Pot Growing on Public Lands Fires California Lawmakers' WrathWASHINGTON, DC, August 1, 2005 (ENS) - Marijuana cultivation on public lands in California has some members of the state's Congressional delegation smoldering.
Representatives Jerry Lewis, George Radanovich and Mary Bono, all Republicans, and Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, Friday called on the National Park Service to address the problem of illegal marijuana cultivation on public lands. Separately, Feinstein, Lewis and Radanovich urged the U.S. Forest Service to take similar action.
In a letter to National Park Service Director Fran Mainella, the legislators write, "We are stunned by the fact that in 2004 alone, authorities seized 200,000 marijuana plants worth approximately $800 million dollars in a single California county, Tulare County. Most of these marijuana plants were cultivated, presumably by individuals linked to Mexican drug cartels, in both the Sequoia National Park and Sequoia National Forest.
"National Park Rangers have reported that many of these individuals engaged in cultivating marijuana plants on these public lands are armed with semi-automatic pistols and assault rifles - unquestionably posing a grave threat to park resources, visitors, employees, and residents of surrounding communities," the lawmakers write.
"These drug growers and traders are utilizing parts of Joshua Tree National Park and the Mojave National Preserve as thoroughfares for marijuana drug smuggling into Mexico," they write. "Public land marijuana cultivation has become one of the most profitable moneymakers for these Mexican drug cartels."
The California lawmakers say they are concerned that the House-Senate Conference Committee on the FY 2006 Interior Appropriations bill did not earmark staff positions to address this problem, "in deference to the Service's need for flexibility in allocating staff resources."
"We now ask that you utilize that flexibility to apply sufficient law enforcement resources towards ending illegal drug cultivation in the National Parks," they wrote.
In a nearly identical letter to U.S. Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth, the California legislators ask that marijuana cultivation in the Sequoia National Forest and Sequoia National Park be ended.
The legislators asked the National Park Service Director to come up with a multi-year plan to resolve the problem, including an estimate of the extent of this criminal activity, what additional law enforcement personnel are needed and coordination with other law enforcement agencies, and plans for rehabilitation of the park resources damaged by the marijuana plantations.
EPA Power Plant Emission Plan Not Enough for North CarolinaWASHINGTON, DC, August 1, 2005 (ENS) - To ensure emissions reductions required under the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) are achieved, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing a federal implementation plan to require power plants in CAIR states to participate in one or more of three separate cap and trade programs.
CAIR, finalized last March, established a cap and trade program that will reduce, over the next 10 years, sulfur dioxide pollution by about 73 percent and oxides of nitrogen pollution by 61 percent from power plants in eastern and Midwestern states.
As part of this action, the EPA also is responding to North Carolina's March 2004 petition under section 126 of the Clean Air Act.
Today's EPA action was prompted by lawsuits brought by the state of North Carolina, Environmental Defense and the Southern Environmental Law Center that compelled the EPA to act on North Carolina's so-called good neighbor petition to address upwind power plant pollution.
Under a court ordered settlement, EPA had until today to announce a plan to ensure pollution reductions in the 13 upwind states that most pollute North Carolina’s air. But implementation of the federal plan may not be a full remedy for the dirty air being transported into North Carolina.
Environmental Defense and the Southern Environmental Law Center said the EPA plan will ensure timely implementation of the Clean Air Interstate Rule in 28 states and the District of Columbia, but the rule falls short of fully addressing North Carolina's concerns about upwind power plant pollution.
As part of today's proposal, EPA is finding that emissions from 10 states significantly contribute to fine particle pollution in North Carolina. The agency is proposing to address that portion of the petition through the proposed federal implementation plan that requires participation in the cap and trade programs.
But the EPA says that its analyses show that upwind states do not contribute to ozone problems in North Carolina, which is expected to meet the 8-hour ozone standard by 2010. Based on those analyses, EPA is proposing to deny the portion of North Carolina's petition related to ozone.
North Carolina filed the petition under Section 126 of the Clean Air Act, which authorizes states to ask the EPA to set emission controls for major emissions sources in upwind states, if EPA finds that the sources significantly contribute to nonattainment problems in downwind states. Under a consent agreement, EPA must issue a final response to the petition by March 15, 2006.
"With today's action, we are another step closer to cutting and capping power plant pollution in the eastern United States by almost 70 percent below today's levels," said Jeff Holmstead, EPA's assistant administrator for air and radiation. "North Carolina is reducing pollution already, and our action will make the state's air cleaner still, ensuring that it meets federal air quality standards on time."
But Michael Shore, Environmental Defense senior air policy analys, said, "EPA just strengthened its hand to make sure states implement clean air rules on time and on target, but it failed to take the extra steps to fully address the pollution blowing into North Carolina. EPA's action provides a federal backstop to ensure 28 states carry out their obligations to improve air quality, but it doesn't fix North Carolina's dirty air problem."
That is what North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper anticipated on July 5 when he filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and also filed a petition for reconsideration with the EPA.
“While we generally support EPA’s new standards to clean our air, we fear that loopholes in this [CAIR] Rule will give power plants in other states the ability to send additional pollution our way,” Cooper said. “By making these challenges, we hope to keep North Carolina’s own clean air standards working.”
The proposed federal implementation plan would require power plants in the 28 CAIR states and the District of Columbia to participate in cap and trade programs to reduce annual sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions, annual nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, and ozone season NOx emissions.
EPA also is proposing the federal implementation plan for New Jersey and Delaware, based on a proposal to include those states in CAIR for fine particle pollution.
The federal implementation plan would not limit states' flexibility in meeting their CAIR requirements. The EPA would withdraw the federal plan for any state once that state's own plan for meeting CAIR requirements is in place.
CAIR will result in more than $100 billion in health and visibility benefits per year by 2015 and will substantially reduce premature mortality in the eastern United States, the EPA claims.
The EPA will hold public hearings on this proposal on September 14, 2005, at EPA's offices in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina and September 15, 2005 at EPA's offices in Washington, DC. The agency also will accept written public comment for 60 days after the rule is published in the Federal Register. To learn more about this action, visit: http://epa.gov/cair/rule.html
Federal Proposal Would Slash Miners' Asbestos ExposureARLINGTON, Virginia, August 1, 2005 (ENS) - The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) proposed a rule on Friday that would reduce by 20 times miners' permissible exposure limit (PEL) to asbestos.
The rule would lower the current exposure limit for eight hour work shifts from two fibers per cubic centimeter to 0.1 fibers per cubic centimeter.
Asbestos is the generic term for a group of minerals that occur naturally as long, thin fibers. Some adverse health effects associated with exposure to asbestos are lung diseases, such as cancer, pulmonary fibrosis, asbestosis and mesothelioma.
"This lowered PEL would help improve the health of American miners," said David Dye, deputy assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "We are fully committed to fulfilling our mission of protecting the health and safety of America's miners."
The proposed rule would affect miners at all metal and nonmetal mines, surface coal mines, and surface areas of underground coal mines in the United States.
The proposed regulations would lower the short-term excursion limit from 10 fibers per cubic centimeter sampled over 15 minutes to one fiber per cubic centimeter sampled over 30 minutes;
The proposal provides for continued coverage of the same asbestos minerals as are addressed in MSHA's existing standards - these minerals are called the "federal six" and are the same as those regulated by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).
An estimated 1.3 million employees in construction and general industry face significant asbestos exposure on the job, according to OSHA. Heaviest exposures occur in the construction industry, particularly during the removal of asbestos during renovation or demolition.
Employees are also likely to be exposed during the manufacture of asbestos products such as textiles, friction products, insulation, and other building materials, and during automotive brake and clutch repair work.
Written comments on this proposed rulemaking should be submitted within 60 days to the MSHA Office of Standards, Regulations and Variances, 1100 Wilson Blvd., Room 2350, Arlington, Va. 22209-3939; fax 202-693-9441. Comments may be submitted at: www.regulations.gov, or by e-mail to zzMSHA- firstname.lastname@example.org, inserting RIN: 1219-AB24 in the subject line.
Public hearings about the proposed rule are scheduled for Denver and Arlington, Virginia. MSHA's website at www.msha.gov has a hearing schedule and a link to the proposed rule, which is in Friday's Federal Register.
Non-Stick Chemical 80 Times Normal Levels in Ohioans' BloodPHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania, August 1, 2005 (ENS) - Water contaminated with C8, a chemical used in the production of non-stick cookware, is responsible for high levels of the chemical in the blood of residents in four southeastern Ohio communities, new government sponsored research shows.
C8 is the commonly used name for perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA - a chemical used in the production of fluoropolymers. Fluoropolymers are used to make non-stick surfaces for cookware and in the manufacture of clothing, carpeting, and other products resistant to grease, water, and stains. According to manufacturers, C8 is not present in the final products. C8 is very persistent in the environment and is not biograded. Once inside the human body, it is very slowly eliminated.
C8 levels more than 60 to 80 times higher than those typically found in the general population were measured in the nation's first government sponsored epidemiological study of C8 levels in the blood of residents of a four-community region of southeastern Ohio.
A random sample of 326 residents was selected from 160 households in Belpre, Little Hocking, Cutler, and Vincent. All four communities are situated across the Ohio River from a facility where C8 is used in the manufacture of Teflon, a nonstick coating on cookware.
C8 is known to have contaminated the residential water supplies of communities near the plant. Parts of Little Hocking and Belpre are immediately across the river from the plant and could be subject to air pollution from the plant.
Cutler and Vincent are several miles from the plant and would not be expected to have exposure to air pollution from the plant. However, all four communities share the same water supply.
Lead researcher Edward Emmett, MD, professor of occupational and environmental medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, said, "The C8 levels were high in all four communities, with no significant contribution from air pollution. As a result, we have concluded that the major source of the C8 in the residents' bodies is the contaminated water supply."
Excluded from the study were residents who reported occupational exposure from working with C8, such as those employed by the nearby chemical plant for greater than one year and within the past 10 years. Yet even with the elimination of these people, the researchers observed C8 levels in some study participants that approached or overlapped C8 levels reported in some earlier studies of individuals who work directly with C8.
The study, which is independent of any corporation, law firm, or class-action suit, is funded through a four year Environmental Justice Partnership grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. It is designed as a collaboration among environmental health scientists at Penn's School of Medicine, the Decatur Community Association in Cutler, Ohio, and a local physician affiliated with Grand Central Family Medicine in Parkersburg, West Virginia.
The potential impacts of C8 on public health are still under investigation, the researchers say.
Exposure to high concentrations of C8 over long durations has been shown to cause tumors in some test animals, but scientists are not certain that C8 would cause the same effects in humans. Epidemiologic studies of occupational groups have not found consistent associations between C8 and health effects, but concerns about toxicity to human populations persist. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the source of the C8 found in the general population is unknown at this time.
Dr. Emmett said that appropriate health, environment, and water authorities for the affected study population have been notified of the preliminary results of the Penn study, and analysis of the results continues. Information beyond these preliminary findings will be released at a community meeting, scheduled for 7 pm , on August 15, at the Warren High School Auditorium, 130 Warrior Drive, in Vincent, Ohio.
EPA Hands Indoor Air Contract to Environmental Education FoundationWASHINGTON, DC, August 1, 2005 - The nonprofit, nongovernmental Environmental Education Foundation (EEF) has won a contract to promote the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) indoor air quality guidance and encourage its use as the basis for managing indoor environmental quality risks such as water and mold damage.
“This is an industry-changing initiative,” says EEF Executive Director Troy Johnson. “With its adoption by a myriad of industry partners, this is quickly becoming the standard for managing indoor air quality in commercial and multifamily residential buildings.”
To promote the federal guidance, EEE will form a coalition of companies in the building design and construction and property management industry, including insurance and financial institutions.
Managing indoor environmental quality risks has gained importance with the advent of large court settlements for personal injury and for mold related damage to homes and commercial buildings.
The impact of mold damage litigation has been most evident in the insurance industry, but lenders are beginning to evaluate the impact mold can have on the value of commercial and residential properties. A few cases of lenders “forgiving” mortgages, as it is less risk than taking ownership of the properties, are being reported.
EEF’s success in developing its own indoor air quality program that addresses water intrusion and mold management has positioned the organization to be a viable force in EPA’s plans for managing indoor environmental quality risks, says Johnson.
A combination of EPA’s IAQ Building Education and Assessment Model (I-BEAM) software and EEF’s water intrusion and mold management program are providing new guidance for any industry dealing with air quality issues.
With its text, animation/visual, and interactive/calculation components, the Indoor Air Quality Building Education and Assessment guidance (I-BEAM) was designed to be used by building professionals and others interested in indoor air quality in commercial buildings.
As part of the contract, EEF will develop a process to pilot test an EPA training module for the Integration of Indoor Air Quality and Energy Efficiency in Well Managed Buildings, which is based on the five-stage Energy Star program, a government program that certifies appliances and buildings for energy efficiency.
EEF also will review EPA’s Indoor Air Quality Green Building Guidance.
“This process will help the EPA promote good practices, or improved best practices, using a combination of EPA material, EPA I-BEAM software and EEF training that is accepted by all,” Johnson said.
“Our program is recognized by major insurance carriers for meeting certain underwriter requirements for obtaining mold insurance,” Johnson said. “The commercial building owners and property managers, who want to get mold insurance for their buildings, can take our course and become a member of our organization. In addition, the course is also being used by lenders as a requirement for their borrowers to have in place.”
Environmental Educational Foundation partners with many government and non-governmental agencies and consults with the United Nations on Environmental, Health and Safety issues. Visit: www.enviro-ed.org
Marine Mammal Center Opens New California Coastal Facility
SAUSALITO, California, August 1, 2005 (ENS) - The Marine Mammal Center will hold a ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday to celebrate the opening of its new field triage office site in Morro Bay.
The site, located on Duke Energy land, includes a new building which will contain offices, a food preparation area, medical room and six fenced pens to temporarily house animal patients.
The much-needed facilities in Morro Bay will help area volunteers quickly treat minor seal and otter injuries and ailments on site and provide temporary recuperation housing for animals.
“The opening of this field office is a dream come true and will allow us to quickly and efficiently rescue and treat even more marine mammals that strand along the central coast,” said B.J. Griffin, executive director of The Marine Mammal Center.
The field office will be located on two acres of land on the southeast corner of the Duke power plant facility in Morro Bay. Duke is leasing the parcel to The Center for $1 for the next 20 years. Duke provides The Center with a similar in-kind donation for a field office at its power plant in Moss Landing.
“We’re extremely happy that we can provide the land that will become the launch pad of operations for The Marine Mammal Center to continue to rescue seals and sea lions here on the central coast,” said Randy Hickok, vice president for Duke Energy. “This is an important initiative and represents a significant opportunity for us to further our eight year relationship with The Center.”
The Marine Mammal Center is sub-leasing a portion of the $1 million property to Pacific Wildlife Care, an all volunteer organization dedicated to rehabilitating orphaned and ill birds, raccoons and other wildlife.
Celebrating its 30th year in 2005, The Marine Mammal Center is a nonprofit hospital dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of ill and injured marine mammals, and to research about their health and diseases.
Over its 30 year history, volunteers and staff have treated more than 10,000 California sea lions, elephant seals, porpoises, and other marine animals along 600 miles of coastline from Mendocino County to San Luis Obispo County.
The Center treats more marine mammals than any other institution of its kind in the world, combining its rehabilitation program with scientific discovery and education programs to advance the understanding of marine mammal health, ocean health and conservation.
In 2004, volunteers rescued 150 marine mammals within the Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo regions. The new site will give volunteers the ability to treat minor injuries such as entanglements and malnutrition, on location and then release the animals back into their familiar habitats.
Before the new facility was built, rescued animals stayed overnight in specially equipped, volunteer-owned garages and were transported the next day to the main hospital in Sausalito for further treatment and rehabilitation. Seriously injured or diseased animals will still be taken to the Sausalito facility for extensive medical care.
New Jersey Workshops Assist Open Space Funding Applicants
TRENTON, New Jersey, August 1, 2005 (ENS) - The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Green Acres Program and the Environmental Infrastructure Financing Program will hold six informational workshops in August and September to guide municipal and county officials and nonprofit organizations through the state-funding application process.
Topics to be discussed at the workshops include Green Acres Funding for Land Preservation and Park Development, Elements of a Land Transaction, Stewardship Issues, Historic Preservation Trust Funding and the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Financing Program (EIFP).
During the workshops, DEP will encourage municipal and county government applicants who have a project with a water quality benefit to apply to the EIFP for acquisition funds.
The EIFP is a partnership between the DEP and the NJ Environmental Infrastructure Trust. The EIFP provides low-cost financing to municipal, county, and other local government units as well as to water purveyors for the construction of wastewater, drinking water and storm water or nonpoint source pollution management projects, including open space acquisition that provides a water quality benefit.
This year's workshops are scheduled for:
Find out more at: DEP Green Acres at: http://www.nj.gov/dep/greenacres and at the NJ Environmental Infrastructure Trust at: http://www.njeit.org