AmeriScan: December 22, 2000
$1.4 BILLION SETTLES POLLUTION CHARGES AGAINST CINERGY
CINCINNATI, Ohio, December 22, 2000 (ENS) - Cinergy Corporation and its two principal operating companies, The Cincinnati Gas & Electric Company and PSI Energy, Inc., have agreed to a $1.4 billion settlement of Clean Air Act claims by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The settlement is the largest ever reached under the Clean Air Act. This is the third such settlement in the four year EPA investigation of pollution from coal burning power plants. The EPA has charged six of the nation's largest utilities with violating clean air laws by increasing the capacity of some of their aging coal burning power plants without installing new emissions control equipment. These older plants were built before the Clean Air Act was passed, and therefore are exempt from its pollution provisions. However, modifications to the plants are not exempt.
The Cinergy agreement requires the company to pay an $8.5 million fine and spend the remaining settlement funds on pollution upgrades at 10 of its plants in Indiana and Ohio, and on other environmental projects. Cinergy did not admit to any violations under the agreement. Cinergy has committed to shut down or repower with natural gas nine small coalfired boilers at three power plants beginning in 2004, build four additional sulfur dioxide scrubbers starting in 2008, upgrade existing pollution control systems, and phase in the operation of year round nitrogen oxides reduction technology starting in 2004. "While we believe that our maintenance programs followed standard industry practice and were monitored for years by the EPA without complaint, we have pursued a settlement because it is preferable to spending years in time consuming and wasteful litigation and is consistent with our environmental leadership position," said Cinergy chair, president and CEO James Rogers.
CLINTON MAKES RECESS ENVIRONMENTAL APPOINTMENTS
WASHINGTON, DC, December 22, 2000 (ENS) - President Bill Clinton took advantage of the Congressional recess to make several appointments to environmental positions on Thursday. Kenneth Lee Smith will serve as Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks at the Department of the Interior (DOI). Smith is the former Deputy Chief of Staff in the Office of the Secretary at DOI. Gregory Frazier will serve as Chief Agricultural Negotiator for the U.S. Trade Representative. Frazier is the Special Negotiator for Agriculture and Food Policy, a limited non-career appointee in the Executive Office of the President United States Trade Representative. Frazier and Smith were both nominated to the Senate in October.
James Aidala will serve as Assistant Administrator for Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This position is vital to the EPA's implementation of the Food Quality Protection Act designed to provide a higher level of protection from pesticide residue in food. Aidala, who was nominated to the Senate in March, has been serving as Associate Assistant Administrator for Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances at EPA since 1993. Edwin Levine will serve as Assistant Administrator for Environmental Information and Chief Information Officer at the EPA, a position "vital" for guiding agency information management, policy and technology. Levine, who was nominated to the Senate on December 14, has been serving as Deputy Assistant Administrator of the Office of Environmental Information at EPA since April. Elwood (Elgie) Holstein, Jr. will serve as Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere, at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the Department of Commerce. Holstein, who was nominated to the Senate in September, serves as a senior advisor for NOAA issues to Commerce Secretary Norman Mineta.
POPULATION, ENVIRONMENT AMONG IMPORTANT FUTURE TRENDS
WASHINGTON, DC, December 22, 2000 (ENS) - Demographics, natural resources, science and technology are among the issues that will shape the future, says a forecast released December 18 by the National Intelligence Council. The report was compiled by experts in a variety of fields, working under the auspices of the National Intelligence Council. "Global Trends 2015: A Dialogue About the Future with Nongovernment Experts" identifies what it calls drivers and trends that will influence the future. Among the key drivers identified by the analysis are:
NO LINK BETWEEN DEPLETED URANIUM, GULF WAR SYNDROME
WASHINGTON, DC, December 22, 2000 (ENS) - The Defense Department has issued an updated report that concludes that any link between the U.S. military's use of depleted uranium and undiagnosed illnesses experienced by some veterans of the Gulf war is "unlikely." The conclusion of the Defense Department report is supported by a recent National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine (http://www.iom.edu/) review of scientific literature related to depleted uranium. The first battlefield use of depleted uranium in tank armor and armor piercing ammunition took place during the Gulf War.
The first interim report about depleted uranium was published in August 1998. This updated report reviews research conducted by both governmental and non-governmental agencies. It also includes the latest data available from a study the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is conducting on service members who had the greatest exposure to depleted uranium during the Gulf War. Since 1993, the VA has monitored 33 veterans who were injured in incidents involving depleted uranium. About half of this group still have depleted uranium metal fragments in their bodies. This update also refines previous Gulf War exposure assessments. The full text of the updated report may be viewed on the Web at http://www.gulflink.osd.mil/news/na_du_ii_19dec00.htm.
SNOWMOBILES BANNED FROM YELLOWSTONE, GRAND TETON
WASHINGTON, DC, December 22, 2000 (ENS) - Snowmobiles will no longer break the winter silence in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. The National Park Service (NPS) has published its Record of Decision to phase out recreational snowmobile use in Yellowstone National Park and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Memorial Parkway, and, with some exceptions, in Grand Teton National Park. The environmental impact statement supporting the rule was released in October. The new regulation also prohibits snowplane use in Grand Teton National Park by the winter of 2003-2004. The NPS is proposing interim measures to limit the impacts of snowmobiles before their use is prohibited.
This proposal is based on a Winter Use Management Plan and Final Environmental Impact Statement written for the three NPS areas and implements provisions of the Record of Decision from that Management Plan. The plan will shift oversnow motorized use of the parks from snowmobile use to snowcoach use, to allow continued winter use of the parks without limiting visitor numbers, yet still eliminating the detrimental impacts on park resources and values from snowmobile use. Several conservation and animal rights organizations sued the NPS in 1997, claiming that the agency was violating federal environmental laws by not restricting snowmobile access to the parks. The groups cited evidence that snowmobiles panic bison and other wildlife. To view the proposed rule in its entirety, visit the Federal Register at: http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/ and access the Contents page for December 18, 2000. The Record of Decision in open for public comments until January 17, 2001. Comments should be directed to the NPS, Ranger Activities Division, 1849 C Street, N.W., Room 7048, Washington, DC 20240.
HAZWASTE VIOLATIONS COST UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII $1.7 MILLION
HONOLULU, Hawaii, December 22, 2000 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) have reached a $1.7 million settlement agreement with the University of Hawaii for hazardous waste violations. This is one of the largest settlements ever for hazardous waste violations in the Pacific Southwest. The settlement includes a $505,000 penalty and requires the university to perform a $1.2 million supplemental environmental project within three years that will include identifying and implementing pollution prevention and waste minimization projects throughout the university system as well as performing an extensive compliance audit of its facilities. "The University had significant violations of hazardous waste requirements for storing and disposing chemicals," said Jeff Scott, director of the hazardous waste division for the Pacific Southwest. "This clearly teaches the wrong lesson about hazardous waste and chemical safety."
EPA and DOH inspectors began investigating two facilities on the Manoa campus in October 1997. Inspectors found improperly stored and labeled chemicals including flammables, corrosives, poisons, mercury and hundreds of other unknown chemicals. The DOH continued to inspect other facilities within the UH system and found similar violations at the Kauai Agricultural Research Center, and the Waiakea Agricultural Experiment Station in Hilo. "The University administration has taken this problem very seriously and they cooperated thoroughly with our Department throughout the investigation," said Bruce Anderson, Hawaii director of health. "This, however, does not excuse the past lack of attention to the problem. A system wide audit and implementation of waste minimization programs will help to assure that hazardous materials are handled properly in the future."
GEAR CHANGES WILL REDUCE RISKS TO LARGE WHALES
GLOUCESTER, Massachusetts, December 22, 2000 (ENS) - Lobster and gillnet fishers in the Northeast will be changing the way they put their gear together in order to further reduce the risk of entangling large whales. The gear changes are effective on January 21, 2001, under a rule published Thursday in the Federal Register. "We've made real progress over the last 12 months in testing gear configurations that are strong enough for fishing, but weak enough to break away if a whale snags them," said Chris Mantzaris, chief of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) effort to reduce mammal entanglements in gear off the northeastern U.S. "These gear changes should result in fewer injuries and entanglements among large whales," Mantzaris said. In the past two years, the NMFS has spent more than half a million dollars working with fishermen, gear manufacturers and researchers to investigate promising gear modifications, resulting in some of the new requirements.
The new regulations call for the use of knotless weak links at the buoy in some lobster and gillnet fisheries. The weak links must break under specific strain 600 pounds or less for lobster gear in some nearshore areas. Other new requirements include weak links in the float lines, limits on the types of anchors that can be used on some gillnet gear, and a system of color coded gear marking on buoy lines in most lobster trap and gillnet fisheries. The new rules leave in place most existing requirements, including some fishing closures in right whale critical habitat in Cape Cod Bay and the Great South Channel in the winter and spring. These closures have been in effect since July 1997. The new rules are available at: http://www.nero.nmfs.gov/whaletrp/
TEXAS CAVE SPECIES LISTED AS ENDANGERED
BEXAR COUNTY, Texas, December 22, 2000 (ENS) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has listed as endangered nine species of invertebrates known only from caves in the northern part of Bexar County, Texas. "Though not as majestic as the bald eagle or as appealing as the black-footed ferret, these species are unique and fascinating creatures that also serve as good indicators of the overall health of the ecological systems on which humans ultimately depend," said USFWS Southwest regional director Nancy Kaufman. "When species like these nine invertebrates begin to disappear from the planet, it is a sign that the natural world around us is under a great deal of stress."
