AmeriScan: December 18, 2000

$89 MILLION IN GRANTS SUPPORTS OUTDOOR RECREATION

WASHINGTON, DC, December 18, 2000 (ENS) - The Department of Interior has distributed $89 million in grants for outdoor recreation from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The fiscal year 2001 grants will assist the 50 states, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the District of Columbia. "Every state and territory will have more parks and open spaces because of this huge increase in funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund," said Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt. "These grants will assist states and local communities in setting aside open space, wildlands, scenic areas and unique lands for permanent protection, while providing new outdoor recreation opportunities for all citizens."

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) provides matching grants on a 50/50 basis to state and local units of government for the acquisition and development of public outdoor recreation areas and facilities. The National Park Service administers this program. The amount made available is more than double the amount apportioned last year and represents just the second time since 1995 that funds have been appropriated for this purpose. Title VIII of the appropriations act - which created the Land Conservation, Preservation and Infrastructure Improvement program - contributed to increased funding for the LWCF. The major share of the Land and Water Conservation Fund comes from revenues produced by Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas leasing. Since the inception of the Fund, more than $3.2 billion have been made available to state and local governments and about 38,000 projects have been funded.

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EPA CAN ISSUE PENALTIES AGAINST FEDERAL FACILITIES

WASHINGTON, DC, December 18, 2000 (ENS) - The Department of Justice has ruled that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can issue penalties against federal facilities for violations of underground storage tank (UST) regulations. An administrative proceeding against the U.S. Air Force at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was resolved based on this decision. "The Department of Justice's ruling will help EPA ensure consistent, fair and effective enforcement of storage tank regulations for all owners and operators whether in the public or private sector," EPA regional administrator Gregg Cooke said. "By making sure these rules are followed, we help protect our drinking water sources from leaking tanks - the leading cause of ground water contamination."

EPA inspects federal facilities and issues penalties when violations are found. The Air Force challenged EPA's authority to issue penalties to it for UST violations under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The Environmental Appeals Board relied on the Department of Justice's opinion that the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act grants EPA the authority to assess penalties against federal facilities for UST violations. As a result of the settlement, Tinker has agreed to pay a penalty of $51,500 and correct all alleged UST violations. The violations were found during routine UST compliance inspections in 1997. The violations at Tinker Air Force Base were for failure to conduct leak detection in accordance with federal and state UST regulations. Standards require that all UST systems be monitored every month. No leaks were detected during these inspections.

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AIRBORNE NITROGEN POLLUTES ESTUARIES

WASHINGTON, DC, December 18, 2000 (ENS) - Nitrogen in rain and airborne particles contributes as much as 15 to 35 percent of the nitrogen in the coastal streams that flow into U.S. estuaries, scientists have learned. A new study from the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Blackland Research Center at Texas A&M University, released Friday, sheds light on the role of the atmosphere as a source of pollutants to downstream estuaries. Too much nitrogen causes excessive growth of algae, bacteria and microscopic water animals known as zooplankton, depriving fish and plants of oxygen. Excess nitrogen is a problem in many U.S. estuaries, such as those along the Gulf of Mexico and Mid-Atlantic coasts. Until now, scientists have had incomplete information on the sources of nitrogen entering these estuaries, which can include agricultural and wastewater sources, cars, trucks and power plants.

This national study of the watersheds that drain into 40 major U.S. estuaries reported the highest atmospheric contributions - a quarter to about a third of the nitrogen in streams - along the northeastern and Mid-Atlantic coasts, including streams flowing to the Long Island Sound and Chesapeake Bay. Atmospheric contributions were also almost this large in many streams along the Louisiana Gulf coast. A USGS study published earlier this year reported that the atmosphere accounts for a similar percentage of the nitrogen - almost 20 percent - in the waters of the Mississippi River that flow into the Gulf of Mexico. "This study provides important new information about how coastal watersheds process atmospheric nitrogen and about the amounts of atmospheric nitrogen that enter estuaries," said Richard Alexander, a USGS hydrologist and expert on nutrients who co-authored the study. "This information can help local resource managers determine sources of nitrogen entering estuaries. This improved understanding of the links between air deposition of nitrogen and coastal water quality also leads to a better scientific basis for steps to minimize coastal pollution sources." More information is available at: http://water.usgs.gov/nawqa/sparrow/coast/agu_sparrow.html, http://www.publicaffairs.noaa.gov/releases2000/jun00/noaa00055.html, and http://www.usgs.gov/public/press/public_affairs/press_releases/pr1162m.html

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AIR POLLUTION COSTS CALIFORNIA UTILITY $17 MILLION

LOS ANGELES, California, December 18, 2000 (ENS) - AES Alamitos LLC, a California electric utility, has agreed to pay $17 million to settle air quality violations at the company's Alamitos power plant in Long Beach. The South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) and company representatives reached the agreement last Tuesday. The settlement package will ensure that the company's Alamitos power plant fast tracks full compliance with all air quality regulations as of January 1, 2001. "This landmark settlement addresses one of the most egregious air pollution violations in this agency's history," said Barry Wallerstein, AQMD executive officer. "This settlement will serve as a strong deterrent to future violations by industrial facilities. It also will ensure that AES can generate electricity to help ease the state's power shortage while guaranteeing protection for the environment."

