AmeriScan: December 18, 2002

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Transuranic Waste Shipments Headed for Hanford

RICHLAND, Washington, December 18, 2002 (ENS) - Small quantities of transuranic (TRU) waste will be shipped from two sites in California and Ohio to the Hanford Site for temporary storage, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced this week.

During a meeting last week, officials of the DOE and the state of Washington agreed on a plan that could speed up the cleanup of toxic and radioactive wastes from the federal nuclear reserve at Hanford. As part of the agreement, Washington officials agreed not to challenge plans to store about 170 barrels of TRU waste from California and Ohio at Hanford until the waste is sent to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, near Carlsbad, New Mexico, for permanent disposal.

"DOE appreciates the state of Washington's decision not to challenge DOE's planned shipments of TRU waste from the two sites in Ohio and California," said DOE assistant secretary for environmental management Jessie Roberson.

"As DOE has stated previously, these shipments, and the resulting temporary storage at Hanford, will comply fully with all applicable laws and regulations," Roberson added. "DOE, the state, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) share an interest in establishing appropriate requirements for the management of mixed waste at Hanford."

But Gerald Pollet, executive director of the Hanford watchdog group Heart of America Northwest, told the "Seattle Post Intelligencer" that the new agreement is a "sucker deal" because it will send highly radioactive wastes to Hanford, in exchange for the faster removal of less dangerous wastes.

"The plutonium wastes that are coming are far more dangerous than the mild wastes that the Department of Energy will ship out," Pollet told the newspaper. "We've all heard about dirty bombs. These will be truckloads of dirty bombs with extremely high radiation levels traveling through Portland, the Columbia Gorge and mountain passes."

The DOE has promised to complete a comprehensive environmental impact analysis of the proposed shipments, and of the temporary storage arrangements at Hanford. The agency pledged to send about twice as much TRU waste from Hanford to a permanent storage site in New Mexico as the Hanford site will receive from other states.

"This agreement provides much needed assurances from the federal government on the storage of such waste in our state," said Washington Governor Gary Locke. "It was important that the Department of Energy tell us how the waste would be handled, when it would eventually be removed from Hanford, and, more importantly, how and when they would deal with similar waste already at the Hanford site."

The meeting last week between the DOE and state officials discussed new requirements for the retrieval and characterization of certain wastes at Hanford that are suspected of being mixed or TRU waste. Mixed waste, which can contain both radioactive elements and other toxic materials, requires special handling that could slow its disposal.

Transuranic waste consists of clothing, tools, rags and other such items contaminated with trace amounts of radioactive elements - mostly plutonium. These elements are radioactive, man-made, and have an atomic number greater than uranium - thus transuranic or beyond uranium.

There are now about 31,000 barrels of buried waste already at Hanford. The stakeholders are working to determine appropriate management plans for any wastes identified as mixed waste, which should hasten cleanup of the Hanford Site.

The parties agreed to work towards creating new, tighter deadlines and milestones for the Tri-Party Agreement (TPA), a comprehensive cleanup and compliance agreement that details the roles played by the DOE, EPA and Washington Department of Ecology. If the TPA timetables are not revised by March 1, 2003, the state of Washington plans to renew its objections to the shipments of TRU waste from other states.

"This is the Department of Energy's last chance to get on with the retrieval, processing and permanent disposal of what has been a skeleton in the Hanford closet," said Washington Attorney General Christine Gregoire.

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Year Round Pollution Controls Called Cost Effective

RALEIGH, North Carolina, December 18, 2002 (ENS) - Twenty-one eastern states can reap more than $1 billion a year in public health benefits by reducing dangerous nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from power plants year round, rather than just the summertime months, a new study shows.

The report from the conservation group Environmental Defense shows that operating pollution control equipment year round to reduce NOx and other pollutants will cost power plants only 27 percent more, while doubling the health benefits for each state. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandates the use of pollution control equipment in polluted urban areas during the warm months, but not the winter months.

"Polluted air is unhealthy to breathe in January or July, and policy makers in eastern states should make a New Year's resolution to reduce NOx emissions all year long, not just during summer months," said Michael Shore, southeast air quality manager for Environmental Defense.

"Utility companies in many eastern states are installing pollution control equipment, but few facilities intend to operate this equipment year round, even though NOx contributes to a suite of public health and environmental problems throughout the year," Shore added. "Once capital investments are made, the cost of operating the equipment 12 months rather than only five months is relatively small while the public health benefits, including reduced illness and mortality, are huge."

Only a handful of states - North Carolina, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Texas - have instituted policies to curb NOx and other pollutants throughout the year.

"As states take action to control NOx and other power plant pollutants year round, a domino effect will be created, encouraging other states to follow examples set by regional neighbors," Shore explained. "As more states adopt rigorous standards, EPA will have proven models and a more favorable climate in which to examine air quality policies, making comprehensive action at the federal level more likely."

NOx pollution, which forms ozone smog, contributes to more than 20,000 deaths each year in 21 eastern states. It also contributes to a host of year round environmental problems, from acid rain and haze in the mountain regions to oxygen depletion in coastal estuaries that degrades water quality and harms fish.

The complete report, "A Plan for All Seasons: Costs and Benefits of Year Round NOx Reductions in Eastern States," is available at: http://www.environmentaldefense.org/go/noxreport

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Crab Permits Could Be Bought Back

WASHINGTON, DC, December 18, 2002 (ENS) - The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is proposing to spend $100 million to buy back permits from crab fishers in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands King and Tanner Crab Fishery.

NMFS is seeking public comment on the buyback, which would be financed over the next 30 years from catch landing fees paid by crab fishers who remain in the fishery.

"The buyback can, without cost to taxpayers, reduce this fishery's harvesting effort to a level more consistent with its total allowable catches," said NMFS Director Bill Hogarth. "This buyback is not a grant program, but rather a loan program that can help everyone, including fishery managers."

The proposal would pay fishers for withdrawing their vessels from fishing, and surrendering their fishing licenses and fishing histories. The withdrawn fishing vessels may never fish again anywhere in the world, either recreationally or commercially.

NMFS would finance the buyback's cost with a loan of up to $100 million, and fishers who continue to participate in the crab fisheries will repay the $100 million through their crab landing fees over a 30 year period. Between 1990 and 1999, the fishery's long term averaged landings were worth about $240 million a year.

The proposed program will solicit buyback bids from crab harvesters in the fishery. NMFS would review the bidder's crab production and state the bid price as a percentage of the bidder's crab production.

NMFS would then accept the lowest percentage bids until they totaled $100 million. Using this process, the most productive vessels offered by fishermen would be selected first, maximizing capacity reduction for the funds available.

NMFS would then conduct a permit holders referendum about the loan repayment landing fee and would conclude the buyback only if two-thirds of voting permit holders approved the landing fee.

The buyback would apply to the holders of about 335 federal fishing licenses issued for the Aleutian Islands brown king and red king crab, Bristol Bay red king crab, snow crab, Tanner crab, Pribilof Islands red and blue king crab, and St. Matthew blue king crab fisheries. NMFS issued these limited access licenses under the crab license limitation program.

The buyback does not apply to crab licenses endorsed solely for Norton Sound red king crab.

The proposed rule will be open for public comment until January 27, 2003. Written comments may be mailed to Michael Grable, Chief, Financial Services Division, NMFS, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910-3282. Comments may also be faxed to Grable at: 301-713-1306.

The buyback proposed rule is available at: http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/prules/67fr76329crabcapacityreductionprogram.pdf

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Consorta Phases Out Mercury Products

ROLLING MEADOWS, Illinois, December 18, 2002 (ENS) - Consorta, Inc. a leading group purchasing and resource management company, announced Tuesday that it will no longer allow products containing mercury to be offered through any group contract, unless no viable substitute product exists.

Consorta also plans to "aggressively advocate" for PVC product labeling, the company said Tuesday.

Consorta first implemented an Environmentally Preferred Purchasing Strategy (EPP) just over a year ago and has since been working with manufacturers to reduce or eliminate toxic products and to reduce waste and provide agreements to facilitate environmentally sound disposal technologies.

With the EPP foundation in place, Consorta and their shareholder leadership have now committed to a much more aggressive posture. Specific initiatives include a "mercury free" campaign, which involves taking mercury containing clinical products off contract.

Consorta will also provide support to Health Care Without Harm, a coalition of more than 390 organizations, in urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require labeling of PVC plastic medical devices that contain the plasticizer di-(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP).

Together with the American Hospital Association, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Hospitals for a Healthy Environment (H2E), Consorta will continue to support targeted initiatives to minimize the volume and toxicity of medical waste, reduce wasteful packaging, and increase recycled content.

"Consorta is taking a leadership role among the GPOs by not providing mercury containing clinical items in their contracts. As an H2E Champion for Change, Consorta is helping raise the standard of environmental responsibility by providing safer products for our patients, staff, community and the environment," said Laura Brannen, co-director of H2E.

The Consorta membership grew 26 percent in fiscal year 2002 and comprises more than 400 acute care facilities representing 55,944 beds and more than 1,700 other sites of care. Consorta's environmentally responsible purchasing strategy is being implemented through several means, including:

"We are excited by Consorta's leadership in selecting products that will positively impact patient health. It is evidence of a trend in the group purchasing sector that [group purchasing organizations] are taking the lead in improving the environmental impact of the health care industry," said Jamie Harvie, co-leader of the mercury workgroup of Health Care Without Harm.

