AmeriScan: November 2, 2001

ENERGY, WATER BILL BOOSTS MOST FUNDING

WASHINGTON, DC, November 2, 2001 (ENS) - The House and Senate have passed the final version of the fiscal year 2002 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act, sending the bill to the desk of President George W. Bush.

The bill provides a total of $24.6 billion in new discretionary spending authority for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Civil, the Department of Interior including the Bureau of Reclamation, the Department of Energy, and several independent agencies.

The final bill includes $891 million more than the House version, $573.4 million above fiscal year 2001 and $2 billion above the President's budget request.

The bill provides $4.48 billion for the Corps of Engineers, $586 million more than the President's budget request and $200.4 million below fiscal year 2001.

The Bureau of Reclamation will receive $914.3 million, $94.5 million over the President's request and $97.6 million over last year. The bill provides $30 million for the CALFED Bay-Delta project in fiscal year 2002.

The Department of Energy will get $19.5 billion, $1.39 billion more than President Bush asked for, and $877.2 million above fiscal year 2001. Funding for the Department of Energy was increased over the President's request primarily in three areas - renewable energy technologies, environmental cleanup and nuclear weapons.

Energy Department science programs are funded at $3.23 billion, an increase of $73.2 million over the budget request and $52.7 million above fiscal year 2001.

The bill includes $396 million for renewable energy programs, an increase of $119.3 million over the budget request and $20.2 million over fiscal year 2001. Nuclear energy programs are funded at $250.5 million, an increase of $27.3 million over the budget request and $9.4 million below fiscal year 2001.

The Nuclear Waste Fund program to determine the suitability of the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada as a permanent geologic repository for spent nuclear fuel is funded at $375 million, a decrease of $69.9 million from the President's request. The funding is intended to keep the program on schedule to prepare a site recommendation report in fiscal year 2002.

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which includes the nuclear weapons program, defense nuclear nonproliferation, naval reactors and the office of the administrator, is funded at $7.23 billion, an increase of $529.8 million over last year, and $456.7 million over the budget request.

Funding of $5.43 billion is provided for weapons activities; $803.6 million for defense nuclear nonproliferation programs; $688 million for naval reactors; and $312.6 for the office of the administrator which includes the salaries and expenses for federal employees.

The bill provides $7.14 billion for Energy Department environmental management and cleanup activities, an increase of $803 million over the budget request and $169.7 million over last year. A total of $210 million is provided to improve deteriorating facilities at the department's science laboratories and nuclear weapons complex and to demolish unneeded facilities now being maintained in minimal safe conditions.

The independent agencies funded by the bill include:

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U.S OIL AND GAS RESERVES INCREASED IN 2000

WASHINGTON, DC, November 2, 2001 (ENS) - U.S. crude oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids reserves increased in 2000, shows an annual report by the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The "Advance Summary: U.S. Crude Oil, Natural Gas, and Natural Gas Liquids Reserves, 2000 Annual Report" shows that proved reserves of dry natural gas increased six percent, by far the largest increase since EIA has been estimating the nation's proven gas reserves.

Proved reserves are the estimated quantities which geological and engineering data demonstrate with reasonable certainty to be recoverable in future years from known reservoirs under existing economic and operating conditions.

Such a large increase should not be expected to occur very often in the future, the agency said, because the number of new areas to explore for natural gas is diminishing. The unusual combination of a large increase in the number of exploratory wells and a large increase in total discoveries per exploratory well led to the increase.

Reserve additions replaced 152 percent of U.S. dry natural gas production. The majority of proved natural gas reserve additions came from Texas and New Mexico in the southwest, and from states with large coalbed methane reserves like Wyoming, Colorado and Utah.

U.S. natural gas proved reserves have increased in six of the last seven years. Natural gas liquids reserves increased in proportion with natural gas reserves.

U.S. crude oil proved reserves increased about one percent. Crude oil reserve additions replaced 115 percent of oil production.

The majority of crude oil reserve additions came from the deepwater Gulf of Mexico federal offshore frontier area. Large discoveries of crude oil in 2000 also came from this federal offshore frontier area and the Alaskan North Slope, which both provided very high discoveries per exploratory well.

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FIRST ALASKA OFFSHORE ENERGY NOW FLOWING

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, November 2, 2001 (ENS) - The first oil from federal waters off Alaska was produced Thursday at the BP Exploration Northstar project.

Northstar became the first outer continental shelf development project since federal offshore leasing began in 1976 off Alaska.

"In the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks, Americans charged our government to strengthen national security. This is a positive step in that direction," said Interior Secretary Gale Norton. "True national security must expand conservation programs, reduce our dependence on foreign oil from evil dictators, such as Saddam Hussein, and create new jobs - all while protecting the environment."

The project is calculated to produce 175 million barrels of oil - enough energy to fuel almost one million American automobiles for six years, Norton said.

The project underwent an "exhaustive review" by both the state of Alaska and the U.S. Minerals Management Service, noted Drue Pearce, Norton's senior advisor for Alaska affairs.

