AmeriScan: November 2, 2006

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Fisheries Service Sued Over Bluefin Tuna Decline

WASHINGTON, DC, November 2, 2006 (ENS) - Blue Ocean Institute of Cold Spring Harbor, New York and its president, author and scientist Carl Safina, have filed a lawsuit seeking to force the National Marine Fisheries Service, NMFS, to limit longline fishing in the Gulf of Mexico that is wiping out bluefin tuna populations.

The plaintiffs are asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to require that the Fisheries Service close longline fishing in bluefin spawning areas in the Gulf when the big tuna are spawning.

"For 25 years, people have been trying hard to get NMFS to turn this nosedive around. NMFS should do what the law requires before the bluefin tuna population crashes and burns," said Safina.

"This is a charismatic fish species, a major predator that plays a crucial role in the web of oceanic life – but its population is at a dangerously low level," said attorney Steve Roady of Earthjustice, which is representing Blue Ocean Institute before the court.

"Bluefin populations have been steadily declining for the last 20 years. The Fisheries Service has a responsibility to follow the law," Roady said, "recognize the important scientific discoveries that show the bluefin spawns during certain times and places when longline fishing is killing off huge numbers of fish, and protect the spawning bluefin."

Federal laws such as the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, MSA, require the fisheries agency to take action to prevent bycatch kills such as those killing bluefin tuna populations. Under the MSA, the Fisheries Service officially identified bluefin tuna as "overfished" on September 30, 1997.

But the Service is allowing longline fishing in the Gulf of Mexico during peak bluefin spawning season. As a result, the lawsuit claims, bluefin tuna are illegally and needlessly decimated by longline vessels that are supposed to be targeting other species.

Bluefin tuna grow up to 10 feet in length and can weigh over 1,500 pounds. They can travel great distances, sometimes crossing the Atlantic Ocean in just over a month; they also can dive up to 3,000 feet in a matter of minutes, and swim at speeds comparable to some racehorses.

While the bluefin tuna is a delicacy – in Japan, some bluefin tuna can fetch up to $40,000 for a single fish – they are not the same tuna canned and sold in grocery stores.

View the complaint by clicking here.

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EPA to Restrict Air Toxics from Gasoline Deliveries

WASHINGTON, DC, November 2, 2006 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, Tuesday proposed air toxics standards that would prevent the loss of gasoline into the air as it is delivered to service stations.

The agency proposes two alternatives. The first alternative proposes controls only on the bulk gasoline distribution facilities such as terminals and bulk plants, and pipeline facilities.

The second alternative proposes controls at the gasoline service stations in urban areas as well as area source bulk gasoline distribution facilities nationwide.

This alternative would cover small facilities that store gasoline and load it into trucks for delivery to gas stations nationwide. It would also cover the loading of the storage tanks at gas stations in highly populated areas at service stations, convenience stores, rental, and fleet gasoline tanks.

The proposed standards would annually reduce 45,000-46,000 tons of volatile organic compounds, VOCs, in gasoline vapors.

The agency says that VOC reduction would keep 3,300-3,400 tons of hazardous pollutants out of the air, including 120-125 tons of toxic benzene. This represents about a 10 percent reduction of emissions from this source category.

The EPA is also taking comment on a control option that requires the installation of the best seals on storage tanks at terminals and pipeline facilities and installation of vapor processors to control tank truck loadings at bulk terminals.

Under the second alternative, the proposal would require use of submerged fill pipes when loading storage tanks at service stations.

Most facilities already comply with this proposal, but the EPA estimates about 3,000-5,000 facilities will need additional controls.

The standards would protect public health and save the industry six million dollars a year with either of the two alternatives after they add the required emissions controls, the EPA says.

EPA will take comment on the proposal for 60 days after the notice is published in the Federal Register.

Click here to read the proposed regulations and find out how to comment.

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Washington's New Vessel Fueling Rules Take Effect

OLYMPIA, Washington, November 2, 2006 (ENS) - Washington state's new oil transfer rules for vessels and facilities and the new oil spill contingency plan rule went into effect Thursday.

The rules are designed to prevent oil spills to Washington waters and improve oil spill response readiness.

The rules regulate how oil will be transferred over water to tank vessels, fishing, cargo and passenger ships, other non-recreational vessels, oil storage facilities, marinas and, for the first time, tank trucks and rail cars.

Under the new rules, some vessels and oil-handling facilities are required to deploy oil-spill containment boom prior to transferring oil. If it is not safe or effective to pre-boom during an oil transfer, the rules require that alternative response measures be met.

The state Department of Ecology will consider an equivalent compliance plan from vessels and facilities if they offer an equal or greater level of environmental protection. The rules set up a process for public review and comment before the equivalent compliance plan can be used.

The rules do not cover marine fueling stations that serve only recreational boats.

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

The oil spill contingency plan rule is aimed at mitigating the environmental effects of spills, large and small. The rule focuses on early spill response actions, staging response equipment throughout the state, and conducting scheduled and unannounced spill readiness drills.

"All oil spills, regardless of size, add toxic pollutants to our waters," said Dale Jensen who manages spill prevention, preparedness and response activities for Ecology. "We have developed a wide variety of technical publications to help those affected by the new rules."

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Commission Approves Pennsylvania's Clean Vehicles Program

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania, November 2, 2006 (ENS) - Pennsylvania's Independent Regulatory Review Commission has approved the Rendell administration's changes to the state's Clean Vehicles Program, which the governor says would ensure cleaner, healthier air across the state at no overall additional cost to consumers.

The Clean Vehicles Program would match California Low-Emissions Vehicle regulations in Pennsylvania.

“We are cleaning up the environment and growing our economy at the same time,” said Governor Ed Rendell, a Democrat, annoucing the Commission's approval today.

“The Clean Vehicles Program helps Pennsylvania be competitive so it can create the jobs we critically need and guarantee consumers access to vehicles that operate more efficiently, conserve fuel and help break America’s dependence on imported oil.”

The Commission voted 4-1 to approve a plan that locks in model year 2008 as the compliance date for the next phase of the state program.

The Commission's approval follows an endorsement in September by the state’s Environmental Quality Board, also an independent regulatory review panel. The rulemaking still requires review by the state attorney general before becoming final.

Opponents of the Clean Vehicles Program, such as the auto manufacturers, have gotten legislation, Senate Bill 1025, introduced to repeal the program before it can be implemented.

The House Transportation Committee, chaired by Richard Geist, a Republican, two weeks ago voted to send SB 1025 to the full chamber for consideration. The House may take up the measure later this month before adjourning the two year session.

Geist said, “Pennsylvania does not face the air quality challenges that California does, and for that reason the Federal Tier II standard for auto emissions is more than a sufficient standard for cars sold in Pennsylvania to meet."

“This is not a choice between a “clean” car and a “dirty” one, as some environmental activists have portrayed it," said Geist. "It is a choice between two very clean cars.”

“Repealing the Clean Vehicles Program would roll back efforts to enhance energy security and improve air quality, and force Pennsylvania businesses and manufacturers to shoulder even more of the emission reduction burden so the commonwealth can meet its federal air quality requirements,” said Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen McGinty. “That’s no way to stay competitive and keep our economy growing.”

Cars contribute about a third of the state’s smog-producing emissions. Two-thirds of Pennsylvanians live in the 37 counties that failed to meet federal eight-hour ozone standards in 2004.

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Philips Lighting Will Eliminate Lead, Reduce Mercury

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania, November 2, 2006 (ENS) - Philips Lighting, a manufacturer of industrial and consumer lighting products, pledged Wednesday to substantially reduce mercury and eliminate lead in the making of fluorescent lighting products at its four U.S. plants.

A developer of low mercury lamp technology, Philips committed to reduce 780 pounds of mercury by next year from the manufacture of its fluorescent lighting products. Over the next five years, nearly two tons of mercury will have been subtracted from the manufacture of Philips light bulbs.

In addition, the company has pledged to eliminate lead from its manufacturing processes, for a total of 1.5 million pounds by 2010.

Mercury and lead are among 31 harmful chemicals and metals identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, as a priority for reducing or eliminating their use.

The EPA views the cuts to be made by Philips Lighting as significant because they represent 37 percent of EPA’s national goal for reducing the 31 chemicals by four million pounds by 2011.

“Philips Lighting has a long history of corporate sustainability, and today it continues this tradition by establishing additional goals to lessen environmental impacts and foster social responsibility at all of the company’s U.S. manufacturing plants,” said Donald Welsh, EPA’s mid-Atlantic regional administrator.

In a ceremony today at Philips Lighting headquarters in Somerset, N.J., Welsh congratulated the company’s executives for joining EPA’s National Partnership for Environmental Priorities Program and becoming the first company in the nation to commit all of its U.S.-based plants in the voluntary program.

Headquartered in the Netherlands, Philips employs some 125,500 employees in more than 60 countries worldwide. The company has four U.S. plants - in Fairmont, West Virginia; Bath, New York; Danville, Kentucky; and Salina, Kansas.

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Satellite Data Used to Manage Yellowstone Bison

MONTEREY BAY, California, November 2, 2006 (ENS) - NASA satellite data is helping track the Yellowstone bison, the only herd in lower North America to survive since prehistoric times, as they migrate with the melting snowpack.

Scientists at California State University Monterey Bay, CSUMB; Montana State University at Bozeman; and the National Park Service have collaborated on a five year, NASA funded project that uses NASA satellite data and computer modeling to help park officials better understand the relationship between snow accumulation and the way it melts during the period when bison migrate between habitats at lower and higher elevations.

"Our goal is to provide the latest snowpack information to park officials,” said landscape dynamics expert Fred Watson, principal investigator of the project and an assistant professor of science and environmental policy at CSUMB.

"The National Park Service is not a traditional user of NASA information," said Watson. "But this is a great opportunity to use NASA technology to help the folks at Yellowstone. It's a wonderful chance to aid in wildlife management."

Every winter, the deep snow in Yellowstone National Park drives most bison in the park to lower elevations to search for food. Some bison migrate beyond the Park's borders.

When bison are outside the park, the management authority on Yellowstone's northern oundaries shifts to the state of Montana.

Conflicts arise between people who value bison conservation and the ranch owners and Montana state officials concerned about the possible risk to fscattle from brucellosis-infected bison.

A group of federal and state agencies has written a bison management plan, requiring Yellowstone officials to move the animals off of private property, back onto public land. In the process, federal and state officials capture and sometimes slaughter bison.

Knowing when and where the snow will melt is key to whether the bison will stay within park boundaries. Park officials now use a model of snowpack dynamics developed by Watson and his staff to provide the most up-to-date projections on snowpack distribution throughout the Yellowstone herd's winter range areas.

The snowpack model provides daily maps of snowpack depth and density throughout the Yellowstone landscape in near-real time. It uses data from NASA's Landsat satellite to describe how the snowpack is influenced by patterns of vegetation, geothermal features, and wind. Daily measurements of precipitation and temperature from USDA Snowpack Telemetry system are used to drive the model through time.

Before 1700, millions of bison roamed through Montana, Wyoming and Idaho in areas that later became Yellowstone National Park.

Hunting and later poaching reduced their number to fewer than 50 animals by 1902. The bison herd at Yellowstone now stands at about 3,900 animals.

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