Funding Delays Cripple Family Planning Programs
In its waning hours, the 104th Congress boosted funding for 1997
international family planning programs to $410 million, including $25
million earmarked for United Nations programs. That sounds good, but
funding restrictions dictate that only $114 million can be spent next
year, forcing many programs to shut down unless citizens convince
Congress to release funds earlier.
Activists are fighting for the money to be released on March 1, 1997,
instead of July 1, as scheduled. That will happen only if Congress is
convinced that to wait longer would cripple local population programs
abroad. President Clinton is expected to report to Congress by Feb. 1
that delaying payments would be fatal for these programs.
Last year, clinics dealt with a 40 percent cut in funding and a switch
in U.S. policy to disburse aid in monthly installments instead of a
lump sum. While many scaled back to meet last year's budget shortfalls,
program managers have indicated that they cannot survive another year
of reduced funding.
Programs like the one in Leogane, Haiti, would be hardest-hit. Haiti
has the second-highest fertility rate in the Western Hemisphere, with
the average woman bearing five children. The U.S. Agency for
International Development has established seven family planning clinics
in Leogane, which distribute information on family planning. Clinics
like these are rare in Haiti and the local government doesn't help fund
the seven in Leogane, said Mona Meitre, who manages the clinics.
"The president and Congress can release population funds this spring
and assure that women and children in the poorest regions of the world
continue to receive critical family planning services," said Karen
Kalla, population program director for the Sierra Club. "If the clinics
are forced to close, thousands of women and children in these countries
will have nowhere else to turn."
EPA Strategy Going Up in Smoke
The Environmental Protection Agency failed its first test to strengthen
hazardous waste regulations for cement and light aggregate kiln
incinerators. So say Club volunteers in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas
regarding an EPA-approved operating permit for a cement kiln in
Chanute, Kan., that will endanger community health in all three states.
As part of its 1993 National Combustion Strategy, the EPA proposed to
take "bold new steps" to reduce the amount of hazardous waste generated
in the United States and ensure the safety and reliability of hazardous
waste incineration. Ash Grove Cement in Chanute was the first of 27
cement and lightweight aggregate kilns to receive a permit to burn
hazardous waste under the strategy. But a coalition of local citizens
and environmental organizations, including the Club's Lone Star,
Oklahoma and Kansas chapters, fear the EPA permit will set a weak
national precedent, and is appealing the permit and asking for a peer
review to analyze the quality of the agency's work.
Cement and lightweight aggregate kilns have a history of polluting.
During the 1980s, in an effort to remove hazardous waste from
landfills, Congress allowed these facilities to burn certain
high-energy waste on an interim basis with little regulation. The EPA
issued stringent rules for new kilns in 1991. However, existing
facilities that had burned or planned to burn hazardous waste would be
exempt; they were not required to conduct environmental impact studies,
public hearings, trial burns or risk assessments. "The cement kiln
industry in the U.S. has been exploiting the environmental exemption
loophole for far too long," said Marti Sinclair, Oklahoma Chapter air
Club activists say the permit is based on a risk assessment that
doesn't comply with guidelines limiting the discharge of dangerous
levels of mercury, lead and particulate matter into the air. It also
fails to set limits for dioxin, a known hormone disrupter and a
suspected human carcinogen. Oklahoma activists assert that Ash Grove
will compound pollution problems in the tri-state area given the
presence of three other large waste incinerators.
In 1992, the Canadian Parks Council called for completing a
coast-to-coast network of protected natural areas by the year 2000. The
initiative, signed by Canada's federal, provincial and territorial
governments, stipulates that natural heritage, critical wildlife
habitat and representative ecosystems be placed off-limits to resource
extraction. But Manitoba environmentalists say that their province's
failure to implement that commitment is devastating prime park lands.
Manitoba is the only Canadian province that allows full-scale resource
extraction (including mining, logging, oil-and-gas exploration and
hydroelectric development) in its parks, despite making the same
commitment as other provinces to the initiative. Prairies Chapter
Conservation Chair Alice Chambers says the province is now entrenching
resource extraction and development as the primary focus of most of its
southern parks in its latest land-use proposal.
In contrast to the large land base owned by the U.S. government, the
federal government of Canada has jurisdiction over only about 4 percent
of the nation's total acreage, which makes enforcement of national
standards virtually impossible. Compounding the problem, the Manitoba
Natural Resources Department has little clout in an industry-driven
Manitoba's Grass River Park is a case in point. Despite important
woodland caribou wintering and calving grounds, high water quality and
excellent fishing and recreational opportunities, 98 percent of the
park is open to some form of development or resource extraction.
Manitoba activists are doing what they can to pressure their
representatives to abide by national commitments, but they say that
outside assistance would be most effective -- especially from the United
States, which imports Canadian provincial park timber as newsprint,
lumber and paper bags.
"If activists outside Canada question Canadian representatives about
their commitment to a national network of protected areas, the
embarrassment factor is much greater," said Chambers.
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