AES exceeded its year 2000 nitrogen oxide emissions allocation by about 685,000 pounds for the third quarter of 2000 and may exceed its fourth quarter allocations by about 500,000 pounds. Nitrogen oxides are emitted by power plant boilers and other combustion sources and are a key pollutant contributing to ozone and fine particulate. Under terms of the settlement, AES agreed to:

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NORTH CAROLINA COASTAL AQUIFERS RUNNING DRY

WILMINGTON, North Carolina, December 18, 2000 (ENS) - Two aquifers along the North Carolina are being drained so fast that state officials are ordering cuts in water use. The state Environmental Management Commission voted Thursday to cut intakes from towns, factories and other large users of groundwater in the central coastal plain, the "Wilmington Star-News" reported. Under the new rules, customers that draw more than 100,000 gallons per day must cut usage by 30 percent to 75 percent over the next 16 years. The restrictions, scheduled to take effect in mid-2002, will apply in a 15 county area. "While North Carolinians have traditionally enjoyed a seemingly limitless supply of water, growth in our state has forced us to plan more wisely," said Bill Holman, secretary of the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources. "Passage of these rules will help ensure that Eastern North Carolina will have adequate water supplies in the future."

The "Wilmington Star-News" reports that water is being extracted from the aquifers faster than nature can replace it, causing the groundwater level to drop from one to eight feet per year. Falling water tables could cause underground tunnels and pockets to collapse, reducing the amount of water the aquifer system can hold. Under the new rules, large users will have to get a permit from the state Division of Water Resources. That agency will help customers find other water supplies - including streams, lakes or other aquifers - to achieve the required cuts. Pressure on alternative water sources will be monitored through reports from water users. Users that withdraw more than 10,000 gallons of water per day from all sources must tell the state how much they are withdrawing, the new rules require.

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TEN CHEESE COMPANIES CORRECT 264 ENVIRONMENTAL VIOLATIONS

WASHINGTON, DC, December 18, 2000 (ENS) - Ten cheese companies have corrected 264 environmental violations ranging from chemical releases to air pollution. The companies reported the violations under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Audit Policy, which allows the agency to reduce or eliminate penalties when companies voluntarily audit, disclose and correct violations. The EPA waived 100 percent of the potential penalties in return for the companies' voluntary disclosure of violations and speedy return to compliance. The companies are Dairy Farmers of America, Suprema Specialties Northeast, Inc., Wyeth Nutritionals, Inc., H.P. Hood, Inc., Friendship Dairies, Inc., First District Association, Great Lakes Cheese of New York, Inc., McCadam Cheese Company, Inc., Milnot Company and Saputo Cheese USA Inc.

The 264 violations occurred at 32 facilities in 11 states. All of the companies self disclosed violations of the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) which requires manufacturers to report, for inclusion in the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), releases of more than 600 designated chemicals to the environment. The 10 cheese companies failed to report the presence of water soluble nitrate compounds, nitric acid or phosphoric acid at their facilities. In addition to EPCRA violations, Saputo Cheese USA Inc. reported and corrected violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA) at 18 facilities. Before a settlement could be reached under the Audit Policy, Saputo was required to certify that it is now in compliance with environmental requirements. Under the proposed settlement, Saputo will pay $10,943, which is the amount they saved by delaying compliance with EPCRA and CWA. More information is available at: http://www.epa.gov/oeca/ore/apolguid.html.

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WEBSITE HELPS DIESEL TRUCK, BUS FLEETS RUN CLEANER

WASHINGTON, DC, December 18, 2000 (ENS) - A new website from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) - http://www.epa.gov/otaq/retrofit - provides information on retrofitting diesel vehicles to help fleets run more cleanly. Nationwide, heavy duty diesel vehicles contribute 15 percent of the nation's emissions of smog causing nitrogen oxides and 22 percent of particulate matter, or soot, emissions. In urban areas, their contribution to air pollution can be even greater. An older, dirtier diesel truck or bus can emit almost eight tons of pollution in a year, which amounts to 160 to 240 tons of pollution over the life of an engine. To address the need for cleaner diesel vehicles, EPA created the Voluntary Diesel Retrofit Program to match fleet operators, engine manufacturers, local governments with those who can provide the appropriate technology and resources in cleaning up dirty trucks, buses and construction equipment.

