AmeriScan: May 16, 2001


WASHINGTON, DC, May 16, 2001 (ENS) - Scientists who combined data from five large breast cancer studies have found no link to the pesticide DDT or to PCBs, a widespread industrial chemical.

Both were suspect because they are chemicals in the environment with similarities to estrogen, the hormone associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.

The five studies were funded in 1993 by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences among women in the northeastern United States. None had shown a link between either DDT or PCBs and the Northeast's elevated rates of breast cancer.

But some scientists thought the studies might have been too small and that their combined data might reveal such associations, at least for some subgroups of women.

That explanation was dashed as scientists analyzing the combined data also concluded that neither exposure explains the high rates of breast cancer in the Northeast. Their results appear in today's issue of the "Journal of the National Cancer Institute."

In each of the studies, blood was drawn and tested for DDE, the major break down product of DDT, and for PCBs. DDT and PCBs were used in the U.S. until the 1970s and accumulate in the body's fatty tissues, and can be found in human blood and breast milk many years after exposures.

The women in the five studies totaled 1,400 breast cancer patients and 1,642 controls.

"We found that the combined results from these five studies do not support an association between plasma or serum concentrations of DDE and PCBs and an increased risk of breast cancer," said the principal author of the analysis, Dr. Francine Laden of Brigham and Women's Hospital.

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BOZEMAN, Montana, May 16, 2001 (ENS) - Seeking to safeguard an area of key wildlife habitat near Yellowstone National Park, lawyers for a coalition of environmental groups served notice that they will ask a federal judge to review oil and gas leasing decisions by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

One of the leased areas, located in northwest Wyoming's Shoshone National Forest and home to at least 18 grizzly bears, could see oil and gas exploration activities as early as this summer.

"Issuing these oil and gas leases is the first step in a process that could transform a critical wildlife area just outside Yellowstone National Park into an industrial zone," said Earthjustice lawyer Tim Preso, who is representing the conservationists. "If oil and gas development comes to this area, grizzly bears and other wildlife will be driven away or killed. The Yellowstone region is among our nation's environmental treasures. It should not become an oil field."

The notice letter focuses on six leases encompassing 2,080 acres of public lands, including four leases in the BLM's Lander Resource Area and two leases in the Shoshone National Forest. All of the leases are located at the southern end of the Absaroka Mountains in the Brent Creek/Ramshorn Pass area northwest of Dubois, Wyoming.

The Forest Service is now evaluating an oil company's application to drill on one of the challenged leases in the Brent Creek area. Federal officials have promised an environmental analysis of the proposed well, known as the Scott Well #2, this spring, and drilling could commence this summer.

The Brent Creek area has been identified by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as an important wildlife travel corridor, year round habitat for grizzlies, and an elk calving ground. This area also provides key habitat for three other species protected by the Endangered Species Act - gray wolves, lynx and northern goshawks.

"The Scott Well #2 proposal is bad news for grizzly bears, but it is also bad news for elk hunters, wolf enthusiasts, birdwatchers, hikers, backpackers and everyone else who enjoys the magnificent country where the Forest Service wants to plant an oil rig," said Kelly Matheson of the Wyoming Outdoor Council. "We intend to make sure that the Forest Service complies with the law before any drilling can be done."

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OLYMPIA, Washington, May 16, 2001 (ENS) - Developing an advanced technology ethanol industry would enable farmers to turn today's fieldburning problems into a valuable new biofuels crop that also reduces air pollution from vehicles, a new report from the nonprofit group Climate Solutions says.

Stubble from Northwest wheat and grass fields that now goes up in smoke and poses serious air pollution problems instead could be baled and shipped to nearby advanced technology ethanol plants, the report says.

Besides improving rural economies, increasing ethanol's use as a transportation fuel would provide a domestic alternative to expensive imported oil, notes the report, "Harvesting Clean Energy for Rural Development: Ethanol." This could also reduce pressure for drilling in sensitive areas such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, the report notes.

"It's time to make ethanol an integral part of our energy strategy," said Climate Solutions co-director Rhys Roth. "Ethanol is good for farm communities and it's good for the environment, which makes it one of the smartest routes toward greater energy independence."

While today's ethanol industry is based on corn and centered in the Midwest, a new ethanol industry built on waste matter such as grass crops and farm residues is expected to emerge in many U.S. regions over the next decade. Cellulose based ethanol production, with a much larger and cheaper potential supply of raw materials than the corn based industry, could even give gasoline a run for the money, the Climate Solutions report argues.

Ethanol fuel production is expected to reach 2.3 billion gallons for 2001, equaling between one to two percent of U.S. gasoline production, a share that is expected to triple this decade. A major driver of this growth is California's phase out this year of fuel oxygenate MTBE, a water pollutant.

The California Air Resources Board predicts that ethanol, which makes gasoline burn cleaner by boosting oxygen content, will make substantial market inroads in the state, growing from its current four million gallons per year to 300 to 500 million gallons a year.

