AmeriScan: January 31, 2000


WASHINGTON, DC, January 31, 2000 (ENS) - Twelve Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states, along with the District of Columbia, have agreed to allow emissions credit trading between utilities and other industrial plants. Under the proposed program, companies could use two kinds of emissions trading credits. One type would allow companies to document pollution reductions above those required by federal regulators, providing rate based credits which could be sold to other companies. A second option would use measurements of emissions by mass, allowing emission reduction credits to be sold by the pound or ton. The Commission has agreed on the general terms of emission credit trading, but is still working out the details of tracking the trading with the EPA, said John Cahill, chairman of the Ozone Transport Commission (OTC).

"This is just another bold step in our efforts to provide cleaner air for our citizens and protect our natural resources," said Cahill, announcing the agreement. The OTC is an advisory panel of government leaders and environmental officials from 12 states stretching from Virginia to Maine, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Commission was established by Congress in 1990 to address complaints by northeastern states of interstate pollution from power plants in the Midwest and Southeast. The OTC is working to reduce cross border smog, formed when nitrogen oxides react with sunlight in the air to form ground level ozone. Smog pollution has been linked to asthma and other diseases.

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DAVOS, Switzerland, January 31, 2000 (ENS) - President Bill Clinton called on the world’s political and business leaders Saturday to resolve controversy over globalization through an open dialogue with developing nations and environmental and labor leaders. "I came here today in the hope that, by working together, we can actually find a way to create the conditions and provide the tools to give people on every continent the ability to solve their own problems and, in so doing, to strengthen their own lives and our global economy in the new century," said Clinton, speaking at the annual World Economic Forum. Clinton is the first U.S. President to attend the forum.

"Open markets and rules based trade are the best engine we know of to lift living standards, reduce environmental destruction and build shared prosperity," said Clinton. But he emphasized that free trade and globalization will remain controversial unless dissenting voices are allowed to participate in crafting international trade agreements. "We all have an interest, particularly in the environmental issue, because of global warming," said Clinton. "We don't have very well developed institutions for dealing with the social issues, the environmental issues, the labor issues, and no forum within which they can all be integrated." During Clinton’s speech, about 1,000 protesters demonstrated in Davos. The activists, many representing groups that were also present at December’s World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle, broke the windows of a McDonald's restaurant and threw snowballs at Swiss riot police. One policeman was injured and two people were arrested.

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WASHINGTON, DC, January 31, 2000 (ENS) - A national coalition of 42 religious and environmental groups are calling on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to review the environmental impacts of merging the Exxon and Mobil oil companies. Final approval of this merger would create the largest oil company in the world. The Campaign ExxonMobil coalition filed comments today arguing that given the environmental records of both companies and current law, the FTC is obligated to examine the environmental impacts of their merger, including the impact on global warming. The group also called on the FTC to examine the effects of the proposed 16,000 job cuts on health and environmental safety.

"Federal law and common sense dictate that before we create the world's biggest oil company we take a look at how the merger will affect the environment and public health," said Peter Altman, National Coordinator of Campaign ExxonMobil (CEM). "We must not allow the company that brought us the Exxon Valdez oil spill to get even bigger without having some idea of the environmental impacts." To date, no environmental impact review of the merger has been completed or proposed by the FTC. "We think that few actions by the federal government could have a greater impact on the environment than approving this merger," said Sanford Lewis, the attorney who prepared the comments. "Ironically, it was a lawsuit brought by Mobil and other oil companies in 1977 that established the obligation of the FTC to prepare an EIS before approving this type of merger." The comments filed by Campaign ExxonMobil can be viewed at:

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MUSCLE SHOALS, Alabama, January 31, 2000 (ENS) - The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has opened its $8 million Public Power Institute to conduct research into renewable energy. "We chartered the Institute to use TVA's integrated power system as a living laboratory and showcase for innovations and solutions," said TVA chairman Craven Crowell at a dedication ceremony January 27. "Research and development will target three areas - the production and delivery of energy, how energy products are used, and how energy production, delivery, and use impact the environment."

