AmeriScan: January 4, 2000


PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island, January 4, 2000 (ENS) - The owner, operator and insurer of the vessel North Cape have agreed to restock 1.24 million lobsters and pay $8 million to restore other natural resources injured by a 1996 oil spill off the southern coast of Rhode Island. State and federal officials have reached a "settlement in principle" with West of England Ship Owners Mutual Insurance Association, the insurer of the companies responsible for the spill. The trustees and responsible parties will draft a consent decree, which must be submitted to the U.S. District Court for Rhode Island for approval. "This settlement represents a big win for the people of the state who use and enjoy our magnificent natural resources," said Jan Reitsma, trustee for the State of Rhode Island. "We can now get the restoration under way as soon as possible."

In January 1996, the tug Scandia and the barge North Cape grounded on Moonstone Beach on Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge in southern Rhode Island, resulting in the state's largest oil spill - 828,000 gallons of home heating oil. The spill killed about nine million lobsters, more than 400 loons, and 1,600 other marine birds, as well as over a million pounds of clams, oysters and other species. The spill shut down the lobster industry for five months and reduced the area's threatened piping plover population. The restoration funds will benefit several wildlife species, including piping plover, common loon and eider, migratory fish, quahog clams and lobsters. Land adjacent to coastal salt ponds will be acquired to improve water quality. The settlement will restock 1.24 million lobsters and provide funding for restoration projects.

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WASHINGTON, DC, January 4, 2000 (ENS) - The Sierra Club has launched a second round of television ads criticizing Texas Governor George W. Bushís environmental record. The new ads, targeted at viewers in New Hampshire where the first presidential primary will be held, focuses on the cancer causing and toxic chemicals polluting Texasís environment. The ads inform viewers that Texas leads the nation in toxic pollution and urging them to ask presidential candidate Bush to clean up his home state. "Texans worry that the chemicals dumped in our water and air are hurting our parents, our spouses and our children," said Ken Kramer, director of Sierra Clubís Lone Star (Texas) chapter. "Texans arenít proud that our state leads the nation in cancer causing pollution. These ads aim to set the record straight. When Texans have asked Governor Bush to halt the toxic pollution, heís turned a deaf ear to us - maybe heíll listen to folks in New Hampshire instead."

The Sierra Club campaign states that, "while federal laws are forcing states to clean up their air and water, Texas lags far behind." The ad personalizes the pollution problem by focusing on how it affects William Tinker, a Texas boy who suffers from asthma. Tinker lived downwind from a cement kiln; pollution from the kiln aggravated his illness. After Bush ignored a plea from Tinkerís mother to help clean up the kiln, his family moved to escape the pollution. "What do I want for Williamís future?" asks his mother in the ads. "I want him to have one."

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VENTURA, California, January 4, 2000 (ENS) - The Sierra Nevada population of bighorn sheep has been listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) said Monday. The final rule supersedes an emergency temporary rule issued last April in response to a sharp decline in bighorns and threats from predators and disease. Only 125 bighorn sheep remain in the Sierra Nevada mountains, living in five isolated herds on federal lands. "Without the protection of the Act and an active conservation and recovery effort, this hallmark species of the California mountains could disappear from the Sierras," said Michael Spear, manager of the USFWSís California-Nevada Operations office. "The good news is if we can lessen or remove the threats from predators and disease, there is plenty of high quality habitat available for the sheep's recovery."

The primary threat to bighorn sheep is predation by mountain lions and, to a lesser extent, coyotes. Biologists believe bighorns stay at higher altitudes during the winter to avoid areas where lions live. This leads to greater risk of death due to avalanches and inadequate food. In April and May, the sheep become more vulnerable to predators when they move to lower elevations to find better grazing before lambs are born. Until the 1960s, California paid a bounty on mountain lions, keeping lion populations low enough that few bighorn sheep were killed by them. Once the bounty on lions was discontinued, mountain lion numbers increased as did the number of bighorns being killed by them.

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HAZLETON, Pennsylvania, January 4, 2000 (ENS) - The first commercial windfarm in the U.S. mid-Atlantic region became operational just hours before the end of 1999. All the electricity to be generated by two 65 kilowatt turbines in the Humboldt Industrial Park is already subscribed, and two more turbines to be built this spring are also fully committed to 25 companies. One of the major clients will be Philadelphia's Sheraton Rittenhouse Square Hotel, which will purchase 20,000 kilowatt hours per month of wind power, making it the largest wind power user in the state and the first environmentally smart hotel in the U.S.

"We are thrilled to have the opportunity to purchase wind power for our facility, as it enables us to continue developing the environmental message of our hotel," says Ben Sidel of GF Management, operators of the hotel. The hotel improves indoor air quality by providing fresh air to all guest and meeting rooms, independent of the heating and cooling systems. "We are extremely pleased to have found a way to power this using the same great source - fresh air." The two turbines will generate 200,000 kWh of wind power each year, displacing 140 tons of carbon emissions that would be emitted from conventional electricity generation plants. Companies commit to purchase blocks of 400 kWh a month, and competitive energy pricing makes it possible to buy green power and still pay less per month than with conventional utility power.

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WINDHAM, New Hampshire, January 4, 2000 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed a $38,500 penalty against a Windham company that transports hazardous waste for violating federal laws regulating the storage of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). EPA regulates PCBs as "hazardous chemical substances" because they are known carcinogens. According to a complaint filed this week, Dependable Environmental Services failed to obtain a permit for storing PCBs, as required by the Toxic Substance Control Act. The complaint also alleges that Dependable kept PCB wastes on site for more than a year, in violation of the federal law.

PCB wastes with concentrations of more than 50 parts per million (ppm) must be shipped off-site within a year. Laboratory tests showed waste oil tanks at Dependable had PCBs at concentrations of 900 and 1400 ppm. The action stems from a February 1997 inspection of the Dependable facility by the New Hampshire Department of Environment Services (DES). EPA sent a letter in May of 1997 explaining the law, and in November of 1998, a DES follow up inspection found the company continued to store the PCB waste. "Because PCBs are dangerous, toxic substances, the law requires careful storage and disposal," said John DeVillars, EPA's New England Administrator. "Dependable ignored this law and acted irresponsibly. The company will now have to pay the price, and clean up its act. This should serve as a warning to other companies handling PCB wastes." In addition to fining the company, EPA will require Dependable to properly dispose of the PCB contaminated waste oil.

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GAITHERSBURG, Maryland, January 4, 2000 (ENS) - Pollution from coal burning power plants is the greatest threat to Americaís national parks, states a report released by the Izaak Walton League of America, a conservation group. The National Park System exceeded the federal standard for ozone smog on 206 days in 1999. Most of this pollution comes from outdated coal burning power plants that are not required to meet todayís emission standards. "Many of our national parks had higher levels of ozone smog than our densely populated metropolitan areas," said Jonathan Birdsong, southeastern regional representative for the Izaak Walton League and author of the report. "Itís a tragedy when the air is dirtier in the places we visit to escape the pollution of the city."

Coal burning power companies are responsible for 64 percent of the sulfur dioxide, 26 percent of the nitrogen oxide, and 33 percent of the mercury emitted nationwide. This pollution causes acid rain, smog and polluted waters, which have major impacts on national parks and wilderness areas. "The National Park Service is in place to protect our most valuable natural treasures, and because of the pollution from grandfathered coal burning power companies, their job to protect what is inherently important to every American is becoming impossible," said Karen Woodsum, program coordinator for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. The report is available online at:

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LAKE OKEECHOBEE, Florida, January 4, 2000 (ENS) - The EPA is proposing a total annual limit for phosphorus in Lake Okeechobee that will lead to the restoration of the lake. Stormwater and irrigation runoff from agricultural land uses especially the sugar industry are responsible for heavy phosphorus loading in the Lake over the past 60 years. EPA proposes a total annual load of 198 metric tons of phosphorus for Lake Okeechobee, including phosphorus deposited from the air (about 71 metric tons). The proposed phosphorus loading represents a 68 percent reduction from the 1997 load of 624 metric tons entering the Lake. The permitted annual load was determined using a computer model developed by the South Florida Water Management District and available data.

