AmeriScan: March 10, 2005

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Clean Air Interstate Rule Finalized

WASHINGTON, DC, March 10, 2005 (ENS) - Acting Administrator Steve Johnson today signed the final Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR), a rule he says will ensure that Americans continue to breathe cleaner air by reducing air pollution that moves across state boundaries in 28 eastern states.

CAIR will permanently cap emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) in the eastern United States.

When fully implemented in 2015, CAIR will reduce SO2 emissions in 28 eastern states and the District of Columbia by over 70 percent and NOx emissions by over 60 percent from 2003 levels.

The measure means more than $100 billion in health and visibility benefits per year by 2015 and it is expected to reduce premature mortality in the eastern United States, said Johnson, and these benefits will continue to grow each year with further implementation.

"CAIR will result in the largest pollution reductions and health benefits of any air rule in more than a decade," said Johnson. "The action we are taking will require all 28 states to be good neighbors, helping states downwind by controlling airborne emissions at their source."

The Bush administration's "Clear Skies" legislation failed to emerge from a Senate Committee Wednesday, but the administration is moving its plan forward on a regulatory level with CAIR and a requirement for coal-fired power plants to control mercury emissions set for introduction next week.

CAIR is a component of the Bush administration's plan to help states in the eastern United States meet the national health-based air quality standards, said Johnson. These pollution reductions, along with other federal air quality programs, will allow the majority of nonattainment areas in the eastern United States to meet the new air quality standards.

"We remain committed to working with Congress to help advance the President's Clear Skies legislation in order to achieve greater certainty and nationwide emission reductions," said Steve Johnson. "But we need regulations in place now to help over 450 counties in the eastern United States protect people's health by meeting stringent new air quality standards."

Under CAIR, states will achieve the required emissions reductions using one of two options for compliance: 1) require power plants to participate in an EPA-administered interstate cap and trade system that caps emissions in two stages, or 2) meet an individual state air emission limits through measures of the state's choosing.

For more information, go to: http://www.epa.gov/cair/.

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Missing Documents Found in Case of Fired Parks Police Chief

WASHINGTON, DC, March 10, 2005 (ENS) - Under the pressure of a federal lawsuit, the Department of Interior has reversed itself and announced that the documents sought by fired Parks Police Chief Teresa Chambers do exist and have not been destroyed, according to a letter released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a national alliance of local, state and federal resource professionals.

Two weeks ago, Teresa Chambers filed suit in federal district court after the Interior Department said it no longer had the documents which show charges used as the basis to remove her as Chief of the U.S. Park Police last year were trumped up. Chief Chambers was stripped of her badge, credentials and side arm and marched out of Interior headquarters under armed escort on December 5, 2003 after giving an interview to the "Washington Post," concerning understaffing at the Parks Police.

The key document being sought is a performance evaluation of Chambers prepared by Deputy Park Service Director Donald Murphy, who later charged Chambers with misconduct relating to breaches of chain-of-command and other performance issues.

According to Murphy’s sworn testimony in depositions taken prior to Chambers’ first hearing seeking reinstatement, his evaluation covered the periods during which her supposed misconduct occurred but his evaluation did not mention the issues or incidents that were later used as a partial basis for her firing last July.

“This latest about-face is just another illustration of duplicitous behavior by top Interior officials bent on removing Chief Chambers come hell or high water,” said PEER General Counsel Richard Condit, who filed the suit on Chambers’ behalf. “Chief Chambers should not have to go to federal court to get something that is supposed to be in her personnel file.”

While the Interior Department now admits that the document exists, it is still deciding whether or when to release it. Chambers is suing under the Privacy Act which entitles individuals to see records about them maintained by federal agencies, particularly records created as part of a federal employee’s personnel file. Chambers is suing the Interior Department because it is the parent agency of the National Park Service.

At the same time in a different forum, Chambers is also seeking reinstatement. Her appeal is now before the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board. Two of the six administrative charges that the Interior Department had leveled against Chief Chambers were thrown out at the trial level. If produced, Murphy’s evaluation could knock out two of the remaining four charges.

The remaining two charges involve the interview Chambers gave to the newspaper reporter, and those charges will also be subject to First Amendment and other separate federal court challenges if they are upheld at this stage, said Condit.

“Now that they have found the documents that Chief Chambers has a right to see by law, what is Interior waiting for?” Condit asked. “Teresa Chambers’ case is about whether a public servant can be fired for telling the truth but it is apparent that there is no sanction in the Interior Department for avoiding the truth.”

