- AmeriScan: September 3, 2003 Environment News Service (ENS)
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AmeriScan: September 3, 2003

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Minnesota Ethanol Plant Must Cut Air Emissions

WASHINGTON, DC, September 3, 2003 (ENS) - Air pollution from ethanol manufacturing plants has been a problem for some residents of St. Paul, Minnesota, but they have been successful in obtaining the support of the U.S. Justice Department for their efforts to limit emissions from the Gopher State Ethanol facility in St. Paul. Ethanol is a fuel derived from grain.

The Justice Department has requested that the federal district court in Minnesota approve proposed amendments to the 2002 Clean Air Act settlement with Gopher State Ethanol, based on residents' comments.

The original consent decree was lodged with the court on October 2, 2002, as one of 12 national settlements to mandate reductions in air pollution from ethanol manufacturing plants. When the initial consent decrees were lodged, the U.S. provided an opportunity for the public to review all the proposed settlements, including the Gopher State deal.

Residents of St. Paul who live near the facility raised a number of concerns and provided written comments on the decree. Representatives of the community attended a January 8, 2003 meeting in St. Paul with federal and state officials to voice their concerns about the plant’s operation. As a result of the public input, the plaintiffs elected to reopen the consent decree to strengthen certain aspects of the deal.

According to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Tom Skinner, an important change is a restriction on the facility’s handling of “wet cake,” a byproduct of the ethanol manufacturing process.

“In an urban setting, the air pollution caused by this material is a problem,” Skinner said. “People in the community were concerned, and we’ve responded by restricting Gopher State’s reliance on the methods that create this byproduct.”

Assistant Attorney General Tom Sansonetti said, “We worked with the community and with the Gopher State facility to get this settlement right for the citizens of St. Paul.” Sansonetti added that Gopher State has been cooperative throughout this process.

On June 5, the United States lodged an amended consent decree with the court that includes the agreed upon restrictions, and sought comments from the public on the revised settlement. The comments received are addressed in the government’s brief, which was filed with the court today.

The amended decree addresses allegations made by state and federal regulators that volatile organic compounds (VOC) and carbon monoxide from feed dryers, cooling cyclones, and ethanol loading operations have historically been underestimated by the ethanol industry.

Recent testing of these units in Minnesota plants indicates that the emissions are well in excess of the 100 tons per year that is the threshold for “major sources” to be regulated under the Prevention of Significant Deterioration provisions of the Clean Air Act.

Since the facilities are now considered to be major sources, they are required to install best available control technology on all units that are significant sources of pollution throughout the plant. The facilities were mistakenly permitted as minor sources when they were built.

Under the settlement, Gopher State must operate a thermal oxidizer to reduce VOC emissions by 95 percent from the feed dryers, and meet, new more restrictive emission limits for nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and hazardous air pollutants. The primary sources of these emissions are the feed dryers, fermentation units, gas boilers, cooling cyclones, ethanol load-out systems, and fugitive dust emissions from facility operations.

On August 22, a federal judge in Urbana, Illinois approved the United States’ comprehensive settlement with grain industry giant Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) covering ethanol and oil seed operations at 52 plants in 16 states.

ADM is the largest ethanol manufacturer in the United States with approximately 50 percent of the market. The ADM decree requires the same 95 percent reduction in volatile organic compound emissions from the ethanol processes that have been imposed on the small Minnesota dry mills.

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NFL Players Promote Volunteerism on Public Lands

WASHINGTON, DC, September 3, 2003 (ENS) - "NFL Kickoff Live 2003," the National Football League's second annual football and music festival, will not only celebrate the opening of a football season but also promote the U.S. Department of Interior's Take Pride in America initiative, which encourages volunteerism on public lands.

"Take Pride in America is a national partnership that aims to inspire a new generation of volunteers to put their love of country to work to improve our national parks, wildlife refuges, public lands, cultural and historic sites, playgrounds and other recreation areas," said Interior Secretary Gale Norton.

Norton will welcome the crowd to the National Mall on Thursday. On the Jumbotron, and in broadcasts of the game on ABC television and CBS radio, Redskin players LaVar Arrington, Laveranues Coles and Patrick Ramsey will narrate public service announcements about Take Pride in America.

Today, Norton, former Redskin Darrell Green, former Pittsburgh Steeler Franco Harris and former San Francisco 49er Steve Young and other volunteers joined Home Depot to assist KaBOOM, a nonprofit organization, in building a "playground for hope" at the WC Smith Housing development in southeast Washington, DC.

Take Pride in America will staff a booth at the football festival theme park between 7th and 12th Streets Northwest on the Mall where volunteers can sign up to help and get more information about how to get involved.

"We greatly appreciate the support of the NFL and other partners for this wonderful opportunity to reach the America public," said Marti Allbright, executive director of Take Pride in America. "This partnership will help invigorate countless Americans to roll up their shirtsleeves and volunteer to restore a cultural or natural resource in their community."

Take Pride in America has held community service and award events and enlisted more than a 100 charter partners - including major corporations, conservation groups, service organizations, trade associations and a bipartisan coalition of state governors.

Formal partnerships with state governments allow federal and state land managers to identify volunteer opportunities and to enlist public service commitments from citizens.

Companies and corporations can help by sponsoring Take Pride in America cleanup days or by committing blocks of volunteer service time to local restoration efforts. Take Pride sponsors a national recognition and awards program.

"The NFL is proud to be part of the national Take Pride in America Initiative to encourage protection of public lands and cultural resources," says Patrick Ramsey, Washington Redskins quarterback, in one of the public service announcements to be broadcast Thursday. "Volunteer. It's your land. Lend a hand."

For more information, go to: www.takeprideinamerica.gov.

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Low Rainfall Leaves Hawaii Parched

HONOLULU, Hawaii, September 3, 2003 (ENS) - The usually lush greenery across the Hawaiian islands is turning brown due to a drought that has lasted more than a year, and the state is now seeking financial relief from the federal government.

Last week, Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle issued a proclamation declaring that serious drought conditions exist throughout the state. The governor made this determination as part of a request to the United States Secretary of the Interior for drought relief assistance to mitigate losses and damages being caused by drought conditions.

The governor's drought proclamation is being issued in consultation with the respective mayors, the Hawaii Drought Council, and the county water departments. In July, Mayor Harry Kim also issued a drought proclamation for the Big Island of Hawaii.

"Close coordination between the state and counties is essential to overcoming this extended drought situation," said Lingle. "A statewide drought proclamation appropriately elevates everyone's awareness of drought conditions and will facilitate our state's ability to attain federal drought assistance."

For more than a year, the entire state has been stricken by serious drought conditions. Rainfall, stream flow, and groundwater levels have been well below normal levels.

In addition to increased wildland fire potential, the agriculture industry has reported persistent drought conditions have resulted in loss of pasture forage for livestock and reduced crop yields.

The state will be seeking financial and technical assistance through the Reclamation States Emergency Drought Relief Act of 1991, which authorizes the Interior Secretary to undertake activities to minimize losses and damages resulting from drought conditions in certain states, including Hawaii.

Current forecasts indicate that drought conditions are likely to persist through the rest of the summer. The Hawaii Department of Water Supply, the Maui Department of Water Supply, and the Honolulu Board of Water Supply have issued water conservation notices.

"Effective mitigation and response to drought will involve government, affected stakeholders, and citizens working together to prepare and plan for drought's consequences," said Lingle.

More information about drought conditions in Hawaii is online at the State Department of Land and Natural Resources, Commission on Water Resource Management's Drought Monitor website at: http://www.hawaiidrought.com.

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Deep Sea Nursery Discovered Off Northern California

MOSS LANDING, California, September 3, 2003 (ENS) - Scientists at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) have discovered a unique undersea nursery on a deep sea ridge off Northern California where groups of fish and octopus brood their eggs. The nursery area lies near the crest of an undersea rise, almost a mile below the ocean surface.

