AmeriScan: January 13, 2000

SMOG SAFETY LEVELS EXCEEDED 7,000 TIMES LAST YEAR

WASHINGTON, DC, January 13, 2000 (ENS) - There were more than 7,000 recorded exceedances of EPA's health standard for smog in 43 states and the District of Columbia during the 1999 smog season, according to "Danger in the Air," a new report released today by U.S. PIRG and the Clean Air Network. Smog pollution is responsible for more than six million asthma attacks and sends 159,000 people to the emergency room each year. The Danger in the Air report compiles and analyzes air quality data recorded from hundreds of smog monitors across the nation, and documents the need for aggressive action to reduce ground level ozone, or "smog" pollution in the U.S.

"Smog is causing a public health crisis, affecting people in nearly every state in the nation," said Rebecca Stanfield, staff attorney with U.S. PIRG. "It's time to take aggressive action to protect public health and clear the air." The ten states with the highest number of recorded exceedances of the 8-hour standard in 1999 were: California (1217), Texas (555), North Carolina (539), Pennsylvania (512), Ohio (461), Georgia (407), Tennessee (344), Indiana (320), Maryland (319), and Kentucky (316).

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NEW JERSEY WATERSHED PLANNING IMPROVEMENT PROPOSED

TRENTON, New Jersey, January 12, 2000 (ENS) - In her State of the State Address this week, New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman will propose to increase the state's contribution to watershed planning by $3 million, to $8.8 million. The additional funds would allow nine watershed projects, now scheduled to begin by the year 2004, to get underway this year. "I think we can do better than 2004. In fact, I think we need to do better," Whitman said. "The sooner we get to work on these long-term plans, the quicker we can ensure a future of abundant clean water. As our state continues to develop, it's important for us to plan where we grow. As we decide where to put sewers, roads and new buildings, we need to recognize the impact that they will have on an entire watershed."

Governor Whitman made the announcement at a ceremony awarding nearly $1.4 million for local water quality improvement projects in the Rancocas, Salem River, Maurice River and Barnegat Bay Watersheds. An erosion control project at Smithville Farm received $450,000 to improve stream banks, stormwater control and habitat along the North Branch of the Rancocas Creek. Another $250,000 will be used to plant a forest buffer at Mill Dam/Iron Works Park in Mt. Holly. The Salem County Department of Planning will receive $101,000 to reduce nonpoint source pollution in the Salem River Watershed. Two groups will receive $19,000 to develop a "Backyard Best Management Practices and Wildlife Habitats Project" in the Maurice River Watershed. The Ocean County Soil Conservation District was awarded $60,000 to develop a teachers activity guide for the Barnegat Bay Watershed. An additional $517,725 in corporate business tax funds are being distributed for water management of Barnegat Bay and Rancocas Creek.

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NEW MANUAL COMBATS COSTLY WILDLIFE HAZARDS AT AIRPORTS

WASHINGTON, DC, January 13, 2000 (ENS) - A new manual, the first of its kind in the United States, aims to avert wildlife hazards at airports. It is the culmination of years of research, airport site visits and training conducted by the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Office of Airports and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Wildlife Services. The manual contains information to assist airport personnel in addressing airport wildlife hazard issues and enhancing aviation safety.

"Our goal is to keep wildlife away from aircraft in flight and to get as much information as possible to those airports that are affected by wildlife hazards," said Paul Galis, deputy associate administrator for airports. Annually, wildlife aircraft collisions cost the U.S. civil aviation industry more than $300 million in aircraft damage and associated cost and almost 500,000 hours of aircraft down time. Between 1990 and 1998, 19 civil aircraft were destroyed as a result of collisions with wildlife. Copies of the manual can be obtained from the FAA's wildlife hazard website at: www.faa.gov/apr/hazard.htm or by writing to: New Orders, Superintendent of Documents, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15270-7954.

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NORTH CAROLINA HOG GROWERS CAN SELL OUT TO STATE

RALEIGH, North Carolina, January 13, 2000 (ENS) - Owners of hog operations flooded following Hurricanes Dennis, Floyd, and Irene may have a new alternative to resuming production in flood prone areas - sell their swine production rights. In an effort to keep hog waste from state waters, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has begun accepting offers from pork producers with operations in the 100-year floodplain who are interested in selling their permit to operate a feedlot. The solicitation is part of DENR's Program to Acquire Conservation Easements on Swine Operations Within the 100-Year Floodplain, a program funded through a $5.7 million grant from the Clean Water Management Trust Fund.