The website also provides information to help manufacturers have their retrofit technologies verified by EPA for appropriate use, and shows state officials how to incorporate diesel retrofits into their air quality plans. EPA has already obtained commitments from fleet operators to retrofit more than 5,000 diesel vehicles. EPA will address emissions from new heavy duty vehicles and engines through a two part regulatory strategy, beginning with 2004 models. In other automotive news, the EPA said Friday that the average fuel economy of new model year 2000 vehicles is 24.0 miles per gallon (mpg), the lowest as it has been since 1980. Fuel economy remains at a 20 year low because light trucks - including sport utility vehicles, vans, minivans and pickup trucks - are less fuel efficient and make up almost half of the U.S. light vehicle market. More information is available at: http://www.epa.gov/otaq/fetrends.htm.

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EL NIŅO EVENTS ARE RESHAPING THE CALIFORNIA COASTLINE

SANTA CRUZ, California, December 18, 2000 (ENS) - Erosion of seacliffs, damage to coastal structures, and the comings and goings of beach sand along California's central coast are all linked to the intense winter storms associated with El Niņo. Two new studies by researchers at the University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC), reveal the connections between this climatic heavy hitter and the processes that shape the coastline of California. UCSC postdoctoral researcher Curt Storlazzi and professor of Earth sciences Gary Griggs found that damaging coastal storms are three times more likely to occur during an El Niņo winter than in other years. As global warming causes sea levels to rise, storm damage on the coast will get worse, Griggs said.

"By concentrating our population on the coasts, we have put the bulk of our civilization within a few feet of sea level," said Griggs. "When you combine rising sea levels with El Niņo on the West Coast and hurricanes on the East Coast, the result will be larger and more frequent losses due to storm damage." In a related study, Griggs and graduate student Cope Willis found that although winter storms during El Niņo can erode beaches down to bare rock, the same storms also replenish the beaches by washing tons of fresh sediment from rivers and streams into coastal waters. Their preliminary results show no long term changes in the amount of sand on central California beaches. Both studies, which involved analyses of historic records as far back as 1910, were presented this weekend at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

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NEW YORK ESTATE PROTECTED AS NATURE PRESERVE

EAST AURORA, New York, December 18, 2000 (ENS) - A 130 acre parcel in the town of Wales, New York, has been purchased by conservation groups for protection as a nature preserve. The Western New York Land Conservancy, the Friends of Kenneglenn and the Trust for Public Land announced their $290,000 purchase of the Kenneglenn estate last week. Abutting the 150 foot Hunter's Creek gorge, the estate features a diversity of landscapes including wetlands, forest and beautiful views of the rolling hills characteristic of southern Erie County. Under the stewardship of the Western New York Land Conservancy, a nonprofit land trust whose mission is to preserve open space, Kenneglenn will be a wildlife preserve available to the public for hiking, nature study and educational programs. The estate adjoins county owned natural lands, forming a greenway along Hunters Creek. The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit land conservation organization, contributed its legal and real estate expertise.

"This property has been in our family for generations and it was important to us to ensure its protection as a nature preserve," said Stanley Tirrell, one of the former owners. The project to protect this unique piece of land represented a creative partnership of the landowners, local government officials, citizens and local and national land trusts. "This has been a model public private partnership, with each partner contributing significantly to protect this important property," said Clark Wallace, TPL project manager who negotiated the terms of the purchase. The purchase price was raised through state and private grants and contributions from private individuals. The groups are continuing to raise funds for property improvements needed to make the property accessible to the public and to cover stewardship costs for long term maintenance.

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NATURE CONSERVANCY INVESTS IN CHOCOLATE

ARLINGTON, Virginia, December 18, 2000 (ENS) - The Nature Conservancy's EcoEnterprises Fund has invested $500,000 in Organic Commodity Products (OCP), a private company that works with small scale cocoa producers in Latin America to develop and market organic chocolate products. "By investing in businesses that are doing the right thing, we can help people make a living, and help protect the world's great places," said Tammy Newmark, president of the EcoEnterprises Fund. The $10 million fund ­ a joint initiative of The Nature Conservancy and the Inter-American Development Bank ­ provides venture capital and technical assistance to businesses involved in sustainable agriculture, sustainable forestry, ecotourism and other environmentally compatible activities. To be eligible for funding, a company must collaborate with a nonprofit conservation or community organization. The OCP investment is the first to be funded under the new initiative.

"The EcoEnterprises Fund reflects the new trend towards venture philanthropy," said David Whitehead, director of development for The Nature Conservancy. "People are looking for new ways to give, and, in particular, ways to give that capture the power of the marketplace and show measurable results. The EcoEnterprises Fund offers donors and investors this opportunity." Joseph Whinney, president of OCP, said, "The EcoEnterprises Fund fills a critical gap in the funding world for environmentally responsible businesses. It has provided financing for our Latin American business operations, as well as our inventory needs, which is vital to create market pull through for small farmers' products." Cacao trees, which produce cocoa, the principal ingredient in chocolate, grow best in the understory of tropical forests. OCP's field team works with small scale cocoa farmers, providing technical assistance and premiums to support the economic development of farmer associations and the environmental conservation of the forests. More information is available at: http://www.tnc.org/ecoenterprises and http://www.ocpchocolate.com