The undersea nursery was discovered and documented using MBARI's remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Tiburon. Using video tapes from Tiburon dives, the research team found that each summer, blob sculpin and deep sea octopus gather together at the crest of the Gorda Escarpment, off Northern California.

This is the first time that marine biologists have directly observed deep sea fish brooding their eggs, and the first time that two different types of mobile deep sea animals have been observed brooding together in the same area. Scientists believe that the nursery represents a new type of biological hot spot.

MBARI scientist Jeff Drazen presented these observations last week at the Deep Sea Biology Symposium in Coos Bay, Oregon. His research is also featured in the current issue of "Biological Bulletin."

"The sculpin nests look like large splotches of purple strewn across the surfaces of boulders," says Drazen. "The parent fish is usually resting on the seafloor near or on top of the eggs. When I first saw this in the video, I was surprised because no one had ever documented such behavior in a deep sea fish before."

Blob sculpin are typically about two feet long and shaped like large, flabby tadpoles. Drazen estimates that some sculpin nests may contain up to 100,000 eggs.

MBARI geologists first encountered these nursery areas in August 2000. While performing geological surveys with ROV Tiburon, they noticed that octopus and blob sculpin were common near certain cold seeps, where hydrocarbon rich fluids seep out of the seafloor.

When they returned to the region in 2001, they brought along biologists, who realized that the octopus were present in unusually large numbers. On one dive, the ROV also brought up a rock sample which was covered with eggs.

When Drazen watched videotapes of these dives, he realized both the fish and the octopus might be brooding eggs. Drazen organized a third dive in July 2002, to count the animals and their eggs and to make more observations. The high densities of animals measured in certain areas convinced Drazen that these nurseries might qualify as biological hot spots.

Previously discovered biological hot spots in the deep sea, such as hydrothermal vents and the tops of seamounts, have been related to geological or topographic features that cause an increase the availability of food.

The nurseries on the Gorda Escarpment may represent a totally different type of hot spot, where physical conditions particularly favor the development of eggs. Drazen points out that such areas are critical habitat for the species involved.

The scientists fear that these undersea nurseries could be endangered by commercial trawling or longline fishing. Such fishing has expanded into the deep sea as near-shore fish stocks have declined. Drazen suggests that reproductive hot spots such as this might qualify as areas to be protected from fishing.

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Alternative Fuel Bus Developed for Yellowstone Park

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho, September 3, 2003 (ENS) - A modernized version of the traditional Yellowstone National Park tour bus has been developed as a low emission, cost effective community and transit shuttle bus of the future. The vehicle will be manufactured using several optional engines to allow use of alternative fuels such as natural gas, propane, ethanol and biodiesel.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL) worked with the automotive industry, the Federal Transit Administration, and the National Park Service to develop the new yellow bus. The new vehicle was unveiled in Yellowstone National Park on August 25 as part of the park’s centennial celebration of the Roosevelt Arch.

One purpose of the collaborative effort is protection of the park’s pristine environment, combined with a drive to increase national security by reducing dependence on foreign sources of energy.

While this version of the traditional bus retains the conventional feel of the older model park vehicles, the new bus is an 18 to 32 passenger vehicle that uses alternative fuel, features a low floor and complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The passenger area of the bus is built low to the ground so steps are not required for entry and its entry ramp can be extended to accommodate passengers in wheelchairs. The bus has a retractable roof to allow passengers greater visibility to the outdoors. An optional feature is tracks for traveling over snow in winter.

This first bus is a model for Yellowstone National Park, says Kerry Klingler, INEEL project manager.

"While the development of the prototype is the result of a need by the National Park Service for a year-round transit vehicle that could be used for park operations, market analysis indicates the vehicle will have broad application in municipal transit and private sector transportation as well," says Klingler.

After its Yellowstone unveiling, the bus began traveling across the country to allow assessment of its suitability for other transportation needs. It will be on display in Washington, DC during the week of September 15.

Partners in the project with INEEL include Heart International, Ruby Mountain, Yellowstone National Park/National Park Service, Greater Yellowstone/Teton Clean Cities Coalition, ASG Renaissance and Hadley Products.

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Missouri Ducks Recover

JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri, September 3, 2003 (ENS) - Unusually wet weather in south central Canada this year has benefited many species of ducks in Missouri, according to the state Department of Conservation. This year, seven of the 10 most common ducks are at or above population goals set under the North American Waterfowl Management Plan.

The recovery in blue-winged teal was dramatic, the agency says, a 31 percent increase from last year's population of 4.2 million breeding birds to 5.5 million. The estimate of 2.7 million green-winged teal ducks was the second highest on record.

"The prairie pothole region of south central Canada was dry as a bone this time last year," said Resource Scientist Dave Graber, with the Missouri Department of Conservation. "But starting in the late summer and especially during the past April, the region got an extraordinary amount of rain and snow. That moisture, combined with habitat put in place by Ducks Unlimited and other conservation groups, enabled waterfowl to stage a remarkable comeback."

Other species increased even more dramatically. Breeding numbers of Northern shovelers jumped 56 percent to 3.6 million. The Northern pintail, a species of special concern for several years, posted an encouraging 43 percent increase.

"It has been extremely dry in most parts of Missouri this year and teal hunters should take that into consideration when hunting," said Graber. "Unless conditions change dramatically, there will not be much habitat out there to hold teal in Missouri for any length of time. The obvious exception is managed wetlands, with water control capability."

Graber said hunters should focus on public wetland areas where water levels are maintained artificially or try to hunt on migration days.

The increase in breeding numbers of pintails, scaup, canvasbacks and redhead ducks is particularly encouraging to waterfowl managers and hunters. These species have experienced long-term declines and didn't share equally in the overall waterfowl recovery that took place in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Teal aren't the only ducks in Missouri in September. Significant numbers of shovelers, wood ducks, pintails and wigeons also arrive ahead of the main duck migration, and these species are not legal game during teal season.

"The ability to identify ducks is particularly important during teal season," said Graber. "If you aren't 100 percent sure that a duck is a teal, you would be wise not to pull the trigger."

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Protection Plan for Rare Oregon Lily Outlined

WASHINGTON, DC, September 3, 2003 (ENS) - A recovery plan detailing actions needed to save the Gentner’s fritillary, one of Oregon’s rarest native plants, was published Thursday by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The plant was listed as a federally endangered species in 1999.

Gentner's fritillary, also listed as endangered by the state of Oregon, is a showy lily that has red bell-shaped flowers with pale yellow streaks. It is only known from Jackson and Josephine Counties in southwestern Oregon, where it occurs in perilously small, widely scattered patches, comprising an estimated 1,697 flowering individuals.

A small population has just been found in California, very close to the Oregon border. Of a total of approximately 109 sites, 59 are on Bureau of Land Management lands, eight are on state lands, eight on city of Jacksonville lands, two are on U.S. Forest Service land, and 32 sites occur on private lands.

Gentner's fritillary often is found in grassland and chaparral habitats, and at the edge of woodlands at elevations below 4,450 feet.

The species is threatened by habitat loss due to rapidly expanding residential and agricultural development and alteration of its habitat by invasive weeds and encroachment by trees and shrubs.

The lily suffers from habitat disturbance from timber harvesting and recreational activities, and vulnerability associated with extremely small population sizes. Other threats include bulb collecting for the horticultural market, and deer and livestock, which eat the rare plants.

The recovery plan calls for conserving Gentner’s fritillary by establishing a network of four recovery units with at least two management areas in each recovery zone.

Each of the recovery units is expected to be about nine miles in diameter and should contain at least 1,000 flowering plants in order to preserve genetic diversity, and to allow for natural disasters that could destroy some plants. The plan calls for habitat restoration in existing and historic habitat.

The plan also calls for providing private landowners with information on identification and management of habitat in order to maintain Gentner’s fritillary, conducting surveys and research essential to conservation and recovery, and developing a seed or tissue bank.

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