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One Million Washington Children Breathe Unhealthy Air

SEATTLE, Washington, December 18, 2002 (ENS) - More than one million children in Washington state live in counties where the air they breathe could be harmful to their development and health, an annual report shows.

The 2002 County/City Profiles of Child and Family Well-Being report, released today by the University of Washington's Washington Kids Count project, finds that industries in nine counties accounted for three-quarters of the release of industrial toxic chemicals into Washington state's air in 2000. These nine counties - Clark, Cowlitz, King, Pierce, Skagit, Snohomish, Spokane, Walla Walla and Whatcom - are home to more than one million children.

Industries in four counties - Snohomish, Benton, Clark and Whatcom - accounted for two-thirds of the release of industrial toxic chemicals into the water, while industries in Lewis County accounted for 82 percent of the release of industrial toxic chemicals into the land in 2000.

Each year, industries must report the levels of toxic chemicals they release into the air, land and water. Almost three-quarters of the top 20 chemicals reported by industries in 1997 were known or suspected neurotoxicants - chemicals that are toxic to the developing brain. Neurotoxicant exposure is linked to a variety of childhood disorders.

"Industrial toxic chemical releases, along with pesticides, vehicle exhaust and other forms of pollution, can create a dangerous environment for raising families," said Dr. Sheri Hill, assistant director of the Washington Kids Count project. "It's time for environmental, health and social services organizations to join hands and work together to improve the health and safety of Washington children."

University of Washington researchers suggest that this information raises a warning flag for industries and communities. Current knowledge of the impact of these releases on children and families is similar to the level of knowledge of the effects of second hand tobacco smoke 20 years ago.

"We know that young bodies and brains are especially vulnerable to toxic chemical exposures, so the potential for harm can be substantial," said Elaine Faustman, director of the University of Washington's Center for Child Environmental Health Risks Research. "It is essential that we partner with business and community leaders, legislators and policymakers to ensure that we know if, when and how these releases impact our families."

The 2002 County/City Profiles of Child and Family Well-Being report examines how children and families are faring in each of the state's 39 counties and its three biggest cities: Seattle, Tacoma and Spokane. The report and county rankings are available online at: http://www.hspc.org

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Citigroup Helps Fund Green Roofs

NEW YORK, New York, December 18, 2002 (ENS) - The Citigroup Foundation has pledged $25,000 to a group that creates "green roofs" atop buildings that offer supportive housing to low and moderate income individuals.

Citigroup is the first corporation to partner with the conservation group Earth Pledge in support of the Viridian Project, which is part of Earth Pledge's Green Roofs Initiative. The Viridian Project provides technical and financial support, as well as job training, in the construction of green roofs.

"Earth Pledge is thrilled to join forces with Citigroup and applauds their commitment to greening New York and offering the benefits of green roofs to communities in need," says Leslie Hoffman, executive director of Earth Pledge, a New York City based nonprofit that promotes sustainability in agriculture, cuisine, architecture and design.

The term green roof, also known as vegetated or eco-roof, refers to a roof covering that consists of a thin layer of living vegetation on top of a modified conventional roof. Modern day green roofs are lightweight, durable systems that provide insulation, lower energy expenditures, help purify the air, and reduce storm water runoff.

On summer days, cities can be up to seven degrees warmer than surrounding areas, becoming incubators for smog, threatening public health, and creating a greater energy demand, a problem known as urban heat island effect. By replacing the heat absorbing tar and other dark roofing materials that contribute to higher urban temperatures with plants and grasses, green roofs can mitigate the urban heat island effect.

"Citigroup strives to make each community where we have operations a better place to live and work because we are there," said Pamela Flaherty, senior vice president of global community relations at Citigroup. "We are especially pleased to support Earth Pledge's multifaceted Viridian Project because it will better our community here in New York City in many ways - by fostering energy conservation and beautification of our neighborhood buildings, as well as by providing opportunities for job training and future employment."

Housing Works, Inc., the nation's largest community based AIDS service organization, is Earth Pledge's first housing partner, providing the pilot roof for the project. With Citigroup's assistance and funds from additional sponsors, Earth Pledge will facilitate the development of a 7,500 square foot green roof on Housing Works' East Village based supportive living facility, which houses 55 formerly homeless clients living with HIV/AIDS.

This green roof, the largest to date in New York City, will cut energy costs and extend the roof's lifecycle. The project will also provide job skill training as part of the Housing Works Second Life Training Program.

Following the completion of this pilot project, Earth Pledge will continue to work with the Second Life Job Training Program, placing graduates in jobs on future Earth Pledge green roof projects.

"Earth Pledge has convinced Housing Works that Green Roofs are not only crucial to New York City's public health and environmental stability, they're also the most economical roofs on the market," said Charles King, executive director of Housing Works.

In addition to facilitating green roof projects across New York, Earth Pledge's Green Roofs Initiative educates building professionals and the public, and conducts research into the environmental impacts of citywide green roof implementation.

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Petition Seeks Protection For Dune Beetle, Habitat

WASHINGTON, DC, December 18, 2002 (ENS) - The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) has filed a scientific petition to list the Andrew's dunes scarab beetle as an endangered species and designate critical habitat for the insects.

The beetle is found only at the Algodones Dunes in the Sonoran Desert of Imperial County, in southeastern California and northeastern Baja California, Mexico.

Andrew's dunes scarab beetle is endangered due to the historic and ongoing destruction of its habitat by extensive off road vehicle (ORV) use on the Algodones Dunes. The dune system sometimes experiences upwards of 240,000 ORV users on a single busy weekend.

A pending Bush administration decision would roll back environmental protections on almost 50,000 dunes acres, opening 85 percent of the beetle's habitat to ORV damage.

The CBD says that pesticide drift from Imperial Valley agricultural spraying is also likely harming beetles.

"The beetle's decline mirrors the decline of natural values at the dunes," said Monica Bond, CBD biologist. "The Bush roll backs at the dunes make [Endangered Species Act] protection essential now."

ORVs at the Algodones Dunes include use special tires that cut into the sand, killing beetles and wrecking their habitat. Beetles are most active from February through April, a critical time that coincides with the season of heavy ORV use on the dunes.

The Andrew's dune scarab beetle was first proposed for protection by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in 1978. At that time, the USFWS noted "this action is being taken because of their decreased population levels and anticipated adverse modification of their habitat."

The USFWS stated in the proposed rules that "the continued disruption of dune troughs by off road vehicles prevents the accumulation of dead organic matter upon which the immature stages of this beetle feed." In October 1980, the USFWS issued a notice to withdraw the proposal because final rulemaking had not been completed within a then required two year deadline.

In essence, CBD charges, Endangered Species Act protection for the beetle was denied due to the failure of USFWS to meet mandatory statutory deadlines rather than due to new scientific data indicating a listing was not warranted.

The USFWS's failure to provide legal protection for the beetle resulted in 24 years of dunes management by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that failed to take into account the impacts of increasing ORV use on the beetle and the other rare and endangered species living on the dunes. The BLM is now proposing a new management plan that not only fails to protect the beetle, but also eliminates ORV closures designed to protect a threatened plant found at the dunes, the Peirson's milkvetch.

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Energy Efficiency Ads Use Humor to Educate

WASHINGTON, DC, December 18, 2002 (ENS) - Continuing its successful television advertising approach of wild and humorous energy saving experiments, the Alliance to Save Energy's new ad, "Energy Science Fair," features elementary school students vying for prizes for science experiments that save energy.

Among the experiments: A student chasing a pig to obtain methane to power a home; a large gas powered phone, which sounds like a noisy power lawn mower; a hamster powered radio; a centrifugal shower that uses rotating force but no water; and an angelic looking student who saved the most energy but was accused of cheating because her father helped her with her booth and home experiment.

The latter experiment uses products with the ENERGY STAR label - the federally approved symbol that goes on energy efficient products that reduce energy use, energy bills and pollution.

The ad campaign, "Energy Science Fair," comes on the heels of the great success of the Alliance's last TV ad, "Static Electricity House," which was judged and voted as the second greatest commercial in the world on the May 2002 CBS primetime show, "World's Greatest Commercials."

Earlier in 2002, "Static" was also featured on "Best Commercials" shows on the ABC and BBC TV networks. When the award winning public service announcement (PSA) debuted, it was also selected as one of the best new ads by adcritic.com and AdWeek.

"Static" highlighted a family's wild experiment to deal with high energy prices by powering their home with static electricity. It required all family members, including the dog, to keep rubbing their wool socks on the carpeting to keep lights on and power functioning.

But that approach had many humorous drawbacks - from a burning carpet to having all their hair stand on end. There are many other "shocks" in the process, and a wool sock clings to the back of the father's jacket as he goes off to work, briefcase in hand.

"The Alliance and our advertising agency on these two campaigns, DDB Bass and Howes, have successfully used humor to 'break through the clutter' in creative ways to gain airtime for public service advertising," said Alliance communications and marketing director Rozanne Weissman.

The new Alliance radio PSA, "Smart People," features an over the top, eco-friendly couple who discover that saving energy does not have to involve going to extremes - it can be easy with energy efficiency.

In an Alliance 25-year timeline and retrospective covering key world events on the energy front and Alliance milestones, Alliance president David Nemtzow points to the continued risks of dependence on foreign oil from one of the most unstable areas of the world and the failure to use existing energy efficiency technologies in buildings and energy oriented products for homes and businesses as well as vehicles.

Visit the Alliance to Save Energy's website to see the TV storyboards and TV spots in streaming video along with radio scripts and radio PSAs in streaming audio: http://www.ase.org/PSAs