AmeriScan: January 20, 2000


AUSTIN, Texas, January 20, 2000 (ENS) - Texas Governor George W. Bush received millions of dollars in campaign contributions from industries who directly benefited from a Bush sponsored rewrite of state hazardous waste laws, public employees said today. Documents released by the Texas office of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) show the rewritten law shifted the responsibility for toxic cleanup costs from banks and landowners to state taxpayers. As one of his early environmental initiatives, Governor Bush commissioned an industry dominated workgroup to reevaluate Texas’s hazardous waste cleanup laws. The resulting plan eliminated most of the "polluter pays" principles found in federal and most state hazardous waste cleanup laws, often called Superfund laws.

The financial records of contributors show:

"Pollution policy in Texas has become a cash and carry operation - if you have the cash you can carry on as you like," stated Texas PEER coordinator Erin Rogers. "The Texas Superfund law sponsored by Governor Bush worked to the advantage of the same corporate interests who ponied up the dollars and to the disadvantage of ordinary Texans living in the shadow of polluted places." Bush is now running for President on the Republican ticket.

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HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania, January 20, 2000 (ENS) - The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has embarked on a novel legal strategy to clean up the air Pennsylvanians breathe. DEP Secretary James Seif said state officials will propose a new rule to require air coming into Pennsylvania to meet certain public health standards - standards similar to those for other products coming into Pennsylvania. "Pennsylvania has basic public health standards for a wide range of products that affect the health and safety of our residents, regardless of whether they are produced here or come from other states," Seif said. "These include everything from bakery products to bottled water, to the plants and fertilizers we use in our gardens and farms. Now, we want to apply those same kinds of standards to something even more basic - the air we breathe."

"Air monitoring has clearly shown that dozens of large power plants and industries in 10 states, including Pennsylvania, significantly contribute to our ozone pollution problem," Seif continued. "Our proposed rule would require all those sources to reduce their nitrogen-oxide emissions contributing to dirty air in Pennsylvania." The area affected by this rule includes sources in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina and Washington, DC. Large fossil fueled boilers in these areas would be required to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions, the primary component of ground level ozone or smog, by 75 percent from their 1990 levels, by no later than 2003. "Our scientific evidence shows that Pennsylvania alone cannot meet the federal health-based ozone standard without taking a regional approach like this," Seif said. More information is available at: (directLINK "Fair Share Rule")

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SACRAMENTO, California, January 20, 2000 (ENS) - The public, through the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), took ownership of 224,706 acres of California desert this week. As part of an unprecedented public private partnership to protect the Desert's natural values, key parcels of private lands interspersed with public lands were acquired at a cost of $25 million to help create a vast unbroken expanse of protected desert stretching more than 140 miles. The parcels begin the consolidation of federal ownership of undeveloped land in the region, filling in critical gaps within and between Mojave National Preserve and Joshua Tree National Park and 15 BLM Wilderness Areas.

The Partnership, in addition to BLM, involves The Wildlands Conservancy (TWC), a non-profit group based in Oak Glen, California, which contributed $15 million to private funds toward the purchase; Catellus Development Corporation, owner of the alternate sections of lands once owned by Southern Pacific Railroad, which sold the lands at a discounted price; and Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, who was instrumental in obtaining the $10 million in Federal funds from Congress needed to complete the purchase. The transaction is part of a larger acquisition effort involving TWC, Catellus, BLM, National Park Service (NPS), and hundreds of small inholders who want to sell their scattered tracts. The Department of Interior, which oversees BLM, is required by the 1994 California Desert Protection Act, sponsored by Senator Feinstein, to give priority to consolidating Federal Ownership within the National Park units and BLM wilderness areas designated by the Act.

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HOUSTON, Texas, January 20, 2000 (ENS) - Energy conservation will continue to play a major role in meeting energy demand in the U.S. despite dropping energy prices, predicts the Gas Research Institute (GRI). Improved conservation will reduce demand by 20 quadrillion Btu (quads) of energy over the next 15 years, a new report finds. The GRI report, "Baseline Projection of U.S. Energy Supply & Demand to 2015," forecasts steady growth in overall energy consumption, and very strong growth in the demand for natural gas to meet the growing requirements of electric utilities. Electricity generation will consume 44 percent, or 5.2 quads, of the projected increase in demand for natural gas, the GRI says. The industrial sector will consume 27 percent of the projected increase, with residential, commercial and transportation markets accounting for the balance.

