AmeriScan: February 12, 2007

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EPA Rule Cuts Air Toxics From Passenger Vehicles, Gasoline

WASHINGTON, DC, February 12, 2007 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, Friday finalized new standards for emissions of toxic fumes from mobile sources such as gasoline, passenger vehicles, and gas cans.

The mobile source air toxics, MSAT, rule is intended to cut emissions of benzene, a known carcinogen, and other hydrocarbons such as 1,3-butadiene, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, acrolein, and naphthalene.

Most of the nation’s benzene emissions come from mobile sources, according to the EPA. People who live or work near major roads, or spend a large amount of time in vehicles, are likely to have higher exposures and higher risks, the agency says. People living in homes with attached garages are likely to be exposed to benzene levels that are higher than average.

The EPA is adopting new standards to reduce non-methane hydrocarbon exhaust emissions from new gasoline-fueled passenger vehicles. These emissions include many mobile source air toxics, such as benzene. The standards phase in between 2010 and 2013 for lighter vehicles, and between 2012 and 2015 for heavier ones.

As part of the new rule, the EPA is establishing standards that will limit hydrocarbon emissions that evaporate from or permeate through portable fuel containers such as gas cans. The agency has worked with major container manufacturers and expects that beginning in 2009 new cans will have a simple and inexpensive permeation barrier and new spouts that will close automatically.

Beginning in 2011, refiners must meet an annual average gasoline benzene content standard of 0.62 percent by volume (vol%) on all their gasoline, both reformulated and conventional, nationwide. The national benzene content of gasoline today is about 1.0 vol%.

The new EPA regulations include a nationwide averaging, banking, and trading program. In addition to the 0.62 vol% standard, refiners must also meet a maximum average benzene standard of 1.3 vol% beginning on July 1, 2012.

A refinery’s or importer’s actual annual average gasoline benzene levels may not exceed this maximum average standard.

Gasoline sold in California will not be covered by the new rule because California has already implemented more stringent standards similar to those EPA is establishing.

The agency expects that gasoline in all areas of the country will have lower benzene levels than they do now, and there will be less geographic variability in gasoline benzene levels.

Areas where benzene levels are currently highest, such as Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, will experience the most significant reductions. EPA is providing special compliance flexibility for approved small refiners or any refiner facing extreme unforeseen circumstances.

Once the new standards are fully implemented in 2030, they are expected to reduce emissions of mobile source air toxics annually by 330,000 tons, including 61,000 tons of benzene.

The EPA estimates annual health benefits from the particulate matter reductions of the vehicle standards to total $6 billion in 2030. The estimated annual cost for the rule is about $400 million in 2030.

A copy of this final rule is available at: http://www.epa.gov/otaq/toxics.htm#regdocs

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Hudson Estuary Contaminants Not Higher Since 9/11

NEW YORK, New York, February 12, 2007 (ENS) - The collapse of the World Trade Center in 2001 caused no major increase in concentrations of two groups of contaminants, NOAA found in a recent analysis of sites in the Hudson-Raritan Estuary.

The findings indicate that concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, PAHs, and polychlorinated biphenyls, PCBs, were high in the Hudson-Raritan estuary before September 11, 2001, and that their concentrations were not measurably changed by the contaminants that entered the estuary as a result of the collapse of the twin towers.

"Data from long-term monitoring of the study sites indicate that current contamination concentrations are largely at or below the values reported prior to the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings," said Dr. Gunnar Lauenstein, a physical scientist with the NOAA Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment.

NOAA Mussel Watch Project scientists have collected and analyzed mussels and oysters for chemical contaminants from around the coastal United States since 1986, and determined what baseline levels of contaminants such as PAHs and PCBs were in the first years of the project.

Five Mussel Watch sites in the Hudson-Raritan Estuary existed before September 11. Scientists took samples of mussels and sediments from these sites, in December 2001 and November 2003, and compared them with samples taken from the same sites before terrorists struck the buildings with aircraft, causing them to collapse.

Analysis of the samples provided little evidence to support the conclusion that the collapse of the buildings had a significant effect on PAH input to the Hudson-Raritan Estuary, and no evidence it had a significant effect on PCB input to the estuary.

"The Hudson-Raritan Estuary had high background levels of PAHs and PCBs prior to the collapse of the buildings," said Lauenstein. "This may have obscured contaminant input into the estuary as a result of the collapse."

A summary of the analysis is presented in the upcoming edition of the peer-reviewed journal "Marine Pollution Bulletin."

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Sacred Lands in Utah to Be Leased for Oil and Gas

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, February 12, 2007 (ENS) - On February 20 the Bureau of Land Management’s Utah state office will auction for oil and gas development land outside of an area known as the Parowan Gap, described by the State of Utah website as a "nationally recognized extravaganza of petrogylphs."

This Native American rock art inspires a feeling of "reverential awe" says the state's website, yet oil and gas development is planned there, over the objections of conservationists and many others.

A conservation coalition - comprised of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and The Wilderness Society - has called on Utah BLM State Director Selma Sierra not to lease these sensitive lands.

The BLM had proposed leasing these same lands in 2005, but deferred offering the leases after a public outcry over the decision.

"By deciding to re-offer these lease parcels ringing the Parowan Gap, the BLM has shown again that there are no limits to how far the Bush administration will go to please industry," said Stephen Bloch, staff attorney for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. "BLM’s decision shows a complete disregard for this sacred and irreplaceable cultural site."

Like most Western states, Utah has a surplus of BLM lands that have been leased for oil and gas development but are not in production, and does not need this unique site located just north of Cedar City, the coalition points out.

In a report prepared for the lease sale, a BLM archaeologist described the importance of the Parowan Gap as "a solar/lunar observatory," where ceremonies took place. He considered the surrounding area also of "sacred" importance.

The late Dr. Kenneth Brewer, the State of Utah’s Poet Laureate from 2003-2006, criticized the BLM’s initial plan in 2005 to lease the Parowan Gap in a letter to the agency. "Personally, I consider Parowan Gap to be an ancient art gallery and worthy of the same respect and protection that we, as Utahns, would give to any art gallery or museum," he wrote. "I do not believe that most Utahns would even consider searching for oil and gas in the immediate vicinity of any of our galleries or museums."

This sale also includes several parcels of land that have been proposed for wilderness protection because of their unspoiled nature in the Hatch Wash area south of Moab, in the heart of Utah’s redrock country.

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NGOs Join California Fight Against Polluting Ships

SACRAMENTO, California, February 12, 2007 (ENS) - The Natural Resources Defense Council, NRDC, and the Coalition for Clean Air have decided to join an ongoing legal battle to defend a state regulation limiting air pollution caused by ships docking at California’s ports.

The organizations last week petitioned the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California to intervene for the defense in a lawsuit by the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association challenging a regulation adopted by the California Air Resources Board in 2005.

The Auxiliary Engine Rule requires emission reductions from ship auxiliary engines used within 24 nautical miles of the California coast. Auxiliary engines generate electricity that is used to provide lighting, cooling and on-board power for navigation equipment.

"Air pollution from California ports will increase significantly as maritime trade grows over the next decade. That’s going to put our health at risk and undermine the hard work we’ve done to clean up the skies of Southern California," said Melissa Lin Perrella, an attorney with NRDC’s Air Quality Program.

Emissions from the freight transport industry in California cause 2,400 premature deaths, 360,000 lost workdays, and more than one million school absences annually, the groups claim.

The Air Resources Board estimates that between 2007 and 2020 the new rule will reduce particulate emissions by more than 23,000 tons, nitrogen oxides by 15,000 tons, and sulfur oxides by 200,000 tons - preventing some 520 premature deaths.

"Many of the ships calling in California run on some of the dirtiest fuels in the world," said Thomas Plenys, research and policy manager for the Coalition for Clean Air. "This important rule requires shipping companies to clean up their act when they are near California’s coastline."

The Auxiliary Engine Rule requires vessel operators to limit the emissions from auxiliary engines to levels similar to those registered when 5,000 part per million sulfur fuel is used. The rule allows the Air Resources Board to require use of even cleaner fuels by 2010.

The Auxiliary Engine Rule is one of the first in a series of rules that the Air Resources Board plans to adopt to reduce pollution from marine vessels, including rules that will reduce emissions from marine vessel main engines and that will require ships to plug in to shore power instead of running their engines while docked.

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Washington State Continues Permits for Aquatic Pesticides

OLYMPIA, Washington, February 12, 2007 (ENS) - The Washington state Department of Ecology will continue using permits to control the use of aquatic pesticides in and around state waters.

Use of the permits came into question when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, ruled in November 2006 that a pesticide applied according to the federal label is not a pollutant under the federal Clean Water Act and is not subject to permitting under the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System, NPDES.

As are most states, Washington is delegated to carry out the requirements of the federal law.

The EPA ruling has caused legal ambiguity and, to date, is being appealed in 11 circuit courts throughout the country. Washington is awaiting the outcomes of these judicial proceedings before changing its practice of controlling aquatic pesticide use with permits.

"Aquatic pesticides provide important societal and environmental benefits like controlling West Nile virus, toxic algae blooms and other threats to human health. However, the application of toxic material to waters must be carefully managed and controlled," said Jay Manning, director of the Department of Ecology.

Ecology has used NPDES permits to regulate pesticide applicators since 2002. Before then, Ecology regulated the use of aquatic pesticides through issuing administrative orders to licensed applicators of aquatic pesticides.

In explaining the state's decision to continue using the permits, Manning said, "In the face of legal ambiguity, we feel it is prudent to be conservative and stick with the permit system. The permits are working for the environment, for our citizens, and for our permit holders, most of whom have told us they would like to retain permit coverage while the legal challenges run their course."

After the new EPA rule was issued, the Department of Ecology met with interest groups representing each of the permit areas, as well as with agricultural and environmental groups.

During a public comment period, most of the feedback Ecology received requested that the state continue its current permitting program, pending the outcome of the EPA rule appeal.

Without permits the state could not track uses of aquatic pesticides. Tracking helps the state reduce uses of pesticides in and near waters. Tracking also avoids harm to species that the pesticides are not targeting and protects public health.

Without permits, there would be no requirement for pesticide applicators to notify the public when products are being used, and there would be no environmental monitoring.

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Pittsburgh to Remediate Brownfield at Old Nabisco Plant

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania, February 12, 2007 (ENS) - A $1 million investment from the state of Pennsylvania will help finance a major brownfield redevelopment project on Pittsburgh’s East Side.

The money will pay for cleanup of the former Nabisco plant in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty section. It will be spent to help prepare the land for the development of retail and office space, as well as a 120 room hotel. Development of the 6.5 acre area, to be called Bakery Square, is expected to create 1,600 new jobs.

"We can grow our economy, create new job opportunities for our working men and women, and improve the environment by cleaning up these abandoned industrial sites," said Governor Edward Rendell announcing the investment Friday.

The Regional Industrial Development Corporation of Southwestern Pennsylvania will use the grant, along with $335,000 of its own money, to clean contamination from the former Nabisco plant.

The state funding will be used to remove asbestos, PCBs, lead-based paint and other hazardous materials from the site.

Located near several of Pittsburgh’s major employers – including UPMC Hospitals, the University of Pittsburgh, and Carnegie Mellon University – Bakery Square is expected to continue the resurgence of Pittsburgh’s East Liberty area.

Several major retailers - including Trader Joe's, Whole Foods Market, Giant Eagle Market District and Borders - recently have opened in the East Liberty area.

The Bakery Square funding is coming from the state's Growing Greener II program, which provides up to $5 million annually for brownfield remediation through the Department of Community and Economic Development’s industrial sites reuse program. The program is designed to foster environmental contamination cleanup at industrial sites to make blighted land productive.

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