AmeriScan: April 20, 2006

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Military Prepares Food, Water for 2006 Hurricane Victims

FORT BELVOIR, Virginia, April 20, 2006 (ENS) - Following an unprecedented domestic disaster relief effort in 2005, Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) officials here say their agency is ready to provide support during the 2006 hurricane season, which begins June 1.

DLA provides supply support, and technical and logistics services to the military services and to several civilian agencies. The agency is the one source for nearly every consumable item, whether for combat readiness, emergency preparedness, or day-to-day operations.

A recently completed agencywide review of DLA's response to domestic disasters in 2005 was an opportunity for the headquarters and field activities staff to assess agency support, which cost the agency $476.6 million; evaluate actions necessary to improve that support; and be prepared for similar missions in 2006, officials said.

To ensure effective relief support during the upcoming hurricane season, DLA co-hosted a domestic disaster response logistics working group meeting last week in Springfield, Virginia, along with several top-level Pentagon organizations - the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics; the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense; and the Joint Staff Logistics Directorate.

The working group participants included U.S. Northern Command, U.S. Transportation Command, the National Guard Bureau, Army Materiel Command and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The meeting focused on the synchronization of ongoing logistics preparation for domestic disasters.

"This was the second of several partnering efforts to ensure we are poised to provide support in the event of a domestic disaster," said Col. Eric Smith, chief of the DLA Logistics Operations Center.

DLA's preparations for 2006 disaster relief efforts included signing an interagency agreement with FEMA, resulting in sales of $67 million and allowing for advance coordination between the agencies.

The Defense Supply Center Philadelphia, a DLA field activity, has worked out agreements with suppliers to provide commercial meals quickly in the event of a disaster. Commercial meals are better matched to the general population's nutritional and caloric requirements than military rations are, officials said.

DLA is prepared to store and manage three million military ration meals purchased by FEMA to provide an interim feeding solution until alternative meals are delivered by commercial sources.

The Defense Distribution Center (DDC) has reviewed "first to go" stocks and is redistributing them to facilitate more rapid response to disaster sites. This effort is ongoing throughout April and is expected to be completed by May 1. This is being undertaken to complement FEMA's Scaled Disaster Response Plan Requirement.

The Deployable Distribution Depot will be capable of providing distribution services for 200,000 persons per day. The initial operating capability will be able to receive, store, issue and maintain in-transit visibility and positive asset control of relief commodities. Currently, the DDC is assembling and training the work force to support these functions.

DDC will track all shipments during transit with Internet monitoring. This effort has been coordinated with FEMA, the U.S. Northern Command, and the U.S. Transportation Command. In addition, a color-coded placard system will be used on each shipment to enable quick visual identification of the types of commodity being shipped.

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U.S. Tsunami Warning System Expands

WASHINGTON, DC, April 20, 2006 (ENS) - To strengthen the U.S. tsunami warning system, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has installed five deep ocean assessment and reporting of tsunami (DART) buoy stations off the U.S. East and Gulf coasts and the Caribbean.

The latest buoy station, off the coast of Louisiana, joins stations off South Carolina, Florida and two off Puerto Rico.

"These buoys are a first line of defense in providing citizens of the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf regions with a comprehensive tsunami warning system," said NOAA Administrator Conrad Lautenbacher.

A tsunami is an ocean wave produced by a sub-marine earthquake, landslide, or volcanic eruption. These waves can reach enormous dimensions and travel across entire oceans.

"The DART stations are an advanced technology, that will help protect densely populated tourist destinations in the regions and protect their economic resources," Lautenbacher said.

NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle designed and built the DART system to provide real-time tsunami detection as waves travel across the open ocean.

The newly installed stations, called DART II, are a more robust design than previously installed stations. DART II stations are equipped with advanced two-way satellite communications that let forecasters receive and retrieve critical data, NOAA said.

The agency expects the network to total 39 DART II buoy stations by 2008 – 32 in the Pacific and seven in the Atlantic Basin.

NOAA received more than $17 million in supplemental funding in fiscal year 2005 and almost $9.7 million in fiscal year 2006 to expand the U.S. tsunami warning system.

Since receiving the funding, NOAA's tsunami warning centers have expanded their services to provide tsunami watches and warnings to the entire U.S. Atlantic Coast, Gulf of Mexico, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Eastern Canada.

These regions now can receive tsunami warnings and watches through NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards and the Emergency Alert System, just as they would be notified of tornadoes, flooding or other hazards.

Internationally, through the U.S. Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System program, U.S. agencies will spend $16.6 million over two years to help develop early warning capabilities for tsunamis and other hazards in the Indian Ocean, and support the International Oceanographic Commission in developing an international warning system for 16 countries.

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Pennsylvania Makes Ecoterrorism a Criminal Offense

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania, April 20, 2006 (ENS) - Pennsylvania has passed a law that amends the state's criminal code to include the offense of ecoterrorism.

Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell said the state will be better able to protect people from intimidation and natural resources from unlawful acts of desecration with the new offense on the books. He signed the bill into law last week and it will take effect in mid-June.

Upon signing the bill, Rendell said, "In the last decade our nation has witnessed an increasing number of costly and dangerous acts of destruction of property - in the name of animal rights or environmental protection. Most of these protests are lodged against pharmaceutical and other companies that are in the business of developing new medicines to provide treatments and cures for deadly diseases."

"Those who oppose animal research certainly have the right to use the political process to express their views," the governor said. "But if they intentionally destroy property as part of their protest they should be charged accordingly for any property crimes they have committed. These persons should receive additional punishment because their conduct is intended to intimidate and stop lawful activities."

"Destroying property, intimidating Pennsylvania residents or illegally confiscating animals as a way of political protest will not be tolerated in Pennsylvania," said the governor.

Rendell said that in considering this bill, he met with animal rights activists who shared with him their concern for their free speech rights. "This bill does not infringe upon those rights," he said.

Those in favor of this bill gave specific examples of property destruction that the governor found to be compelling reasons to sign the legislation.

"One telling example comes from W.B. Saul Agricultural High School in southeast Pennsylvania," said Rendell. "This public high school has been targeted by militant animal rights activists who have not stopped at peaceful protest, but who have vandalized the school, stealing animals and destroying property."

Rendell was referring to an incident in April 2004 when 48 animals were stolen from the school in Roxborough, near Philadelphia, the largest agricultural high school in America. Dogs, gerbils, chinchillas, hamsters, rats, mice and a ferret were taken. "Go experiment on yourselves We're free - the animals," was spray-painted on the school's dog kennel.

"That conduct is not protected speech," the governor said.

In Pennsylvania, ecoterrorism now is defined as a person committing one of a number of "specified offenses against property" with the intent to intimidate or coerce another individual lawfully participating in an activity which involves animals, plants, or natural resources.

Specified offenses include certain arson offenses, causing or risking catastrophe, criminal mischief, institutional vandalism, agricultural vandalism, agricultural crop destruction, burglary if committed in order to commit another specified offense, criminal trespass if the crime is committed in order to threaten or terrorize the owner or occupant of the premises.

The law stiffens penalties for these offenses if they are committed as acts of ecoterrorism. A person who is found guilty of ecoterrorism will be ordered to pay restitution in an amount up to triple the value of the damages incurred as a result of the specified offense.

The bill also provides that a person exercising his right of freedom of petition or freedom of speech under the United States Constitution or the Constitution of Pennsylvania on public property or with the permission of the landowner and is peaceably demonstrating or exercising those rights is immune from prosecution or civil liability for ecoterrorism.

Under the new law, a person aggrieved by an act of ecoterrorism may now sue for compensatory damages, punitive damages, and litigation expenses. The aggrieved party may also petition for injunctive relief, in which case the court may issue a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunctions, or permanent injunction.

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Sei Whale Dragged Into Chesapeake Bay by Container Ship

BALTIMORE, Maryland, April 20, 2006 (ENS) - A rare sei whale found dead on the bow of a ship in Baltimore's Patapsco River Tuesday was probably struck by the 800 foot long container ship in the Atlantic Ocean, state and federal officials said.

The 35 foot long whale was then likely carried along on the ship's bow into Chesapeake Bay, according to Cindy Driscoll, director of fish and wildlife health programs at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Driscoll said the whale had broken bones and showed signs of internal bleeding.

The ship, the MSC Johannesburg, had arrived from Boston and was making its way through the Chesapeake Bay to the Seagirt Marine Terminal when the whale was observed attached to the bow.

After the ship got to the terminal, the 17,000-pound male whale was loaded onto a flatbed truck with a crane and taken to the Quarantine Road Sanitary Landfill at Curtis Bay for a necropsy.

Marine biologists conducted the necropsy on Tuesday in an attempt to determine how the whale become stuck on the ship and whether it was alive or dead at the time the ship picked it up.

Sei whales, are large, just slightly smaller than the largest species, blue whales. They occur in deep oceans worldwide from subtropical or tropical waters to high latitudes of the sub-Arctic and sub-Antarctic.

An estimated 2,000 sei whales are believed to survive in U.S. waters, but the International Whaling Commission has not conducted population studies on this species. Whales of any species are rarely found alive or dead in Maryland waters.

For years, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has been considering imposing speed limits on ships to prevent ship strikes on endangered North Atlantic right whales, of which about 300 remain. If speed limits are adopted, they might benefit other species as well.

According to a NOAA study, between 2000 and 2004, 42 ships reported striking whales along the Atlantic Coast, resulting in 21 deaths.

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Lawsuit Planned to Keep Oregon Salmon Under Federal Protection

PORTLAND, Oregon, April 20, 2006 (ENS) - Fishing and conservation groups have announced a legal challenge to a decision by federal fisheries officials to remove protection for Oregon Coast coho under the federal Endangered Species Act.

“Oregon coast coho are still on life support, and their recovery depends on protecting and restoring the rivers and streams these fish depend on to feed and breed,” said Dr. Chris Frissell, former Oregon State salmon biologist and Senior Staff Scientist with The Pacific Rivers Council. “Now is no time to abandon the vital habitat protection for these fish under the Endangered Species Act.”

NOAA Fisheries’ January decision to remove federal protection for Oregon Coast coho under the Endangered Species Act led to the notice of intent to sue filed Monday by the groups.

NOAA Fisheries agreed with an in-depth assessment by the state of Oregon that found state actions to reform harvest and hatcheries had helped turn the coho population around, and that the population’s ability to rebound from very low levels demonstrated that it is likely to persist into the future.

Once a staple of Oregon’s salmon fishing fleet, and now off-limits to commercial fishermen, coastal coho runs have sharply declined after a small surge in 2002. Coho are still returning in numbers that scientists say fall short of full recovery.

Fishermen worry they will never see a return of their once profitable coho fishing seasons if coho numbers fall due to further habitat loss.

“Now is not the time to slack off on habitat protections for coho salmon, or we risk another Klamath-type crisis,” said Glen Spain, with the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. “Eliminating these protections shifts the conservation burden onto the backs of fishermen, without protecting the rivers and streams the coho depend on. Without federal habitat protections, there is no assurance the coho will recover or that draconian fishing restrictions will ever be lifted.”

"Good quality freshwater habitat is the backbone that supports coastal coho populations during these times of changing ocean conditions," said Dr. Jack Williams, senior scientist for Trout Unlimited. "Removing federal habitat protections now will only undermine the progress that’s been made.”

“We are not certain what will be the full biological implications for Pacific salmon production over the next few years, but we are relatively confident that for some, such as Oregon Coast coho, the negative effects could be dramatic,” NOAA scientists warned in a 2005 memo to NOAA Fisheries Northwest regional administrator Bob Lohn.

“The various indicators developed by the [NOAA Fisheries Science] Center scientists suggest that recent ocean conditions will result in low returns of Oregon Coast and Columbia River salmon for this year and possibly for the next few years,” the memo states.

Annoucing that that Oregon Coast coho are not likely to become endangered and will not be listed under the Endangered Species Act, Lohn said in January, “This administration remains solidly committed to recovering Pacific salmon. I applaud the hard work of local agriculture, forestry, state, tribal and other federal partners to develop a solid plan for recovery."

But the fishing and conservation groups notified NOAA Fisheries Monday that its decision not to list Oregon Coast coho violates federal law and sound science. The groups, represented by Patti Goldman and Jan Hasselman of Earthjustice, are the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, Institute for Fisheries Resources, Pacific Rivers Council, Trout Unlimited, Oregon Natural Resources Council, Native Fish Society, and Umpqua Watersheds.

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EPA Adds Six Hazardous Sites to Superfund List

WASHINGTON, DC, April 20, 2006 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is adding six new hazardous waste sites that pose risks to human health and the environment to the National Priorities List of Superfund sites, bringing the total number of sites on the list to 1,244. EPA is also proposing to add four other sites to the list.

Contaminants found at these final and proposed sites include benzene, carbon tetrachloride, chromium, creosote, mercury, N-nitrosodimethylamine (NMDA), carcinogenic polyaromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) compounds, toluene, trichloroethene (TCE), tetrachloroethene (PCE), vinyl chloride, and other volatile organic compounds.

The six sites added to the Superfund List are:

Proposed for the Superfund List are: With the proposal of the four new sites, there are 59 proposed sites awaiting final agency action - 54 in the general Superfund section and five in the federal facilities section. Altogether, there are 1,303 final and proposed sites.

In addition, EPA is proposing to restore the Ringwood Mines/Landfill site in New Jersey to the National Priorities List. The site was originally added to the list September 1, 1983 and deleted November 2, 1994.

In January, attorneys representing the Ramapough Mountain Tribe and other residents of Ringwood, New Jersey filed a lawsuit against Ford Motor Company and other defendants for property damage and personal injuries allegedly caused by the improper disposal of toxic waste from Ford’s former Mahwah, New Jersey automobile plant at the Ringwood Mines/Landfill site.

Also, the EPA is withdrawing the proposal to add the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant in De Soto, Kansas, to the list.

With all Superfund sites, EPA tries to identify and locate the parties potentially responsible for the contamination. Historically, through EPA's enforcement program, approximately 70 percent of Superfund cleanups have been performed by the parties responsible for site contamination.

For the newly listed sites without viable potentially responsible parties, EPA will investigate the full extent of the contamination before starting cleanup at the site, so it may be several years before cleanup funding is required for these sites.

Sites may be placed on the Superfund List in several ways. If a site is ranked particularly hazardous according to EPA's Hazard Ranking System. States or territories can each designate one top priority site.

Or a site can be placed on the Superfund List if it meets all three of the following requirements:

  • The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry of the U.S. Public Health Service has issued a health advisory that recommends removing people from the site
  • EPA determines the site poses a significant threat to public health
  • EPA anticipates it will be more cost-effective to use its remedial authority than to use its emergency removal authority to respond to the site

    For Federal Register notices and supporting documents for these final and proposed sites: http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/npl/current.htm

    For the ENS story on the Ringwood Mines/Landfill site, click here.

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    Willie Nelson Wins EPA Award for Biodiesel Station

    WASHINGTON, DC, April 18, 2006 (ENS) - SAN FRANCISCO, California, April 20, 2006 (ENS) - Musician Willie Nelson, who opened the first California biodiesel outlet in San Diego, has been honored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). During the EPA's eighth annual Environmental Awards Ceremony in San Francisco, Wednesday, EPA Regional Administrator Wayne Nastri presented a plaque to Nelson and to 38 other organizations and individuals throughout the Pacific Southwest in recognition of their efforts to protect and preserve the environment in 2005. Of Nelson, the EPA said, "He is a model of the socially committed entertainer." The EPA considers Nelson committed to biodiesel, a clean and renewable form of energy that uses only natural oils and fats for production. The pollution created by diesel trucks and the potential to reinvigorate American farmers by jump-starting a massive agricultural demand for soy and canola oils were the inspiration for Nelson's project. With four partners, Nelson started the Biodiesel Venture GP, LLC partnership in December 2004. The idea, he says, "is to do something useful towards eliminating America's dependence on foreign oil, help put the the American family farmer back to work and clean up the environment we live in." The clean burning, renewable diesel fuel replacement is made from vegetable oils or animal fats. The methyl ester of vegetable oil, it is very similar to the petrochemical based diesel fuel that it replaces, so does not require any vehicle or storage modifications. Using biodiesel reduces tailpipe emissions. On the Willie Nelson Biodiesel website the company explains that burning biodiesel reduces carbon dioxide exhaust emissions by up to 80 percent over petroleum diesel. Biodiesel produces 100 percent less sulfur dioxide than petroleum based diesel, and sulfur dioxide is the major component of acid rain. Biodiesel reduces exhaust smoke emissions by up to 75 percent so the usual black cloud associated with a diesel engine can be eliminated. Distribution Drive, distributor of Willie Nelson Biodiesel, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Earth Biofuels, Inc., a publicly traded company.

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