AmeriScan: October 8, 2001


SAN FRANCISCO, California, October 8, 2001 (ENS) - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Christie Whitman has appointed Wayne Nastri, a longtime environmental consultant and entrepeneur, as the administrator of the agency's Region 9 office in San Francisco, which covers California, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii and the Pacific Islands.

"EPA is fortunate to have the leadership of such an experienced environmental professional," said Whitman. "He brings a wealth of knowledge about environmental issues and relationships with the states, which will be critical in developing more progressive approaches to protecting the environment and public health."

For the past six years, Nastri has served as the president of Environmental Mediation, Inc., a Southern California firm that advises clients on issues such as compliance audits, third party reviews and remedial project oversight. He specialized in air and water quality issues as well as hazardous waste investigation and remediation issues.

Prior to establishing Environmental Mediation, Inc., Nastri was the vice president of the Jefferson Group, a government public affairs firm, and has also founded and worked at other environmental businesses.

He has served on a number of government and private advisory committees and bodies, including: the Governor of California's appointee to the Governing Board of the South Coast Air Quality Management District; a post on the external advisory committee for the California Department of Toxic Substances Control; and he now serves as the legislative director for the California Environmental Business Council.

Nastri has written and had published a variety of papers dealing with environmental audits, regulatory agencies and environmental mediation.

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CHAMPAIGN, Illinois, October 8, 2001 (ENS) - The uncertainty of climate change because of global warming is much greater than once thought, and as a result, policymakers should adopt a robust, adaptive decision strategy to cope with potential consequences, say researchers at the University of Illinois (UI).

As will be reported in the October 16 issue of the "Journal of Geophysical Research," UI atmospheric scientists Natalia Andronova and Michael Schlesinger found there is a 54 percent chance that climate sensitivity lies outside the 1.5 to 4.5 degree Centigrade range announced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

"This is definitely not good news," Schlesinger said. "If the climate sensitivity is greater than the IPCC's upper bound, climate change could be one of humanity's most severe problems of the 21st century. If, however, it is less than the lower bound, then climate change may not be a serious problem for humanity."

In a study supported by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy, the researchers used a simple climate/ocean model and the observed near surface temperature record to estimate the probability distribution for climate sensitivity.

For each of 16 models, the changes in global mean near surface temperature were calculated for the years 1765 through 1997. The models included greenhouse gases, anthropogenic sulfate aerosol, volcanoes and solar irradiance.

The researchers found that, as a result of natural variability and uncertainty in the radiative forcing, it is 90 percent likely that climate sensitivity lies between one and 10 degrees Centigrade.

"Decision makers must form a climate policy acceptable to groups with many different, yet plausible, estimates of the likelihood of alternative futures," wrote Schlesinger and colleague Robert Lempert of the Rand Corporation in the July 26 issue of the journal "Nature."

The large uncertainties associated with the climate-change problem can make conventional policy prescriptions unreliable, Schlesinger said.

"It could take a fair fraction of a century to acquire enough observations to significantly reduce the level of uncertainty, and by then it may be too late to do anything about it," said Schlesinger. By using an adaptive decision strategy, however, we can observe the damages due to climate change, and the rate of change of the cost differential between fossil fuels and non-fossil fuels. Depending upon what we see, we can alter what we do."

"Such a strategy could also aid in the negotiation process, because decisionmakers could make more reasonable and defensible choices about climate change policy without requiring highly accurate or widely accepted predictions of the future," added Schlesinger.

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WATERFORD, Connecticut, October 8, 2001 (ENS) - The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is sending a team to the Millstone Unit 1 nuclear power plant to evaluate the comprehensiveness of Northeast Utilites' investigation into the circumstances surrounding the loss of two fuel rods.

The NRC team will arrive at the Millstone plant on Tuesday. The four member team will spend about two weeks on site and also will evaluate the company's analysis of the root cause of the loss of the rods.

Northeast Utilities had been the operator of the three nuclear units at Millstone Station until the plants were sold, and the operating license transferred to, Dominion Nuclear last spring.

On December 15, 2000, Northeast Utilities informed the NRC in writing that it could not account for two spent fuel rods which had been stored in the Millstone Unit 1spent fuel pool. Records indicate the rods were last verified to be in the pool in 1980; however, there was no documentation of their presence in the pool beyond that time.

A report sent to the NRC by Dominion this week showed that, although the exact location of the rods could not be determined, it is likely that they are at one of four sites, including two low level waste disposal sites and two spent fuel pools, one of which is at Millstone 1.

Neither the companies nor the NRC believe the material was stolen. There are radiological security controls at nuclear power plants such as Millstone that make theft dangerous, difficult and "highly unlikely," the NRC said.

The NRC does not believe that a public health and safety problem exists based on the probable locations of the spent fuel rods. The rods would not pose any risk of creating nuclear weapons due to their low uranium and plutonium content, the agency said.

The NRC team will issue an inspection report about 30 days of the completion of the inspection.