"This proposed action is a big step forward in restoring Lake Okeechobee, and supports the ongoing efforts by the State of Florida and the agricultural industry," said EPA regional administrator John Hankinson, Jr. This annual loading will restore the Lake to a target water quality goal of 40 parts per billion of phosphorus as identified by the State of Florida in its Lake Okeechobee Surface Water Improvement Management Plan. That amount of phosphorus should support a healthy Lake system. EPA will accept public comments on the proposed total annual load of phosphorus until March 17. A public meeting is also being scheduled for February, 2000, in the Lake Okeechobee area. More information is available at:

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OLYMPIA, Washington, January 4, 2000 (ENS) - At a time when Washington's waters have significant pollution problems and salmon populations are declining, the state Department of Ecology (Ecology) is offering more money than ever before to help local governments and Indian tribes improve and protect water quality. Through the Centennial Clean Water Fund, State Revolving Fund and federal Clean Water Act Section 319 Fund, Ecology is offering about $99 million in grants and low interest loans to help address Washington's most crucial water quality problems. "We have a lot of money to offer due to the success of the low-interest loans," said Ecology director Tom Fitzsimmons. "As the loans are repaid, money is freed up to support new projects that help communities accommodate new population growth while also protecting water quality for fish and wildlife."

The funds help communities upgrade municipal wastewater treatment plants to serve growing populations, reduce and manage pollution from stormwater, urban development and agriculture, install fish screens and complete other projects to improve salmon habitat. People can get more information about the funding programs by participating in one of the public workshops. All workshops begin at 9 am:

For a grant and loan application, contact Tammy Riddell, Dept. of Ecology, PO Box 47600, Olympia, Washington, 98504-7600. Tel: 360-407-6503. Ecology will accept completed applications through February 29, and make funding decisions next summer.

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WASHINGTON, DC, January 4, 2000 (ENS) - In an effort to reduce human conflicts with skyrocketing numbers of Canada geese living in U.S. cities and suburbs, the USFWS will host meetings across the country in February and March to discuss management options. "Resident Canada geese are having a growing impact on communities across the country, and we need to hear from the people who are most affected as we develop a long-term coordinated strategy for managing these birds," said USFWS director Jamie Rappaport Clark. "The scoping process offers the public a voice in the creation of this strategy, as well as the chance to propose their own solutions."

Most Canada goose populations are migratory, wintering in the southern U.S. and migrating north to summer breeding grounds in the Canadian arctic. But increasing U.S. development has created ideal goose habitat conditions - park-like open areas with short grass adjacent to small bodies of water. These conditions have enticed growing numbers of geese to live year round on golf courses, parks, airports and other public and private property. Potential control options include non-lethal methods such as managing habitat to make it less attractive to geese; harassment, trapping and relocation of birds; and more lethal population reduction programs. The meetings will be held at 7 pm in:

Comments may be emailed to:

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WASHINGTON, DC, January 4, 2000 (ENS) - While the Y2K computer problem has been expensive for the nation, there were positive side effects says James Witt, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). "Y2K - while one of the biggest technological challenges ever faced - also gave us an opportunity to raise awareness about the need for general emergency preparedness across the country," Witt said. "These efforts will go a long way to helping the American people be prepared for the inevitable tornado, earthquake, flood or hurricane of the future."

FEMA used Y2K concerns to offer specific preparedness advice, encouraging families to prepare for Y2K as if for a winter storm. Specifics about storing canned goods, collected battery powered flashlights and storing water were provided. "Often, the public does not heed our ongoing message that it pays to be prepared," Witt said. "With Y2K, though, people were paying attention." Y2K activities meshed with the agency's ongoing efforts to promote risk reduction through "Project Impact: Building Disaster Resistant Communities." Under this national initiative, communities work with FEMA to assess their disaster risk and take steps to reduce potential damages. FEMA also found that Y2K helped strengthen working relationships between the agency and state and local governments, increased the agency's outreach to the private sector and provided an opportunity to update emergency planning. "I won't say that Y2K is a beneficial issue," said Witt. "But I will say that there was a silver lining in terms of public awareness about preparing for and preventing disasters."