Through the program DENR hopes to acquire conservation easements on up to 15 operations located in the 100-year floodplain. Selected participants will retain the ability to engage in low-intensity agriculture, such as grazing beef cattle on the site, but the conservation easement will prohibit operation of a confined feedlot within the easement area. Participants must agree to implement a soil and water conservation plan covering the easement area and to establish a forested buffer adjacent to all streams within the easement area. Cost share funds will be available for establishing streamside buffers and necessary conservation practices. DENR will contract for closing all waste lagoons on the site. "Governor Hunt supports removing animal waste lagoons from the 100-year floodplain," DENR Secretary Bill Holman said, "This initiative will help achieve that goal and protect water quality from future floods through a voluntary incentive-based approach."

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NRDC TAKES TEXACO TO COURT AGAIN OVER DELAWARE RIVER

WASHINGTON, DC, January 13, 2000 (ENS) - Texaco oil company has yet to comply with a court order to assess illegal pollution of Delaware River. In late January, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) will try again in federal court to get this assesment, the third case in its 11 year legal battle against Texaco over pollution of the Delaware. The Delaware River was once a waterway renowned for its fishing, swimming and natural beauty. In 1988, local residents complained they could no longer use the river, fearful of the plumes of pollution they saw downstream of the Texaco refinery. They took their concerns to the Environmental Protection Agency, but the EPA declined to take action against Texaco. Residents contacted NRDC, and their scientists found evidence from Texaco's own internal reports showing that the company had been knowingly and illegally discharging tons of oil, grease and other highly toxic pollutants into the river since 1983. The NRDC filed suit against Texaco in federal court. The oil company responded with legal delay tactics for three years, during which it continued to pollute the Delaware River.

In 1991, the case went to trial and a federal judge determined that the company had violated the Clean Water Act on a total of 3,360 days. In ruling against Texaco, the judge imposed a penalty of more than $1.5 million, and ordered the company to undertake an elaborate study of the environmental damage it has caused. Texaco has paid its fine, but the NRDC said the company continued to pollute illegally. So NRDC brought two separate contempt proceedings against Texaco. As a result, the company made payments to non-profit groups for river cleanup, but did no study of the damage it had caused to the river. It proposed a minimal monitoring plan. In late January, NRDC attorneys will take Texaco back to trial for the third time, asking the court to throw out Texaco's latest plan and asking the court to take control of the environmental study away from Texaco and hand over supervision to an independent authority.

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COOL, CLEAN WATER FOR SEATTLE AND SALMON

TACOMA, Washington, January 13, 2000 (ENS) - Seattle intends to keep cool, clean drinking water flowing from the Cedar River Watershed while keeping streams healthy for threatened salmon, with help from a monitoring method developed by the U.S. Geological Survey, Department of the Interior. The stream-scoring method, described in a USGS report released last week, was developed in cooperation with Seattle Public Utilities, which owns the entire upper Cedar River Watershed. More than 60 percent of Seattle water comes from the watershed. It remains relatively pristine and undisturbed.

The USGS examined streambed insects, called benthic invertebrates, as part of Seattle's monitoring plan for the watershed. Besides biological monitoring, the plan calls for keeping tabs on streamflow and water quality. By measuring these three factors at the same time in the same areas, scientists and watershed managers can make better sense of what's going on in the streams. "This study provides baseline information about the health of the watershed," said Bob Black, USGS biologist and lead author of the report. "Baseline conditions are now charted, so we can see how influences on a watershed might be affecting the health of its ecosystem through time.

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MONTANA ELK FOUND WITH DEADLY DISEASE

HELENA, Montana, January 13, 2000 (ENS) - Three of 80 elk cremated last week at a Philipsburg, Montana game farm were infected with the deadly chronic wasting disease (CWD), test results released Monday confirm. The Montana Department of Livestock (MDOL) said the recent test results prove state officials were correct to destroy the entire elk herd at the David Kesler game farm. Livestock officials called for the destruction of the elk in November 1999 after earlier tests showed one dead animal there carried the deadly elk and deer disease. The discovery of CWD at the Kesler game farm was the first documented case of the disease in Montana.

Chronic wasting disease, for which there is no test in live animals, attacks the nervous system of the animal and is fatal to elk and deer. The recent tests on the elk herd were conducted at National Veterinary Sevices Laboratory in Ames, Iowa. Two other laboratories in Colorado and Idaho are still conducting similar research on tissue samples from the dead elk. The Kesler animals were euthanized by lethal injection in December and burned last week in an incinerator at the game farm. Meanwhile, An MDOL spokesman said no plans are currently in the works to stiffen the oversight of game farms. Craig Sharpe, interim executive director of the Montana Wildlife Federation has called for a halt on all movement of game farm animals, both inter and intrastate. But Mark Taylor, spokesman for the Montana Alternative Livestock Producers, said calls for a total ban on the movement of game farm animals lacks scientific basis, and would hurt game farm operators who want to acquire new animals, breed animals or expand their herds. Current regulations require whenever an animal dies at a game farm that the animal be tested for CWD. Also, the state requires before any captive animal is imported into Montana it is monitored for the disease for at least two years.

