AmeriScan: February 21, 2005

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Bush Mentions Climate in First European Speech of New Term

BRUSSELS, Belgium, February 21, 2005 (ENS) - President George W. Bush, in Brussels to mend fences with European leaders, put the emphasis on technology as the way to address what he called "the serious, long-term challenge of global climate change."

Addressing European dignitaries at the fashionable Concert Noble hall, the President said, "Our alliance is determined to show good stewardship of the Earth."

"All of us expressed our views on the Kyoto Protocol," he said, "and now we must work together on the way forward." While the European Union and all of its 25 member states have ratified the protocol, agreeing to limit their emissions of six greenhouse gases, Bush has declined to do so, saying such limits would hurt the U.S. economy.

Instead, said Bush, technology is the answer to global warming.

"Emerging technologies such as hydrogen-powered vehicles, electricity from renewable energy sources, clean coal technology, will encourage economic growth that is environmentally responsible. By researching, by developing, by promoting new technologies across the world, all nations, including the developing countries can advance economically, while slowing the growth in global greenhouse gases and avoid pollutants that undermine public health."

"All of us can use the power of human ingenuity to improve the environment for generations to come," said the President.

European Economic and Social Committee President Anne-Marie Sigmund Declaration reacted by saying, "A reinforced transatlantic dialogue will be beneficial to the rest of the world."

"Public opinion on both sides of the Atlantic shows common ground as well as differences," she said, emphasizing shared views on social and environmental issues.

"While the differences are more distinct in foreign policy issues, there is common ground on economic, social and environmental issues. Continuous and intense dialogue is necessary not only in the long-term interests of the EU and the U.S., but also for the rest of the world."

"On the economic side, there is a long-standing debate on a Transatlantic Free Trade Area," said Sigmund. "An approach is required which combines the economic, social and environmental dimension based on economic, social and territorial cohesion."

"Although economic issues have been at the forefront of transatlantic cooperation," she said, "other aspects should also be included, for example environment and climate change. It is to be regretted that the social dimension of the relationship is hardly mentioned."

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Warming Measured in Oceans Matches Climate Models

SAN DIEGO, California, February 21, 2005 (ENS) - Scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, and their colleagues have published what they say is the first clear evidence of human-produced warming in the world's oceans. They say their findings remove much of the uncertainty about global warming.

New research conducted with colleagues at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison (PCMDI), Tim Barnett and David Pierce of Scripps used a combination of computer models and real-world "observed" data to capture signals of the penetration of greenhouse gas influenced warming in the oceans.

Barnett, a research marine physicist in the Climate Research Division at Scripps, and his team, used computer models from the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom of climate to calculate human produced warming over the last 40 years in the world's oceans.

The scientists then compared these predictions with observations made of actual conditions in the water. In all of the ocean basins, the warming signal found in the upper 700 meters predicted by the models corresponded to the measurements obtained at sea with confidence exceeding 95 percent.

The correspondence was especially strong in the upper 500 meters of the water column. It is this high degree of visual agreement and statistical significance that leads Barnett to conclude that the warming is the product of human influence.

Barnett says the computer models reproduced the penetration of the warming signal in all the oceans. "The statistical significance of these results is far too strong to be merely dismissed and should wipe out much of the uncertainty about the reality of global warming."

Efforts to explain the ocean changes through naturally occurring variations in the climate or external forces - such as solar or volcanic factors - did not come close to reproducing the observed warming.

"This is perhaps the most compelling evidence yet that global warming is happening right now and it shows that we can successfully simulate its past and likely future evolution," said Barnett.

At a news briefing Thursday and symposium presentation Friday during the 2005 American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Washington, DC, Barnett explained why the results hold implications for millions of people in the near future.

The climate mechanisms behind the ocean study will produce broad-scale changes across the atmosphere and land, he warned.

In the next several decades, the changes will be felt in regional water supplies, including areas impacted by accelerated glacier melting in the South American Andes and in western China, putting millions of people at risk without adequate summertime water.

Barnett and his colleagues with the Accelerated Climate Prediction Initiative achieved parallel results when they analyzed climate warming impacts on the western United States using one of the models involved in the new study. This earlier study concluded that climate warming will likely alter western snow pack resources and the region's hydrological cycle, posing a water crisis in the western U.S. within 20 years.

"The new ocean study, taken together with the numerous validations of the same models in the atmosphere, portends far broader changes," said Barnett.

"Other parts of the world will face similar problems to those expected - and being observed now - in the western U.S. The skill demonstrated by the climate models in handling the changing planetary heat budget suggests that these scenarios have a high enough probability of actually happening that they need to be taken seriously by decision makers."

In addition to Barnett and Pierce, coauthors of the study include Krishna Achutarao, Peter Gleckler and Benjamin Santer of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

The global climate models used in the study included the Parallel Climate Model from the National Center for Atmospheric Research and Department of Energy and the HadCM3 from the Hadley Centre in the United Kingdom. The sharing of these model results made this study possible, says Barnett.

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Terrorist Threat Eased If Hungry Are Fed

WASHINGTON, DC, February 21, 2005 (ENS) - If the developed world fails to invest more in African agriculture and rural infrastructure to benefit the poor and help them escape poverty, the world will become a much more dangerous place, says economist Per Pinstrup-Andersen.

About one-fifth of the world's population lives in dire poverty, and the already skewed gap between rich and poor keeps growing, he said.

Pinstrup-Andersen is the 2001 World Food Prize laureate and chair of the Science Council for the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, a consortium of 15 international research agricultural centers that focuses on setting priorities for international agricultural research. He also holds the positioin of H.E. Babcock Professor of Food, Nutrition and Public Policy at Cornell University.

Investment in agricultural research to increase productivity is particularly important, said Pinstrup-Andersen. At present, he observes, agricultural science and investment generally benefit affluent farmers and consumers.

Pinstrup-Andersen presented his ideas on how to reduce poverty in Africa through research at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in the Marriott Wardman Park hotel.

Some 800 million people in the world do not have enough to eat, he reminded his colleagues. The consequences of such destitution are malnutrition, environmental degradation and worldwide instability.

These circumstances also leave millions of people with nothing to lose, making them ripe for turning to international terrorism in their frustration, he said, emphasizing that these people need to be heard.

Pinstrup-Andersen focuses his research on developing policies to improve the global food system for the benefit of the nutritional status of low income people. He is the former general director of the International Food Policy Research Institute and is the chair of the AAAS Section on Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.

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EPA Sets Reference Dose for Perchlorate

WASHINGTON, DC, February 21, 2005 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established an official reference dose of 0.0007 mg/kg/day of perchlorate. This level is consistent with the recommended reference dose included in the January 2005 issued by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).

A reference dose is a scientific estimate of a daily exposure level that is not expected to cause adverse health effects in humans.

Perchlorate, the explosive component of solid rocket fuel, can affect the thyroid gland's ability to make essential hormones. For fetuses, infants and children, disruptions in thyroid hormone levels can cause lowered IQ, mental retardation, loss of hearing and speech, and motor skill deficits. Perchlorate contaminates at least 350 drinking water sources in 22 states, and has been found in many important foods including milk, lettuce and other leafy green vegetables.

Perchlorate also has been used in missile and rocket propellants, munitions and fireworks, flares, automobile airbags and pharmaceuticals. It may also occur naturally and has been found in some fertilizer.

The EPA's reference dose, which assumes total intake from both water and food sources, is "appropriate and protective for all populations, including the most sensitive subgroups," the agency says.

Perchlorate exposure has the potential of blocking iodide uptake to the thyroid gland. The National Academy of Sciences identified the non-adverse effect of the inhibition of iodine uptake as the key biochemical event that precedes the occurrence of all potential adverse effects of perchlorate exposure.

The EPA says its reference dose is conservative and health protective because it is designed to prevent the occurrence of any biochemical changes that could lead to adverse health effects.

The selected reference dose contains a 10-fold uncertainty factor to protect the most sensitive population, the fetuses of pregnant women who might have hypothyroidism or iodide deficiency.

This uncertainty factor also covers variability among other human life stages, gender and individual sensitivities, protecting not only adults, but also other sensitive subpopulations such as premature neonates, infants and developing children.

EPA's reference dose for perchlorate will be posted on the agency's online IRIS database, which contains risk information on possible human health effects from exposure to chemical substances in the environment.

EPA's new reference dose translates to a Drinking Water Equivalent Level (DWEL) of 24.5 ppb.

A Drinking Water Equivalent Level (DWEL), which assumes that all of a contaminant comes from drinking water, is the concentration of a contaminant in drinking water that will have no adverse effect with a margin of safety.

Because there is a margin of safety built into the reference dose and the DWEL, exposures above the DWEL are not necessarily considered unsafe, the agency said.

But Renee Sharp, senior analyst for the Environmental Working Group, a research and advocacy organization, points out that this is a hypothetical translation assuming a 154 pound adult male drinking two liters of water per day and getting perchlorate from no other source.

Currently there are no enforceable perchlorate safety standards at the state or federal level. However, Massachusetts has proposed a standard of one part per billion (ppb) in drinking water, and California is considering a drinking water standard of six ppb.

EPA's Superfund cleanup program plans to issue guidance based on the new reference dose.

The perchlorate summary is available on the IRIS web site at: http://www.epa.gov/iris and at: http://www.epa.gov/perchlorate

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Hydrogen Fueling Station Opens in California

CHINO, California, February 21, 2005 (ENS) - Representatives of ChevronTexaco, Hyundai-Kia and UTC Fuel Cells joined Assistant Energy Secretary David Garman Friday at the opening of a hydrogen fueling station in Chino.

The station is part of the Department of Energy's Hydrogen Learning Demonstration, which brings together automobile makers and energy companies to test fuel cell vehicles and hydrogen fueling systems.

In the Chino project, Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage SUVs, powered by fuel cells manufactured by UTC Fuel Cells, will operate throughout Southern California and refuel at the ChevronTexaco hydrogen station.

A feature of this refueling station is the on-site production of hydrogen from natural gas, which already has an existing distribution infrastructure.

This station will have the future capability to convert other renewable fuel sources, such as ethanol, into hydrogen for refueling fuel cell vehicles.

"Projects like this one are very important," said Garman. "On a day- to-day basis, they will give our researchers and scientists on- the-road experience with hydrogen fuel vehicles and demonstrate what we need to do to make these technologies even better. By doing so, it is our hope that these clean, zero-emission vehicles will become as common as the cars we know today."

On November 10, 2004, the first integrated gasoline-hydrogen station in North America opened in Washington, DC, a Shell and General Motors project. This site will be used to refuel GM fuel cell vehicles in the Department of Energy.

The Energy Department supports early, high-risk research to overcome the technical barriers to a hydrogen economy and seeks to make it practical and cost-effective for Americans to choose to use clean, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles by 2020.

Using hydrogen fuel cell vehicles is expected to improve America's energy security by reducing the need for imported oil, as well as help clear air pollution and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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Firms Fined for Contaminants in Seattle's Duwamish River

SEATTLE, Washington, February 21, 2005 (ENS) - A group of current and former owners of a south Seattle, Washington industrial chemical processing site must pay $720,250 for failing to abide by the terms of an agreement to clean up industrial pollutants at the site, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is demanding. The agreement was created in 1993 under the authority of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

Most recently operated by Rhone-Poulenc and now owned by Container Properties LLC, the facility manufactured and processed a wide variety of industrial chemicals until it closed in April 1991.

The site has a long history of above and below ground releases of contaminants such as the toxic solvent toluene, arsenic, cadmium, copper, mineral oil, sulfuric acid and other pollutants. Sampling has detected contamination of groundwater flowing into the Lower Duwamish River which is home to threatened Chinook salmon and depressed steelhead runs. The Lower Duwamish Waterway is a Superfund site.

In a letter to the current and former owners of the property – Container Properties; Bayer CropScience, which is the successor of Rhone-Poulenc Inc.; and Rhodia Inc. – the EPA noted that the companies were required by the 1993 Administrative Order to follow a workplan to construct and operate facilities to prevent contaminants from entering the river.

“Bottom line, these companies had an approved plan to keep this contamination from becoming a worse problem and they didn’t follow through,“ said Mike Bussell, director of the EPA’s Regional Office for Compliance and Enforcement. “We’re very concerned. Contamination of this degree requires serious efforts to clean it up.”

The companies failed to comply with several requirements of the Order. Each company will now be considered a significant non-complier, a term used to identify chronic or recalcitrant violators, or those who deviate substantially from the terms of an order.

EPA officials believe the repeated failure to meet requirements of the 1993 consent order was either a matter of blatant disregard or ignorance of the requirements of the order.

The companies failed to construct the approved groundwater treatment system, including a data recorded. They failed to obtain and retain performance data in accordance with approved Work Plans, they failed to sample the site for contaminants, and they did not maintain operating records or file required reports.

“Let’s hope these penalties re-focus the group’s attention on the seriousness of their cleanup responsibilities to the public living in the South Park area and those who use the river for recreation,” said Bussell.

This is not the first time these companies have paid penalties in connection with their handling of contaminants at the site. In 1998 and 2000, the same group paid penalties of $320,000 and $159,500, respectively, for failing to conduct required cleanup work.

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Nest Watchers Safeguard Arizona's Bald Eagles

PHOENIX, Arizona, February 21, 2005 (ENS) - Eighteen people are sleeping in tents for four months so they can wake up at the crack of dawn to help protect Arizona's bald eagles.

The Arizona Bald Eagle Nestwatch Program began as a weekend volunteer effort by the U.S. Forest Service and Maricopa Audubon Society. Now 19 agencies are involved with the program to monitor bald eagle breeding areas under heavy pressure from human recreational activities.

"It's part of a program that has saved the lives of 44 eagle nestlings since it began in 1978," says James Driscoll, head of the Arizona Game and Fish Department Bald Eagle Management Program. "That's equal to 10 percent of all the eagles that have lived to fly on their own in Arizona since the program started."

The nest watchers protect the eagles while they're nesting and raising young, and they also help educate the public, so people don't disrupt the breeding process. Sometimes people pass by signs marking the boundaries of an eagle closure area.

"We let them know what we're up to and why we're out here," says nest watcher Steven Alsup. "Most people are really interested and didn't realize where they were. Usually, we tell them it's best if they go back out the way they came in, and we haven't had anyone give us too much of a problem about it."

This year's nest watchers began their four month tour of duty on February 4. They will watch nine breeding areas, most along the Salt and Verde rivers in national forests, on Native American lands, and in Maricopa County parks.

The contractors will spend dawn to dusk collecting data about the eagles' behavior and notifying rescuers of any life threatening situations for the birds.

Arizona has 42 breeding pairs of bald eagles. Last year a record 47 nestlings hatched. Biologists hope for a similar number this year, although large amounts of rain have washed sediment into the river systems, which could make it more difficult for the eagles to find food. Nest watchers will play a vital role in monitoring the situation.

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Midwest EPA Offers Financial Help for Earth Day

KANSAS CITY, Kansas, February 21, 2005 (ENS) - Financial assistance to help communities celebrate Earth Day 2005 on April 22 and conduct environmental education activities throughout the year is available from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 7. This region encompasses Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.

Region 7 is accepting proposals from local agencies, state agencies, environmental groups and not-for-profit organizations.

Proposals should range from $500 to $2,500. Instructions and criteria can be obtained by email from Denise Morrison at morrison.denise@epa.gov. Call toll-free at 800-223-0425.

Proposals are due by Friday, March 18. Awardees will be notified by late spring, the EPA said.