See the letter from Interior Department announcing it has located the documents at: http://www.peer.org/docs/nps/2005_3_10_Chambers_FOIA_ltr.pdf

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Top Environmental Justice Department Attorney Resigns

WASHINGTON, DC, March 10, 2005 (ENS) - The head lawyer for environmental enforcement at the U.S. Department of Justice has resigned. Assistant Attorney General Thomas Sansonetti of the Environment and Natural Resources Division announced his resignation today, effective April 8.

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said, “Tom Sansonetti vigorously enforced our nation’s environmental laws during his tenure at the Department of Justice. Although our time together at the Department was short, our relationship as friends and colleagues dates back to the beginning of the Bush administration when Tom returned to public service. I admire Tom’s career accomplishments, value his interest in taking on new challenges, and thank him for his service to our nation, President Bush, and the pursuit of justice.”

Sansonetti was confirmed by the United States Senate in November 2001 and presided over the Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD).

Gonzales said that under Sansonetti's leadership, the ENRD set new records in securing civil penalties and obtaining remedial action by polluters under environmental laws.

"Over the last four years, the ENRD promoted the health and safety of America’s citizens, combated illegal shipments of hazardous materials, achieved significant progress in assuring cleaner water, obtained prison sentences for those who pollute the oceans, secured substantial Superfund settlements, and joined federal, state, and local efforts in cleaning up America’s air and protecting its natural resources."

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New York Environmentalists Sue to Block Giant Laundry

SYRACUSE, New York, March 110, 2005 (ENS) - Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE) and two area residents are suing the Onondaga County Industrial Development Agency and laundry giant Cintas to overturn the agency’s $613,000 package of tax breaks for Cintas’s proposed facility in Lysander.

The suit, filed Tuesday in state Supreme Court in Syracuse, charges that the Onondaga County Industrial Development Agency illegally ignored evidence of potentially serious environmental problems with the Cintas plan.

The agency ruled November 11, 2004 that there would be no significant environmental impacts from the controversial plan to build a 55,000 square-foot industrial laundry.

In documents filed with the court, CCE, Lysander resident Gerald Lotierzo, and Onondaga resident Ann Marie Taliercio charge that in approving the Cintas subsidies, the Industrial Development Agency (IDA) ignored risks to the Seneca River. The river is already on the state’s list of most-impaired water bodies.

The IDA ignored evidence that Cintas’ sewage will worsen the Seneca’s seriously depleted levels of dissolved oxygen. The IDA also failed to address the impact of a chemical in Cintas’ detergent that breaks down into a substance that shrinks fish testicles, inhibits the development of fish ovaries and disrupts their ability to reproduce.

The suit alleges that the IDA ignored risks to wetlands and the Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area. Wetlands on the proposed Cintas site drain to the Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area. The IDA assumed that runoff from its building and parking lots would not damage the wetlands, but Cintas gave the IDA no quantitative evidence to support that assumption.

The CCE and two residents allege that the IDA based its decision on a report that repeatedly stated that Cintas had provided no data on key environmental impacts. The report by C&S Engineers was completed a week after the IDA’s deadline, and the IDA board members saw it for the first time just before they voted. And C&S stated that it had not received any data from Cintas on the toxicity of its waste sludge and no data on chemicals that disrupt fish reproduction.

“Suing the IDA is the only way to hold the agency accountable for misusing our tax dollars, ignoring public comment, and failing to consider real environmental risks to our valuable natural resources,” said Dereth Glance, CCE program coordinator.

“We testified at the IDA public hearing where, not one IDA board member was present. An IDA staff person asked us to testify to a tape recorder where we submitted substantial solid evidence that the IDA just ignored. The law says the IDA has to at least address the concerns raised, but instead the IDA chose to ignore the public and the law,” Glance said.

Citizens Campaign for the Environment is an 80,000-member, not-for-profit, non-partisan advocacy organization working to protect public health and the natural environment throughout New York State and Connecticut.

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Oil on Ice Documentary Draws Senator to Arctic Refuge

ARCTIC NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, March 10, 2005 (ENS) - Days before Congress will consider including Arctic National Wildlife Refuge drilling provisions as part of the Federal Budget Resolution, Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, joined "Oil on Ice" documentary filmmaker Dale Djerassi, Alaska natives, and experts on the Arctic Refuge to field questions about the film and the battle over the fate of America's natural treasure today in Washington.

The film is part of a surge in grassroots activity across the country in response to renewed threats to drill in the Arctic as part of the federal budget. Congress is expected to vote on the issue next week.

"'Oil on Ice' brings to life the beauty of this god-given environment and gives voice to the native Alaskans who know the impact of drilling in a wildlife refuge better than anyone in Washington," said Boxer, who spoke at today's event. "The majority of Americans support preserving the Arctic Refuge and the surge in grassroots support of protecting this precious area has been truly impressive."

