AmeriScan: January 9, 2001

EPA ASSESSES ENVIRONMENTAL THREATS TO CHILDREN

WASHINGTON, DC, January 9, 2001 (ENS) - U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Carol Browner today announced results of the first ever Agency assessment of trends in environmental factors that may affect the health of American children. The report shows that, while there have been improvements, formidable challenges exist in reducing risks from environmental factors.

"Children are among the most vulnerable groups to environmental threats," said Browner. "We especially are concerned about such issues as exposure to lead and pesticides and rising incidents of childhood asthma. This important report outlines the progress we have made by specifically targeting threats to children, and it underscores the challenges that still confront us."

The report, "America's Children and the Environment: A First View of Available Measures," finds the following improvements over the past decade:

A decrease, from 28 percent in 1990 to 23 percent in 1998, in the percentage of children living in counties where one or more of the six "criteria air pollutants" - ground level ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, lead, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide - exceeded national air quality standards

A decrease, from 29 percent in 1994 to 19 percent in 1999, in the percentage of homes inhabited by children under age seven and a regular smoker

A decrease, from 19 percent in 1993 to eight percent in 1998, in the percentage of children living in areas served by public water systems that had any violation of drinking water standards

Continuing challenges detailed in the report include:

Environmentally related health problems persist among some groups of children, with race and poverty playing a disproportionate role. Black children of families living below the poverty line have a higher rate of asthma than those of other racial groups and income levels

Asthma among U.S. children increased from 5.8 percent in 1990 to 7.5 percent in 1995

Between 1992 and 1994, about 1.5 million children had elevated concentrations of lead in their blood, greater than 10 micrograms per deciliter

The full report is available at: http://www.epa.gov/children/indicators

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70 PERCENT OF ALL ANTIBIOTICS GIVEN TO HEALTHY LIVESTOCK

WASHINGTON, DC, January 9, 2001 (ENS) - Excessive use of antibiotics by meat producers - eight times more than in human medicine - contributes to an alarming increase in antibiotic resistance, a new study reveals.

Every year in the U.S., 25 million pounds of valuable antibiotics - about 70 percent of total U.S. antibiotic production - are fed to chickens, pigs, and cows for nontherapeutic purposes like growth promotion, says the report from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). This finding - 50 percent greater than livestock industry's estimate for all animal uses - is the first transparent estimate of the quantities of antibiotics used in meat production.

The report is also the first to show that the quantities of antibiotics used in animal agriculture dwarf those used in human medicine.

"The meat industry's share of the antibiotic resistance problem has been ignored for too long," said Dr. Margaret Mellon, director of the Food and Environment Program at UCS and coauthor of the new report. "Antibiotics are a precious resource and should be used in animals only when necessary."

The new UCS report, "Hogging It: Estimates of Antimicrobial Abuse in Livestock," shows the total use of antibiotics in healthy livestock has climbed from 16 million pounds in the mid-1980s to 25 million pounds today. Of that, about 10 million pounds are used in hogs, 11 million pounds in poultry, and four million pounds in cattle.

"The excessive use of antibiotics by the livestock industry is sobering," said Dr. Charles Benbrook, an independent economist and co-author of the report. "Feeding antibiotics to animals from birth to slaughter may modestly improve meat industry profits, but it puts everyone's health at risk. It is time to rethink how pigs, cattle and poultry are raised in the United States."

The report is available at: http://www.ucsusa.org

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RESOURCES UNAVAILABLE TO LIST ENDANGERED SPECIES

WASHINGTON, DC, January 9, 2001 (ENS) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced Monday that 21 species the agency has been petitioned to list as threatened or endangered continue to warrant listing. However, the agency says it cannot list the species because of higher priority listing actions that take precedence.

Five other petitions to reclassify species from threatened to endangered remain warranted, but action on those petitions is also precluded by the need to address higher priority listing actions. These "warranted but precluded" determinations mean that the agency lacks the resources needed to propose the species for listing. The USFWS must review these determinations once a year.

