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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

News Follow-up

Air Date: Week of February 7, 2003

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New developments in stories we’ve been following recently.

Transcript

CURWOOD: Time now to follow-up on some of the news stories we've been tracking lately.

A U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia has overturned a ruling that would have banned the dumping of coal waste into Appalachian rivers and streams. This debris is a byproduct of blasting away mountaintops to get at the coal underneath. Bill Raney is president of the West Virginia Coal Association.

RANEY: We're very proud of the way we have been mining coal in West Virginia over the last 25 to 30 years. And we have study after study that indicates that there is a minimization to any impact on the environment. And the long-term impact to the environment is negligible.

CURWOOD: Since the ruling, about 100 new coal mining permits have been submitted to the Army Corps of Engineers for approval.

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CURWOOD: After an extensive analysis, the EPA has announced that the most common herbicide in the country may continue to be sprayed over cornfields and lawns. Atrazine at levels of one-part per billion can cause malformations in frogs. The acceptable level in drinking water is now set at three times that.

The Agency has asked the herbicide's main manufacturer, Syngenta, to monitor drinking water for atrazine. But according to senior scientist Jessica Sass of the Natural Resources Defense Council, these measures are not aggressive enough.

SASS: Atrazine, at this point, is already banned or severely limited in its use in a handful of European countries, including Syngenta's home country of Switzerland. So, it would certainly not be going out on a limb for the U.S.A. to announce that it was banning atrazine uses in this country.

CURWOOD: The EPA plans to complete an assessment of the effects of atrazine on amphibians later this year.

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CURWOOD: President Bush recently announced that the U.S. will go ahead with plans to participate in the International Fusion Research Project known as ITER. Robert Goldston is director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab, funded by the Department of Energy. He says the move is good for science and the economy.

GOLDSTON: If the U.S. is going to be a competitive seller of fusion energy on the world market, it's a requirement that we accelerate our efforts on the science and the technology of fusion so that the U.S. has the best ideas and the best capabilities when the time comes.

CURWOOD: The U.S. pulled out of the project in 1998, citing the $10 billion dollar high price tag. Since then, the estimated cost has been cut in half.

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CURWOOD: And finally, the late drug lord of Colombia probably wouldn't have chosen to leave his estate to roaming hippos. But, ten Nile hippopotami, weighing two tons each, have staked their claim. They are the last remnants of Pablo Escobar's private exotic zoo. According to hippo experts, the animals are flourishing and can be seen late at night roaming the abandoned ranch in search of food and fun. And that's this week's follow-up on the news from Living on Earth.

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