"The successful completion of the Northstar project proves that by working together, federal and state governments and the energy industry can combine protection of the environment with cutting edge technology to bring America's energy resources safely to market," said Pearce.

The Northstar pipeline is the first buried subsea pipeline in the Arctic to be used for full time production. The pipeline is buried seven to 11 feet below the seafloor to avoid ice impacts.

Northstar also uses some innovative features to protect the environment. Monitoring systems check the integrity of the pipelines, and the pipelines are made of a tough but flexible steel designed to resist stress.

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GROUNDED AIRCRAFT GIVE CLIMATE RESEARCHERS CLEARER VIEW

NEW YORK, New York, November 2, 2001 (ENS) - The grounding of aircraft across the U.S. after the September 11 terrorist attacks has given climate scientists a rare opportunity to study the effects of air traffic on global climate, the "New York Times" reports.

Jet exhaust can help form high elevation cirrus clouds in humid air when ice crystals form around the pollution the aircraft produce. These clouds can trap heat rising from the Earth's surface, boosting the global warming effect of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, scientists believe.

Dr. Patrick Minnis, a senior research scientist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Langley Research Center, told the "New York Times" that researchers are now looking at satellite images of the sky over the U.S. east coast before and after the terrorist attacks prompted the Federal Aviation Administration to ground all U.S. aircraft.

The images show that late in the day on September 11, only three contrails, or aircraft exhaust plumes, appear in the east - presumed to be Air Force One, the president's plane, and its military escort.

The following day, just nine military flights crossed the skies in the east - an area normally blanketed by contrails from 700 to 800 jets per day.

Dr. Minnis told the newspaper that his team has used those images, to chart how the clouds formed by the nine jets traveling on September 12 spread out over a five hour period, eventually forming a veil of cirrus clouds covering 24,000 square miles.

These observations will be used to refine existing computer models of how plane travel affects cloud formation and climate, Dr. Minnis said.

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YELLOWSTONE GRAZING DECISION HIDDEN FROM PUBLIC

MISSOULA, Montana, November 2, 2001 (ENS) - An alliance of Yellowstone bison advocates is criticizing the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) for keeping the pubic in the dark on their plans to renew a grazing allotment on National Forest land that provides traditional habitat for Yellowstone's wild bison herd.

The groups say the USFS failed to provide updates to the 67,520 people who commented on the Bison Management Plan developed by the state of Montana and several federal agencies including Yellowstone National Park and the USFS.

"The Forest Service has abrogated its responsibility to the American public and to America's bison by avoiding public scrutiny of this critical issue and by downplaying the significance of its decision on the future of cows and wildlife on public lands," said Michael Markarian, executive vice president of The Fund for Animals.

On September 28, the Hebgen Lake District of the Gallatin National Forest issued a scoping letter to 125 parties "seeking public comments on a proposal to continue livestock grazing on the Horse Butte allotment through reissuance of a term grazing permit."

The grazing allotment permits 147 cow/calf pairs and 30 horses to range on 2,065 acres of National Forest land on Horse Butte Peninsula near West Yellowstone, Montana. The annual allotment returns $750.60 to the U.S. Treasury.

Horse Butte provides winter range and spring calving habitat for Yellowstone's migrating bison herds and is also the staging grounds for Montana Department of Livestock bison haze, capture and slaughter operations. Since the mid-1980's, more than 3,000 buffalo have been killed to control brucellosis.

The government estimates it will cost $2.6 to $2.9 million dollars a year to implement its' 15 year plan.

"The federal government and the State of Montana are spending millions of our taxpayer dollars to implement their plan, surely they have some money left over to keep the public informed of how they are living up to their agreement," said Darrell Geist of Cold Mountain, Cold Rivers.

In a letter to U.S. Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth, The Fund for Animals, Schubert & Associates, The Ecology Center Inc. and Cold Mountain, Cold Rivers requested that the agency:

"For more than a decade the Forest Service has been complicit in the destruction of Yellowstone bison for the sole benefit of ranchers and a handful of cattle," said D.J. Schubert of Schubert & Associates. "The Forest Service has an opportunity to ensure that bison, not cattle, are given priority on public lands outside of Yellowstone National Park and must engage all interested parties in this debate. Anything less is unacceptable."

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LOS ANGELES SMOG SEASON ENDS ON HIGH NOTE

LOS ANGELES, California, November 2, 2001 (ENS) - The smog season in the Los Angeles region, which officially ended Wednesday, was the cleanest on record, says the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD).

"Air quality continued a long term improving trend this year due to a number of successful air pollution control programs," said Barry Wallerstein, executive officer for the AQMD. "For the third year in a row, we have not had a Stage 1 smog episode."

There were 36 days with unhealthy levels of ozone this year, compared to 40 days last year. Air quality is considered unhealthy when the federal one hour standard for ozone, 0.12 parts per million, is exceeded.

Ozone season officially starts on May 1 and ends on October 31. The region has not had unhealthy levels of air quality since late September.

While the region saw fewer unhealthy ozone days this year, residents did experience a higher peak air pollution level. The ozone peak this year was 0.190 parts per million (on August 26 in the east San Gabriel Valley), compared to a peak of 0.184 parts per million last year (on May 28 in the northwest San Bernardino Valley).