The Institute will place special emphasis on renewable energy supply and efficient energy production and use, he added. The $8 million for the first year budget will come from TVA, while future funding will require partnerships. Wind, solar and biomass will be the focus of the Institute’s "Clean and Advanced Energy Technologies" area, which will also develop technologies that produce cleaner fossil-fuel power and advanced initiatives for dispersed power generation. Other teams will focus on pollution reduction and technologies to capture carbon emissions, support for industrial operations from minimal use of raw materials, and development of technologies that promote efficient use and enhance the quality of delivering electricity. The Institute will partner with groups such as local power distributors, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy and the Electric Power Research Institute to optimize the research. TVA is the largest producer of electricity in the U.S., serving more than eight million customers in seven states.

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WASHINGTON, DC, January 31, 2000 (ENS) - A bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives last week would ban shark finning in all U.S. waters. The legislation was introduced by Republican Representatives Randy Cunningham of California and Jim Saxton of New Jersey, who is also Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Fisheries Conservation, Wildlife and Oceans. The practice of finning, in which a shark’s fins are sliced off and the rest of the animal discarded in the sea, was banned in U.S. Atlantic waters in 1993, but has expanded in portions of the U.S. Pacific. The number of sharks killed in the Hawaiian longline fisheries has climbed from 2,289 in 1991 to 60,857 in 1998 - a 2,500 percent increase.

"Over 98 percent of these sharks were killed for their fins to meet the huge demand for shark fin soup," explained Dr. David Wilmot, Director of the Ocean Wildlife Campaign (OWC), a coalition of conservation groups working to protect giant ocean fishes. "Because shark fins comprise only one to five percent of the animal's bodyweight - 95 to 99 percent of the shark is going to waste." Federal fisheries officials have pressured the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council to prohibit shark finning for months, but the council has refused to ban shark finning. "Our hats are off to Mr. Cunningham and Mr. Saxton for attacking head on an issue characterized by rampant waste, egregious inconsistencies with U.S. domestic and foreign policy, and inaction by regional fishery managers," noted Russell Dunn, assistant director of the OWC.

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HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania, January 31, 2000 (ENS) - A citizen’s coalition of Pennsylvania consumer, public health and church groups has launched a ten year initiative to increase the share of the energy in the state generated from renewable sources. The "Green Power: Turn it On!" program was launched Thursday by Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future (PennFuture). Their goal is to have 10 percent of electricity in the state come from energy power by the year 2010. "Pennsylvania is on the brink of a new energy revolution, and we intend to lead the charge," said John Hanger, president of PennFuture. "With Green Power, we will help Pennsylvania abandon its position as the state with the fourth dirtiest air in the nation, and become our nation's leader in using modern, renewable technology to guarantee both clean air and plentiful, reliable energy."

"Our state's old, outdated power plants cause dangerous pollution that destroys our environment and endangers our health," said Hanger. "This pollution sent 14,500 Pennsylvanians to the hospital with breathing problems in 1997, with untold thousands suffering at home. Health care experts and advocates, led by the American Lung Association, recognize that one of the best ways to end this crisis is to stop the pollution at its source - and that's why they have endorsed the Green Power initiative." The Reverend Joy Kaufmann of the Pennsylvania Council of Churches said participating in Green Power makes sense for church groups as well. "Buying electricity made from the sun, the wind and other renewable resources is an ideal way to practice our faith on a daily basis by taking action to prevent global climate change and other human caused destruction."

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CARBONDALE, Illinois, January 31, 2000 (ENS) - An enzyme that breaks down alcohol in the liver could be used to recycle carbon, reducing the amount released into the atmosphere, say chemists in Illinois. Bakul Dave and Robyn Obert of the Southern Illinois University in Carbondale have developed an efficient way of turning the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) into methanol using the enzyme. Methanol is a clean burning fuel that can be used to power cars.