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VENTURA, California, October 8, 2001 (ENS) - The Ohlone tiger beetle, a colorful insect that exists only in Santa Cruz County, California is being listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

A species is designated as endangered when it is likely to become extinct within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.

Researchers discovered the Ohlone tiger beetle in 1987. The species now exists in remnant stands of native grassland on coastal terraces in four small areas near or within the cities of Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley, and Soquel in Santa Cruz County.

The beetles inhabit less than 20 acres on a combination of private lands and lands owned by University of California at Santa Cruz, the city of Santa Cruz and California State Parks.

"The tiger beetle inhabits some of the last remaining patches of a coastal prairie ecosystem that once spanned coastal Santa Cruz County and extended into San Mateo County and Monterey counties," said Steve Thomson, acting manager of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS) California/Nevada operations office. "We are already working with developers and land managers to plan for the conservation of this rare species."

The final listing of the species was delayed when the USFWS announced in November 2000 that it would be unable to list any new species in Fiscal Year 2001 because most of its listing budget was being used to comply with court orders and settlement agreements requiring designation of critical habitat for species already listed under the Act.

Last month, the USFWS announced an agreement with a variety of plaintiffs that would free up funds to list the Ohlone tiger beetle and other species.

The primary threat to the Ohlone tiger beetle is habitat destruction and fragmentation caused by urban development. Other threats include habitat changes caused by invasive plants, over collection, impacts from recreational activities, pesticides, and vulnerability to extinction from natural events such as disease, fire, drought or flood.

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BLACKSBURG, Virginia, October 8, 2001 (ENS) - A Virginia Tech engineering graduate student has made discoveries that may help prevent outbreaks of water borne diseases in the future.

Paolo Scardina, a Ph.D. candidate in Virginia Tech's Via Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), began his research as an undergraduate on the problem of air bubbles in drinking water. Working with Marc Edwards of the CEE faculty, Scardina has continued his research as a master's and doctoral student, and he has won a competitive grant worth $150,000 from the American Water Works Association Research Foundation (AWWARF).

Scardina's research also is being used by engineers with the California Department of Health Services to identify problems at two facilities that have experienced eruptions of air bubbles.

"When you open a can of soda, bubbles form and rise to the surface," explained Edwards. "The same thing can happen in water from lakes and rivers. When air bubbles are released in a 'burp' during the treatment process, pathogens and other particles can escape removal."

The last treatment barrier in most drinking water treatment plants is filtration, Edwards said, and a burp of bubbles can punch holes in filters - tiny holes, but large enough to let particles and pathogens escape into the water that goes out to customers.

Scardina, who began studying air bubbles at Edwards' suggestion during his senior year at Virginia Tech, identified the causes of bubble formation while he was working on his master's degree.

"Before Paolo's findings, we knew that bubbles could cause problems," Edwards said, "but we didn't know how they formed or the range of the impacts."

Scardina also learned that air bubbles can interfere with the first drinking water treatment process - settling - where solid particles from incoming surface water drop to the bottom of treatment tanks.

"If bubbles are present at this stage," Scardina said, "pathogens and other particles can attach to them and float on through the treatment plant."

Bubbles can also cause a dilemma for treatment plant operators at the end of the process.

"When bubbles form after water has gone through filtration, water quality tests may wrongly identify the bubbles as dirt particles or pathogens, even though the bubbles themselves are harmless," Edwards said. "This decreases the validity of and confidence in water quality tests."

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NEW YORK, New York, October 8, 2001 (ENS) - The United Nations (UN) is partnering with the Animal Planet television channel to generate awareness for global conservation and biodiversity.

Focusing on the television channel's annual programming special, World Animal Day, which aired on October 7, the partnership will use the joint resources, knowledge and efforts of both organizations.

"The United Nations partnership with Animal Planet will help educate millions around the world about the importance of protecting the Earth's precious biodiversity for the benefit of all people," said Shashi Tharoor, interim head of the UN Department of Public Information.

According to some estimates, over 100 species are lost every day and about 40,000 species become extinct every year. Many species are at increasing great risk, as more than 25 percent of the world's 4,630 mammal species and 11 percent of the 9,675 bird species were at significant risk of total extinction in the late 1990s.

"Collaboration with the United Nations and its subsidiary bodies, including the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), is a natural partnership that exposes millions of viewers to issues such as species conservation, habitat protection, and biodiversity," said Dawn McCall, president of Discovery Networks International, a partner with BBC Worldwide in producing Animal Planet.

UNEP's Global Environment Outlook 2000 report highlights the importance of educating people about the Earth's environment, given the problems that now exist in many areas of the world - from land degradation and deforestation to air pollution and global warming, to inadequate water supplies and the loss of untold numbers of plant and animal species.

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WASHINGTON, DC, October 8, 2001 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded almost $3 million in grants for environmental education initiatives in schools, universities and nonprofit organizations across the United States.

"Environmental protection begins with environmental education," said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman. "Today's grants will help the American people make informed decisions about complex environmental issues. An informed public is EPA's best ally in cleaning up our air, water and land, so that we pass along a better world to our children."

The EPA receives hundreds of applications for environmental education funding. In selecting grant winners, EPA places emphasis on projects that enhance teaching skills, build state and local capacity to develop strong educational programs, create environmental education partnerships and motivate the general public to be more environmentally conscious.

The grant applications were evaluated by EPA officials and by independent reviewers outside the Agency.

EPA Headquarters awarded 13 2001 Environmental Education grants, including:

Adopt-A-Watershed, Hayfork, California: $100,000 California Coastal Commission, San Francisco, California: $79,177 Environmental Education Unit, Chicago Housing Authority, Chicago, Illinois: $89,325 Kansas Association for Conservation and Environmental Education, Manhattan, Kansas: $38,853 University of Maine, Orono, Maine: $72,148 Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Annapolis, Maryland: $51,617 Massachusetts Youth Teenage Unemployment Reduction Network, Inc., Brockton, Massachusetts: $29,722 Ypsilanti Public Schools, Ypsilanti, Michigan: $74,000 Environmental Education Fund, Raleigh, North Carolina: $74,365 School District of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: $100,000 Shelby County Schools, Memphis, Tennessee: $97,853 Tennessee Aquarium, Chattanooga, Tennessee: $56,169 Discovery Creek Children's Museum, Washington, DC: $35,000

The EPA's ten regional offices also awarded over 200 smaller grants nationwide for state and local environmental education projects. More information is available at:

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WASHINGTON, DC, October 8, 2001 (ENS) - A severe decline in Canada's M'Clintock Channel polar bear population has caused the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to ban the importation of polar bears taken after May 31, 2000.

The ban will remain in effect until the agency determines that the population is healthy.

Polar bears are protected under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act, which gives the USFWS the authority to regulate import permits. The agency placed an interim ban on the importation of these bears under an emergency rule published in January 2001.

"The Canadian Wildlife Service informed us that it had revised the size of the M'Clintock Channel polar bear population downward from 700 to some 300 animals," said Marshall Jones, acting USFWS director. "In light of the smaller number, we are required by the law to stop issuing import permits until these polar bears are restored to a level where they can sustain some limited harvest."

Canada decreased the sport hunting quota for the M'Clintock Channel polar bear population from 32 to 12 animals for the 2000/2001 harvest season. There is a hunting moratorium for 2001/2002.

Canada is monitoring the M'Clintock Channel population and developing a long term management strategy and recovery goals. When scientific and management data indicate that the M'Clintock polar bears are sustainable, the USFWS will consider whether the import permit ban should be relaxed.

The USFWS is also required to consider whether Canada's monitoring and enforcement of its sport hunting program will ensure the maintenance of the polar bear population at a sustainable level, and whether the program meets the purposes of the 1973 International Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears.

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WASHINGTON, DC, October 8, 2001 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded $50,000 to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) of Washington, DC to educate state and local governments, trade associations and the public about the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies, such as wind power.

Reducing energy consumption by using more efficient equipment and manufacturing processes and adopting renewable energy technologies can reduce the threat of global climate change, prevent air pollution, decrease fossil fuel use and ease the strain on electricity providers.

Under the grant, EESI will meet with policymakers and industry officials to identify ways to promote existing energy efficient and renewable energy technologies as stimulants to local community economic growth and as opportunities for small business. The Institute will use methods such as hosting expositions, participating in panels and providing keynote speakers at trade meetings.

As an example of the initiative, EESI will be coordinating an energy technology exposition in Washington, DC in May 2002.

EESI is a nonprofit organization that carries out education and analysis projects in energy efficiency and renewable energy, transportation, water quality and conservation, global climate change, fiscal policy and military base cleanup.

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WASHINGTON, DC, October 8, 2001 (ENS) - Department of Energy-funded researchers have won 25 of the 100 awards given this year by R&D Magazine for the most outstanding technology developments with commercial potential.

Examples of their work include: a tough, sprayed on metal coating with extreme wear and abrasion resistance; a heat pump water heater that uses one third the electricity of a conventional water heater; a way to recharge lead acid batteries that extends their life by 3-4 times; and a method for processing computer chips using supercritical carbon dioxide with the potential of saving the semiconductor manufacturing industry tens of millions of gallons of water per day.

"I'm proud of the award-winning work done at DOE national laboratories and facilities," said Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham. "These accomplishments clearly demonstrate the value of government funded research to our nation."

The researchers winning the R&D 100 Awards work at 13 of the department's laboratories and facilities across the country. One company whose research was funded by the department will also receive an award.

Eleven of the awards are joint awards with companies or universities. The winning technologies were selected by an independent panel of some 70 experts and the editors of R&D Magazine.

Among the products recognized by the awards are the Autothermal Reforming Catalyst for Fuel project at Argonne National Laboratory in Argonne, Illinois. This technology is the key component of a fuel processor (or reformer) that has converted methanol, ethanol, natural gas, gasoline and diesel into hydrogen that can be fed to a fuel cell to produce electricity.

The laboratories and facilities whose researchers are receiving awards, along with descriptions of their projects, are listed on the DOE's Office of Science website at: