AmeriScan: August 16, 2001

LABELING LOOPHOLE HAMPERS EFFORTS TO REDUCE TOXIC EXPOSURES

SAN FRANCISCO, California, August 16, 2001 (ENS) - Efforts by the city of San Francisco to protect residents from toxic chemicals are running into problems due to a loophole in federal labeling requirements.

The city and county of San Francisco have cut back pesticides used on municipal properties by more than 50 percent as part of its innovative pesticide reduction program, but these figures could be meaningless due to inadequate labeling requirements by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Although the EPA requires manufacturers of pesticides to label active ingredients in the products, it does not require the labeling of inert ingredients - even though some of the inert ingredients may be more dangerous to human health than the active ones. The San Francisco Commission on the Environment will vote next Monday evening on a resolution urging the city to demand that the EPA's standards include the listing of inert ingredients.

"We could be poisoning ourselves without knowing it," said city commissioner Parin Shah, sponsor of the resolution. "We are trying to protect San Franciscans from exposure to toxic chemicals, but can't do a thorough job if we don't know what chemicals we're really dealing with."

Dow Chemical's herbicide Scythe, which used to be on the city's approved less toxic pesticide list, was found to contain the inert ingredient ethylene oxide, a known carcinogen. The city's Department of the Environment has now removed Scythe from its approved pesticide list.

Other known problem ingredients include POEA, one of the inert ingredients used in the herbicide RoundUp, which is more toxic than the active ingredient, glyphosate. The inert ingredients xylene and toluene are considered toxic to fetuses and to the nervous system by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Most of the chemicals used as inert ingredients are labeled by the EPA as having "unknown toxicity" because they have not yet been evaluated by the agency for toxicity to humans or the environment.

"The lack of labeling of inert ingredients on pesticide products could result in delayed or improper treatment of people suffering from pesticide exposure," said commissioner Shah. "If companies have to disclose all of the extremely toxic substances used in pesticides, even pesticides currently marketed as 'low risk,' it may lead to the reformulation of products and the elimination of these toxic ingredients."

* * *

$40 MILLION PLEDGED TOWARD FOX RIVER CLEANUP

CHICAGO, Illinois, August 16, 2001 (ENS) - Federal, state and corporate partners have reached a $40 million interim agreement to fund site cleanup and natural resource restoration projects on Wisconsin's Lower Fox River and Green Bay.

The Fox River Intergovernmental Partners (IGP) lodged the interim agreement with Appleton Papers Inc. (API) and NCR Corporation on Tuesday. The agreement is part of a consent decree lodged with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

API and NCR are parties that have been identified as potentially responsible for the discharge of carcinogenic PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) to the Fox River system.

The agreement provides payments of up to $10 million a year for four years. The payments will be used to fund cleanup and natural resources restoration projects. Other payments will go to the Department of Interior to pay for a portion of the expenses incurred in developing its Natural Resource Damage Assessment.

Under the agreement, the IGP agrees not to sue API or NCR for the four years covered by the consent decree. In turn, the companies have agreed not to sue the IGP partners over that period. The agreement does not resolve the overall liability of either company for Fox River system contamination.

"This agreement is the result of tremendous cooperation among federal, state and tribal agencies," said John Cruden, acting assistant attorney general for the U.S. Department of Justice's environment division. "It represents an important step for API and NCR toward resolving their ultimate responsibility for cleaning up and restoring the Fox River and Green Bay."

All of the members of the Fox River Intergovernmental Partners worked together to reach the interim agreement. The IGP includes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), the Interior Department as represented by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the U.S. Department of Commerce as represented by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin and the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin.

"The IGP is very pleased with this interim agreement," said WDNR secretary Darrell Bazzell. "API and NCR deserve credit for stepping up to help maintain momentum for the larger cleanup of the Fox River system."

A fact sheet about the agreement is available at: http://www.dnr.state.wi.us/org/water/wm/lowerfox

* * *

TRANSPORTATION GRANTS TARGET AIR POLLUTION

WASHINGTON, DC, August 16, 2001 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is awarding about $1.27 million to communities across the country to help reduce emissions from transportation sources.

The grants are the first to be given under the new Clean Air Transportation Communities program, and will also help enhance energy efficiency in the transportation sector. The grants, ranging in size from $59,275 to $250,000, will be awarded to 10 state, local or tribal government agencies to address transportation, air quality and climate change issues.

Grant recipients will implement programs that encourage ride sharing, reduce truck idling and promote the use of low emissions vehicles.

Transportation contributes about one third of the greenhouse gas emissions nationwide and is one of the single largest contributors of air pollution in the country. Reducing emissions from vehicles, promoting energy conservation and adopting energy efficient programs helps to improve communities' air quality.

The recipients will work in partnership with organizations in the community to help ensure the success of the proposed projects. Partnering organizations include utilities, transit providers, car sharing groups, private and nonprofit organizations, manufacturers of vehicles using clean technologies and real estate developers.

The awards to the ten selected communities are:

* * *

FISHERIES SYMPOSIUM EXAMINES ENVIRONMENTAL LAWSUITS

PHOENIX, Arizona, August 16, 2001 (ENS) - The National Fisheries Conservation Center will hold a one day symposium next week to discuss the benefits and drawbacks of using litigation to settle fisheries issues.

A widespread sense of frustration with the present status of fisheries and fishery management is causing fishery stakeholders on all sides of the table to turn to the courts to settle their differences. The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Regulatory Flexibility Act and other statutes provide for judicial review of agency decisions and include citizen suits as a tool.

Litigation can be a powerful motivator for problem solving and an effective tool in protecting the public trust. But is it being overused? The National Marine Fisheries Service is now faced with an unprecedented number of lawsuits. What are the costs and benefits of resolving fishery conflicts through federal courts?

Leaders in the field will examine this question and explore alternative methods of dispute resolution that can produce win win solutions, build strategic partnerships, and provide ways to balance decision making and advocacy.

The conference is scheduled for Wednesday, August 22, at the 131st annual meeting of the American Fisheries Society in Phoenix. More information about the conference, including an option for submitting a question to the panel, is available at: http://www.nfcc-fisheries.org/afs_land.html

* * *

CHICKEN CLONING COULD REDEFINE FACTORY FARMING

WASHINGTON, DC, August 16, 2001 (ENS) - Companies in the U.S. are developing the technology needed to clone chickens on a massive scale, which could soon change the face of factory farming forever.

Once a chicken with desirable traits has been bred or genetically engineered, tens of thousands of eggs, which will hatch into identical copies, could roll off the production lines every hour, reports the British journal "New Scientist." Billions of clones could be produced each year to supply chicken farms with birds that all grow at the same rate, have the same amount of meat and taste the same.

The National Institute of Science and Technology has given Origen Therapeutics of Burlingame, California, and Embrex of North Carolina, $4.7 million to help fund research into commercial chicken cloning. The poultry industry sees the possibility of disease resistant birds that grow faster on less food.

"Producers would like the same meat quantity but to use reduced inputs to get there," Mike Fitzgerald of Origen told "New Scientist."

Origen hopes to "create an animal that is effectively a clone," Fitzgerald added. Current cloning methods will not work in birds because the eggs cannot be removed and implanted in a different animal. Instead, the company is trying to grow masses of embryonic stem cells taken from fertilized eggs as soon as they are laid.

"The trick is to culture the cells without them starting to differentiate," Fitzgerald explained.

These donor cells could then be injected into the embryo of a fertilized recipient egg, forming a chick called a chimera - an animal that contains cells from both the donor and the recipient. Fitzgerald says about 95 percent of the chimera chicks' cells could develop from the donor cells.

"In the poultry world, it doesn't matter if it's not 100 percent," Fitzgerald said.

Origen has teamed up with Embrex to scale up production. Embrex produces machines that can inject vaccines into up to 50,000 eggs an hour, and is now trying to modify the machines to locate the embryo and inject the cells into the right spot without killing it.

Animal welfare groups say that it would be cruel if breeders used the technology to mass produce the fastest growing birds. Some birds already go lame when bone growth doesn't keep pace with muscle growth.

"The last thing they should be doing is increasing growth rates," Abigail Hall of Britain's Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals told "New Scientist."

* * *

CHIP GROAT REMAINS USGS DIRECTOR

WASHINGTON, DC, August 16, 2001 (ENS) - Dr. Charles "Chip" Groat will continue to serve as director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Interior Secretary Gale Norton has announced.

"The President has accepted my recommendation that Dr. Groat continue to serve as USGS director," Secretary Norton said. "Chip has an outstanding science management background and is the perfect director for USGS and for this Administration. He has always been my choice, and he will continue to be an important member of our leadership team."

Groat has served as director of USGS since November 1998. He has more than 25 years experience in geological studies and has been involved in energy and minerals resource assessment, groundwater occurrence and protection, geomorphic processes and landform evolution in desert areas, and coastal studies.

He served as associate vice president for research and sponsored projects at the University of Texas in El Paso, following three years as director of the Center for Environmental Resource Management. Groat was also director of the University's Environmental Science and Engineering Ph.D. Program and a professor of geological sciences.

Prior to joining the University of Texas, Dr. Groat served as executive director for the Center for Coastal Energy and Environmental Resources at Louisiana State University. He was executive director for the American Geological Institute.

Groat also served as Louisiana state geologist and assistant to the secretary of the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, where he administered the Coastal Zone Management Program and the Coastal Protection Program.

The USGS provides government agencies and the public with scientific information to describe and understand the Earth; minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters; and manage water, biological, energy and mineral resources.

* * *

LAND EXCHANGE FILLS HOLES IN YUKON DELTA REFUGE

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, August 16, 2001 (ENS) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has completed a decade long land exchange process to acquire lands within the boundaries of the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

The history of the exchange between the federal government and the Calista Corporation dates back to November 26, 1991, when Congress authorized the Interior Secretary to work towards pursue eliminating private holdings within the refuge. These private lands and interests in lands were conveyed to various village corporations and Calista under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971.

Substantial differences in the estimated value of the land and associated subsurface rights hindered efforts to complete the exchange for almost a decade.

The funds from the exchange are being made available to Calista in installments spread over a period of six years. Calista and three village corporations will use the proceeds from this exchange to "develop economically, to carry out their corporate goals and responsibilities and to realize the benefits of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act for the people of the region."

In exchange, the USFWS has obtained a total of 29,579 acres of fee estate, including both surface and subsurface rights, and 17,356 acres of conservation easements and subsurface estate. The USFWS also received 161,748 acres of subsurface estate under lands retained by Native Village Corporations.

These lands contain wetland habitats for migratory waterfowl, such as geese, swans, sandhill cranes, ducks and loons, and various shorebirds. Calista also gave up its entitlement to 10,000 acres of land outside of the refuge, under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

* * *

FUEL CELL GRANT COULD HELP CLEAN HOUSTON'S AIR

HOUSTON, Texas, August 16, 2001 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded a $10,000 grant to promote the use of fuel cells that will help improve air quality in Houston.

The grant recipient, Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC), is a nonprofit organization working with 10 universities and medical centers on fuel cell research and technology development.

HARC's goal, working with other Houston based groups, is to develop a trading program for fuel cell emissions that will fit into a larger cap and trade program proposed by the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC) to help address smog in the Houston-Galveston area. TNRCC's cap and trade program would limit overall air pollution emissions, and allow companies to trade or sell emission credits when they reduce air pollution emissions beyond what is required.

HARC is working to establish emission reduction rates for fuel cells so that they can be included in this cap and trade program. This project could help fuel cells become an important part of addressing air quality problems in Texas and accelerate the use of fuel cells in the marketplace nationwide.

Fuel cells combine hydrogen and oxygen to provide clean electrical energy, because they do not burn fossil fuels like coal, oil, or natural gas. HARC believes that fuel cells are an alternative to conventional electricity generation in Houston and other communities and could offer lower operating costs, increased reliability and superior power quality.

