AmeriScan: October 20, 2005

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Senate Committee Approves Arctic Refuge Oil and Gas Leasing

WASHINGTON, DC, October 20, 2005 (ENS) - The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Commmittee Wednesday approved legislative language instructing the Secretary of the Interior to go ahead with an oil and gas leasing program in the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The provision is part of a budget bill that funds the federal government.

Chairman Pete Domenici, a New Mexico Republican, said, “The time is ripe for ANWR. Global and national conditions mandate the environmentally-sound development of oil and gas in the Arctic. The Senate first passed ANWR legislation in 1996. If that hadn’t been vetoed, I don’t think we would be paying $3 a gallon for gasoline today."

The hurricanes in the Gulf underscored what Congress has known for along time," Domenici said. "We must produce more of our own oil and we must diversify the places where we produce it. We must do it for our economy and our energy security."

The committee approved the ANWR drilling measure, 13-9. All Republicans on the committee, except Gordon Smith of Oregon, voted yes, joined by Democrats Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Daniel Akaka of Hawaii.

The measure passed by the committee is Title IV of the budget reconciliation bill to be marked up by the Senate Budget Committee on October 26.

The panel approved Title IV in response to instructions from the Budget Committee to raise $2.4 billion in revenue for fiscal years 2006-2010. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the competitive sale of oil and gas leases in the plain will raise $2.5 billion during that time.

The Republican leadership decided to attach the ANWR drilling plan to a budget bill because under Senate rules such a bill cannot be filibustered.

The language limits the area that may be covered by production and support facilities to 2,000 acres on ANWR's coastal plain, which includes "airstrips and any area covered by gravel berms or piers for support of pipelines."

But opponents of the drilling, which include the government of Canada, say any oil and gas development will adversely impact the 129,000 caribou of the Porcupine herd that uses the coastal plain for calving. Polar bears, musk oxen, and millions of migratory birds that inhabit the pristine wilderness will also be disturbed, they warn.

The 2,000 acres does not include roadways and pipeline rights of way associated with the drilling.

When the bill comes to the Senate floor, opponents may challenge the ANWR provisions under the Senate's "Byrd Rule," which does not allow extraneous provisions in budget reconciliation bills.

They claim the drilling plan sets policy more than it raises revenue. North Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan said the Republicans were "short-circuiting the process" by attaching ANWR drilling to a budget bill.

He and other drilling opponents say decisions about ANWR development are energy policy matters that should not be in the budget.

They cite a report by the Energy Information Agency this summer that says that by time the oil and gas from ANWR reaches peak production, around 2025, the price of a gallon of gas will only be brought down 1.5 cents.

Roughly 10.4 billion barrels of crude oil could be recovered from the refuge's coastal plain, according to EIA estimates.

At peak production, oil from the refuge would amount to 800,000 barrels a day, or "roughly seven-tenths of one percent of projected world oil production," the EIA said in a 2002 report.

It is possible that the oil from ANWR would not even be used in the United States. The committee rejected a proposal from Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon that would have prevented ANWR oil production from being exported to China or other foreign markets. Opponents to the Wyden proposal said the Congress does not prohibit Texas or Louisiana from exporting their oil.

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Domestic Airlines Agree to Monitor and Test Drinking Water

WASHINGTON, DC, October 20, 2005 (ENS) - Twenty-four airlines have reached settlements with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that the agency hopes will ensure the safety of the drinking water used by their passengers and crew. The airlines have agreed to routinely monitor the quality of water on their airplanes and disinfect aircraft water systems.

The action came after an EPA investigation of 327 U.S. and foreign planes at 19 airports in 2004 found total coliform contamination in the drinking water in 15 percent of aircraft.

Total coliform is an indicator that other disease-causing organisms could be in the water and could potentially affect people's health.

Ben Grumbles, EPA's assistant administrator for the Office of Water, said, "The water passengers drink on a plane should be as safe as the water they drink at home. The settlements announced today show that it's time to fine-tune and upgrade EPA's water regulations to specifically address airplanes."

The 11 major domestic airlines and 13 smaller airlines that settled with the federal agency agreed to monitor aircraft water systems; notify the EPA and the public when tests reveal contamination; and regularly disinfect aircraft water systems and water transfer equipment.

The orders also require each airline to study possible sources of contamination from outside of the aircraft.

The EPA says information released by the airlines will help the traveling public make informed decisions. Passengers with compromised immune systems or others concerned may want to request canned or bottled beverages.

EPA will update its information and advice to the traveling public as soon as new information is available at: http://www.epa.gov/airlinewater

"EPA and these airlines worked together to establish new practices for protecting the health of the flying public," said Grant Nakayama, EPA's assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance. "We will continue to monitor the safety of water on airlines that use U.S. airports while the agency develops regulations specifically for airline drinking water."

The settlements announced today were reached with: AirTran Airways, Alaska Airlines, Aloha Airlines, American Airlines, America West, ATA Airlines, Champion Air, Continental Airlines, Continental Micronesia, Falcon Air Express, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Miami Air International, Midwest Airlines, North American Airlines, Northwest Airlines, Pace Airlines, Ryan International Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Sun Country Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways, USA 3000 Airlines, and World Airways.

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Acrylics Maker Lucite to Put Pollution Controls on Memphis Plant

WASHINGTON, DC, October 20, 2005 (ENS) - The Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency have reached a $19 million Clean Air Act settlement with Lucite International, Inc. that requires the chemical manufacturer to install pollution controls on three emission sources at its Memphis, Tennessee plant.

To eliminate 6,500 tons of pollution a year, Lucite has agreed to install an estimated $16 million worth of new pollution controls, pay a civil penalty of $1.8 million.

The company also has agreed to a $1.3 million supplemental environmental project to reroute emissions from two other plant emission sources. This will result in a 90 percent reduction of previously permitted emissions from these sources, the government says.

Lucite is a subsidiary of Lucite International, Ltd., a chemical manufacturing company headquartered in Southampton, UK, and is the world’s leading supplier of methacrylates.

Lucite’s Memphis plant produces methyl methacrylate and acrylic sheeting. The pollutants addressed in the settlement are sulfur dioxide, sulfuric acid mist, carbon monoxide, and volatile organic compounds.

The federal government alleged that the company violated Clean Air Act provisions of the New Source Performance Standards (NSPS), the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAPs), and the protection of stratospheric ozone.

“The people of Tennessee and others downwind of this facility will soon benefit from this settlement,” said Granta Nakayama, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Reducing harmful emissions from Lucite’s Memphis facility is a major step toward achieving cleaner air.”

The settlement lodged Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee is subject to a 30-day public comment period and court approval before becoming final.

A copy is available on the Department of Justice website at: http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/open.html.

s Jimmy Palmer, EPA regional administrator in Atlanta, said, “As a result of the settlement, Lucite will reduce emissions of pollutants that contribute to acid rain, cause severe respiratory problems and exacerbate cases of childhood asthma, which are of great concern to EPA."

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ARCO Terminal Must Contol Diesel Exhaust at California Ports

LOS ANGELES, California, October 20, 2005 (ENS) - Routine records reviews of emissions reports from ARCO Terminal Services Corporation at the Port of Long Beach, California have yielded the U.S. Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency a consent decree from ARCO worth $900,000 in fines and environmental control projects.

ARCO Terminal Services Corporation (ATSC) owns and operates a marine loading facility in Long Beach, where petroleum products are loaded on and off onto docked marine vessels and transported on to other terminals or refineries for distribution or further processing.

The EPA identified 294 violations committed by ATSC between 1995 and 1999 for emitting excessive volatile organic compounds, the components of smog, during cargo handling.

"The EPA is ensuring that all emissions sources at ports comply with Clean Air Act requirements," said Wayne Nastri, regional administrator of the EPA's Pacific Southwest Region.

"ARCO has agreed to play a role in reducing diesel exhaust at the Los Angeles and Long Beach Ports, setting a positive example and improving air quality in the surrounding communities."

Surrounding residents have complained individually and as community organizations for years about the health problems they experience by living near the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles

The ports have grown in recent years, and emissions related to port activities have also grown, the settlement recognizes. Almost 80 percent of the on-dock diesel particulate emissions within the port complex are from cargo handling equipment.

Under the terms of the consent decree, lodged Friday, ARCO Terminal Services Corporation will pay a $225,000 fine.

The company agreed to use control equipment during all ship loadings at its Long Beach piers to control air pollution to comply with South Coast Air Quality Management District regulations.

Management District regulations prohibit marine vessel loading of petroleum products in South Californian waters unless volatile organic compound emissions are controlled by 95 percent or unless volatile organic compounds are below 2 lbs/1000 barrels.

Required by the settlement, the expanded use of emission controls during all ship loadings will result in "significant decreases of these compounds into the surrounding community," EPA officials say.

Excessive volatile organic compounds in the air can lead to ozone formation at ground level, also known as smog. The entire Los Angeles Basin, which includes the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, is in severe nonattainment for EPA's national eight hour standard for ozone, which is linked to the onset of asthma in exercising children.

As part of the consent decree ATSC agreed to control diesel exhaust from cargo handling equipment, such as fork lifts, rubber tire gantry cranes, and trucks at the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. The company will invest $675,000 in a supplemental environmental project to limit exhaust.

In addition, ozone can damage the respiratory tract, causing inflammation and irritation, and induce symptoms such as coughing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and worsening of asthma symptoms.

s Exposure to volatile organic compounds can also cause eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches, loss of coordination, nausea; and damage to the liver, the kidney, and the central nervous system.

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Fuel Cells to Power U.S. Marine Camp Pendleton Quarters, Mess

DANBURY, Connecticut, October 20, 2005 (ENS) - FuelCell Energy, Inc. a manufacturer of commercial and industrial clean power plants, has sold two stationary fuel cells to the U.S. Marines for electricity at U.S. Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton, in California.

"The fuel cell power plant provides an ultra-clean source of reliable power and complements the base's existing onsite generation capability," said Jeff Allen, Base Energy Manager.

Fuel cells produce base load electricity allowing control over reliability and emissions and economics of power generation. Emerging state, federal and international regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions consider fuel cell power plants in the same environmentally friendly category as wind and solar energy sources. And fuel cells run 24 hours a day and can be installed in places where wind turbines or solar panels often cannot.

"The operation is expected to save us money over our previous power purchasing cost, while increasing energy security at the base, and is consistent with our environmental objective to integrate natural resource management with training and mission support requirements," Allen said.

Two 250 kilowatt units will provide base load electricity and heat energy for a Bachelor Enlisted Quarters that houses over 200 Marines and a Mess Hall that serves over 400 personnel daily at Camp Pendleton.

FuelCell Energy's distribution partner LOGANEnergy will serve as prime contractor overseeing installation and operation of the Direct FuelCell power plants and will also subcontract maintenance services to FuelCell Energy.

The power plant is scheduled to be up and running in late calendar year 2006.

Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton prides itself on being "proactive in energy conservation and energy efficiency." This year the Base won its second consecutive Presidential & Secretary of the Navy Energy Award.

Allen and his team of resource efficiency managers Randy Monohan and Tim O'Hara have been supportive advocates for the fuel cells to demonstrate the emerging technology and its benefits.

Camp Pendleton conducts training for active and reserve military units from all branches of the armed services, as well as for personnel from national, state and local agencies.

The U.S. Navy says training programs at Camp Pendleton take place in an area inhabited by 400 species of mammals and birds, bordering the California coast for 17 miles.

The federal government will have the opportunity to purchase two additional units and raise the fuel cell capacity on the base to one megawatt. The fuel cell installation may also be eligible to receive up to $1.25 million from the State of California Self Generation Incentive Program.

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Farm Sanctuary Makes Pig Confinement a Legal Issue

LOS ANGELES, California, October 20, 2005 (ENS) - The farm animal shelter and advocacy organization Farm Sanctuary is challenging the intensive confinement of pigs in a unique case.

California Penal Code section 597t mandates that "every person who keeps an animal confined in an enclosed area shall provide it with an adequate exercise area."

Farm Sanctuary filed a lawsuit in September 2004 against Corcpork, Inc., one of California's largest pig breeding facilities, for confining breeding sows in two foot wide "gestation crates" for the majority of their lives.

The suit alleges that this intensive confinement fails to allow any exercise area at all, let alone an adequate exercise area, and violates Section 597t.

In June 2005, the case was dismissed on a technicality and summary judgment was filed in August 2005. This week, Farm Sanctuary appealed the lower court's decision (court case number BC 321606), bringing the matter before the California State Court of Appeals, Second Appellate District.

Although pigs, like other animals, have a basic need to exercise and perform natural behaviors, Corcpork's sows are treated as pig producing units.

They live an endless cycle of artificial insemination, pregnancy and nursing while confined in small metal cages barely larger than their bodies. The animals are prevented from walking, turning around or even lying down comfortably, and they are forced to stand on hard slatted floors with no bedding.

Farm Sanctuary President Gene Bauston said, "Agribusiness' cruel treatment of farm animals is out of line with consumer's sentiments. It is time for practices in the United States to more clearly reflect our cultural values and for inhumane factory farming practices to be prohibited."

The merits of the case were not discussed at the lower court hearing, but that could change. Melissa Bonfiglio, an attorney representing Farm Sanctuary, said, "We believe that Farm Sanctuary has standing to pursue this lawsuit, and look forward to appealing and working towards our goal of ending the inhumane confinement of breeding sows."

Intensively confined sows experience a number of physical and psychological maladies, according to research studies conducted over the last 25 years.

The unnatural flooring and lack of exercise causes obesity and crippling leg disorders, while the deprived environment produces neurotic coping behaviors.

Farm Sanctuary shelters in Watkins Glen, New York and Orland, California provide lifelong care for hundreds of rescued animals, who have become ambassadors for farm animals everywhere by educating visitors about the realities of factory farming.

Find out more at: http://www.farmsanctuary.org

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Off-Road Vehicles May Have Their Way with Algodones Dunes

SAN DIEGO, California, October 20, 2005 (ENS) - In a move to protect rare desert insects threatened by off-road vehicles (ORVs), the Center for Biological Diversity today asked a federal court to order the Bush administration to consider protection of 17 rare sand dunes species in southern California.

The Center wants to protect wasps, bees, ants and beetles. All 17 of these insects are found only at the Algodones Dunes, which are public lands managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

"Our petitions present good scientific evidence to support listing, and we have to move for protection of these 17 endemic species now because the Bush BLM’s plan to sacrifice the Algodones Dunes to the off-road industry could wipe them out," said Daniel Patterson, desert ecologist with the Center who formerly worked with BLM.

"The administration hasn’t even considered these unique and interesting desert animals, which clearly need Endangered Species Act protection,” he said.

On December 12, 2002 the Center filed a petition with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) to list the Andrew’s dunes scarab as a threatened or endangered species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

On July 19, 2004 the Center, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, and Sierra Club filed another petition with the Service to list 16 more Algodones Dunes endemic species: two sand wasps (Microbembex elegans Griswold and Stictiella villegasi Bohart); two bees (Perdita algodones Timberlake and P. glamis Timberlake); one vespid (Euparagia n. sp.); two velvet ants (Dasymutilla nocturna Mickel and Dasymutilla imperialis); three jewel beetles (Algodones sand jewel beetle, Lepismadora algodones Velten, Algodones white wax jewel beetle, Prasinalia imperialis (Barr), and Algodones Croton jewel beetle, Agrilus harenus Nelson); two scarab beetles (Hardy's dune beetle, Anomala hardyorum Potts and Cyclocephala wandae); and four subspecies of Roth's dune weevil (Trigonoscuta rothi rothi, T. r. algodones, T. r. imperialis, and T. r. punctata).

The Service is required by law to respond to the Center's petitions within 90 days, but still has not ruled on the compelling information presented in the petitions, forcing the Center to ask the court today to order a 90 day finding, the most preliminary of the procedures required under the Endangered Species Act.

The most harmful impact on the Algodones Dunes is intensive off-road driving – the dunes are ripped by 240,000+ off-roaders on a single busy weekend. ORVs at the Algodones Dunes use special tires that cut deeply into the sand, directly killing animals and wrecking habitat.

Patterson says many of these 17 species are most active February – April, a biologically critical time that coincides with the season of heavy ORV use on the dunes. He fears that a pending Bush administration decision would roll-back environmental protections on nearly 50,000 dunes acres, opening 85 percent of the habitat to ORVs.

The Center argues that the Bush administration plan to remove the protected areas would be devastating to dozens of imperiled species, including the Peirson's milkvetch, desert tortoise, and flat-tailed horned lizard, worsen air pollution, and run off hikers, birdwatchers, photographers, Native Americans and others.

In addition to allowing intense environmental harm, opening conservation areas to off-road vehicles would displace non-motorized visitors, costing nearby communities in Imperial and Yuma Counties at least $3.3 million annually in dunes sustainable recreation related spending.

Patterson says Interior Secretary Gale Norton is responsible for endangering these species, because she "purposefully starves the listing budget to prevent species from being added the endangered species list."

"FWS’s entire Endangered Species Act budget has increased over 500 percent since 1992. The listing budget is the only line item that’s been stagnant over that period," Patterson says, frustrated. "Every other line item increased at least 300 percent. The budget freeze is clearly political, not economic. "

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