The analysis shows that total primary energy consumption in the U.S. will grow by 1.3 percent a year until 2015. The outlook for natural gas is even more robust, with demand at double the rate of consumption, or an annual growth rate of 2.6 percent. Demand from the electricity sector will require the gas industry to make significant investments in storage and pipeline capacity, and to revise many standard operational practices. While the report provides a positive outlook, "it sounds a call for change in the gas industry," says Paul Holtberg of GRI. "The process will not be easy and will include an element of risk."

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WASHINGTON, DC, January 20, 2000 (ENS) - West Coast groundfish stocks have been declared a commercial fishery failure by Commerce Secretary William Daley. The official determination comes after a sharp decline in catches of groundfish - principally a wide variety of rockfishes - from California to Washington. "Our challenge now is to minimize economic and social impacts on fishing communities while protecting and rebuilding groundfish stocks," Daley said. "This determination is the first step in the process of securing funds from Congress to assist fishermen who have been hit hard in the past several years." West Coast fishermen have seen catches for the entire industry go from a 20-year average of about 74,000 tons to less than 36,000 tons last year. Landings this year are projected to be about 27,000 tons.

Many of the species take a long time to mature and reproduce, making population recovery a very lengthy process, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) said. "A major underlying cause for the current situation is the lack of basic scientific data about these fish," said NMFS Director Penny Dalton. "If money is made available, we would like to work with fishermen to gather more data and improve our understanding of this valuable fishery." Natural causes, including five El Niño events since 1982, are believed to have contributed to the decline, making fishers eligible for federal disaster relief funds. "West Coast fishermen have expressed interest in developing a program to buy out vessels or permits to reduce pressure on the fish stocks as they begin their recovery," said Dalton.

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SCHAUMBURG, Illinois, January 20, 2000 - A miniature fuel cell has been developed that could replace batteries in small consumer devices. The fuel cell developed by Motorola Labs and Los Alamos National Laboratory is lighter and less expensive than conventional rechargeable batteries, but has ten times the energy density. The device is one inch square and less than 0.1 inch thick, and is powered by liquid methanol. "Manufacturers are constantly developing new features for portable electronic equipment that require more power and longer operating life," says Bill Ooms of Motorola's research department. "These fuel cells have an amazing ability to produce energy for longer periods of time while weighing far less than conventional batteries."

The new unit is designed to meet the market demand for an energy source that will replace traditional batteries that now power laptop computers, cameras and electronic games. The fuel cell could power a cellular phone for more than a month and eliminate the need for battery chargers and A/C adapters. The fuel cell has a reservoir of methanol that is combined with air to produce electricity. The low voltage output of most fuel cells requires several cells to be stacked together to increase voltage, but circuitry in the Motorola unit is designed to convert low voltage to a higher output that can directly drive portable electronics. Many kinds of fuel can be used in fuel cells, with hydrogen as the most popular. Recent research has examined methanol (wood alcohol) because it has a higher energy density than hydrogen.

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TITUSVILLE, Florida, January 20, 2000 (ENS) - The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has arrested two landfill employees on nine counts each of environmental crimes. Charles Greene, 62, and Susan Johnson, 31, both worked for Delta Recycling, which operated a landfill in Brevard County near Titusville. Greene, the company’s vice president, and Johnson, the landfill's general manager, were both booked into the Brevard County Jail on Wednesday. The two have been charged with two felony counts of dumping hazardous waste, four felony counts of commercial littering, two misdemeanor counts of criminal solicitation, and one count of criminal conspiracy. Armed with a search warrant, DEP's Division of Law Enforcement excavated specific sites on the landfill property on January 11-13. They recovered evidence of criminal activity, including the illegal dumping of large quantities of carpet, crushed 55 gallon drums, vehicle batteries, paint and paint cans, and vehicle parts, tires, and fuel tanks - some containing fluids.