To make methanol, the liver enzyme and two bacterial enzymes are embedded in a sponge like glass and placed in water. When CO2 is bubbled through the water, one of the bacterial enzymes, formate dehydrogenase, converts CO2 into formic acid. Then another enzyme, formaldehyde dehydrogenase, transforms the formic acid into formaldehyde. Finally, alcohol dehydrogenase, which normally helps the liver to detoxify alcohol, completes the reaction by turning the formaldehyde into methanol. Each of the enzyme reactions is reversible, so to drive the process in the right direction, the Illinois team adds a fourth ingredient called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH). To make the process practical, the NADH will have to be recycled by replenishing the electrons it feeds to the enzymes. If the energy needed to drive the process can be generated from sources that do not produce CO2, the chemists’s method could produce methanol without adding to the greenhouse effect. "I'd like to see the energetics of the reaction, because you don't get energy for nothing," says John Houghton, co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which coordinates research on global warming.

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CHAMPAIGN, Illinois, January 31, 2000 (ENS) - People are more likely to say they would support green space than to pay for it, says Gerrit Knaap, a professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Illinois. Knaap and colleague Greg Lindsey, a professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, analyzed the results of a study designed to determine people's willingness to pay for projects in a publicly designated greenway in Indianapolis. The researchers also tested the validity of a research method known as Contingent Valuation (CV) - a somewhat controversial approach used to estimate the value of an intangible commodity.

During the past decade, they noted, "CV has been used frequently to estimate the value of water and air quality, fishing and hunting opportunities, wildlife preservation, and a variety of other public and environmental goods," and to evaluate the benefits of environmental regulations. Knaap and Lindsey surveyed more than 2,700 households regarding use of greenway land. Respondents were also asked about their willingness to contribute to the White River Greenways Foundation, and half were sent a request for donations. Knaap said the proportion of respondents willing to pay was much higher in response to the survey alone than to the survey that included a solicitation. Among property owners, the difference was 51 percent versus 36 percent. And in the end, only 10 property owners mailed checks. "Across all groups, willingness to pay for greenways was positive, but quite limited," the researchers said. "Although the results are indicative of relative support, they provide further evidence of significant differences between amounts people say they are willing to pay and the amounts they actually will pay."

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BOSTON, Massachusetts, January 31, 2000 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will provide $16.2 million in grants to help Rhode Island reduce water pollution and improve drinking water supplies and distribution systems. The money, awarded to the state’s Clean Water Finance Agency, will be used to make low interest loans to communities across the state. The first loan, totaling $5 million, will be used by the Providence Water Supply Board to help finance improvements to its aging drinking water system. Other drinking water loan funds will help pay for upgrades and repairs to facilities in Pawtucket and Newport.

The EPA grants also include $5.4 million to help pay for a massive combined sewer overflow project that the Narragansett Bay Commission is undertaking to reduce the amount of sewage being discharged into the Woonasquatucket River and Upper Narragansett Bay. This project, which will cost a total of $165.5 million, will reduce discharges into the upper bay by almost 40 percent and will result in many more shellfish beds being open for use. "This grant money will help Rhode Island address some of its most serious water quality problems, including sewer overflows in Upper Narragansett Bay and failing septic systems in communities along the coastline," said Mindy Lubber, acting regional administrator for EPA New England. "This money will also help fund much-needed improvements for the state's public drinking water systems, many of which are in poor shape due to the age and condition of their distribution system."

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LOS ANGELES, California, January 31, 2000 (ENS) - The South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) has proposed an "Adopt a School Bus" program to help pay the cost of reducing cancer causing diesel emissions from the region’s school buses. "I want to create a win-win, partnering opportunity for existing school bus operators to get that extra help they need to run a cleaner fleet - and a cleaner ride to and from school for our children," said AQMD governing board chairman William Burke. Under the program, individuals or corporate sponsors could donate funds to retrofit diesel buses to cleaner burning technologies, or to purchase new natural gas powered buses.

Electric school buses and clean burning compressed natural gas engines are now available, but they cost more than diesel buses and engines. In addition, school districts using natural gas buses may need to install natural gas fueling stations. A 1999 study by AQMD showed that diesel soot in the region is responsible for about 71 percent of the total cancer risk from air pollution. Most school buses are diesel powered. Burke will hold a meeting next month with school district officials, business stakeholders, environmental groups and other interested parties to discuss details of the program. The initiative could help school districts comply with AQMD’s proposed Rule 1190, which would require public fleet operators to purchase clean fueled vehicles when old ones are replaced.