"Agriculture is hurting in the Northwest," points out Patrick Mazza, staff writer for Climate Solutions, and author of the new report. "Producing ethanol is a way to strengthen and diversify the economic base of family farms."

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WASHINGTON, DC, May 16, 2001 (ENS) - The Department of Energy has announced that Michael Holland, manager of its Brookhaven Area Office, will lead the review of the decision to deactivate the Fast Flux Test Facility (FFTF).

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham decided to suspend for 90 days a previous administration decision to shut the FFTF down in order for qualified personnel led by Holland to review all available information that might have an impact on the future of the FFTF.

The review will encompass the following:

The results of the review will be documented in a report and submitted to Secretary Abraham's office.

Holland has 25 years experience in the conduct of operations of nuclear reactors and large facilities. He has been with the Department of Energy for ten years overseeing the operation of research reactors, facility decommissioning, and environmental restoration.

In addition, Holland has led teams in the completion of complex projects such as the shipment of spent nuclear fuel, community outreach programs, and large facility commissioning and decommissioning.

The FFTF is a 400 megawatt sodium cooled nuclear reactor located in Washington state. As part of the Department of Energy's Hanford Site, the reactor operated from 1982 until 1992 to test advanced fuels and materials in support of the national Liquid Metal Fast Breeder Reactor Program.

The plant also produced a variety of medical and industrial isotopes, including tritium, and provided research and testing of components and systems for advanced power systems.

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ALBANY, New York, May 16, 2001 (ENS) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has renewed a permit for the state of New York to control their double crested cormorant population by placing corn oil on eggs to limit reproduction.

"The Service authorized the egg oiling to reduce the number of cormorants that are displacing other colonial waterbirds, such as black crowned night herons, from the Eastern Basin of Lake Ontario," said acting USFWS deputy regional director for the Northeast Dr. Rick Bennett.

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation received permission to apply corn oil to the eggs in 6,000 cormorant nests on Little Galloo Island, and to destroy 1,500 cormorant nests and eggs on nearby Calf, Gull and Bass islands.

The state is focusing their management on black crowned night herons, a species of local conservation concern, Bennett said. Black crowned night herons nested on just four islands in the New York Eastern Basin last year, and were counted at just over 50 pairs.

A fifth island in Canadian waters increased the total Eastern Basin population to just over 65 pairs.

"Any population as low as 65 pairs nesting at only five islands in the Eastern Basin is in jeopardy," said Bennett. "By limiting the number of double crested cormorants in the area, the state hopes to boost the number of night herons."

The state is also alarmed about impacts that cormorants may have when feeding on fish such as smallmouth bass, a popular recreational species.

This is the third year of extensive cormorant nest control on Lake Ontario islands in New York. Because cormorants are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the birds, their nests and eggs may not be destroyed without a permit from the USFWS.

The larger issue of managing double crested cormorants at regional and national levels is now being examined by the USFWS and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska, May 16, 2001 (ENS) - Ten south-central Alaska wildlife and watershed conservation projects will receive funding in 2001 under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS) Cook Inlet Area Conservation Grants program.

A total of $113,410 will be awarded to cooperating non-governmental organizations, local governments, universities and state agencies. Cook Inlet grants are a component of the USFWS's Alaska Region Coastal Program.

This year, Coastal Program funds will allow the Community Rivers Planning Coalition to develop a watershed protection and planning program for the Anchor River. Anchorage Waterways Council will receive a grant supporting similar efforts to restore Ship Creek.

"This funding will allow the Waterways Council to take a leadership role in restoration efforts on Ship Creek," said Holly Kent, executive director of the Anchorage Waterways Council. "We will use our unique position as the only non-governmental organization involved in watershed protection in this area to stimulate public interest and build support for returning Ship Creek to a more natural condition."

The Kenai Watershed Forum will develop a field guide to willows for use in streambank restoration projects, and Alaska Audubon will identify areas of special significance to birds throughout Cook Inlet.

Now in its second year, the Alaska Region Coastal Program provides technical expertise and funds to support voluntary partnerships that identify, restore, and protect coastal ecosystems.

"Our new Coastal Program allows us to move beyond regulation and reach out in partnership to a diverse group of organizations that are committed to the stewardship of Alaska's spectacular coastal habitats," said Dave Allen, the USFWS Alaska regional director. "While relatively small in dollars expended, this flexible, innovative program serves as an important catalyst for conservation projects essential to anadromous fish, waterfowl and shorebirds, and other species that inhabit Cook Inlet."

More information on the national Coastal Program is available at:

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TALLAHASSEE, Florida, May 16, 2001 (ENS) - Florida has agreed to trade some state owned lands to the federal government, in exchange for mineral rights under other state lands.

The state Board of Trustees approved a Memorandum of Understanding between the State of Florida and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). The agreement lays the groundwork for a value for value exchange of federal lands and mineral interests for state lands.

