AmeriScan: January 12, 2000


WASHINGTON, DC, January 12, 2000 (ENS) - The Commerce Department said Tuesday it has appealed a federal judge’s ruling requiring the addition of environmentalists to two trade panels. In November 1999, U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Rothstein ordered U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky to add environmentalists to panels that advise her on wood and paper products. Most panel members are representatives of lumber and paper product companies, and their industry organizations. "Congress has carefully designed a structure for channeling important negotiating advice to the administration from the manufacturing and services sector of our economy," said Commerce Secretary William Daley in a statement. "The court's ruling, if permitted to stand, could undermine the framework that Congress established."

Daley added, "At the same time, we need to take additional steps to ensure that we receive timely and comprehensive advice from other nongovernmental groups as well." The ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by six environmental and trade groups, charging that the trade panels violated the Federal Advisory Council Act, which requires that the advisory panels represent a "fair balance" of viewpoints. Judge Rothstein ruled that the "highly charged nature and the stakes at issue in the free trade environment debate over timber sales" make it crucial that the panels include "those who promote forest conservation." The advisory committees at issue are two of more than two dozen that advise the U.S. government on international trade. Barshefsky said the Commerce Department is carrying out the court order, but filed an appeal of that order January 7.

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DETROIT, Michigan, January 12, 2000 (ENS) - General Motors Corp. (GM) will no longer make its EV1 electric car, because not enough people were buying them. GM vice chairman Harry Pearce said Tuesday that the company plans to focus on hybrid vehicles powered by gas-electric or diesel-electric engines, and fuel cells, which use hydrogen to generate electricity. Pearce said the company had about 500 EV1s already built - more than enough to meet current demand. The vehicles, which can travel 80 miles before needing to recharge for several hours, have been available for lease only, mostly in California and Arizona.


The EV1 may have been hampered from reaching a wider market by its charging cord (Photo courtesy General Motors)

The EV1, which GM began marketing in 1996, cost GM $350 million to develop and promote. Discarding the model in favor of other engine types will cost the company time and money, as it scrambles to catch up with automakers like Honda. Last Friday, Honda unveiled its new Insight, a two seater hybrid gas-electric car that gets more than 60 miles to the gallon, and is available for sale in all 50 states. At the International Auto Show in Detroit yesterday, GM unveiled two new, ultra-efficient concept cars, both called the Precept. One uses a hybrid diesel-electric engine to get the equivalent of 80 miles per gallon of gasoline. The other version is powered by a fuel cell. Neither will be available to consumers for years. GM says it plans to run similar vehicles on test tracks by the end of the year. "These vehicles are the first step in a very long journey," said Pearce.

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SACRAMENTO, California, January 12, 2000 (ENS) - Sacramento community and environmental groups filed suit in federal court Monday against the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, and the California Department of Transportation for approving a long term transportation plan that could increase violations of federal standards for smog. Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund filed the suit on behalf of the Environmental Council of Sacramento, Sierra Club, and the No Way LA Coalition to enforce key provisions of the Clean Air Act that limit auto and truck emissions generated by new road and highway construction. Since filing a 60 day notice in September 1999, the organizations have consulted with the agencies seeking compromise settlement. Because agencies refused to halt funding or work on projects while negotiations were underway, the lawsuit was initiated.

"We are suing because the plan relies on imaginary emission reductions," said attorney Joe Brecher of Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund. "Sacramento can't count phantom reductions toward meeting federal air quality standards. Reductions must be quantifiable, enforceable, real, and permanent." The groups want planners to prioritize funding for transportation investments that support smart growth and mass transit. They would like to see funds shifted from wider roads and freeway projects to projects that provide transportation choices and to cleaning up the region's air. "We refuse to sacrifice clean air and public health on the altar of road construction," said Earl Withycombe of the Environmental Council of Sacramento. "Read our lips: no more pavement until the guarantees of clean air are set in concrete."

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PORT TOWNSEND, Washington, January 12, 2000 (ENS) - Some U.S. companies are promoting the illegal hunting of great apes in Africa, conservation groups warn. A new report by Rainforest Action Network (RAN) shows that many African hardwoods sold in the U.S. are logged and imported by U.S. companies. The influx of loggers into the rainforest, and increased access for hunters via logging roads has transformed bushmeat hunting. Practiced on a subsistence level for centuries, it is now a lucrative commercial venture that kills endangered forest species, including great apes, for human consumption.