Under the authority of two additional search warrants, computers and business records were seized from Delta Recycling's office and Johnson's residence. In a separate issue, a pending injunction filed by Brevard County to close the landfill was granted last Thursday by the 18th Circuit Court. "The Division of Law Enforcement has performed a tremendous public service in their investigation of this case," said DEP Secretary David Struhs. "Enforcement is a major deterrent to future environmental crime. It is a significant tool in our effort to reinforce the notion that compliance counts."

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BOULDER, Colorado, January 20, 2000 (ENS) - This winter, the largest international project ever mounted is measuring ozone levels in the upper atmosphere of the Arctic in hopes of learning more about the vanishing ozone layer. Scientists from the U.S., Europe, Russia and Japan are making detailed measurements of the chemistry and dynamics of the region. The SAGE III Ozone Loss and Validation Experiment, sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), is being conducted jointly with the European Commission sponsored Third European Stratospheric Experiment on Ozone. With some 350 scientists participating, SOLVE/THESEO-2000 is the largest stratospheric field mission ever conducted, says project manager Michael Craig of NASA's Ames Research Center.

Begun in the Arctic darkness of November and continuing through March as the sun climbs higher above the horizon, the mission is timed to capture chemical changes in the stratosphere brought about by interaction with increasing solar radiation. As temperatures fall during Arctic winter, polar stratospheric clouds (PSCs) can form. Chemical reactions on the surface of PSC cloud particles free up active chlorine and bromine, which react with sunlight to destroy ozone when the sun returns in spring. The sources of chlorine and bromine are human produced chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and halocarbons. The colder the Arctic spring, the longer the clouds linger and the more ozone loss. Scientists need to understand the complex interactions among solar radiation, temperature, water, CFCs, aerosol particles, and polar stratospheric clouds before predictions of ozone loss in the Northern Hemisphere can become more reliable.

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SAN FRANCISCO, California, January 19, 2000 (ENS) - The EPA’s Region 9 is seeking nominations for this year's Earth Day Environmental Awards Program. Residents in California, Nevada, Hawaii and Arizona are encouraged to nominate a friend, peer or organization who went beyond the call of duty to improve the environment in 1999. In particular, the EPA wants to acknowledge individuals and groups that reach across non-traditional lines to build collaborative successes. Anyone can be nominated, including scientists, teachers, journalists, citizen activists, young people, organizations, business representatives, public officials and others committed to preserving the natural world.

Entries will be judged on the following criteria:

Nomination forms must be completed and returned to the EPA Region 9 Office no later than February 18. An EPA panel will review all of the applications and select this year's finalists by late March. Winners will be recognized at a ceremony in mid-April. For a copy of the nomination form, contact the Public Information Center at 415-744-1500 or visit the EPA Region 9 Earth Day Web Page at

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NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana, January 20, 2000 (ENS) - University of New Orleans (UNO) researcher Alfred Daech and researchers at University of New Orleans Gulf Coast Region Maritime Technology Center (GCRMTC) have developed a new corrosion inhibitor that they claim does not pollute the environment. The material, a nontoxic paint for aluminum, combats rust and is non-carcinogenic. Tests revealed that UNO's coating inhibited corrosion as much as chromium without the hazardous materials. The product’s ease of application will also help control hazardous material costs, disposal and handling, which could save the military and commercial airline industry millions of dollars. "What we have to offer is something that tested better than anything in the world," said Daech. "This also complies with the environmental regulations, plus it has the capability to eliminate the problem of carcinogenic coatings. This is the transition from 'we don't give a damn if we pollute the world' to 'we better stop polluting the world'."

"Corrosion costs the government billions of dollars on military aircraft, ships, vessels, torpedoes, and other things. With some of the current inhibitors - using heavy metals, such as chromium, lead, and cadmium - found to be toxic, UNO's inhibitor could be a great cost saving, environmentally conscious benefit. Currently, billions of dollars are expended to help retard or prevent corrosion," said environmental engineer Bill Strasburg of John J. McMullen Associates, Inc., who directed the UNO inhibitor testing for NavAir. The Naval Surface Warfare Center says it costs the Navy about $500 million to drydock ships for a year, including 80 million for paint removal and replacement alone.