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AmeriScan: April 15, 2005

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60 Health Care Institutions Honored for Environmental Innovation

CHICAGO, Illinois, April 15, 2005 (ENS) - The 2005 National Environmental Partnership Summit wound up its four day meeting Thursday in Chicago by handing out Hospitals for a Healthy Environment (H2E) annual Environmental Leadership Awards to 60 health care institutions across the country for outstanding achievement in environmental innovation.

The awards were presented jointly by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the American Hospital Association (AHA), and the American Nurses Association (ANA).

H2E is a joint project of the EPA, AHA, ANA and Health Care Without Harm, and its goals are to eliminate the use of mercury in healthcare; to cut health care waste; and to phase out the use of hazardous substances and persistent, bio-accumulative and toxic chemicals in the health care sector.

Eight institutions were recognized as Environmental Leaders for their exceptional programs to reduce waste, virtually eliminate mercury and minimize the use of toxic products and practices in their facilities. Fifty-two health care institutions received Partners and Champions for Change Awards.

Five of this year's eight Environmental Leaders Award winners are Michigan institutions. They are: Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Oakland, California; Bronson Methodist Hospital, Kalamazoo, Michigan; Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, New Hampshire; Foote Health System, Jackson, Michigan; Kaiser Permanente Hawaii Region, Honolulu, Hawaii; Sparrow Health System, Lansing, Michigan; St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, Ann Arbor, Michigan; and the University of Michigan Hospitals & Health Centers, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

In addition, the EPA, in partnership with H2E, unveiled at this week's meeting a one-stop website for pollution prevention best practices and compliance assistance resources -- the first of its kind. Information on this Compliance Assistance Center is available at: http://www.hercenter.org/ .

Additional information on the complete list of award winners and the H2E program can be found at: http://www.h2e-online.org . The National Environmental Partnership Summit was hosted by the EPA, the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable, and Performance Track Participants Association.

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Salmon Experts Meet to Decipher Mysterious Declines

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, April 15, 2005 (ENS) - Salmon biologists, habitat specialists, fisheries and agency managers and international leaders from five nations will gather on Sunday for an in depth look at ways to conserve and manage salmon throughout the North Pacific.

The four day State of the Salmon 2005 conference brings stakeholders together to tackle what may be the largest issue facing one of the most important fisheries in the world - lack of information.

"Salmon and the people charged with managing them are facing increasingly complex challenges," said conference keynote speaker Fran Ulmer, former Lieutenant Governor of Alaska and now director of the Institute of Social and Economic Research, at the University of Alaska- Anchorage. "We need more reliable science and the ability to share it across national boundaries in order to be effective stewards of our treasured salmon runs."

Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent each year on local and regional salmon research and conservation throughout the North Pacific yet the distribution of salmon is shrinking across their entire range and extinctions are marching northward. Explanations for these changes remain elusive.

"Declining salmon runs in western Alaska, where most habitat remains pristine, is clearly a warning sign. Even more alarming is our inability to explain why," says Dr. Xanthippe Augerot, co-director of State of the Salmon, the non-profit consortium which organized the four-day summit.

"Through collaboration and convening the best talent available, we hope to set the stage for successful salmon conservation and management for decades to come," said Augerot.

At the conference, State of the Salmon will introduce its international monitoring strategy, a new framework that will accommodate and synthesize data from around the North Pacific in a panoramic perspective of status and trends. That big-picture view will foster better management decisions in the future and enable salmon managers to adapt in the face of climate change and other threats, the organizers say.

"Until now, the process for putting the pieces of the salmon management puzzle together has been very expensive and time consuming," says Dr. Phil Mundy, former Chief Fisheries Scientist for the Division of Commercial Fisheries of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. "The State of the Salmon monitoring strategy builds a process that can improve the future of salmon management by fostering a new level of cooperation and collaboration. Alaska has the opportunity to continue its tradition of leading the way in salmon management by joining this effort."

In Alaska the fishing industry is the state's largest private employer. Salmon fishermen earned $162 million or about 17 percent of the total amount Alaskan fishermen received for their catch in 2002.

State of the Salmon chose to convene its international conference in Anchorage because Alaska is the center of the range for Pacific salmon, which spans six countries: Russia, Canada, Japan, North Korea, South Korea and the United States.

Since 1982, Alaska has been responsible for more than 40 percent of the Pacific salmon catch. Sustaining Alaska's salmon economies is embedded in the state constitution and Alaska's fishery managers are empowered to make local harvest decisions; elsewhere in the United States, managers do not have the authority.

More information and a complete conference agenda at: http://www.stateofthesalmon.org/

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Great Lakes Indian Nations Unite Across the Border

NIAGARA FALLS, Ontario, Canada, April 15, 2005 (ENS) - This week, representatives from over 140 indigenous tribes from both sides of the U.S.-Canada border participated in what they called "the most significant and historic international gathering since the signing of the 1764 Treaty of Niagara."

First Nations in Canada and Tribes in the United States came together to discuss issues surrounding the Great Lakes Charter, Annex 2001. The Annex, signed between the two provinces, and eight states is an addendum to the Great Lakes Charter which governs the Great Lakes ecosystem and resources that are shared within these jurisdictions.

In November 2004, the Indigenous Nations of the Great Lakes united to unanimously reject the Great Lakes Charter Annex, the commodification, diversion and export of water, and the lack of inclusion in the intergovernmental process.

Today, the United Indian Nations of the Great Lakes - consisting of indigenous leadership from Quebec, Ontario, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota - reaffirmed the principles outlined in the Great Lakes Water Accord of November 2004.

They committed themselves to defining a process to furthering indigenous management of the Great Lakes through the immediate development of a taskforce of representatives of the Tribes and First Nations.

"Tribes on both sides of the border are united in developing our own parallel process and ensuring our participation in decisionmaking involving the management of the Great Lakes," said Frank Ettawageshik, tribal chairman of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, and co-chair for the United Indian Nations of the Great Lakes meeting.

"The consensus that we have reached here will guide our efforts in responding to these issues," said Nelson Toulouse, Deputy Grand Chief of the Anishinabek Nation, and co-chair for the meeting. "More importantly, we remain committed to making this our own process, done in our way."

The Tribes and First Nations pledged to take back this information to their respective councils for review and to follow through with the 2004 Accord.

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Bacteria in U.S. Foods Diminished Over Past Seven Years

WASHINGTON, DC, April 15, 2005 (ENS) - Foodborne illnesses in the United States are on a "continued and sustained decline," from the baseline years 1996-1998, announced Dr. Robert Tauxe of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at a joint press conference Thursday with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Dr. Tauxe announced with a 42 percent drop in illnesses from E. coli O157:H7, a 40 percent drop in listeriosis, 31 percent drop in campylobacteriosis and an eight percent drop in salmonellosis.

Tauxe called the reduction “important progress” and noted that for the first time, E. coli O157:H7 associated illness reductions have surpassed the Healthy People 2010 projected goal.

“This report is good news for Americans and underscores the importance of investments in food safety. Our efforts are working and we're making progress in reducing foodborne illnesses,” said CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding. “However, foodborne disease is still a significant cause of illness in the United States and further efforts are needed to sustain and extend these important declines and to improve prevention of foodborne illnesses.”

The report comes as welcome news during a week when 25 tons of meats were recalled by two manufacturers for listeria contamination, and roma tomatoes were linked to salmonella.

Two types of microorganisms did not decrease, officials said. The incidence of Shigella, which is found in a wide variety of foods, did not change significantly from 1996 through 2004. Vibrio infections increased 47 percent. Vibrio infections, which are associated with consumption of certain types of raw shellfish, can be prevented by thoroughly cooking seafood, especially oysters.

Officials credited "changes in meat industry practices" with part of the declines, particularly efforts aimed at E. coli O157:H7 reduction in ground beef. Dr. Merle Pierson, acting under secretary for food safety, with the USDA said, "Industry has been very responsive in taking aggressive steps" that lead to reductions in bacterial illnesses.

"We are gratified so see that foodborne illnesses continue to trend downward – the same way bacteria on many meat and poultry products are trending downward," said American Meat Institute Foundation president James Hodges.

The foundation conducts research and education programs aimed at reducing and ultimately eliminating foodborne bacteria on meat and poultry products, spending millions of dollars in the past decade trying to find ways to make meat and poultry safer.

Officials noted that continued declines in foodborne illnesses are particularly good news for pregnant women, children, and the immuno-compromised, who are a greater risk and danger of contracting a foodborne illness.

According to Hodges, increasing consumer awareness about ways to handle food and prevent foodborne illness also contributed to the encouraging trends. He detailed some of the most important food safety steps consumers can take when handling meat and poultry:

  • Cool it – Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot.
  • Clean it – Wash hands, utensils, cutting boards and other items that have come into contact with raw meat and poultry.
  • Separate – Keep raw foods separate from cooked foods to avoid cross contamination. "Be sure to get a clean plate when removing cooked foods from the barbecue. Don't use the same plate to hold cooked food that once held raw meat and poultry," Hodges said. "And be sure to discard remaining marinade."
  • Cook it – Meat and poultry products should be thoroughly cooked prior to consuming them. Hodges urged consumers to use instant-read thermometers to ensure doneness, particularly when cooking grounding products like hamburgers, which must be cooked to 160 degrees F. "Never rely on internal color," according to Hodges, because it can be misleading.
And, Hodges warned, "Consumers should know by now, to never eat or even taste raw ground beef."

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Austin Tops Utilities Ranked for Renewable Energy Sales

GOLDEN, Colorado, April 15, 2005 (ENS) - Austin Energy, a Texas utility, leads the sales of renewable energy across the country, according to the annual ranking of utility green power programs by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) released Thursday.

Under these voluntary programs, consumers can choose to help support additional electricity production from renewable resources such as solar and wind. Nearly 600 utilities in 34 states now offer these programs.

Using information provided by utilities, NREL develops "Top 10" rankings of utility programs for - total sales of renewable energy to program participants, total number of customer participants, customer participation rate, and the lowest price premium charged for a green pricing service using new renewable resources.

Ranked by sales of green power, the green power program of Austin Energy, of Texas, is first in the nation, followed by Portland General Electric, PacifiCorp, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, of California; and Xcel Energy.

Ranked by customer participation rates, the top utilities are Lenox Municipal Utilities, of Iowa; the City of Palo Alto, California Utilities, Montezuma Municipal Light & Power, of Iowa; and in a tie, Holy Cross Energy, of Colorado; Moorhead Public Service, of Minnesota; and Sacramento Municipal Utility District.

"Customer participation in utility green power programs continues to grow across the country," said Lori Bird, senior energy analyst at NREL. "These utilities are the national leaders."

Customer choice programs continue to stimulate growth in renewable energy supply. In 2004, sales of renewable energy through utility green power programs showed strong growth, reaching 1.9 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh).

Utility green pricing programs are one segment of a larger green power marketing industry that counts more than 500,000 customers nationwide and helps support more than 1,600 MW of renewable electricity generation capacity.

NREL found that several large utilities have lowered the rate premium charged in green pricing programs. "Purchases of renewable energy through utility green power programs are becoming increasingly affordable for consumers" said Blair Swezey, NREL principal policy advisor. He cited the improving economics of tapping renewable energy sources compared to traditional fossil fuels as a primary factor.

NREL's Energy Analysis Office performs analyses of green power market trends and is funded by DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy's primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for DOE by Midwest Research Institute and Battelle.

Complete rankings are available at the Green Power Network Web site:

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AAA's Earth Day Great Battery Roundup Opens This Weekend

TRENTON, New Jersey, April 15, 2005 (ENS) - In commemoration of Earth Day, the AAA New Jersey Automobile Club and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are asking area motorists to support the environment by helping “Get the lead Out” during AAA’s Great Battery Roundup. The nationwide effort is coordinated by AAA on a state-by-state basis.

Each year, more than seven million batteries across the United States do not get recycled, creating health and safety hazards for humans, animals, and the environment. AAA is inviting the public to join in an Earth Day effort to round up discarded batteries.

Used lead acid vehicle batteries end up in garages, backyards and storage sheds where they may be creating an environmental and safety hazard. Some used batteries are illegally disposed of in dumps and water sources, but others are simply sitting in a forgotten corner of someone’s property where they could contaminate soil and ground water, explode in a fire or become a source of lead poisoning to humans and animals.

“AAA is on a mission to educate the public about the potential dangers of having old lead, acid batteries in our homes while also encouraging battery recycling, “ said Pam Fischer, the club’s vice president of public affairs.

Each location offers its own incentives. In New Jersey, for every battery collected during the roundup, the AAA New Jersey Automobile Club will donate $1 to the New Jersey Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.

"We’re delighted that AAA chose to support The Nature Conservancy as part of its annual AAA Battery Roundup," said Barbara Brummer, executive director of The Nature Conservancy in New Jersey. "We’re especially gratified that so many of our state's conservation minded citizens will help us celebrate Earth Week by helping protect our natural legacy for future generations."

With an estimated 248 million vehicles on the road in North America, the proper use and disposal of vehicle batteries, tires and various types of automotive fluids are crucial to a healthy environment, AAA says.

Motorists can make sure used batteries are safely returned to recycling plants by bringing them to specific collection points for shipment.

AAA recommends members wear gloves and safety glasses when handling batteries, keep them upright and place them in a cardboard box or plastic container that won't tip over. And do not smoke near or expose the batteries to an open flame.

During Earth Week, April 16 to 23, a AAA Battery Assist vehicle will be on hand at the club’s branch offices and other specified collection points to accept old marine and automotive batteries and give vehicles a free battery and electrical service check.

If the check reveals that your existing car battery should be replaced, the AAA technician can install a new battery right there.

For a list of participating facilities, visit www.aaa.com and click on the “Great Battery Roundup” icon on the homepage.

“The EPA applauds AAA’s efforts in helping to protect the environment by encouraging motorists to recycle their vehicle’s used batteries and other recyclable automotive related products,” said Thomas Dunne, EPA’s deputy assistant administrator for solid waste and emergency. “By recycling these items, motorists can play a critical role in protecting our land, our sea and our air. I encourage all Americans to participate in the Great Battery Roundup on Earth Day!”

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Florida Ends Dredging of Apalachicola River

TALLAHASSEE, Florida, April 15, 2005 (ENS) - Conservationists praised the Florida Department of Environmental Protection today for shutting down the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ activities along the Apalachicola River in the Florida panhandle. On Wednesday, the agency denied a request from the Corps to continue dredging the river bottom.

In 2002, American Rivers designated the Apalachicola River as one of America’s “most endangered,” calling on state and federal authorities to put an end to these activities.

“We’re giving the thumbs up to Florida for putting its foot down,” said Melissa Samet, senior director for water resources at American Rivers. “This was a bold and decisive move that shows they take seriously their obligations to their citizens and the environment.”

For decades, the Corps has dredged and manipulated water levels in the Apalachicola River to keep the river deep enough to float a dwindling handful of commercial barges. After dredging mountains of sand from the river bottom, the agency disposed of along the river’s banks, in wetlands and the mouths of creeks, damaging the surrounding floodplain forest.

The agency has also used its upstream dams to artificially flood the river then turn off the water, devastating populations of river fish and contributing to the decline of valuable commercial fisheries in Apalachicola Bay.

"This destruction was particularly senseless since the Apalachicola River sees virtually no commercial barge traffic," said American Rivers. In 2000, the Corps acknowledged that barge traffic on the river returned only 40 cents to the nation for each federal dollar spent, and since then commercial barge traffic has dropped to virtually zero.

Florida’s decision stops one of the major threats to the Apalachicola River, one of the most biologically productive rivers in North America. The river and its floodplain forest support commercial and sport fisheries, endangered species, and dense populations of amphibians and reptiles.

The Apalachicola’s waters also sustain Apalachicola Bay, which offers the largest oyster harvesting area in the Gulf of Mexico, providing nearly 90 percent of Florida’s oysters. Together, the river and bay support thousands of commercial fishing, recreational fishing, and ecotourism jobs, forming the cornerstone of the economy of six Florida counties.

“This decision removes a dark cloud that was hanging over the future of one of America’s most valuable rivers,” Samet said. “The future for thousands of people who make their living on the water in the Florida panhandle is a little more secure.”

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