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$140,000 RAISED FOR MEMORIAL FUND OF SLAIN YOSEMITE NATURALIST

YOSEMITE, California, January 13, (ENS) - Yosemite National Institutes (YNI) says that more than $140,000 has been raised for the Joie Armstrong Memorial Fund. The Fund was established soon after the naturalist was murdered on July 21 in Yosemite National Park. Donations have come in from around the country from those affected deeply by Armstrong's tragic story and those she touched with her passion for teaching and the environment. The Fund will assist young women and girls to participate in a program that highlights Joie's enthusiasm for teaching and the environment, as well as leadership and communication skills. "The YNI community is deeply moved that hundreds of people have reached out to honor Joie's memory and her bright spirit by contributing to this Fund," Linda Brownstein, chair of the YNI Board of Directors, said. "We are proud that those closest to Joie have molded the Armstrong Scholars program in her image."

Brownstein announced that she personally will be making a "dollar-for-dollar match" for all donations to the Fund that are received between November 16, 1999 and January 31, 2000. YNI operates three campuses in cooperation with the National Park Service and serves over 38,000 youth and adults annually. The campuses are located in Yosemite National Park, Golden Gate National Recreation Area in California and Olympic National Park in Washington state. To make a tax deductible contribution, people can send a check to Yosemite National Institutes, Fort Cronkhite, Building 1055, Sausalito, California 94965. Visit YNI's website at www.yni.org.

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NEW YORKERS CAN LEARN WILDLIFE REHABILITATION

ALBANY, New York, January 13, 2000 (ENS) - New York residents wishing to help rehabilitate injured wildlife could get their chance this April. A written examination for the volunteer wildlife rehabilitator license will be given on Friday, April 7, 2000. "Wildlife rehabilitators provide the selfless service of caring for injured, sick and orphaned wild animals," said Gerry Barnhart of the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). "The ultimate goal of wildlife rehabilitation is to prepare the animals for their return to the wild." The annual exam will be held from 10 am to noon at designated locations around the state. The deadline for registering to take the exam is Friday, March 17, 2000. There is no charge for either the exam or the license.

A study guide and examination manual are available for $15 per set. The materials were developed by wildlife rehabilitators, veterinarians and biologists to teach applicants about the practice of wildlife rehabilitation, including technical requirements for licensed volunteers. Applicants must be at least 16 years old, submit two character references, have no convictions for violations of the State Environmental Conservation Law and be interviewed by a regional DEC wildlife biologist. A degree of technical skill and a significant commitment in time, money and effort are required to be a wildlife rehabilitator. Prospective applicants are encouraged to gain experience by serving as an assistant to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Additional information is available by calling (518) 457-0689, or by writing to New York State DEC, Special Licenses Unit, 50 Wolf Road, Room 560-B, Albany, New York 12233-4752.

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GULF OF MEXICO IMAGES INFORM AND ENTERTAIN

MOBILE, Alabama, January 13, 2000 (ENS) - Art and science will merge at the Gulf Coast Exploreum in Mobile this March, when a major exhibition will showcase university student artwork depicting the value of the Gulf of Mexico. "Imaging the Gulf" is being held in conjunction with the Fourth Gulf of Mexico Symposium at the adjacent Convention Center. This year's symposium, "The Gulf of Mexico - a Resource for the New Millennium" will feature Dr. E.O. Wilson of Harvard, the Pulitzer prize winning scientist who popularized the concept of biodiversity.

"Imaging the Gulf" is sponsored by the Gulf of Mexico Program in association with the Gulf Coast Exploreum and with assistance from the Mobile Museum of Art. University graduate and undergraduate students from Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas are encouraged to enter up to five works each in the juried contest. Their task, said Gaye Farris of the U.S. Geological Survey, chair of the art contest, "is to interpret some part of the Gulf of Mexico Program's message that the Gulf is economically valuable, aesthetically beautiful, environmentally important and culturally rich, and that we have only one Gulf of Mexico and need to be one unified community in protecting it." Best of show and a logo category will win $1,500 each. Entry forms for the exhibition have been distributed to art departments in Gulf state universities and are available on the Web at http://www.gmpo.gov, which also has information about the Gulf of Mexico Program. For more information about the contest or exhibition, contact Turnage, Tel: 205-872-5397; Email: Gaye_Farris@usgs.gov.