"Even though this summer was somewhat cooler than last, the meteorology was more favorable for smog formation," said Joe Cassmassi, AQMD's senior meteorologist.

Although ozone smog season has ended, the peak period for particulate pollution is about to begin. Particulate pollution reaches its highest levels during late fall and early winter when stagnant atmospheric conditions favor its formation.

Particulate pollution, referred to as PM10, is a mix of microscopic particles that obscure visibility and are associated with increased hospitalizations and higher death rates.

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SCIENTISTS SEQUENCE DNA AT SEA

WASHINGTON, DC, November 2, 2001 (ENS) - A team of scientists has succeeded in conducting the first ever DNA sequencing experiments at sea.

The researchers, funded in part by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and affiliated from the University of Delaware and Amersham Biosciences, Inc., used the research vessel Atlantis and submersible Alvin to carry out a pioneering environmental genomic study of the life that inhabits super-hot hydrothermal vents almost two miles deep in the Pacific Ocean.

"This research is important for its contributions to the new field of marine genomics and to our basic ecological understanding of unusual deep sea vent communities," said Jim Yoder, director of NSF's ocean sciences division, which funded the research. "The partnership with industry and its direct participation in the expedition could lead to new drugs and pharmaceuticals."

By the close of the 17 day research cruise, which ended Thursday, the scientists estimated that they would have sequenced just under two million base pairs of DNA from different microbes and organisms that live in and around the vents. The amount of DNA sequenced during the trip will be equivalent to the size of a small bacterial genome, which ranges from two million to five million base pairs.

tubeworms

Tubeworms have no mouth, eyes or stomach. Their survival depends on a relationship with the billions of bacteria that live inside of them, converting the chemicals that shoot out of the hydrothermal vents into food for the worm (Photo courtesy University of Delaware College of Marine Studies)
The microbes, tubeworms and other vent dwellers are of critical interest to industry because these organisms may yield a range of new products and applications, from new pharmaceuticals to heat stable, pressure resistant enzymes for food processing, hazardous waste cleanup and other fields.

As part of a "virtual field trip," more than 13,000 students at 180 schools participated in the project, called "Extreme 2001: A Deep-Sea Odyssey." The students represented 32 U.S. states, Australia, Canada, Guam, New Zealand and Puerto Rico.

Through phone call question and answer sessions to the ship, the educational program brought the excitement of discovery into the classroom. The students and the public can log onto the expedition Web site at: http://www.ocean.udel.edu/extreme2001 to see photos, video clips and other updates.

"We are excited to be carrying out this new phase of the research, which takes the work we've done in previous years to the next level," said Cary. "It will allow us to better understand the amazing ecosystem that exists in these vents and how these organisms, which thrive under some of the harshest conditions on Earth, interact with each other."

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TEACHER TAKES STUDENTS ON VIRTUAL ANTARCTIC TOUR

COLLEGE STATION, Texas, November 2, 2001 (ENS) - Marietta Cleckley is the kind of teacher who would go to the ends of the earth to help her students learn biology - and this month, she will be doing just that.

Cleckley will spend the month doing research at McMurdo Station, the largest and oldest U.S. base in Antarctica.

Along with a Texas A&M University research team, Cleckley will study the impact of human habitation on the area around McMurdo. The Uniondale, New York, high school biology teacher is one of 16 public school teachers to participate this season in the National Science Foundation's Teachers Experiencing Antarctica and the Arctic.

"We're very excited to be taking Marietta with us to Antarctica," said Mahlon "Chuck" Kennicutt, who heads Texas A&M's Geochemical and Environmental Research Group (GERG), which journeys to the region to conduct research each year. "She spent a week here in College Station this summer, getting acquainted with our team, learning field work techniques and finalizing Web-based teaching units for use with students while she's at McMurdo."

Cleckley, who teaches 9th and 10th-grade biology, was selected for the TEA after a national competition. Her students in New York, as well as those at Cypress Grove Intermediate, GERG'S adopted school in College Station, will be able to follow her field activities and complete educational activities related to the team's Antarctic research via a special website.

"I heard about TEA at a teachers' convention, when I attended a presentation by a teacher who had participated in the program last year," Cleckley said. "I had to submit an extensive application, with eight documents detailing my view of teaching, the reason for my interest in TEA, my teaching style and my background. Competition was pretty fierce for the 16 spots. Eight of us will be going to the Antarctic, and the other eight will be involved with projects in Arctic regions."

Cleckley will leave for Antarctica on November 11, and remain there until December 19. She will be assisting Texas A&M scientists with collection of soil and water samples to be analyzed to assess the extent of human impact around McMurdo Station.

"My work at McMurdo will fit in well with New York state's 9th and 10th grade biology curriculum," Cleckley said. "We study ecology, food webs and food chains, and while I'm at McMurdo, I'll be emphasizing how the unique environment and human influence interact on food webs in the Antarctic."

"Marietta will be working alongside seasoned earth science researchers," Kennicutt said. "And, thanks to virtual reality, so will her students."