"President Bush trying to sneak drilling into the budget tells you about the fundamental weakness of the Republican's ideological push to sell off our public lands to the special interests. The drilling lobby knows they cannot sell the American people on this proposition, so they are resorting to a procedural end-run instead of an open, honest debate," said Senator John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat.

"The American people don't want drilling, and Congress has rejected it every year since 2001. Everyone except for George Bush seems to understand that drilling in the Arctic Refuge would ruin one of our last wild places without doing a thing to change our dependence on foreign oil. You can't drill your way to energy independence; you have to invent your way there," said Kerry.

Winner of the International Documentary Association's 2004 Pare Lorentz Award, "Oil on Ice" shows the refuge's beauty, wildlife, and native cultures and gives an in-depth look at America's energy policy.

The film is being used as a tool in the grassroots efforts to raise awareness of this issue.

This Saturday marks Arctic Action Day across the country, with more than 1,500 "Oil on Ice" house parties planned for concerned citizens, including many members of the Sierra Club, Alaska Wilderness League, and PIRG.

Last week, similar events were held at more than 380 university campuses and community centers in the U.S. and Canada as part of Energy Action Day. The screenings were organized by the youth- based group Energy Action and coincided with the final day of a joint Energy Bill lobby week of the Indigenous Environmental Network and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

"We are caribou people. It is our clothing, our story, our song, our dance and our food that is who we are. If you drill for oil here, you are drilling right into the heart of our existence," said Sarah James, Gwich'in from Arctic Village.

"As a person who lives off the Bowhead Whale in the Arctic Ocean, we need to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for future generations. What they are trying to do will set a precedent and no land and ocean will be safe," said George Edwardson, an Inupiaq from Barrow who is a petroleum and mining engineer.

"Oil on Ice" is co-produced and co-directed by Dale Djerassi and Bo Boudart in association with Lobitos Creek Ranch, and is presented by Sierra Club Productions.

For more information, visit http://www.oilonice.org

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First Internet Hunting Death Fires Up Humane Society

WASHINGTON, DC, March 10, 2005 (ENS) - Internet hunting has fired its first shot and claimed its first victim, but the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is not taking this news lying down.

The organization is calling on state lawmakers and Congress to ban the remote slaughter..

The scheme operates like a computer game where a person can point and shoot a rifle via remote control, though the rifle is real and so is the killing of animals in what amounts to a video- monitored canned hunt.

The desktop hunter pays several hundred dollars or several thousand, not including taxidermy and shipping of his trophy.

"What started as a depraved idea has apparently become a sickening reality," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. "This is a snuff film scenario in which animals will be senselessly killed for the voyeuristic pleasure of someone sitting at a keyboard. It is pay-per-view slaughter. This remotely delivered cruelty should be shut down and outlawed immediately."

Pacelle says that in addition to animal welfare concerns, Internet hunting raises important questions for public safety and homeland security. "With the recent news reports of terror suspects on federal watch lists having easy access to firearms, why would we make it even easier for these people to inflict their terror by experimenting with the idea of remote shooting with the aid of the Internet?"

According to the Fort Worth "Star-Telegram," a San Antonio hunter used his home computer to fire a remote rifle and kill a wild boar, becoming the first online customer of a 220-acre Texas canned hunt stocked with captive exotic animals.

The Internet hunting site received nationwide attention when the plan was announced last November, but at the time the remote system was not yet operational for shooting live animals.

Since then, the Virginia legislature has passed the first bill banning Internet hunting (HB 2273 and SB 1083), which awaits the Governor's signature, and similar bills are pending in Alabama (SB 302 and HB 557), California (SB 1028), Hawaii (SB 1424), Maine (LD 50), Michigan (HB 4465), New York (S 2822), Oregon (HB 2528, SB 389), Tennessee (HB 1268, SB 1505, and SB 1895), Texas (HB 391), and West Virginia (HB 2890).

The HSUS is pushing the introduction of bills in other states, as well.

Texas is believed to be home to the most canned hunting operations in the United States. Clients pay large sums of money to participate in canned hunts, which take place in a confined area from which the animal cannot escape.

Most of the targets are non-indigenous animals, including several varieties of goats and sheep; numerous species of Asian and African antelope; deer, cattle, and swine; and bears, zebra, and big cats.

The HSUS estimates there are more than 1,000 canned hunting operations in at least 25 states.

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Turkey Hunting Most Dangerous, Deer Hunting Most Deadly

HERSHEY, Pennsylvania, March 10, 2005 (ENS) - Turkey hunters have higher rates of shooting-related injuries than hunters of other species in Pennsylvania, according to a Penn State College of Medicine study published today.