The Primate Conservation and Welfare Society (PCWS), RAN and other organizations have developed a poster and action kit aimed at educating citizens on the plight of Africa's great apes. "When fighting to save endangered species," said PCWS founder and president Hope Walker, "it is easy to blame the lax conservation practices of certain African countries. But it is the practices of Western based timber companies that are threatening Africa's great apes." The Action Kit provides background information on the hunting and killing of primates and the destruction of their habitat, along with the names and addresses of U.S. timber companies active in African rainforests. "Within our children's lifetimes, there may be no wild populations of chimpanzees or gorillas left," said RAN's Africa campaign director Erick Brownstein. The groups demand that U.S. based companies stop selling tropical rainforest wood to help protect Africa's last old growth forests. Proceeds from the sale of the poster will benefit primate conservation organizations whose works focuses on ending the bushmeat trade.

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LOS ANGELES, California, January 12, 2000 (ENS) - The California Coastal Commission has passed a resolution critical of Mitsubishi Corp.’s plans to build a salt factory in Baja California Sur, Mexico. The Commission wrote Tuesday, "The Mitsubishi Corporation's proposed construction of the world's largest salt factory at Laguna San Ignacio threatens to disrupt the health, integrity and biological productivity of lagoon ecosystems as the result of, among other factors, increased salinity, diminution of water quality, ship traffic, noise and contamination." The resolution was passed 9-1, following testimony by Mitsubishi vice president Stephen Wechselblatt, attorney Richard Layman of Richardson & Associates on behalf of the government of Mexico's Commerce Secretary, Mark Spalding of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, and Joel Reynolds of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The California Coastal Commission is the State of California's principal coastal management agency. Its responsibilities include the, "protection of regional, state and national interests in assuring the maintenance of the long-term productivity and economic vitality of coastal resources." Because of the Commission's high profile role in coastal management, environmentalists consider this resolution to be a significant milestone in their campaign to Save Laguna San Ignacio. "The Coastal Commission vote today sends a powerful message to Mitsubishi that this project has no future," said NRDC's Reynolds following the vote announcement. The resolution is available at:

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ATLANTA, Georgia, January 12, 2000 (ENS) - The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national land conservation group, has protected more than 300 acres in Georgia for wildlife. TPL transferred 173 acres to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to add to the Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, a nature refuge 10 minutes by car from downtown Macon. The acquisition completes the protection of almost 1,700 new acres for the refuge. Bond Swamp will serve as the conservation and environmental education center for the Ocmulgee Heritage Greenway, a proposed 42 mile greenway along the Ocmulgee River. "Thanks to the work of many partners, the Bond Swamp Refuge will provide wonderful educational opportunities for school children throughout Central Georgia and will protect an invaluable natural resource for future generations," said Rand Wentworth, TPL’s Atlanta director.

A mile worth of river frontage along the Chattahoochee River has also been protected, and will be transferred to the National Park Service (NPS). TPL acquired the 130 acre tract along the river in Gwinnett County from West Enterprises, Inc. The undeveloped tract has 5,400 feet of river frontage and was targeted for acquisition over 20 years ago by the NPS for its natural beauty and its unparalleled river access. TPL has formed a coalition of business, government, and environmental groups to protect a 180 mile greenway along the Chattahoochee. Protection of land along the Chattahoochee makes sense in so many ways: new recreation lands, better water quality, and habitat for wildlife," said Wentworth.

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DURHAM, North Carolina, January 12, 2000 (ENS) - The Nature Conservancy has bought a significant rare plant site in North Carolina from the Hancock Timber Resource Group. Located in Onslow County next to Camp Lejeune Marine Base, 735 acre Sandy Run Swamp Savanna contains 19 plants recognized as rare on a national or statewide level. The federally endangered Cooley's meadowrue, proposed federally endangered golden sedge, and state endangered Carolina grass-of-Parnassus grow in a longleaf pine savanna in the heart of the property. The Nature Conservancy, North Carolina Chapter will manage the property as part of its statewide system of nature preserves. "Sandy Run Swamp Savanna provides a critical link in a corridor of natural areas called Onslow Bay that extends from Croatan National Forest to the Holly Shelter Game Lands and the Northeast Cape Fear River," noted Katherine Skinner, executive director of The Nature Conservancy's North Carolina Chapter.