Invertebrates are animals without internal skeletons or backbones such as butterflies, beetles, grasshoppers and spiders. The nine species listed as endangered today include three beetles, five spiders, and one harvestman, a relative of the common household daddy-longlegs. In 1992, several local groups - Alamo Group of the Sierra Club, Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Coalition, Helotes Creek Association, Texas Cave Management Association, and Texas Speleological Association - petitioned the USFWS to add the nine species of cave invertebrates to the List of Threatened and Endangered Wildlife. Three of the species are known from just one cave and three others are known from two to five caves. These species are being threatened by the high rates of development around San Antonio and the rest of Bexar County. Development can degrade the cave environment through increased vandalism, contamination from sewer or septic tank leaks, storm water runoff, pesticides or chemical spills. Development can also destroy the cave outright through digging or filling. These species are also threatened by the invasion of non-native fire ants which can prey upon them as well as compete with them for their limited sources of food.
LOS ANGELES STUDIES SCHOOL BUS SOOT TRAP
LOS ANGELES, California, December 22, 2000 (ENS) - In one of the most comprehensive studies to date, California's South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) is testing emission control devices that may reduce cancer causing soot from diesel school buses. "School children and school workers are exposed to cancer causing diesel fumes every day at ground level," said William Burke, AQMD governing board chair. "These new devices may offer a cost effective way to reduce their cancer risk." Tests on 39 buses operating in the Los Angeles, Anaheim Union High School and Hemet unified districts started this fall and should be complete by next summer.
The buses are equipped with particle traps that can reduce microscopic particles, or soot, by 80 percent or more. They must use low sulfur diesel fuel, containing no more than 15 parts per million (ppm) of sulfur. Diesel sold in California today contains an average of 120 ppm of sulfur, which would reduce the efficiency of the particle traps if used with them. The particle traps, installed in the bus exhaust system at the muffler, cost $5,000 to $8,000 each. Of the 39 buses, 26 will be retrofitted with particle traps and 13 will just use low sulfur fuel for comparison. The test program is unique in that it includes a wide range of school buses and engines ranging from model years 1977 to 2000. In a related test, AQMD will test the durability of the catalysts - key to continued emissions reductions - by driving two of the retrofitted buses up to 50,000 miles each.
NOAA HELPS SANTA FIND HIS WAY
ASHEVILLE, North Carolina, December 20, 2000 (ENS) - Santa Claus has contacted the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville to determine which areas of the country are likely to have snow at Christmas time, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said this week. To help Santa with his travel plans, the center has created a report that is available online. The report contains maps and tables showing the percent probabilities for a snow depth of at least one inch on Christmas morning, as well as the probabilities for a depth of at least five inches and 10 inches. These probabilities are based on long term climatology and not on current weather patterns. The report is available online at http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/ol/climate/extremes/2000/december/extremes1200.html. Actual conditions may vary from these probabilities. The snow on the ground or snowfall on Christmas day will depend on the actual weather pattern during that time. To keep track of the snowfall across North America on a daily basis, see the NOAA Operational Daily Snow Analysis Charts at http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/SSD/ML/realtime.html#SNOWSec
On Christmas Eve this year, NOAA will help the North American Aerospace Defense Command track Santa Claus. NOAA will maintain a satellite watch of the North Pole for weather conditions and any unusual activity. NOAA's Satellite Command and Data Acquisition Station in Fairbanks, Alaska, is ready to spot activity at the North Pole. NORAD will answer children's questions on its comprehensive, six language Santa tracking Web site at http://www.noradsanta.org. All site material, including the live tracking event, will be available in English, Japanese, French, Spanish, Italian and Brazilian Portuguese. NORAD will also attempt to set the record straight in regards to "outrageous allegations" that have been made by several fifth grade students as to the existence of Santa Claus. Seeing is believing and NORAD has perfected its 46 year old tradition of tracking Santa on Christmas Eve. Visual and audio updates will be posted each hour on the Web site from 7 am December 24 until 5 am December 25, both Eastern Standard Time.