The study found that Pennsylvania hunters' chances of being shot depend on both what they're hunting and the hunters' ages, with the highest injury rates reported in hunters under the age of 20.

"This study examined differences in characteristics and rates of past injuries with the goal of providing information to the Pennsylvania Game Commission," said Gene Lengerich, V.M.D., associate professor of health evaluation sciences, Penn State College of Medicine.

This study also examined how injury rates changed before and after fluorescent orange clothing regulations. "The Game Commission can use the information to reduce the rates of future hunting-related shooting injuries and evaluate certain regulations such as wearing fluorescent orange clothing," Lengerich said.

The study, published in the "Journal of Trauma," examined 1,345 hunting-related shooting incidents that occurred in Pennsylvania from 1987-1999.

The incidents were categorized by the species hunted: white-tailed deer, turkey (fall), pheasant, grouse, rabbit, squirrel, and turkey (spring).

Previous studies have examined hunting-related shooting injuries and deaths, but have not considered the type of species hunted. Previous reports also have disagreed about whether younger or older hunters were more likely to be involved in shooting incidents.

For the seven selected game species, 1,345 hunting-related shooting incidents occurred in Pennsylvania between 1987 and 1999. There were 1,382 injuries and 77 fatalities accounting for nearly 92 percent of all hunting-related shooting injuries and 93 percent of such fatalities during this time period.

Data showed that fall turkey hunters had the highest shooting-related injury rate at 7.5 per 100,000 hunters and grouse hunters had the lowest at 1.9 per 100,000.

The number of fatalities per number of injuries was highest for deer at 10.3 percent and lowest for pheasant at 1.3 percent.

Over the study period, rates decreased for deer hunters, increased for spring turkey hunters and did not change for other species. For fall turkey hunters, rates changed in relation to fluorescent orange clothing regulation changes.

"Compared to other hunters, turkey hunters had the highest injury rate, were typically older and fewer had a history of hunter education," said Joseph Smith, M.D., M.S., study team member and former Penn State College of Medicine graduate student in health evaluation sciences.

Turkey hunters commonly dress in camouflage clothing to blend into their surroundings. They attempt to lure their game within shooting distance, usually 50 yards or less, by making turkey-like sounds. In violation of hunting regulations, other turkey hunters may stalk these turkey-like sounds. The stalking hunter then shoots toward the sound, mistakenly shooting the victim. Some 75 percent of turkey incidents appear to have occurred in this manner.

In the early 1990s, fluorescent orange clothing was made a requirement for turkey hunters. Between 1992 and 1994, the number of fall season multiple-party, poor judgment injuries decreased.

But in 1995, the regulations were relaxed and hunters in a stationary position could remove their fluorescent orange if they displayed 100 square inches of fluorescent orange material within 15 feet of their calling position. Thereafter, the number of multiple-party, poor judgment injuries increased.

"The recommendation is that young hunters should acquire additional training, especially in firearm handling, to improve skill and judgment, and should also be better supervised," Lengerich said.

"Second, turkey hunters should receive training specific to turkey hunting," he said. "The fluorescent orange clothing regulations that were in effect from 1992 through 1994 for fall turkey hunting should be re-instated and applied to fall and spring turkey hunting."

While turkey hunters claim that wearing fluorescent orange clothing interferes with their ability to harvest a bird, the Pennsylvania Game Commission's data show that prior to any fluorescent orange regulations, one turkey was harvested for every eight to 24 hunters. Since the clothing regulations were imposed, one turkey for every five to eight hunters has been harvested.

Keith Snyder, Pennsylvania Game Commission Hunter-Trapper Education Division chief, said, "Because we constantly strive for zero hunting-related shooting injuries, we were an active partner in this study. We are already implementing some of the suggestions to better our hunter education efforts."

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Save the Elm Workshops Offered in Minneapolis

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota, March 10, 2005 (ENS) - Minneapolis is considered one of the last strongholds of American elms in the United States, with about 60,000 remaining elms. The city lost 10,000 elms last year to Dutch elm disease and it is estimated that another 10,000 elms on public and private land could be lost to the disease this year.

The public is being invited to help stem the loss of the American elm trees in Minneapolis. The Alliance for Sustainability is conducting three free workshops to provide information about what Dutch elm disease is, how it spreads, and how to manage it.

People will learn how to inventory the elm trees in their neighborhoods and work with licensed tree professionals, certified arborists, and trained volunteers to protect the elm trees.

The three workshops, all in Minneapolis, will be held:

For further information, contact Sean Gosiewski, Alliance for Sustainability, 612-331-1099, ext. 1, or iasa@mtn.org.