"The review is an annual assessment of how each of these species is doing," said USFWS Director Jamie Rappaport Clark. "If we find that threats to one of these species have increased, we move it up on our priority list so that it can get action sooner. Likewise, we may find threats to a species are declining and that it may no longer warrant action."

The USFWS announced last month that it will not be able to consider any new species for listing, due to lack of funding and a large number of environmental lawsuits that use much of the agency's resources.

Among the species that remain "warranted but precluded" are the lesser prairie chicken, the American Samoa population of the sheath-tailed bat, and the coral pink sand dunes tiger beetle.

The USFWS determined from the review that one species, the swift fox, no longer warrants listing as threatened. The agency concluded that although the swift fox has been reduced across much of its historical range, viable populations occur in about 40 percent of that range.

"Moving forward, our efforts will concentrate on management of existing populations and determining barriers that may prevent natural dispersal of swift fox into uncolonized suitable habitat," said Julianne Whitaker Hoagland, biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "Our goal continues to be the long term viability of the species."

A full list of the reviewed species was published in the Federal Register on Monday.

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TWO MORE NATIONAL MONUMENTS PROPOSED

WASHINGTON, DC, January 9, 2001 (ENS) - Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt has sent recommendations to President Bill Clinton that two areas of the federal land be considered for protection as national monuments. The proposed national monuments would be located on lands currently managed by the federal government in Arizona and New Mexico.

"Both of these sites cover breathtaking landscapes," said Babbitt. "By protecting these areas now, future generations will be able to marvel at these spectacular areas just as we do."

The proposed Sonoran Desert National Monument is located in south central Arizona, about 60 miles from Phoenix. The area encompasses a functioning desert ecosystem with an extraordinary array of biological, scientific and historic resources.

The monument would include distinct mountain ranges separated by wide valleys, and large saguaro cactus forest communities that provide habitat for a range of wildlife species. The outer boundaries of the area encompass about 486,149 areas of federal land.

The proposed Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is located in north central New Mexico near Santa Fe. Rich in pumice, ash and tuff deposits, the light colored cone shaped tent rock formations are the products of explosive volcanic eruptions that occurred between six and seven million years ago.

The proposed monument includes about 4,148 acres of federal land at elevations ranging from about 5,560 feet to 6,760 feet above sea level.

If President Clinton uses his executive powers under the 1906 Antiquities Act to create the new monuments, he will have set aside more than a dozen new monuments during his eight year tenure.

The incoming administration has said it will seek ways to overturn some of Clinton's environmental initiatives, including several national monuments.

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AGREEMENT PROTECTS 160,000 ACRES OF NORTH DAKOTA FARMLAND

WASHINGTON, DC, January 9, 2001 (ENS) - Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman has announced a new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) partnership with the state of North Dakota to protect 160,000 acres of fragile farm land and improve water quality. The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, already established in 14 other states, will provide farmers with financial incentives to engage in conservation practices.

"This important, new partnership will help protect North Dakota's land, wildlife and water quality, while helping family farmers," said Glickman.

Participating farmers will be eligible for four types of payments: a one time payment for enrollment, a practice incentive payment, an annual rental payment and cost share assistance to help pay for conservation practices.

If the full 160,00 acres eligible are enrolled, USDA will pay North Dakota farmers up to $20 million over a 15 year period. North Dakota has committed an additional $23 million to the project.

USDA's Farm Service Agency is administering the program in partnership with North Dakota's Department of Fish and Game. Farmers and landowners can obtain more information about this program from their local USDA Service Center or on the web at: http://www.fsa.usda.gov/dafp/cepd/crpinfo.htm

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NEW JERSEY TRANSPORTATION DEPARTMENT EMBRACES CLEAN DIESEL

TRENTON, New Jersey, January 9, 2001 (ENS) - The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities has approved an agreement with the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) that paves the way for NJDOT to begin using biodiesel fuel in its diesel powered vehicles. Under the terms of the agreement, the Board of Public Utilities will reimburse NJDOT for the costs of purchasing biodiesel in lieu of petroleum based diesel fuel.

