AmeriScan: February 24, 2005

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Greenhouse Gas Emissions Rise in 2003 Despite Industry Cuts

WASHINGTON, DC, February 24, 2005 (ENS) - More than 2,000 projects to rid the atmosphere of six greenhouse gases were undertaken by U.S. corporate and government entitites in 2003, according to figures released Wednesday by the statistical and analytical agency within the U.S. Department of Energy.

Although reductions in greenhouse gases are growing, in total, the United States is emitting more of the climate warming gases each year, the Energy Information Administration's (EIA) statistics show.

Total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2003 were estimated by the EIA to be 6,936 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.

In 2002, U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases totaled 6,862 million metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent, 0.5 percent more than in 2001.

Greenhouse gases, which include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), absorb infrared energy and prevent it from leaving the atmosphere.

A total of 234 U.S. companies and other organizations reported to the EIA's Voluntary Reporting of Greenhouse Gases Program that they had undertaken 2,188 projects to reduce or sequester greenhouse gases in 2003, the agency said.

Project-level emission reductions included 268 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e) in direct emission reductions, a level that shows 1.2 percent more reductions than in 2002, the EIA said.

There were 81 MMTCO2e in indirect emission reductions reported, 1.1 percent more than in 2002.

Seven MMTCO2e of reductions were achieved by carbon sequestration.

Direct reductions are emission reductions from sources owned or leased by the reporting entity, while indirect reductions are emission reductions from sources not owned or leased by the reporting entity but that occur as a result of the entity's activities, explained the Energy Information Administration,

In addition, 16 MMTCO2e of reductions were reported under a separate EIA form, which does not ask whether reported reductions are direct or indirect.

EIA received reports from participants in 27 different industries or services. The electric power sector, with 98 companies reporting, continues to provide the largest number of participants to the program, 42 percent.

The number of participants from outside the electric power sector, 136 reporters, was 10 times the number that reported for 1994, the first year of the program.

These companies include firms engaged in automobile manufacturing, petroleum production and refining, coal mining, food processing, textile manufacturing, primary metals production, electronic and electrical equipment manufacturing, and the chemical industry. 

Alternative energy providers, agriculture and forestry organizations, and organizations in government, commercial, and residential sectors also reported their emissions to the EIA.

An electronic version of the full report Voluntary Reporting of Greenhouse Gases 2003, is online here.

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Perchlorate in Breast Milk Found Nationwide

LUBBOCK, Texas, February 24, 2005 (ENS) - In a new study of breast milk and milk purchased in stores across the United States, scientists at Texas Tech University found perchlorate in every sample but one. The results suggest that the chemical may be more widespread than previously believed.

The chemical can interfere with iodide uptake in the thyroid gland, disrupting adult metabolism and childhood development.

Perchlorate is a waterborne contaminant left over from propellants and rocket fuels. There are about 12,000 Department of Defense sites in the United States that have been used for training with live explosives.

Led by Professor Purnendu Dasgupta, Ph.D. of the university's department of chemistry and biochemistry, the researchers analyzed 47 dairy milk samples purchased randomly from grocery stores in 11 states, and 36 breast milk samples from women recruited at random in 18 states.

Every sample of breast milk contained perchlorate, and only one sample of dairy milk contained no detectable levels, researchers found.

The average perchlorate concentration in breast milk was 10.5 micrograms per liter; the dairy milk average was 2.0 micrograms per liter.

No definitive national standard exists for permissible levels of the chemical in milk, although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has suggested a limit of 1.0 micrograms per liter in drinking water.

The researchers also found that high levels of perchlorate correlated with low levels of iodide in breast milk, which can inhibit thyroid function in nursing women, an essential component for proper neural development of the fetus.

Although the data are limited, the levels of iodide in this study are sufficiently low to be of concern, according to the researchers. They suggest that the recommended daily intake of iodine for pregnant and nursing women may need to be revised upwards.

In March 2003, the Texas Tech University Institute of Environmental and Human Health received a $2 million research award from the Department of Defense Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program to research the effects the residues from explosives have on the environment and how to clean up any contamination.

The program's principal investigator Ronald Kendall, Ph.D said, "This work will be implemented to assist the Department of Defense in developing risk assessments on explosives and breakdown products of these compounds, and to assist in the establishment of safe limits and in remediation," he said.

"The consequences of having explosives and their breakdown products in the environment are not well understood," Kendall said.

The report was published February 22 on the website of "Environmental Science & Technology," a peer-reviewed journal of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.

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Florida Judge Backs Park Plan Limiting Swamp Buggies

TAMPA, Florida, February 24, 2005 (ENS) - A National Park Service management plan that protects the cypress stands, hardwood swamps, and mangroves of Florida's Big Cypress National Preserve, where endangered Florida panthers still live, was upheld Tuesday by United States District Judge John Steele.

In the Big Cypress's management plan the park service will implement a 400 mile designated trail system for off-road vehicles (ORVs), designated access points, and nighttime and seasonal closures.

Previously, off-road vehicles were allowed to enter and travel much of the preserve, which has resulted in damage to the preserve's fragile biodiversity and wetlands ecosystem. More than 23,000 miles of swamp buggy ruts have shredded this special area, say the environmental groups who pursued the lawsuit.

Judge Steele ruled that the Big Cypress management plan was adopted in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act and other requirements of federal law.

“We welcome this decision as a victory for sensible, balanced use of our public lands,” said Brian Scherf with the Florida Biodiversity Project and a Sierra Club volunteer, who, with his wife, led the effort to protect Big Cypress.

“Big Cypress had become a poster child for the devastating impacts of out-of-control ORVs, and this management plan will help correct this abuse and protect this spectacular place,” said Scherf.

“The National Park Service must continue the healing of Big Cypress,” said Don Barry, executive vice president at The Wilderness Society and a former assistant secretary at the Interior Department.

“Judge Steele's ruling confirms the park service's decision to rein in widespread swamp buggy damage in favor of protecting this national treasure. Now, Florida's wild panthers, alligators, rare birds, and other creatures will have added protection for Americans to appreciate and enjoy in the future.”

“Florida’s human population is surging, and that is precisely why it’s so important to have basic protections in place for wildlife in protected areas such as Big Cypress National Preserve,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States.

While the organizations are pleased with Judge Steele's decision, the park service must still assure that the management plan is fully implemented. This will require adequate funding from the Department of Interior and Congress to implement the plan's trail system and protections, carry out necessary research projects, monitor impacts, educate the public, and enforce the terms of the plan vigorously.

“The Park Service did the right thing when it protected Big Cypress from out of control off-road vehicle use,” said Sean Smith, Bluewater Network’s public lands director. “This ruling should be the end of the road for efforts to turn the preserve into a motorized playground.”

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Hybrids Rally to Support Maryland's Clean Cars Act

WASHINGTON, DC, February 24, 2005 (ENS) - On Saturday, at least 100 decorated gas-electric hybrid cars and SUVs from all over the region are expected to converge on Annapolis to show support for the Maryland Clean Cars Act.

This bill would add Maryland to eight other states, including California and New Jersey, that require the sale of much cleaner cars than those on the market in Maryland.

The drivers will circle the Maryland Statehouse and the Governor's Mansion, then drivers will meet on foot for a rally to promote the bill that will feature elected officials, health experts, and environmental leaders.

The parade comes days before the Maryland House of Delegates holds a hearing on the Clean Cars Act.

A new poll of 684 likely voters from across Maryland shows widespread support for stronger vehicle emission standards. The Maryland Clean Cars Act, introduced in the legislature on February 1, would make less polluting cars available to Maryland consumers.

The poll, conducted by Momentum Analysis, a nationally renowned D.C. firm, found that nearly 8 in 10 likely voters support the proposed law requiring new cars sold in Maryland to meet the same pollution standards as cars sold in California, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine and Vermont. The poll was conducted between January 25 and 27.

The event is a repeat of a similar parade and rally held in January 2003 to demand passage of an energy efficiency bill vetoed in 2002 by Governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican.

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Freebie for Hybrid Car Owners at Better World Auto Club

PORTLAND, Oregon, February 24, 2005 (ENS) - The first roadside assistance club that charges less for alternative fuel vehicles to reduce the environmental impact of travel is offering free membership to owners of hybrid cars.

The Portland based Better World Club said today it would provide cost incentives to car owners based not on the costs to the company, but on the costs to society.

The Better World Club announced a Buy One Get One Year Free Membership Special for the owners of hybrid cars, a $53.95 value. The announcement is timed as many of the original hybrid car owners are seeing the end of roadside assistance coverage provided with the purchase of their cars.

At the same time, Better World Club announced a surcharge on the three worst gas-guzzling cars released in 2005 - the Dodge Ram 1500, the Lamborghini Murcielago, and the Hummer H2.

According to government statistics, each of these cars gets approximately nine miles to the gallon. The surcharge will be 20 percent on each of these cars for any auto membership. Rofsky says there is no excuse today for cars that get only nine miles per gallon.

"At a time when the car companies are charging more for hybrids, when states like Oregon have charged higher registration fees for hybrids, Better World Club wants to recognize hybrid owners by charging them less," says Mitchell Rofsky, Better World Club president. "Hybrid owners are taking the lead in helping to reduce U.S. dependence on imported oil and deserve to be rewarded."

He cites figures published by the Natural Resources Defense Council showing that if the United States raises fuel efficiency standards on American cars by one mile per gallon, in one year, Americans would save twice the amount of oil that could be obtained from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

With a 2.7 miles per gallon (mpg) increase in the fuel efficiency standard, the United States would eliminate all the oil imports from Iraq and Kuwait combined, the NRDC estimates. And if fuel efficiency standards were increased by 7.6 mpg, the United States would eliminate 100 percent of its Gulf oil imports.

Hybrid cars generally increase the fuel efficiency of comparable automobiles by more than this 7.6 mpg goal, Rofsky says.

The Hybrid Special is available through May 31, 2005. New members can join online at www.betterworldclub.com

The Gas Guzzler Surcharge will be imposed until further notice.

Better World Club has a unique policy agenda among auto clubs. It offers discounts on hybrid rental cars, the nation's only bicycle roadside assistance, a carbon offset program for travelers that fights global warming, and discounts on green hotels and eco-travel.

One percent of revenues are devoted to environmental clean up and advocacy. Visit www.betterworldclub.com.

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Speedy Nanoparticles Break Down Groundwater Contaminant

HOUSTON, Texas, February 24, 2005 (ENS) - Nanoparticles of gold and palladium are the most effective catalysts yet identified for remediation of one of the nation's most pervasive and troublesome groundwater pollutants, trichloroethene (TCE), new research has demonstrated.

The research, conducted by engineers at Rice and the Georgia Institute of Technology, will appear next month in the journal "Environmental Science and Technology," a publication of the American Chemical Society.

TCE, used as a solvent to degrease metals and electronic parts, is one of the most common and poisonous organic pollutants in U.S. groundwater. It is found at 60 percent of the contaminated waste sites on the Superfund List, and it is considered one of the most hazardous chemicals at these sites because of its prevalence and its toxicity.

Human exposure to TCE has been linked to liver damage, impaired pregnancies and cancer.

Nanotechnology, or molecular manufacturing, is a branch of engineering that deals with the design and manufacture of extremely small electronic circuits and mechanical devices built at the molecular level of matter.

Nanotechnology is critical to the scheme because only a nanoscale catalyst will be efficient enough to provide the throughput needed to make the whole approach effective.

Cleanup costs for TCE nationwide are estimated in the billions of dollars. The Department of Defense estimates that it would cost more than $5 billion to bring its 1,400 TCE-contaminated sites into compliance with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards.

"The advantages of palladium-based TCE remediation are well-documented, but so is the cost," said lead researcher Michael Wong, assistant professor of chemical engineering and chemistry at Rice. "Using nanotechnology, we were able to maximize the number of palladium atoms that come in contact with TCE molecules and improve efficiency by several orders of magnitude over bulk palladium catalysts."

The typical approach to getting rid of TCE involves pumping polluted groundwater to the surface, where it can be exposed to chemical catalysts or microorganisms that break the TCE down into less toxic or non-toxic constituents. In general, chemical catalysts offer faster reactions times than bioremediation but also tend to be more expensive.

Palladium converts TCE directly into non-toxic ethane. By contrast, breaking down TCE with more common catalysts, like iron, produces intermediate chemicals, like vinyl chloride, that are more toxic than TCE.

Wong and collaborators compared the effectiveness of four varieties of palladium catalysts - bulk palladium, palladium powder on an aluminum oxide support base, pure palladium nanoparticles, and a hybrid nanoparticle developed by Wong that consists of a gold nanoparticle covered with a thin coat of palladium atoms.

Tests in Wong's lab have found that the gold-palladium nano-catalysts break TCE down about 100 times faster than bulk palladium catalysts.

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Cleanup Planned for Creek Entering Seattle's Largest Lake

BELLEVUE, Washington, February 24, 2005 (ENS) - Curbing bacterial pollution in Snohomish County's Little Bear Creek is going to require behavioral changes from hundreds of local residents - each a small but important part of the whole effort - the state environment agency says.

Improving stormwater management is a crucial part of a water cleanup plan proposed by the Washington Department of Ecology to reduce high levels of fecal coliform bacteria in the creek basin. Fecal coliform bacteria are often associated with other disease-causing bacteria and viruses in water.

The 15 square mile Little Bear Creek basin extends from its headwaters in South Snohomish County near Silver Firs to Woodinville, where the creek empties into the Sammamish River, which flows to Seattle's Lake Washington.

Seven stretches of streams in the basin do not meet state standards for swimming and wading. The pollution comes from thousands of sources, including failing septic systems, livestock and pet wastes, and other daily activities that either release bacteria or promote its growth.

"We all have a share in causing the pollution, and each of us can help prevent it," said Anne Dettelbach of Ecology's water quality program. "Government action alone won't clean these streams."

Ecology urges citizens to maintain and repair their septic tanks, clean up pet waste, keep stock and other animals out of streams and get involved through local organizations and governments.

The proposed cleanup plan would provide education and technical assistance for septic system owners to prevent failures. Pet-waste programs would be established for local parks and trails, including an education program for pet owners.

And acquisition or restoration of wetlands and streamside areas by local governments is part of the plan.

Ecology is seeking public comment on the proposed plan and will host two public meetings to provide information and answer questions about the Little Bear Creek Water Cleanup Plan:

The cleanup action plan is available online at: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wq/tmdl/watershed/tmdl_info-nwro.html

Ecology is accepting public comments through March 31. Send comments to Anne Dettelbach, Department of Ecology, 3190 160th Ave. S.E., Bellevue, Wash., 98008-5452, or by email to: adet461@ecy.wa.gov.

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New Jersey Expands Highlands Preservation Area

TRENTON, New Jersey, February 24, 2005 (ENS) - New Jersey has added 177 acres to a state park that is part of the Highlands Preservation Area, an area of the state that is important for drinking water supplies. Sixty-four percent of New Jersey residents, about 5.4 million people, receive their water from the Highlands.

Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bradley Campbell Tuesday said the newly protected parcel in Vernon Township, Sussex County will become an addition to Waywayanda State Park.

"This Highlands acquisition project will preserve the Appalachian Trail's scenic views, protect threatened species habitat and provide valuable recreation opportunities for New Jersey's taxpayers," said Campbell.

The preserved property is north of the Appalachian Trail and is adjacent to Wawayanda State Park, preserved farmland and the New York State line. It consists of upland forest areas and an emergent wetlands complex located along the Waywayanda Creek.

The acquisition of this property through the DEP Green Acres Program will protect habitat for species designated as threatened by the state, including the wood turtle. The DEP will provide public access to the site for activities including horseback riding, bird watching, hiking and canoeing.

The 18,235 acre Waywayanda State Park encompasses a 2,167 acre swamp, a forested area and a ravine. The park features over 60 miles of hiking trails as well as picnic areas, campsites, the Barrett Farm Historic Site and Lake Waywayanda, which is a popular site for boating, fishing, ice skating, and swimming. In addition, the park offers opportunities for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling.

The New Jersey Highlands is a 1,000 square mile area in the Northwest part of the State, stretching from Phillipsburg in the Southwest to Ringwood in the Northeast. It lies within portions of seven counties and 87 municipalities.

This acquisition complements DEP's existing preservation projects in the Highlands. Since January 2002, DEP has protected 22,000 acres of open space and seven waterbodies in and around the Highlands that assures a supply of clean drinking water and serves as habitat for many species of reptiles, amphibians, mammals and resident and migrating birds.

The DEP Green Acres Program purchases land to protect environmentally sensitive open space, water resources and other significant natural and historical open space. Land acquired becomes part of the statewide system of parks and forest, wildlife management areas and natural areas.

In 2004, the Green Acres Program acquired 23,237 acres of open space. To date, Green Acres has protected 557,113 acres of open space and provided funding to develop hundreds of parks statewide. The statewide system of preserved open space and farmland totals almost 1.25 million acres.