* * *

BUFFALO RETURNING TO FORT PECK RESERVATION

MISSOULA, Montana, August 16, 2001 (ENS) - Buffalo will once again roam the grasslands of the Fort Peck Reservation for the first time in 130 years, thanks to the efforts of Defenders of Wildlife and the Fort Peck tribes.

Defenders of Wildlife purchased 100 buffalo for the Fort Peck Tribes of northwestern Montana, returning the species to the Reservation from which it was exterminated in 1872.

"Returning the buffalo has a dual purpose, filling the need for economic and cultural development. It means a lot for our community to have them back," said R.J. Young of the Fort Peck Planning Department, who took a lead role in orchestrating the buffalo purchase.

The Sioux and Assiniboine have a long history of economic and cultural ties to the bison. The buffalo were once the basis of the tribes' economies and held great spiritual significance for these societies.

Historical notes recorded in the mid-1800s show that the Poplar River valley was used as a bison migration corridor with large herds moving south of out Canada in fall and returning in spring. The wintering herds were shot by commercial hide hunters in the later 1800s and the extirpation of the northern herd resulted in a collapse of Assiniboine society.

The buffalo were purchased with the help of a grant from the Murr Family Foundation based in Walla Walla, Washington. The Fort Peck tribes purchased the buffalo from their neighbors at Fort Belknap, the Gros Ventre and Assiniboine tribes.

The transplanted buffalo will live in a 7,350 acre pasture. The tribes hope to take buffalo for ceremonial purposes as well as building the herd for a new Agriculture Department program that redistributes meat to other reservations.

"The buffalo is central not only to the culture of the prairie tribes, but to the health of the prairie ecosystem," said Minette Johnson, program associate for Defenders of Wildlife. "It is a privilege to play a role in restoring this great animal to the people of Fort Peck. I hope the community soon realizes the many benefits that buffalo have already brought to other Indian communities."

The buffalo's return will aid the area's short grass prairie ecosystem, aiding the reestablishment of native grasses and other prairie species such as black-tailed prairie dogs and the endangered blackfooted ferret.

* * *

$28.8 MILLION WILL RENOVATE URBAN PARKS

WASHINGTON, DC, August 16, 2001 (ENS) - The National Park Service (NPS) is awarding $28,817,310 in grants to help rehabilitate public recreation facilities across the nation.

NPS Director Fran Mainella announced the Urban Park and Recreation Recovery (UPARR) grants on Thursday. The grants will benefit 95 cities and urban counties in 31 states and the District of Columbia, by providing capital funding to renovate or redesign existing recreation areas and facilities located in poor urban areas.

"The National Park Service not only conserves our country's precious natural and cultural resources, but also partners with local communities to foster open space, sustainable economic development, and increased recreation opportunities in metropolitan areas," said Mainella. "These UPARR grant awards the largest amount awarded in nearly 20 years will provide much needed funding to renovate local swimming pools, playgrounds, basketball courts, ball fields and other recreational facilities to provide safe, healthy and enjoyable recreation opportunities for neighborhood residents of all ages."

The 70 percent matching UPARR grants are used to renovate existing recreation areas and facilities. This year's grant projects highlight the importance of having safe and accessible neighborhood recreation facilities available for people of all ages.

Projects include the rehabilitation of several facilities in Baltimore's Harlem Park; renovation of Watts Branch Park, a 1.5 mile linear park in Washington, DC which serves 10 neighborhoods; the reopening of the Downtown Recreation Center in Charlottesville, Virginia, closed in 2000 for health and safety reasons; and the renovation of five deteriorating playground sites in New Orleans.

The NPS received $28.9 million in appropriations for the UPARR program in fiscal year 2001. The UPARR program was established in November 1978 to provide matching grants and technical assistance to "economically distressed" urban communities.

A list of the 2001 UPARR grants is available at: http://www.nps.gov/pub_aff/uparr/grants/index.html