Biodiesel is a clean burning alternative fuel made from fats or oils such as soybean oil. It can be used in its pure form or blended with petroleum diesel. It is often used in a 20 percent blend (B20). NJDOT is the third major entity to use B20 in New Jersey, following New Jersey Transit and the Medford Township School District.

New Jersey Transit, the third largest transit agency in the country, has used biodiesel to operate 68 transit buses based at the Hamilton bus garage since July.

"NJ Transit continues to move forward with a variety of alternative fuel technologies, including hybrid electric propulsion and compressed natural gas buses. Through these combined efforts, we are providing emissions reductions and creating a cleaner environment for New Jersey residents," said Transportation Commissioner and state transit chair James Weinstein.

A 1999 study from the University of California-Davis found that the use of pure biodiesel instead of diesel reduces cancer risks from particulate matter emissions exposure by 94 percent. Biodiesel reduces other emissions as well, like carbon monoxide and unburned hydrocarbons. The exhaust emissions of sulfur oxides and sulfates, major components of acid rain, are eliminated because biodiesel contains no sulfur.

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ENERGY FROM THE SEA FLOOR COULD POWER EQUIPMENT

WASHINGTON, DC, January 9, 2001 (ENS) - Fuel cells powered by energy from the sea floor could supply electricity to instruments used to monitor ocean currents and water temperatures, says a report in the December 28 issue of "Environmental Science & Technology," a journal of the American Chemical Society.

The researchers found that the electrical potential of sediment on the sea floor differs from the electrical potential of the surrounding salt water, said Leonard Tender, a co-author of the study from the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC. Collecting power from that difference could supply energy for fuel cells for self sustaining oceanographic equipment, he said.

"We calculate that optimized power supplies could run oceanographic instruments based on this phenomenon for routine long-term operations in the coastal ocean," Tender said.

Organic matter in sediment on the ocean floor releases energy as it decays. In shallow waters, that energy is concentrated just below the ocean floor. Energy for the fuel cell - like the voltage between opposite poles of a battery - comes from a reaction involving chemicals released from the buried sediment and the oxygen, said Clare Reimers, a co-author of the paper from Oregon State University.

"These devices could significantly reduce the cost of ocean monitoring, which is important for naval and commercial marine operations and early warning of changes in marine ecosystems and resources," Reimers said.

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CLEAN CAR INFORMATION IS JUST A CLICK AWAY

WASHINGTON, DC, January 9, 2001 (ENS) - Environmental Defense's Pollution Prevention Alliance today released its expanded Tailpipe Tally - a web based tool that allows consumers to compare and contrast the environmental performance of any vehicle.

The site, http://www.environmentaldefense.org/tailpipe, provides pollution and fuel cost information for both old and new model cars and trucks, and shows what environmental and financial benefits are possible if automakers use the best technologies available.

"The Tailpipe Tally provides the simplest way to get the most relevant information about fuel costs and pollution from the use of your vehicle," said Dean Menke, Environmental Defense engineer. "With this information, consumers can begin to make driving and vehicle purchasing decisions that help protect the environment and save money."

By choosing key parameters from pull down menus, Tailpipe Tally users can select and compare up to four new or used vehicles at one time. For example, a user can compare a current vehicle to any new vehicle offered in 2001, or two new vehicles can be compared side by side.

Key parameters include: 1) miles traveled per year (optional); 2) model year (from 1978-2001); 3) vehicle make; 4) vehicle model; and 5) tailpipe emission standard (from a given list).

The Tally calculates and presents the following estimates for each vehicle: fuel consumption, fuel cost, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide emissions, nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons.

The Tally also allows any late model vehicle (1999, 2000 or 2001) to be compared to the "Clean Car Standard" - a performance based standard established by the national Clean Car Campaign, a coalition of environmental and public interest organizations. This comparison depicts the environmental performance achievable if automakers adopt the best mainstream technologies available to the industry to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions.