AmeriScan: April 28, 2005

* * *

Chemical Plant Security Law in the Works

WASHINGTON, DC, April 28, 2005 (ENS) - A Senate committee is considering whether legislation is necessary to establish nationwide standards for security at chemical facilities. Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, today chaired a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to examine the security of America’s chemical plants and their vulnerability to terrorist attacks.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, there are at least 15,000 facilities across the country that use, manufacture, or store large quantities of hazardous chemicals.

A study released last month by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, found that there is no comprehensive federal approach to chemical facility security.

The Department of Homeland Security has identified 297 chemical facilities where a toxic release could potentially affect 50,000 or more people.

“To us, these facilities are vital parts of our economy that create jobs and improve lives. To our enemies, they are weapons waiting to be used against an unsuspecting population,” said Collins.

“Nothing will ever diminish the loss we experienced on September 11th, but the loss from a chemical attack could be even greater, both in terms of the loss of life and the economic impact," she said.

Collins pointed out that a chemical attack could either be caused by a harmful release of chemicals from a facility or the theft of chemicals from a facility for use by a terrorist. According to a recent report by the Congressional Research Service, during the 1990s both international and domestic terrorists attempted many times to cause the release of chemicals from manufacturing or storage facilities.

The potential impact of such an attack is exemplified by the 1984 poisonous gas leak in Bhopal, India. Within a few hours of the leak, thousands of people died and, over time, hundreds of thousands suffered and are still suffering the effects of exposure to the gas.

Federal regulations have been enacted to help prevent and mitigate the accidental release of hazardous chemicals in the United States, but the regulations are not designed to secure facilities against a terrorist attack.

The American Chemistry Council has gone on record as supporting "meaningful chemical security legislation." In a statement Wednesday, the Council said its 140 member companies already have taken extraordinary measures to secure all 2,040 facilities they operate.

"These companies have invested over $2 billion in security upgrades so far and their work continues today," the Council said.

The Council supports national legislation that will establish national standards for security of chemical facilities; require facilities to conduct vulnerability assessments and implement security plans; and provide oversight, inspection, and enforcement authority to the Department of Homeland Security to ensure facilities are secure against threats of terrorism.

At the close of today's hearing, Senator Collins said chemical security legislation appears to be needed. "Based on the testimony we received today, it appears that federal legislation is needed to better secure our nation’s chemical facilities, and to better prepare in case of a successful terrorist attack." Further hearings are planned.

* * *

Dirty Air Poses Health Risks for 152 Million Americans

NEW YORK, New York, April 28, 2005 (ENS) - More groups are at risk from air pollution and health risks are more serious than experts previously believed, according to the annual American Lung Association State of the Air: 2005 report, released today. The report warns that continued threats to relax federal rules for corporate polluters will jeopardize public health.

“Dirty air threatens the lives and health of far too many Americans,” said John Kirkwood, president and CEO of the American Lung Association. “Unfortunately, some of the largest producers of dirty air are big energy companies, who have worked with their friends in Congress on legislation to change the rules so they don’t have to clean up their pollution."

"Fortunately, the Senate recently blocked that bill, but the vote was very close. We need to ask ourselves: Why was Congress even considering a bill that protects corporate polluters instead of the public?” said Kirkwood.

More than 152 million Americans live in counties where they are exposed to unhealthful levels of air pollution, according to the report.

Large cities ranked as the worst cities for air quality are predictable: Los Angeles, New York, Washington, Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, Salt Lake, Atlanta, Houston, and Dallas.

But smaller towns also made the worst air quality list: Visalia, California in the agricultural Central Valley, and the university towns of Eugene, Oregon and Knoxville, Tennessee.

Exhaust fumes from idling diesel trucks and buses, smoke from dirty power plants and factories, and soot released from indoor and outdoor wood burning combine to create particle pollution and are also the key raw ingredients of ground level ozone pollution, or smog, that makes air so unhealthy in many locations.

The State of the Air: 2005 report cites recently published studies showing that as ozone levels increase, the risk of premature death increases.

Ozone is an extremely reactive gas that irritates the respiratory system and can kill people with severe respiratory problems such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema and chronic bronchitis, and asthma, the American Lung Association (ALA) said.

The ALA now adds diabetics to the list of groups most at risk from particle pollution, based on increased evidence of their vulnerability to these tiny particles.

Particle pollution is a mixture of microscopic solids and aerosols that has been found to take months to years off a person’s life. Other at-risk groups include children, seniors, those with asthma and lung diseases and those with cardiovascular diseases.