Many of Florida's state owned properties contain federally owned oil, gas and minerals. Since the early 1970s, the state has sought to acquire these subsurface interests.

The federal government also owns several surface parcels that are either managed by the state, or are adjacent to or within state forest boundaries.

As part of the agreement, the USFS will receive state lands that will consolidate three units of a national forest, filling in a missing puzzle piece of a huge federal conservation area, linking the 438,000 acre Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge with the 200,000 acre Osceola National Forest.

The federal government could also receive about 214 acres within the boundary of the Ocala National Forest.

The state gains in the exchange include:

Both parties will begin appraising the proposed trade properties, and aim to finalize the exchange by 2003.

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ELLENSBURG, Washington, May 16, 2001 (ENS) - In an effort to help protect birds that live in one of the most unique and threatened natural landscapes in Washington state, Audubon Washington has designated Umtanum Creek Valley an Important Bird Area (IBA).

The 36,000 acre site contains extensive, unbroken tracts of shrub steppe, a native arid grassland that is vital to many of the region's beautiful bird species, including the bright blue lazuli bunting.

The announcement was made at the second annual Get Intimate With the Shrub Steppe Festival held by the Kittitas Environmental Education Network, which seeks to educate residents about the natural world of Kittitas County, including the shrub-steppe.

"The Umtanum Creek Valley is home to more than 100 bird species," said Tim Cullinan, Audubon Washington's director of bird conservation. "The area's large tract of shrub steppe provides critical food and nesting areas for 40 of those species. Audubon recognizes the important role this habitat plays in the lives of birds and other wildlife, and we want to make sure that future generations have the opportunity to enjoy its beauty and diversity."

"Through our IBA program we will work with landowners, land managers and community organizations to make sure that happens," added Cullinan. "We are very pleased to designate Umtanum Creek Valley as Washington's newest Important Bird Area."

The Important Bird Areas program is an international conservation initiative designed to recognize and protect land that is vital to the health and survival of birds. Started in Europe in the late 1980s, the program is being spearheaded in the U.S. by Audubon and is now underway in more than 30 states. More than 500 IBAs have been designated in the United States.

An IBA is a site deemed essential to one or more species of birds for breeding, feeding, wintering or migration. IBAs must meet strict scientific criteria, which may include the presence of a significant population of birds, a species of high conservation priority, or a species associated with a unique habitat, such as the shrub steppe.

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STAMFORD, Connecticut, May 16, 2001 (ENS) - Clean Diesel Technologies Inc. says that its diesel fuel additive for stationary engines could help reduce emissions from the diesel generators now being pressed into service to boost power supplies in California and elsewhere.

Clean Diesel Technologies, a specialty chemical company, says the diesel fuel additive, called Platinum PlusŪ, was created to reduce harmful emissions from diesel fueled generators.

The additive is formulated for stationary diesel engines that generate electric power and can help reduce emissions of particulates (soot), hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide by 15 percent to 30 percent when used in current diesel fuels, or the ultra-low sulfur diesel required in states such as California.

"The energy problems that have hit California and the Northwest and that are now moving to other parts of the country such as New York, have exploded the demand for stationary electric power generators," said Jim Valentine, chief operating officer of Clean Diesel Technologies. "The concern with these generators has always been that they emit particulate and NOx emissions. But Platinum Plus makes these generators burn significantly cleaner, which makes them a much more viable alternative especially during these times of crisis."

Recent tests have also shown that the additive not only reduces these harmful emissions but also improves fuel economy.

Industry sources estimate that there are about 150,000 of the stationary diesel fueled electrical generators now operating around the nation, with about 9,000 additional generators sold each year. Many are used in such places as office towers, hospitals and apartment buildings, as well as by utilities and general industry.

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GAINESVILLE, Florida, May 16, 2001 (ENS) - Grape growers battling a disease that causes millions of dollars in losses each year may soon be able to turn to genetically modified plants that resist the disease.

Pierce's disease is caused by a species of bacterium that lives in the water vessels of a variety of plants. The strain that lives in grapevines clogs the vessels, causing the plant to dry up and die.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued a patent for the use of a group of genes in grapevines expected to make the plants resistant to Pierce's disease, for which there is no effective control. The patent was issued to the University of Florida (UF) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who collaborated several years ago to develop the technology to transfer one of the genes into the plants.

"We believe these genes could protect grape plants against a number of diseases, but our target is Pierce's disease," said Dennis Gray, a UF professor of developmental biology at the UF Mid-Florida Research and Education Center. "We had promising results early on in the project, and we're optimistic tests will confirm heightened resistance in the plants."

With grapes ranked among the top 15 most valuable crops in the nation, Pierce's disease resistant grape plants could have major benefits for the wine and table grape industries, Gray said. The disease has caused millions of dollars in damage in California, according to the California Department of Agriculture.

The genetically modified plants could reduce or eliminate the use of insecticides in California aimed at killing insects that spread disease. Such insecticides provide, at best, temporary relief, shows UF research dating back to the 1920s, Gray said.