AmeriScan: May 24, 2006

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California Paint Firm Must Pay $450,000 for Toxics Cleanup

LOS ANGELES, California, May 24, 2006 ENS - Following a January fire at a paint company in Carson, California that killed the plant manager and severely burned two employees, the company has been ordered by the federal government to clean up hazardous substances released onto the property.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency EPA has ordered Advanced Packaging and Products to cover the cost of the cleanup, estimated at $450,000.

The Los Angeles County Fire Department put out the fire at the paint and automotive liquids blending and packaging firm on 1631 Maple Blvd. in Carson.

The Fire Department’s Health Hazardous Materials Division then began cleaning up the site before requesting the EPA’s assistance.

When EPA officials were called in, they discovered over 400 hazardous substances containers at the site, ranging from five gallon cans to a 5,000 gallon tank, containing isopropyl alcohol, toluene, xylene and other flammable materials.

Xylene is a flammable solvent that may result in disturbed vision, dizziness, tremors, cardiac stress, and coma. Toluene is also a flammable solvent that may cause nose and eye irritation, muscle fatigue, and liver and kidney damage.

“The potential health threats to neighborhood businesses and residents require a fast, effective cleanup. We expect the company to clean up all hazardous substances, contaminated materials and chemical runoff left behind by this tragic fire,” said Keith Takata, director of the U.S. EPA’s Superfund program in San Francisco.

The EPA amended a previous order to include Advanced Packaging and Products, PJH Brands, Inc., Steven Renshaw, and Golden Root LLC, to compel a response under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act.

If these parties fail to comply with the order, Takata says the EPA itself may conduct the cleanup.

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Beyond Success in Yellowstone, Grizzly Bears Need Help to Survive

MISSOULA, Montana, May 24, 2006 ENS - Grizzly bears are coming back to Yellowstone National Park, but the animals face extinction in other regions if conservation steps are not taken soon, says a new report by Defenders of Wildlife.

The report, Places for Grizzly Bears, released last week during Bear Awareness Week, assesses grizzly recovery in six key areas of grizzly habitat.

“We are encouraged that grizzly bears appear to be doing better in Yellowstone, but bears in many other areas are hanging on by a thread. There are several grizzly populations in dire need of immediate attention or we will lose them forever,” said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife.

The six areas identified as suitable grizzly habitat are:

  1. The Yellowstone ecosystem in Wyoming and along the Montana and Idaho border
  2. the northern Continental Divide ecosystem along the Rocky Mountain front in northern Montana
  3. the Cabinet/Yaak ecosystem along the Montana and Idaho border with Canada
  4. the Selkirk ecosystem along the Idaho, Washington,Canada border
  5. the North Cascades ecosystem in northern Washington state
  6. the Bitterroot ecosystem in western Idaho
Challenges to grizzly recovery include illegal hunting, habitat loss, oil and gas drilling, and cuts to federal and state conservation budgets. Also offered are solutions to aid grizzly recovery, including hunter education programs, human-bear conflict reduction measures i.e. bear-proof trash bins, improved bear surveys and monitoring and measures to ensure healthy gene pools for breeding.

“In some key grizzly recovery areas, there are fewer than 50 bears left. We can no longer rely on bears migrating down from Canada to boost our populations. We must take action now before these populations disappear forever,” said Minette Johnson, Northern Rockies representative for Defenders and author of the report.

The release of the report comes shortly after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed removing the Yellowstone grizzly bear population from the list of endangered species. Defenders of Wildlife opposes the removal of the Yellowstone population for reasons outlined in the report.

“While paying lip service to grizzly bear recovery, the Bush administration has done nothing to bolster these ailing populations and has actively worked to undermine recovery efforts by cutting funding and derailing projects that have widespread public support,” said Johnson.

Proposed oil and gas drilling near Glacier National Park could jeopardize this rebounding population, the report says.

Smaller populations in the Cabinet/Yaak, Selkirk and North Cascades ecosystems are hanging by a thread, and the Bush administration in 2001 ignored a proposal developed by citizens of Montana and Idaho, as well as more than 26,000 comments from across the nation supporting restoration of bears to public lands in the Bitterroot ecosystem of central Idaho and western Montana.

Defenders believes that achieving true long-term conservation of grizzly bears in the lower 48 states will require protecting existing populations, augmenting smaller ones and actively reintroducing bears to places like the Bitterroot ecosystem, with more than 5,600 square miles of potential habitat and a minimal chance of conflicts. Ultimately, the report states, the fate of grizzly bears depends on linking existing populations to provide crucial genetic interchange.

“It is our responsibility to protect these bears for future generations," said Johnson, "and right now, we are failing in that task.”

Places for Grizzly Bears is found online at:

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Groups Threaten Los Alamos With Clean Water Act Lawsuit

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico, May 24, 2006 (ENS) - Citing violations of the Clean Water Act at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), a group of six New Mexico community organizations Tuesday filed a Notice of Intent to Sue the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Regents of the University of California, which operates the lab for the U.S. government.

“LANL Water Watch came together to hold LANL accountable for more than 60 years of contamination that now threatens our future drinking water supply,” said Kathy Sanchez, director of Tewa Women United, one of the community groups.

“There are more than 1,400 documented contaminant sites at LANL, and every time it rains or snows, these contaminants move through our canyons and springs to the Río Grande. LANL needs to take immediate and effective action to protect our waters,” she said.

Attorney Matthew Bishop of the Western Environmental Law Center, who is legal counsel for LANL Water Watch, said that the impending law suit was based on four specific violations of the Clean Water Act - failure to conduct adequate monitoring; failure to report violations; failure to have pollution controls in place, and making unauthorized discharges.

“The result of these failures is that toxic contaminants are migrating to the Río Grande, the future source of drinking water for Albuquerque and Santa Fe,” he said.

At a site on the Río Grande, Bishop called the pollution a catastrophe waiting to happen. “In addition, the Río Grande continues to be used for fishing and farming all along its length, enabling dangerous contaminants to get directly into the food chain.”

Bishop said that studies by the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) and LANL itself show that New Mexico’s future water supply is being threatened by a number of pollutants, including PCBs at more than 25,000 times the New Mexico Water Quality Standard protective of human health.

Other toxins of critical concern include hexavalent chromium, the same carcinogenic compound featured in the Erin Brockovich movie. In addition, the groups say the water is being contaminated with discharges of nitrates, fluoride, high explosives, and numerous radioactive elements, as well as perchlorate, a chlorine-based chemical linked to thyroid dysfunction.

Bishops points to the U.S. Department of Energy’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2007, which he says would result in a $90 million shortfall for cleanup of contaminated sites.

"This drastic slash in funding would make it extremely difficult for LANL to meet federal Clean Water Act requirements or comply with the NMED Consent Order, which requires full and complete clean up of sites by the year 2015," Bishop said.

“The Consent Order was formally signed by the NMED, LANL and DOE on March 1, 2005” Bishop said. “But without the funds, it’s an empty promise.”

Sanchez said that LANL Water Watch hopes the lawsuit will result in LANL honoring its commitments. “We want zero contaminants discharged from LANL, we want it to honor the Order on Consent with NMED, and we want them to implement Best Management Practices for discharges and dumping,” she said. “And, we want federal and state regulators to hold LANL accountable."

Sanchez says that LANL Water Watch wants to see the total of fines from prior and on-going violations to be vigorously pursued, paid in full, and allocated to complete and effective independent monitoring and remediation of the sites in question to prevent future contamination of our waters.

Organizations in LANL Water Watch are Amigos Bravos, Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, Embudo Valley Environmental Monitoring Group, Partnership for Earth Spirituality, Río Grande Restoration, and Tewa Women United.

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House Votes to Limit Roadbuilding in Alaska Forest

WASHINGTON, DC, March 24, 2006 (ENS) - In a bipartisan vote Thursday, the House of Representatives voted to limit money to build logging roads in the Tongass National Forest.

The amendment to the FY2007 Interior Appropriations bill, sponsored by Congressmen Steve Chabot of Ohio, a Republican, and Robert Andrews of New Jersey, a Democrat, won by a vote of 237 to 181. The amendment is supported by a broad coalition of taxpayer and budget watchdog groups, sportsmen and conservationists.

“This is a major step toward saving our last great rainforest and saving taxpayer money as well,” said Caitlin Hills, legislative director with the Alaska Rainforest Campaign.

"The Tongass is home to one of the government's most ridiculous subsidies, with tens of millions spent on each year on roads that go nowhere. With the government running huge budget deficits, members of Congress from both parties realized it's good business to stop the colossal waste of tax dollars in the Tongass.”

Subsidized roads used to log the Tongass National Forest have cost American taxpayers millions. In 2005 alone, the Forest Service spent $48.5 million on the Tongass logging program and received only $500,000 in revenue.

Over the past two decades, losses have reached roughly $1 billion. One recent Tongass road project cost taxpayers $2.9 million, though the private company using the road to log only paid the treasury $107,000 for the trees it cut.

The Tongass is the crown jewel of the National Forest system,” said Aurah Landau, spokeswoman for the Alaska Coalition. “This is a terrific victory for America’s Rainforest and America’s taxpayers.”

The conservationists note that the Forest Service has been caught using federal money to build Tongass roads illegally. In addition, the agency has been managing the Tongass under an illegal forest plan that needlessly doubled logging and road building levels.

The Tongass National Forest is part of the world’s last intact temperate rainforest. Centuries-old trees provide critical habitat for wolves, grizzly bears, wild salmon, bald eagles and other wildlife that have disappeared from many other parts of the country.

During the last 45 years, the Alaska timber industry has logged over one million acres of Southeast Alaska’s old growth forest and built over 5,000 miles of logging roads in the Tongass.

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Congressional Republicans Seek to Increase Post-Fire Logging

WASHINGTON, DC, May 24, 2006 (ENS) - The U.S. House of Representatives passed a post-disturbance logging bill last week that bypasses most environmental protections and meaningful public involvement.

By a 243-182 vote, the House passed the Walden logging bill, HR 4200, legislation that seeks to accelerate and increase logging on national forests after fires and other disturbances such as blow-downs.

The measure would give the federal government the ability to declare nearly any weather event or fire on 250 acres or more in national forests to be a natural disaster. Such a declaration would trigger a waiver of key environmental and public participation laws.

No protection would be offered for streams or riparian areas, critical wildlife habitat, old growth forests, roadless areas, fragile soils, or other environmentally sensitive lands and resources.

Four amendments designed to limit the scope of the bill were defeated.

The battle now moves to the Senate, where Senator Gordon Smith, an Oregon Republican, has introduced a similar bill, S 2079.

The Walden logging bill was opposed by wildland firefighters who say that debris left by loggers can lead to catastrophic wildfires that threaten nearby communities and the lives of the firefighters themselves.

Scientific studies on post-fire logging have shown that it slows forest recovery, can harm water and soils, and can increase risk of future fires.

Yet the House and Senate logging bills would fast-track logging projects by waiving environmental analysis and public involvement in decisions about individual projects.

Marty Hayden, vice president of public policy with the nonprofit, public interest law firm Earthjustice, has called the Walden logging bill the legislative equivalent of the Flat Earth Society.

"More than half the House has chosen to embrace this snake oil," Hayden said. "Let's hope the Senate is more enlightened."

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Washington State, Skagit County Agree on Water Supply

OLYMPIA, Washington, May 24, 2006 (ENS) - The Washington State Department of Ecology has amended the Skagit River management rule to create a secure future source of water for residents in the Skagit River basin, while also protecting instream flows of the river. The amendment takes effect June 16.

In addition, Skagit County and Ecology have reached a settlement agreement on water management in the Skagit River basin.

State law requires Ecology to establish water management rules for each major river basin to protect and preserve fish, wildlife, recreation, navigation, aesthetics, water quality and livestock watering.

The Skagit River is the largest river in Western Washington and supports all five species of salmon.

"The Skagit basin is a special place and the Skagit River is its centerpiece," said Ecology Director Jay Manning. "The river is important environmentally, especially for salmon recovery, and it is a critically important supply of water for the people in the basin," he said.

"We've developed this new rule with input from a wide range of community interests," Manning said. "We've listened to everyone's advice and created a rule amendment designed to keep the Skagit basin healthy while meeting future human needs."

Ecology adopted the original regulation in 2001 to keep water flowing in the upper and lower Skagit River and the Cultus Mountain tributaries, but the regulation did not specifically provide water for future agricultural, home construction and new commercial or industrial activities.

The new rule amendment will continue to protect fish, wildlife, water quality and recreational uses, both agencies say.

It keeps the existing 2001 stream flows in place while allocating and reserving surface and groundwater for future agricultural irrigation, residential, commercial/industrial and livestock uses throughout the Skagit basin.

Because the Skagit basin sustains a large agricultural industry, Ecology is reserving a quantity of water that will allow the availability of more than 2,000 acres of new agricultural irrigation water for farmers.

The Skagit basin has experienced a growth in population and industrial activity that is predicted to continue. To meet the needs of this growth, Ecology is setting aside nine million gallons per day of water for future residential, commercial/industrial and livestock watering needs.

Since 1998, Washington has invested more than $30 million in grants to local governments to assist the watershed planning process. This investment is beginning to show returns; 12 watershed planning units covering 18 river basins had completed their plans by the end of 2004.

By contrast, four watershed planning units were unable to reach consensus and their process has terminated.

The department also has instream flow agreements and recommendations from eight watersheds. Ecology considers this a major accomplishment because, with the exception of the Skagit River basin instream flow rule adopted in 2001, no other instream flows have been agreed to or established since 1985.

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Second Generation of Nation’s Rarest Ducks Hatched on Midway

HONOLULU, Hawaii, May 24, 2006 (ENS) - Biologists monitoring the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands were surprised last year when endangered Laysan ducks that had been translocated from Laysan Island to Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge began to breed six months later.

They were again surprised when the ducklings born last year on Midway are already nesting. The first of Midway's second generation ducklings hatched Sunday.

"We did not expect the second generation of ducklings so soon," said U.S. Geological Survey scientist Dr. Michelle Reynolds, the project leader for the Laysan duck reintroduction program. "It is a very encouraging sign that the Midway population is increasing naturally since the translocation of the wild birds from Laysan."

Eleven first generation ducklings survived last year, and two of these nested. Despite heavy rains on Sunday morning, eggs from both nests hatched.

One female has four ducklings and the other has one duckling. At least 25 ducklings borne to eight mother ducks have hatched so far this year, and five additional hens are incubating eggs.

Forty of the 42 founding birds from Laysan have survived to date. Excluding ducklings, Midway has 35 Laysan ducks on Sand Island and 16 on Eastern Island.

Breeding and survival of the birds is being monitored closely by biologists using radio telemetry. Researchers observed that the translocated ducks are breeding at an earlier age, and are laying more eggs than ducks observed on Laysan Island, suggesting that the food or habitat on Laysan has reached the limits of its ability to support more ducks.

In contrast, Midway Atoll, with its relatively low density duck population, has abundant habitat and abundant food resources available, possibly stimulating early reproductive effort.

The endangered Laysan duck, Anas laysanesis, also known as the Laysan teal, is the rarest native waterfowl in the United States. The island ducks were once widespread across the Hawaiian Islands, but by 1857, they only remained on Laysan Island.

The Laysan duck was listed as endangered in 1966 because of its small population less than 500 birds, small geographic range less than four square miles, and dependence upon a fragile ecosystem.

In October 2004 and 2005, 42 wild Laysan ducks were experimentally translocated from Laysan Island to Midway Atoll.

"The breeding success of the new population at Midway Atoll is like a reward for everyone involved in the project," said refuge biologist John Klavitter.

In addition to the efforts of the two federal agencies, the nonprofit groups National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Friends of Midway Atoll, and the U.K.'s Wildfowl and Wetland Trust have provided grants and support to help save the Laysan duck.

In preparation for the arrival of the ducks, Midway refuge staff and more than 80 volunteers invested more than 20,000 hours in habitat restoration work over two years. After removing hundreds of thousands of invasive plants, shallow freshwater seeps were excavated, and hundreds of bunchgrasses, sedges, and other native vegetation were planted to provide cover, forage, and nesting habitat.

Island ducks are endangered worldwide, but the re-establishment of a second or "insurance" population at Midway Atoll reduces this species' risk of extinction from a catastrophe striking Laysan Island, part of the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge.

The effects of a hurricane, tsunami, new diseases like avian flu, or the accidental introductions of harmful plants and animals could easily have caused the extinction of Laysan ducks since they occurred as a single population. Laysan ducks are now found on three islands for the first time in hundreds of years.

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