Small Grants program:

To sign up for any of these calls, contact Davina Wysin at Wysin.Davina@epa.gov or 617-918-1020. Space is limited for each call, first come, first served.

For detailed information about the EJ Small Grants program, including a copy of the current application and profiles of past projects, visit the EPA's Office of Environmental Justice website at: http://www.epa.gov/oeca/ej/grants/ej_smgrants.html