Peter Via of Roanoke, Virginia contributed $100,000 towards the purchase of Sandy Run Swamp Savanna to help protect habitat for eastern diamondback rattlesnakes. The property lies within a cluster of eastern diamondback populations centered on Great Sandy Run Pocosin in Camp Lejeune. Considered an endangered species in North Carolina, eastern diamondback populations have declined because of habitat loss and human predation. In addition to the longleaf pine savanna habitat, Sandy Run Swamp Savanna contains loblolly pine plantations. Nature Conservancy staff will restore the preserve to its original condition by planting native longleaf pine and managing the forest with prescribed burning.

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SAN FRANCISCO, California, January 12, 2000 (ENS) - Two Las Vegas area paving companies have agreed to pay penalties totaling $185,500 and reduce pollution from their operations to settle air pollution cases. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Tuesday that Southern Nevada Paving Inc. and Las Vegas Paving Corp. have signed consent decrees regarding emissions of dust and diesel engine exhaust from their facilities. Southern Nevada paid a $103,000 civil penalty and agreed to reduce its air pollution. The company exceeded Clark County's limits on particulate matter emissions at one rock crushing plant and violated federal standards for testing of new equipment at four other rock crushing plants and one hot mix asphalt plant. The company must also replace an older drum mixer type asphalt plant with a far cleaner double barrel drum mixer, at an estimated cost of $650,000.

Las Vegas Paving agreed to pay an $82,500 penalty and reduce its air emissions to settle alleged Clean Air Act violations at its Lone Mountain and Apex rock crushing and asphalt batch processing plants. The company installed and operated five new diesel engines at its Lone Mountain facility in violation of Clark County's clean air plan. At the Apex site, the company installed and operated a nonmetallic mineral processing and hot mix asphalt facility without complying with federal emissions testing rules. The settlement requires the company to retrofit one diesel engine to reduce air pollution, and to obtain proper permits from the Clark County Health District for all other engines.

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WASHINGTON, DC, January 12, 2000 (ENS) - The Department of Energy (DOE) will spend $500,000 to support state and local governments that want to install solar systems on rooftops. Applications are being accepted for projects to develop and implement programs which expand the use of solar energy on buildings. DOE will fund up to $50,000 per project for applications received before the end of January. The Million Solar Roofs Initiative has a goal of installing either solar photovoltaic (PV) or solar water heating systems on one million buildings in the U.S. by 2010. The plan was announced by President Bill Clinton in June 1997, in a speech before the United Nations. PV units generate electricity from sunlight, while active solar thermal panels produce heat for domestic hot water, space heating or for swimming pools.

The financial support is designed to expand the use of solar energy systems on buildings; it is not a solicitation for research, development or demonstration. A key strategy of the Initiative is to use state and community partnerships to spark local demand for solar systems. There are 40 partnerships that have committed to a goal for installations by 2010, and the DOE provides access to a variety of financing options, training and technical assistance, and other support measures. Support will go to projects that can increase market demand in local areas "through the elimination of market barriers to the use of solar energy systems," the DOE says. More information is available at:

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SHEPHERDSTOWN, West Virginia, January 12, 2000 (ENS) - A two day program in West Virginia next month will help wildlife enthusiasts learn how to turn their backyards into an oasis for wildlife. National, regional and state horticulture and wildlife experts will be featured at the seminar, "Turn Your Property Into A Wildlife Oasis." The program, sponsored by the WindStar Wildlife Institute, will be held at the National Conservation Training Center near Shepherdstown on February 12-13. "You'll learn how natural landscapes can create experiences that uplift your spirits, expand your vision, and invigorate your life," says Thomas Patrick, president of WindStar Wildlife, a national nonprofit conservation organization based near Myersville, Maryland. "You and your family can make a difference by making your property more ‘wildlife friendly’ and help replace wildlife habitat lost to development."

Seminar speakers include:

"Once you discover and establish the vast number of native trees, grasses, groundcovers, vines and wildflowers suited for the Mid-Atlantic area, which will need no additional fertilizer, pesticides or water, you'll wonder why you didn't 'go native' before," says Patrick. For more information, Phone: 800-324-9044 or Email: