AmeriScan: September 1, 2005

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Relief Funds, Supplies Pour In for Hurricane Victims

WASHINGTON, DC, September 1, 2005 - President George W. Bush today invited his two predecessors - his father, President George H.W. Bush, and President Bill Clinton - to help raise funds for hurricane relief. The three men gathered at the White House today to strategize. The two former Presidents worked together to raise funds for relief after the Indian Ocean tsunami last December. President Clinton currently is serving as the UN special envoy for tsunami recovery.

Farm Aid today activated the Family Farm Disaster Fund to encourage donations for farm families devastated by Hurricane Katrina, helping them to recover from this natural disaster and continue farming.

"This is a moment when each of us can take stock of what we can offer to everyone affected by this catastrophe, and Farm Aid is in a position to act for farm families," said Farm Aid President Willie Nelson. "Crop and livestock losses will be massive. Many farm buildings were destroyed in the storm and ensuing flooding. A disaster of this magnitude can be a breaking point for many Southern family farms."

Farm Aid has sent an initial $30,000 to several partner family farm organizations in the southeast. While the full extent of the damage to family farms is still unknown, Farm Aid representatives have been told that the infrastructure of many rural southeastern communities has been devastated and will take months to repair.

Major crop losses are anticipated as many were weeks out from harvest when the hurricane hit. Livestock and poultry farmers face challenges in keeping their animals alive without transport or feed for farm animals.

Farm Aid will hold its 20th Anniversary concert on September 18 in Tinley Park, Illinois, just south of Chicago. Individuals can contribute to Farm Aid's disaster fund on-line at: http://www.farmaid.org or by calling 800-FARM-AID.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) said today that the organization will grant $1 million to animals affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Over the past two days, the ASPCA has received nearly $400,000 in donations for help and in-kind aid to help the animals affected by Hurricane Katrina and is on track to raise more than $750,000. The group's board of directors has allocated an additional $250,000.

The ASPCA estimates it will take millions to re-build the local shelters and provide the necessary animal assistance to the local companion animals including basic necessities.

"As the process of providing aid and rebuilding the communities affected by Hurricane Katrina begins, we are overwhelmed by the generosity of support and funds we have received to assist the shelters and displaced animals in these areas," said Ed Sayres, president and CEO of the ASPCA.

To donate to the ASPCA Disaster Relief Fund, please go to www.aspca.org/disaster. Contributions will go directly to the ASPCA Disaster Relief Fund, the group says.

MoveOn.org Civic Action, formerly known as MoveOn.org, launched a new website today, http://www.hurricanehousing.org asking its 3.3 million members and the public to post any available housing for the thousands of people left homeless by Hurricane Katrina. The organization will directly connect evacuees with volunteer hosts, and also provide the housing information to the Red Cross and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Tens of thousands of newly homeless families are being bused to the Houston Astrodome, where they may wait for weeks or months, said MoveOn. At least 80,000 people are competing for area shelters and countless more are in motels, cars, or wherever they can find shelter. FEMA and the Red Cross are working to provide shelter for the displaced.

The 1.2 million member National Association of Realtors (NAR) said today it will contribute an additional $1 million to funds established by realtor associations in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi to provide emergency relief to victims of Hurricane Katrina. Earlier this week NAR made an initial donation of $50,000 to each of three state associations to help them provide emergency assistance.

"Hundreds of thousands of families lost their homes in this disaster. More realtors have been affected by Katrina than any other disaster in history. Today I'm asking the Realtor family to rise to the challenge, just as we did after 9/11 and the tsunami in Southeast Asia earlier this year," said NAR President Al Mansell.

All administrative costs of the project will be absorbed by NAR so all funds raised will go directly to aid the victims. Tax deductible contributions can be made online at: https://www.realtor.org/RelFundTrack.nsf/Contribution?OpenForm.

From Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Mercury Marine today said it has joined with Sea Pro boat company to ship more than $200,000 in boats and engines to support rescue efforts in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Mercury, the world's largest manufacturer of recreational marine engines, is shipping 10 inflatable boats with four-stroke motors to New Orleans for general rescue and recovery efforts in response to a request from the Louisiana governor's office on behalf of Louisiana Fish and Wildlife. Mercury has supplied engines for the five shallow draft skiffs donated by Sea Pro.

New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer sounded a note of caution on Wednesday, saying, "Unscrupulous individuals will often try to take advantage of tragedy. These individuals will prey on the public's generosity to obtain money for themselves by falsely claiming that funds collected will assist victims of the hurricane. The best advice for New Yorkers and donors everywhere is to direct their donations only to organizations that they know and trust."

To assist people in making the right decisions, Spitzer's office has published "Tips on Charitable Giving," which is available online at: http://www.oag.state.ny.us/charities/chargive.pdf.

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Coast Guard Crews Rescue People First, Environment Later

ST. LOUIS, Missouri, September 1, 2005 (ENS) - Numerous sheens on waterways, paint cans and propane bottles were spotted in Gulfport, Pascagoula, Mobile, Bayou La Batre, Biloxi, and Ocean Springs, Mississippi by environment and hazardous material assessment teams, the U.S. Coast Guard command said today.

And out in the Gulf of Mexico at least 20 oil rigs or platforms are missing, either sunk or adrift, and the Coast Guard confirmed one fire where a rig was. The fire will be allowed to burn itself out without intervention from firefighters, the Coast Guard said.

The Coast Guard anticipates "significant waterways management and environmental clean-up operations," an official report from the St. Louis headquarters said.

But environmental cleanup will have to wait until search and rescue operations wind down. The Coast Guard says its primary focus along the Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana coast will remain search and rescue as long as necessary.

More than 2,580 people have been rescued off of rooftops and flooded neighborhoods since rescue operations began Monday, and joint-agency rescue operations are continuing through the day and night.

Thirty-five aircraft and hundreds of air crew personnel are in the area from Coast Guard air stations as far away as Barbers Point, Hawaii, and Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Coast Guard C-130 cargo aircraft are en route to Air Station New Orleans with additional fuel supplies.

Coast Guard Auxiliary members have responded and are supporting the Coast Guard incident management team. Many other federal and local government assets are already in the area or being sent there, including FEMA urban search and rescue teams, incident management teams, disaster assistance and response teams, maritime safety and security teams, marine safety response teams, critical incident stress management teams.

Most Gulf ports remain closed. Joint-agency surveys of the ports, waterways and rivers show more than 100 barges have sunk, or are aground south of New Orleans, and the majority of buoys and other kinds of navigational markers are off station throughout the Gulf Coast.

There are 86 vessels awaiting transit to or through the Port of New Orleans, and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway in Louisiana, Red River, Atchafalya, and Ouatchita Rivers has been opened in some areas, the Coast Guard said. The Intracoastal Waterway is open from the Mobile Ship Channel east to Apalachicola, Florida, and closed from the Mobile Ship Channel west to Pass Christian, Mississippi.

The Coast Guard has set up a website where people who are still in need of rescue, or for those who know of someone in need, can submit information at: http://homeport.uscg.mil.

Emergency phone numbers are listed at: http://homeport.uscg.mil/mycg/portal/ep/home.do

The American Red Cross is attempting to help connect families, and can be reached at (866) 438-4636 or (866) GET INFO. Due to the tremendous volume of calls, and associated difficulties with phone lines, people can visit or contact their local Red Cross chapter.

The Louisiana Department of Health gives additional numbers for assistance. Try the COPE LINE for Southeast Louisiana and metro New Orleans (24/7) 1-800-749-2673 and the Baton Rouge Regional Triage line atL 225-219-0830.

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Hurricane Limits Gas Supply in Southeast

RALEIGH, North Carolina, September 1, 2005 (ENS) - Governor Mike Easley called on North Carolina citizens to continue fuel conservation while the two major pipelines that provide 90 percent of the gasoline to the state are brought back on-line and while the U.S. Department of Energy develops a national strategy during this temporary shortage.

Currently, both pipelines are operating at a limited capacity, supplying between 25 and 35 percent their normal output. Companies hope to continue to increase the flow rate of the pipelines over the weekend as the electricity is restored.

The American Petroleum Institute said Wednesday, "While it is still too early to know the full effects of Hurricane Katrina on production and refinery facilities in and along the Gulf of Mexico, it is becoming increasingly evident that the impact of this devastating storm on oil and natural gas operations will be significant and protracted."

According to the North Carolina Petroleum Council, North Carolina began receiving reduced gasoline deliveries today, the state’s first since Hurricane Katrina made landfall on Monday morning.

"Citizens should not panic, but it is critical that we continue to conserve our fuel while Washington is developing a national strategy for this problem," said Easley.

"During this temporary shortage, I urge all our citizens to conserve fuel by making smart choices such as carpooling when possible, taking the shortest travel routes and using their most fuel-efficient vehicles."

Easley has put restrictions on state government travel, encouraged ride-sharing among state employees and ordered an interim ban on groundskeeping efforts involving gasoline-operated devices. In addition, he is urging employees to utilize teleconferencing in lieu of face-to-face meetings.

Easley applied for and received a waiver, along with 45 other states, from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for requirements on gasoline and diesel volatility through September 15, thus allowing standard fuel instead of low volatility fuel to be used.

The low volatility fuel, commonly called "summer fuel," is used to help reduce motor vehicle emissions during the warmer months when ozone pollution forms more readily.

The EPA was requiring its usage in effected areas across the country through September 15.

The waiver allows gasoline with 9.0 Reid Vapor Pressure to be sold along with diesel fuel having a sulfur content exceeding 500 parts per million with visible evidence of red dye.

Georgia also is waiving summer gasoline regulations to help alleviate gas price escalation and the potential supply issues associated with Hurricane Katrina. These waivers permit more air pollution to be emitted from motor vehicles.

Georgia Governor Sunny Perdue Wednesday reassured citizens that the fuel shortage facing Georgians is a short-term problem. He announced that Colonial Pipeline, the largest pipeline distributing fuel into Georgia , expects to be operational again by Labor Day weekend.

Governor Perdue has called on the federal Department of Transportation (DOT) to lift truck driving restrictions, thereby allowing deliveries 24 hours a day. Today DOT approved the request, allowing fuel to be more easily distributed throughout the state.

The governor also asked drivers not to "top off" their gas tanks, and avoid purchasing gasoline until their gasoline tanks are low. He encouraged Georgia business owners to conserve gasoline by taking advantage of telework and flexible work schedule options for employees.

Fuel conservation tips are online at: http://www.enr.state.nc.us/html/news_releases.html

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Hurricane Effect on Oil, Gas Production Tracked

ORLANDO, Florida, September 1, 2005 (ENS) - About 86 percent of oil production in the Gulf of Mexico and 59 percent of the natural gas output are being disrupted by Hurricane Katrina, according to a new prediction model developed by a University of Central Florida (UCF) researcher and his Georgia colleague.

On their website, http://hurricane.methaz.org, UCF statistics professor Mark Johnson and Chuck Watson, founder of Kinetic Analysis Corp. of Savannah, Ga., also projected that 50.1 percent of oil output and 28.5 percent of natural gas output will be disrupted for more than 10 days.

According to the latest count today from the federal Minerals Management Service, a total of 487 platforms and rigs were evacuated in the Gulf of Mexico, which accounts for about one-fourth of U.S. oil production.

Johnson and Watson calculated projected damage based on wind speeds, the severity of waves and other anticipated effects of the storm. The data reflect every active oil and gas lease in the Gulf of Mexico.

While the oil and gas production portion of the site is still in the experimental stage, it already is gaining attention from bloggers and economic and investment oriented websites.

The site tracks storms worldwide with hourly updates and lists estimates of how much damage specific hurricanes are likely to cause based on their tracks and property records.

The site uses property databases to estimate damage to residential, commercial and other types of structures in each county and city. Projected losses also take into account economic losses, such as businesses and theme parks having to shut down.

Johnson, an expert in the statistical aspects of hurricane modeling and forecasting, and Watson, whose specialties are geophysics and numerical modeling, have worked together on several hurricane related research projects during the past 10 years.

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Cargill Agrees to $130 Million Air Pollution Settlement

CHICAGO, Illinois, September 1, 2005 (ENS) - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reached an agreement with Cargill Inc. that the agency says will result in the reduction of about 30,000 tons of air pollution a year and set new standards for limiting harmful emissions from specialty oilseed plants.

Cargill is a multi-state agribusiness that owns and operates 27 plants that process corn, wheat, soybeans and other oilseeds into products used in the food, feed and ethanol industries.

The agreement resolves a complaint filed by the U.S. Department of Justice on the EPA's behalf alleging that "Cargill had significantly underestimated emissions from its operations in 13 states."

Under the settlement, Cargill is required to install air pollution control devices at its 27 facilities and is expected to spend an estimated $130 million to meet the requirements of the agreement.

The company will pay a civil penalty of $1.6 million and spend $3.5 million on environmental projects across the country.

Cargill's corn processing plants are significant sources of volatile organic compounds and carbon monoxide. In addition to contributing to ground-level ozone, or smog, VOCs can cause serious health problems such as cancer and other effects.

Carbon monoxide is harmful because it reduces oxygen delivery to the body's organs and tissues.

Cargill's oilseed plants emit the hazardous air pollutant n-hexane and are sources of VOC pollution.

The settlement calls for environmental improvements at all nine of Cargill's corn processing plants, advancing recent efforts by the government to bring the ethanol industry into compliance with the Clean Air Act.

With the lodging of today's consent decree, 81 percent by capacity of uncontrolled ethanol facilities will now be under settlement agreements to install air pollution control technologies to reduce emissions, the EPA said.

The settlement comes three years after federal and state agreements with 12 ethanol plants in Minnesota and the April 2003 settlement with Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill's largest competitor in this industry.

The consent decree was lodged in federal district court in Minneapolis and is subject to a 30-day comment period.

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Pennsylvania Responds to Hurricane by Beefing Up Flood Protection

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pennsylvania, September 1, 2005 (ENS) - Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell today announced the award of $500,000 to assist with the reconstruction and repair of an essential component of the extensive flood protection system in the Williamsport area.

"The tragedy and devastation that we have seen in New Orleans this week brings home to all Pennsylvanians the strong need for this type of flood protection project," Governor Rendell said.

"The Williamsport flood protection projects have enhanced the quality of life here since 1951, giving businesses the freedom to grow without the threat of devastating losses," the governor said. "Now it’s time to update these projects and continue that protection for decades to come."

Environmental Protection Northcentral Regional Director Robert Yowell, who made the announcement on behalf of the Governor Rendell during a tour of the South Williamsport projects, said, "Governor Rendell is making sure Pennsylvania’s communities have the resources they need to protect residents and businesses in flood-prone areas."

The borough’s project will reconstruct and repair about three miles of levees and floodwalls along the West Branch of the Susquehanna River; three pumping stations at Hill Street, Ecks Run and Main Street; and an improved concrete channel and conduit along Hagermans Run.

The Army Corps of Engineers completed the $15 million South Williamsport Flood Protection Project in 1951 as a unit of the overall Williamsport Flood Protection Project. As a partner in the original work, South Williamsport agreed to undertake perpetual maintenance of the project.

As part of its flood protection programs, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) assists local project sponsors through grants for maintenance and improved operations, workshops and technical assistance.

This $500,000 from the state’s capital budget reimburses the borough for 50 percent of the cost to reconstruct the Hill Street and Ecks Run pump stations and to repair or replace the pumps and associated equipment.

A previous flood protection grant reimbursed costs to repair and replace deteriorated portions of the Hagermans Run channel at a construction cost of about $665,000. The Hagermans Run work is expected to be completed by the end of 2005.

The project costs and responsibilities are shared, with DEP paying for the construction, the borough administering the contract and providing engineering support, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers providing resident construction inspection.

All of the above work, when completed, will extend the service life of the South Williamsport Flood Protection Project for another 50 years, Yowell said.

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Dams in 11 States Pulled Out This Year

WASHINGTON, DC, September 1, 2005 (ENS) - Fifty-six dams in 11 states have been removed or are scheduled to be removed in 2005, according to the latest survey conducted by the conservation group American Rivers. Only three dams to be removed in 2005 were ever used to generate hydroelectric power and all of them have been off the grid for many years.

This trend is the result of renewed appreciation for free-flowing, healthy streams and the aging of much of the nation’s dam infrastructure, the group said, noting that 185 dams have been removed since 1999.

"There comes a time in the life of many dams when they begin to make less sense than they have in the past," said Serena McClain, of American Rivers’ Rivers Unplugged campaign. "Communities that remove derelict and obsolete dams are improving a natural resource that they and their children will enjoy, and generally saving money for good measure."

Only about three percent of the dams in the United States have hydroelectric turbines. Most were built for purposes such as running mills, controlling floods, and creating water supplies or recreational lakes.

"While dams can provide valuable services, the ecological price is high," American Rivers said. "Dams drown valuable habitat under reservoirs, block the annual migrations of fish, and can create downstream conditions inhospitable for fish and wildlife. Dams also create several safety hazards, some of which increase with age."

Small dams are sometimes called "drowning machines" because they can create dangerous undertows, the group says, pointing out that 28 people have drowned at Otter Tail Power Dam near Crookston, Minnesota, which is scheduled for removal this year.

Communities that choose to remove obsolete dams enjoy better water quality, revitalized fisheries, new recreational opportunities, and recovery of habitat suitable for parks and other public use.

American Rivers points to a dam that was removed from Tea Creek in Pennsylvania. Two years later the number of trout in the creek grew to more than six times the population necessary to earn a Class A designation that lures anglers from across the state.

For a full list of dams to be removed in 2005 and those that were removed 1999-2004 go to: www.americanrivers.org/damremovalsummary2005PDF

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