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AAEA Attends Nuclear Regulatory Commission Hearing on New Power Plant

Feb 17 2005 -- The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) held a hearing on the Early Site Permit Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Dominion Power's request to (possibly) build two new power nuclear power plants at its North Anna power station location in Mineral, Virginia. AAEA made a brief statement at the hearing and will tour the current power plants and proposed site for the new plants very soon. Dominion is one of several utilities making plans to build new nuclear power plants.

AAEA Attends Important Albany, NY Environment Conference

Feb 19 2005 – AAEA attended a conference entitled, “Promoting Environmental Health in Urban Communities:  Opportunities and Challenges,” hosted by The W. Haywood Burns Environmental Education Center (HBC). The mission of the conference was to educate urban residents about the impact of their environment on health and related resources.  The conference also served as a forum for health professionals and community members to share experiences, explore ideas, make recommendations, and determine strategies for future progress in the field of urban environmental health.

Participants at the Urban Watershed Project: Henvironmental Health of Inner-City Albany Residents presentation ncluded Aaron Mair, Founder, W. Haywood Burns Environmental Education Center, Arbor Hill Environmental Justice Corporation. Other HBC participants included:  Dwight Williams, Agnes Mukasa, Ortega and Donna Perry.

Participants at the Bridging the Gap Between Urban Environmental Health Research and Practice presentation incuded: Donna Armstrong, Department of Epidemiology, University at Albany, Janine Jurkowski, Assistant Professor, University of Albany, Jon Arnason, Assistant Professor, University of Albany, Mark Mitchell, M.D., Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice. The panel was moderated by Christina Ortega.

Participants at the Partnerships, Programs, and Policy as Tools for Improving Environmental Health and Achieving Environmental Justice panel included Monica Kreshik, Esq., Environmental Justice Coordinator, NY State Department of Environmental Conservation. Johm Stouffer, Legislative Director, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, Terry Wesley, Regional EJ Cordinator, U.S. EPA, The panel was moderated by Gregory Fields.

Panel II of the workshop above include Peter Danziger, Executive Director, West County Toxics Coalition, Ellen Mall-John, Science Teacher, Albany High School, Yusuf Abdul-Wasi, Youth Educator, NY State DEC. The panel was moderated by Pat Jordan, Esq, New York State Museum.

The environment conference was part of the 34th Annual Legislative Conference of the New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators held at the Empire State Plaza in Albany New York. The environment conference was cosponsored by the Arbor Hill Environmental Justiced Corporation (AHEJ), which was founded by Aaron Mair. AHEJ and the W. Haywood Burns Environmental Education Center were born out of a successful lawsuit against New York State for operating a regional waste to energy recovery system incinerator in a low-income community. More:

Between 1984 and 1994, the State of New York operated a trash incinerator in inner-city Albany. The facility, know as the Albany NewYork Solid Waste to Energy Recovery (ANSWERS) plant, provided steam to heat and cool Albany's Empire State Plaza. Visible pollution from the incinerator led to a series of investigations that indicated the facility was not functioning properly. In fact, it was discovered that the facility was emitting a number of pollutants, including lead and other heavy metals, into the air surrounding the incinerator.

In March of 1998, the Arbor Hill Concerned Citizens Neighborhood Association, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the State of New York announced an innovative settlement in a case brought against the State by the groups to abate contamination from the incinerator operated by the Office of General Services. It was through this settlement that the W. Haywood Burns Environmental Education Center was formed.

W. Haywood Burns was an African American activist, attorney and civil rights spokesperson who urged people to realize the aspirations of underserved communities. Haywood Burns believed that the battle for human rights and justice was a goal that could be achieved through activism, humility and dedication.

Russia Ratifies Kyoto Protocol

Nov 2004 -- The Kyoto Protocol, the international treaty that embraces market-based solutions to limit greenhouse gas pollution, was ratified by the Russian parliament and signed by President Vladir Putin. Russia's participation provided the threshold needed to initiate the global warming plan.

EPA Inspector General's Utility Air Pollution Report Misses Forest For Trees

October 2004 -- Although AAEA opposed the New Source Review (NSR) regulation changes by the Bush administration, we believe the recently released EPA Inspector General's (IG) report, an attempt to rebuke the administration for supposedly relaxing air pollution standards, is a case of missing the forest for the trees. AAEA opposed the rule change because we knew it would only lead to more litigation instead of utility plant scrubber retrofits. Legal actions against major polluters stalled because of the agency's decision to revise rules governing emissions at older coal-fired power plants. Legal actions would have stalled under the old NSR rule because it would have been easier to litigate than to retrofit. The IG report misses the point that the original New Source Review rule was not leading to scrubber retrofits. It was leading to litigation.

AAEA believes that the Clear Skies Initiative is the best way to clean the air. Utilities are excited about cap and trade and traditional environmental groups admit that cap and trade worked in the Acid Rain Program. Just as AAEA predicted, the revised NSR rule, made final in 2003, has not been put in effect yet because of legal challenges.

Although the report is critical, the inspector general cannot force the agency to do anything. The report also showcased a split in the agency between political officials in the air quality office, and lawyers charged with enforcement, including some who have left the agency in frustration. Under the Bush proposal, the requirement would not be triggered until plant upgrades reached a cost of 20 percent of the value of the plant - even though agency enforcement officials recommended that the trigger be set no higher than three-quarters of one percent.

Although EPA had reached settlements with several industrial companies that agreed to install pollution controls to reduce emissions, and many other companies were in settlement talks with the EPA's enforcement branch, we believe the argument over 'major modifications (that triggers NSR) versus minor modications' would continue.. Now, with everything in limbo, companies are no longer under pressure to agree to settlements. Again, whether it was old NSR or new NSR, weakened utilties were not going to make the billions of dollars of investments in scrubbers needed to clean the smokestakes. Clear Skies would clear this log jam.

EPA and National Urban League Join Forces To Protect Children from Environmental Health Risks

EPA has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the National Urban League to work together on protecting children in socioeconomically disadvantaged communities from environmental health risks. Children in socioeconomically disadvantaged communities may be disproportionately affected by environmental hazards.  For example, children of lower-income families are more likely to have asthma attacks and elevated blood lead levels.

In the last three decades, asthma --- a diagnosed disease --- has nearly doubled in the United States.  It has become the No. 1 chronic disease of children.  It is the primary reason that kids across the country are hospitalized and one of the top reasons they miss school and curtail physical activity. Each October, EPA commemorates Children's Health Month, which is designed to increase public awareness and provide tools that the general public, health care providers, environmental professionals and businesses can use to help protect children from environmental health risks. This agreement facilitates better communication between EPA and the National Urban League, resulting in more collaborative protection of the environment and greater awareness of health issues that impact children.

The agreement is designed to:

(1) strengthen the collaborative efforts of EPA and the National Urban League in safeguarding the nation's resources and protecting human health, particularly children's health;

(2) increase the Urban League's access to information about EPA's programs and services;

(3) explore opportunities for partnerships between Urban League and EPA in addressing environmental challenges; and

(4) promote the continued improvement of communication and outreach efforts between the Urban League, its affiliates and EPA.

Founded in 1910, the National Urban League is the nation's oldest and largest community-based movement devoted to empowering African Americans to enter the economic and social mainstream.