Particle pollution has also been shown to induce heart attacks and strokes, cause lung cancer, trigger asthma attacks and increase the need for medical care and hospital admissions.

“Evidence is mounting each year underscoring just how dangerous air pollution really is,” said Norman Edelman, MD, executive vice president and chief medical officer of the American Lung Association. “The more we learn, the more critical cleaning up the air becomes.”

“Big energy companies are pushing Congress to change the law to let them get in an extra 10 years of pollution and to increase pollution at their oldest and dirtiest plants,” said Janice Nolen, ALA director of national policy. “In March, the Senate blocked a bill that would do just that, but the fight is not over. We must continue to be vigilant about protecting the Clean Air Act from the polluters,” she said.

The Lung Association has taken legal action to stop this rollback, and encourages everyone to join them in supporting strong national, state, and local pollution control programs, by participating in community reviews of air pollution and sending e-mails or faxes to urge members of Congress to protect the Clean Air Act.

The full report, The State of the Air: 2005, is online at: http://lungaction.org/reports/stateoftheair2005.html

* * *

New JPMorgan Chase Policy Protects Forests, Climate

NEW YORK, New York, April 28, 2005 (ENS) - JPMorgan Chase Bank has adopted a new environmental policy to address global warming and deforestation and recognize the rights of indigenous nations.

The Sustainability Commitment policy, announced Tuesday, sets new best practices for mitigation and reduction of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, protection of endangered forest, independently certified sustainable forestry as well as land and consultation rights of native communities everywhere.

Rainforest Action Network, a San Francisco conservation group that worked with the bank to develop its policy, says it is the first policy of its kind in the financial sector to create a special heading acknowledging “No Go Zones,” to protect ecosystems that are most valuable intact and untouched by industry.

Developed in cooperation with groups including Rainforest Action Network, the new policy marks another environmental milestone in the private financial sector and follows the The move by JPMorgan Chase follows the adoption of similar policies last year by Citigroup and Bank of America, which also worked with Rainforest Action Network to develop their environmental awareness.

Still, there are several firsts for corporations in the financial services industry in the JPMorgan Chase policy.

In a financial industry first, the bank will integrate into its analysis of power sector projects the financial cost of emitting the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

The bank will encourage clients to develop carbon mitigation plans that include measurement and disclosure of greenhouse gas emissions as well as plans to reduce or offset them.

In another industry first, JPMorgan Chase has agreed to arrange cooperative meetings with other financial institutions to advocate for reductions of greenhouse gas emissions and “focus on specific projects to alter the emissions trajectory of the U.S. economy.”

The bank's new policy marks the first time that any financial institution has integrated environmental risk management into the due diligence process for its private equity divisions.

In another first, JPMorgan Chase is now the first private bank to state a preference for Forest Stewardship Council certification of wood products. Certification means that independent inspectors have certified wood to be sustainably grown and legally harvested without harm to local communities.

The policy will require JPMorgan Chase clients that "process, purchase or trade" forest products from high-risk countries to have certifiable chain of custody systems in place to ensure that the wood comes from legal sources.

The bank recognizes the right of indigenous individuals and communities to “self determination over issues affecting their lands and territories, traditionally owned or otherwise occupied and used.”

The environmental community is pleased with the bank's commitments. Ilyse Hogue, director of the Global Finance Campaign at Rainforest Action Network, said, “This move represents a tipping point in the private financial sector, where the three largest banks have now publicly recognized that a sound long-term economic strategy relies on embracing environmental sustainability. The rest of the commercial and investment banks need to taker larger strides to confront their role in the environmental crisis facing us.”

Roger Dower, president of the Forest Stewardship Council in the United States, said, “We set high standards that ensure forestry is practiced in an environmentally responsible, socially beneficial, and economically viable way, and we appreciate the recognition of FSC in this agreement as a vital tool for forest certification and conservation."

"One of Wall Street's most trusted names is taking action to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions,” said Jon Sohn, Sr., an associate at the World Resources Institute. “We hope JPMorgan's stance will drive other financial institutions to curb their pollution and protect themselves from the very real business risks of global warming."

* * *

Florida House Unanimous in Support of Hydrogen Tax Credits

TALLAHASSEE, Florida, April 28, 2005 (ENS) - A bill offering tax credits and uniform standards for development of the Florida hydrogen industry, was unanimously adopted by the Florida House of Representatives Thursday. The Florida Hydrogen Energy Technologies Act now awaits approval from the state Senate.

The act provides Florida companies with a four year 75 percent corporate tax credit for expenditures and a 100 percent sales tax exemption on related equipment purchases.

The industry hopes this part of the bill will increase capital investment and job creation by reducing the costs of purchasing, manufacturing and developing hydrogen energy technologies.

The measure establishes the nation’s first statewide siting standard for hydrogen fueling infrastructure that creates a single, uniform standard. The industry hopes this standard will attract capital investment in Florida, reduce costs and ensure consistent safety codes across all regulatory jurisdictions.

Quick off the line in the development of hydrogen energy, Florida currently has 28 mobile and stationary hydrogen demonstration projects either underway, in development or in the planning stage.

The state is purchasing eight of the world’s first commercially available hydrogen shuttle buses for visitor transit in the Orlando area, and recently Governor Jeb Bush broke ground on Florida’s first hydrogen energy station.

“Hydrogen energy technology can make an important contribution to Florida’s future, helping ensure energy independence and stable fuel prices, secure clean air, and add jobs to the workforce,” said Allan Bedwell, deputy secretary for regulatory programs and energy in the Department of Environmental Protection.

“This legislative proposal will expand revolutionary energy technology, increase corporate investment and help diversify Florida’s economy,” Bedwell said.

Last month, the Washington Economics Group, Inc. released an in-depth economic analysis of the proposed legislation, projecting that the bill would bring in $47.3 million in hydrogen energy investments and 142 jobs to Florida in the first year.

Florida is aiming to become a center for the $2 billion a year global hydrogen industry, competing in global markets and expanding the state’s exports.

* * *

Long Island Offshore Wind Park Application Filed

UNIONDALE, New York, April 28, 2005 (ENS) - Forty giant wind turbines could soon be standing in the water, spinning electricty from Atlantic winds that blow across the South Shore of Long Island.

The Long Island Power Authority and FPL Energy jointly filed an application with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Tuesday seeking authorization to install an offshore wind energy park off the South Shore of Long Island.

The proposed offshore wind project would erect 40 wind turbines, each producing 3.6 megawatts (MW) of electricity. The entire wind park would be capable of producing 140 MWs of electricity, enough to serve about 44,000 typical Long Island homes.

The turbines would be clustered in an eight square mile area 4.1 miles due south of Cedar Beach. A 10 mile long transmission cable would bring the electricity from the turbines to an existing Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) substation in West Amityville.

Pending the outcome of the regulatory review process, the LIPA/FPL Energy offshore wind project could be operating by 2008, officials said.

Filing the application with the USACE initiates an extensive federal and state regulatory and environmental review process that will include public review and comment.

“Today we draw a symbolic line in the sand and say we’re tired of being held hostage to OPEC and other foreign oil producers, and we’re going to do something positive to develop an alternative energy resource that will heal, not hurt the environment,” said LIPA Chairman Richard Kessel.

“Over a 20 year period, the offshore wind park could prevent the burning of over 13.5 million barrels of fuel oil, which will eliminate millions of tons of combustion emissions from going into our region’s environment. At a cost of $40 per barrel, that avoids some $540 million in fuel oil costs over 20 years.

“FPL Energy and LIPA are advancing an ambitious project that will bring the significant benefits of clean, renewable wind energy to Long Island,” said Charles Muoio, vice president of FPL Energy. “We look forward to working with LIPA and the people of Long Island to make this project a reality.”

According to information contained in the permit application, the wind park is expected to result in an annual emission savings of 235,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), 489 tons of sulfur dioxide (Sox), and 211 tons of nitrogen oxides (NOx).

To minimize the potential impacts of bringing the wind generated power to the Island via a 138kV marine cable, directional drilling will be used to go under the barrier island that separates the ocean from the Great South Bay. Then the cable will use the path of an existing navigation channel to reach landfall in East Massapequa, and every attempt will be made to install the cable in conjunction with future maintenance dredging that is planned for the channel.

Applauding the announcement were some of the members of the Long Island Offshore Wind Initiative, a coalition of about 30 environmental, consumer and religious organizations.

Philippe Cousteau, president of EarthEcho International, a Washington, DC marine science and environmental preservation group, also offered support for the offshore wind park.

“As we move into the 21st Century our continued dependence on carbon based energy is totally unacceptable,” said Cousteau, grandson of the late oceanographer and filmmaker Jacques Cousteau. “We owe it to ourselves and especially our children to vigorously develop renewable energy sources such as offshore wind in the interest of national security, continued economic viability, public health and the environment.”

Gordian Raacke, executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island, called the wind project "a smart investment in harvesting a local energy supply that will never be subject to fossil fuel costs, the whims of OPEC, or unstable geo-political forces.”

Other local and national environmental groups voiced their support such as Long Island Neighborhood Network, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, and Greenpeace.

Kessel and environmental leaders Wednesday launched an “Energy Independence” campaign aimed at persuading Long Island’s major political, business and civic leaders to join in support of the wind park.

* * *

Citizens Go to Court to Keep Mute Swans Alive

WASHINGTON, DC, April 28, 2005 (ENS) - Two citizens' groups - Residents of Maryland's Eastern Shore and The Fund For Animals - went to federal court Tuesday asking for a preliminary injunction to prevent the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) from permitting Maryland to kill mute swans, a non-native species.

The move comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed last week challenging the Service's decision to lift federal protection for mute swans. The Service plans to begin killing as many as 2,000 mute swans next month.

At issue in the case is a rider buried within the 2004 omnibus spending bill that the Service maintains stripped mute swans of all Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) protections.

Swan advocates have asked the federal district court in Washington, DC to enjoin the Service policy of sanctioning the state's swan killing plan because the species is still protected by several international treaties for the protection of migratory birds, and because Congress made it clear that the rider was meant to be "consistent with the . . . treaties."

Two years ago, the same plaintiffs obtained a preliminary injunction halting plans by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to kill hundreds of mute swans, and they are seeking essentially the same relief today.

"Once again the DNR is insisting on killing swans without any scientific evidence, and once again ordinary citizens of the Eastern Shore will ask a federal judge to stop this from happening," said Jonathan Lovvorn, vice president of animal protection litigation for The Humane Society of the United States.

"Two years ago a federal court found that there was no scientific basis for the DNR's professed need to kill swans, yet swans are still being used as scapegoats for the real environmental polluters such as factory farms and sewage treatment plants," Lovvorn said.

The plaintiffs had hoped that the DNR would accept Humane Society's offer to develop a humane egg-addling program for mute swans, since such programs have successfully resolved conflicts over waterfowl populations in several states. But the DNR has refused to accept this alternative, so the swan advocates have chosen to go to court.

The Humane Society of the United States represents nearly nine million members and constituents. The non-profit organization is a mainstream voice for animals, with active programs in companion animals and equine protection, disaster preparedness and response, wildlife and habitat protection, animals in research and farm animals and sustainable agriculture. The HSUS protects all animals through litigation, investigation, education, legislation, advocacy and fieldwork.

The HSUS and The Fund for Animals joined forces and combined their operations in January 2005. The group is based in Washington and has numerous field representatives across the country.

* * *

Hunter, the Mold-Sniffing Dog

WYNNEWOOD, Pennsylvania, April 28, 2005 (ENS) - Hunter, the Philadelphia area's first four-legged mold detective is a black lab mix rescued from the humane society in Florida. Hunter was trained by the Florida Canine Academy to sniff out and alert home and business owners to mold that is not visible.

Hunter is the only mold detection dog of his kind in the Philadelphia area and one of only 52 mold detection dogs in the United States.

Hunter works with Craig Camel, of Advanced Mold Diagnostics, who deals with mold in homes and businesses. A certified mold remediator, Camel has over 20 years of experience in the construction industry, 12 of those years in waterproofing commercial and residential buildings, and six of them doing investigations of moisture intrusion issues related to mold.

Camel said, "Eighty percent of what we find in investigations is hidden from view behind walls and beneath flooring. In the past we would just figure out which rooms had mold and then gut them - a very expensive solution. The certified mold detection dogs are the answer."

"The dogs are trained not to alert to the mold spores per say, but to alert to the odors that molds produce as they digest your drywall, carpet, furniture," said Camel.

Bill Whitstine, certified master trainer at Florida Canine Academy, who already trained bomb, drug and arson dogs, was approached by the insurance industry six years ago and asked if dogs could be trained to sniff out mold.

Whitstine was intrigued with the challenge and while working with Auburn University on this research, he determined that dogs could be trained to detect hidden mold.

Hunter had over 800 hours of initial training with Whitstine and has had over 1,000 additional work and training with Camel over the past year.

Hunter is very adept at finding hidden sources of mold, which in turn reduces cleanup costs, Camel says. "He has a personality that endears people to him and he loves getting the praise for a job well done."

Find out more about Advanced Mold Diagnostics at: http://www.advancedmolddog.com

* * *