AmeriScan: January 24, 2002
LABOR LEADERS DIVIDED ON ANWR DRILLING
WASHINGTON, DC, January 24, 2002 (ENS) - President George W. Bush claimed last week that America's workers support his controversial proposal to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to energy exploration.
But conservation groups say many labor leaders oppose the plan, and the shareholders of oil giant BP are asking the company to carefully weigh the risks of drilling in the refuge.
During a visit to the Washington DC headquarters of the Teamsters Union, Bush met with representatives of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, the Seafarers, and the building trade portion of the AFL-CIO. All showed support for ANWR drilling at the meeting, as Bush emphasized the new jobs that could be created by new domestic energy exploration.
"It will be good for our foreign policy, good for our national security, and more importantly, it will be good for jobs," Bush added.
Environmental groups countered with studies indicating that opening ANWR to oil drilling would create far fewer jobs than the Bush administration has claimed, and quoted union leaders who oppose Arctic drilling. The presidents of the Service Employees International Union, United Auto Workers, United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) and National Writers Union have all spoken out against ANWR drilling.
"The Bush-Cheney scheme to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and to encourage oil and gas drilling in other sensitive areas of our country is no solution," said John Hovis, UE general president, in July 2001. "The large energy corporations who have crafted the Bush-Cheney plan are merely looking to cash in on their election 'investment' at the expense of the environment and consumers."
On Wednesday, a transatlantic coalition of British, European, Canadian and American investors announced the filing of a shareholder resolution on environmental and cultural risk with BP, the world's third largest oil company.
The resolution calls on the company to analyze risks to shareholder value from operating in environmentally or culturally sensitive areas, such as the coastal plain of ANWR. Shareholders will vote on the resolution at the BP Annual General Meeting on April 18 in London.
"We think it is important for BP to measure the risk to its carefully cultivated brand image from drilling in sensitive areas like the Arctic Refuge," said Athan Manuel, director of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group's (PIRG) Arctic Wilderness campaign. "The stakes are very high for BP, a company that has declared its intention to go beyond petroleum and respect the environment and human rights."
The resolution asks BP to apply Association of British Insurers criteria on risk assessment to sensitive areas like the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge. The ABI guidelines state that a company can put itself at risk if it fails to respond to social, ethical and environmental matters.
BP has said that the company would like to drill for oil in the Arctic Refuge if Congress votes to open the area. The coastal plain is the only part of Alaska's North Slope that is off limits to oil and gas exploration and development, and BP is one of four companies that operate there.
The pristine coastal plain also hosts breeding grounds for the Porcupine caribou herd, which forms a major food source for the Gwich'in tribe.
"BP represents one of the largest energy holdings in our portfolio," said Simon Billenness, senior analyst with Trillium Asset Management in Boston. "As ethical investors, we expect BP to live up to its record of environmental responsibility and leave the Arctic Refuge and the Gwich'in alone."
BUSH PROMOTES COAL IN WEST VIRGINIA
CHARLESTON, West Virginia, January 24, 2002 (ENS) - During a visit to coal mining state West Virginia on Tuesday, President George W. Bush called for increased use of domestically produced coal and other fossil fuels.
"In order to become less dependent on foreign sources of energy, we've got to find and produce more energy at home, including coal," Bush told a cheering crowd in Charleston.
"I believe that we can have coal production and enhanced technologies in order to make sure the coal burns cleaner," Bush added. I believe we can have both."
Coal occurs in 53 of West Virginia's 55 counties. The state, which leads the nation in underground coal production, holds about four percent of the nation's coal reserves, and produces about 15 percent of the coal mined in the U.S. each year.
About 47 percent of the coal exported from the U.S. comes from West Virginia. The coal industry provides about 45,000 direct jobs in West Virginia, and thousands more are dependent on coal revenues.
"I don't believe we can be independent as a nation unless we've got a constructive coal policy," Bush said. "And so I asked Congress, once and for all, to pass a comprehensive energy plan, including exploring for natural gas in the state of Alaska so we can be less dependent."
Later, at a plant that produces mining equipment, Bush told workers, "We need to use coal. We got a lot of it."
More than half the nation's electricity is now produced by coal. Bush argued that so called clean coal technologies, which promise to allow power plants to burn coal while reducing harmful emissions, will help the nation reduce its reliance on foreign oil suppliers.
In the meantime, increasing oil drilling and coal mining will create thousands of new jobs, the president said.
CENTURY OF HUMAN IMPACT WARMS EARTH'S SURFACE
WASHINGTON, DC, January 24, 2002 (ENS) - Human activity has raised Earth's surface temperature during the last 130 years, finds a study published this month by the "Journal of Geophysical Research."
Dr. Robert Kaufmann of Boston University's Center for Energy and Environmental Studies and Dr. David Stern of the Australian National University's Centre for Resource and Environmental Study analyzed historical data for greenhouse gas concentrations, human sulfur emissions, and variations in solar activity between 1865 and 1990. The greenhouse gases studied included carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and chloroflurocarbons 11 and 12.
Using the statistical technique of cointegration, the scientists compared these factors over time with global surface temperature in both the northern and southern hemispheres. Cointegration techniques are not confused by variables that tend to increase or decrease over time or contain some poor measurements.
This is the first study to make a statistically meaningful link between human activity and temperature, independent of climate models, Kaufmann said.
The researchers found that eliminating any one variable - greenhouse gases, human sulfur emissions, or solar activity - made the errors larger. All of those factors taken together are needed to explain changes in Earth's surface temperature.
They also learned that the impact of human activity has been different in the two hemispheres. In the north, the warming effect of greenhouse gases was offset by the cooling effect of sulfur emissions, making the temperature effects difficult to observe.
In the southern hemisphere, where human sulfur emissions are lower, the effects are easier to see, the team wrote.
"The countervailing effects of greenhouse gases and sulfur emissions undercut comments by climate change skeptics, who argue that the rapid increase in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases between the end of World War II and the early 1970s had little effect on temperature," said Kaufmann.
During this period, Kaufmann said, "the warming effect of greenhouse gases was hidden by a simultaneous increase in sulfur emissions. But, since then, sulfur emissions have slowed, due to laws aimed at reducing acid rain, and this has allowed the warming effects of greenhouse gases to become more apparent."
Doubling the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide from its preindustrial level - which is expected to happen over the next century - will increase will increase northern hemispheric temperature by 2.3 to 3.5 degrees Celsius (4.1 to 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit), the team said. In the southern hemisphere, the increase will be between 1.7 and 2.2 degrees Celsius (3.1 and four degrees Fahrenheit).
During the last ice age, more than 15,000 years ago, Earth's global temperature was only three to five degrees Celsius (five to nine degrees Fahrenheit) cooler than it is now.
UNLIKELY EVENTS LEFT OUT OF YUCCA MOUNTAIN ANALYSIS
WASHINGTON, DC, January 24, 2002 (ENS) - The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is proposing to set limits on when am event or process is so unlikely that it need not be considered in determining the suitability of the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.
The agency is proposing to amend its regulations regarding the Nevada repository to set numerical values for deciding when a geological, hydrological or climatological feature, event or process is unlikely and therefore need not be considered in determining whether the repository would meet radiation dose standards for groundwater protection and human intrusion in NRC's regulations.
Unlikely events would still have to be considered in determining whether the repository would meet the overall 15 millirem radiation limit for protection of individuals.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards, adopted by the NRC, require naturally occurring but unlikely features, events and processes, or sequences of processes such as volcanoes, to be excluded from determining compliance with radiation dose standards for groundwater protection and human intrusion - for example, if someone drills into the repository.
The proposed NRC regulation defines unlikely by stating that the Department of Energy's analysis of the repository's expected performance need not include consideration of features, events or processes that are estimated to have less than a 10 percent chance of occurring within 10,000 years of waste disposal.
The NRC will accept comments for the next 75 days. Comments may be mailed to the Secretary, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC, 20555-0001, Attention: Rulemakings and Adjudications Staff.
U.S., INTERNATIONAL TEAM PROMOTES CONSERVATION IN BHUTAN
WASHINGTON, DC, January 24, 2002 (ENS) - The tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan will receive some welcome aid in its efforts to preserve some of the Earth's most pristine and biologically important places.
The Field Museum of Chicago is teaming up with the World Wildlife Fund to provide training for Bhutanese conservationists, sponsor scientific studies, and develop the country's first biodiversity museum and research center.
In a ceremony held at The Field Museum on Tuesday, the Bhutanese Minister of Agriculture signed an agreement between the three parties aimed at advancing conservation in Bhutan.
"This new collaboration will add further value to our conservation efforts," says Lyonpo Kinzang Dorji, Bhutan's minister of agriculture. "We also consider this a wider acknowledgement of Bhutan's commitment to conserve its rich biodiversity and well preserved environment."
In Bhutan, which is nestled in the Himalayan Mountains between China and India, a Buddhist conservation ethic has kept about 72 percent of the natural forest intact. Large scale logging and mining are prohibited, and the government safeguards about one-third of the country's land in national parks, reserves, and other protected areas.
But human populations are exerting mounting pressure on the natural environment in Bhutan.
Bhutan lies at the crossroads of three biological regions: the lowland rainforests of South and Southeast Asia; the rhododendron/conifer forests and alpine meadows of northern Asia and Europe; and the Himalayan Front, home to a diverse variety of animal species.
The primary role of The Field Museum will be to develop a training program for Bhutanese biodiversity specialists. The museum will also collaborate with the Bhutanese on the first comprehensive inventory of the country's birds and mammals.
"We will investigate the evolutionary origins of the birds and mammals," said John Bates, assistant curator of birds at The Field Museum. "The small mammals of Bhutan are very poorly known. Bird distributions are better understood, but several different biological realms converge in Bhutan, so there is still a great deal to learn. Because Bhutan retains so much native habitat, this project will be able to infuse conservation decisions with science before pressure from humans creates a crisis situation."
WWF's primary role will be to facilitate field research and management of the biological corridors linking protected areas in the country.
"As the Earth's natural heritage shrinks, the value of saving rare and pristine environments like Bhutan's and other Global 200 landscapes around the world rises," said Mingma Norbu Sherpa, WWF's director of Himalayas and South Asia Program.
"WWF has already played an important role in building the capacity of Bhutanese nationals on biodiversity conservation," said Sangay Wangchuck, director of Bhutan's Nature Conservation Division. "With this new arrangement, benefits are likely to increase manifold to help the Royal government manage the country's rich biological resources."
AFTER EXTREME DROUGHTS, WADING BIRDS FLOURISH
GAINESVILLE, Florida, January 24, 2002 (ENS) - After an extreme drought hit Florida a decade ago, biologists were surprised to learn that wading birds like herons and egrets showed a population surge.
Wildlife biologist Peter Frederick, an associate professor of wildlife ecology and conservation at the University of Florida, thought there would be few wading birds left after a drought in the late 1980s.
The white ibis and other birds spend their entire lives around water, foraging in it for fish and nesting in the grasses above it for protection against predators. Frederick thought three years of bone dry conditions would force the birds to fly to wetter places.
Instead, he was shocked to note a surge in breeding pairs of white ibis, wood storks, snowy egrets and tricolor herons.
"It was a classic case of scientists being caught with their pants down," Frederick said. "We thought there would be nothing, and it was the biggest year in 25 years."
Frederick now believes what happened in 1992 is only the latest instance of wading bird surges that occur in the aftermath of severe droughts. In a paper in the December issue of the journal "Wetlands," he and a colleague argue that these proliferations occur not only in the Everglades, but also worldwide among diverse wading bird populations.
The cause remains a mystery, but Frederick and coauthor John Ogden, a biologist at the South Florida Water Management District, speculate it relates to how droughts affect the population dynamics of another water dependent animal: fish.
Their research revealed that so called supranormal breeding events - years that had many more breeding birds than the average - occurred in the two years following seven of the eight severe droughts they studied. Many years had 10,000 or fewer nesting birds. But during surge years, there were as many as 150,000 birds, the biologists write.
"You would have these years when, all of a sudden, you'd have birds coming out of your ears - they'd be everywhere," Frederick said.
Frederick and Ogden hypothesize this is because of the drought's impact on fish populations. In major droughts, there is so little water available that most big fish and the small fish they eat die.
Smaller fish have rapid life cycles - mosquito fish, for example, can reach maturity and breed in two months. By contrast, predator fish, such as largemouth bass, require at least 18 months to reproduce.
This means that, in the year or so following major droughts, there are no major predators going after small fish Frederick said. As a result, they proliferate, creating lots of food for the ibis and other wading birds that eat them.
The practical message may be that people should try to avoid compensating for droughts by increasing water supplies.
"If the birds depend on these pulsed conditions, there are likely to be other wetland plants and animals that are similarly dependent on some aspect of drought flood cycles," Frederick said. "Flattening out these cycles would be a mistake."
CONSERVATION GROUPS SUPPORT NEW YORK POWER PLANT
ALBANY, New York, January 24, 2002 (ENS) - Three nonprofit environmental groups and PSEG Power New York, Inc. (PSEGNY) have joined together to support a proposed new power plant along the Hudson River in New York.
The groups, which include Riverkeeper, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Scenic Hudson, Inc., announced joint support for the Bethlehem Energy Center (BEC) project, a 750 megawatt (MW) power plant that would be built by PSEGNY in Bethlehem, New York.
The proposed BEC is a natural gas fired, combined cycle power plant, using low sulfur oil as a backup fuel, to be located on the west bank of the river about three miles south of Albany. It would be located on the same site of the existing Albany Steam Station, a less efficient, 50 year old power plant.
PSEGNY will close down the existing station when BEC begins commercial operation.
"Environmentalists are able to support this project for one simple reason," said Alex Matthiessen, Hudson Riverkeeper and Riverkeeper, Inc. executive director. "BEC will reduce Hudson River water withdrawals at the site by more than 98 percent, thereby protecting adult and juvenile fish, larvae and eggs, while also reducing air pollution rates by 98 percent and nearly doubling electricity generation."
BEC will employ a hybrid wet/dry closed cycle cooling technology, that compared to the existing Albany Steam Station, will reduce intake of Hudson River water from 507 million gallons a day to 8.5 million gallons a day. BEC will use state of the art combustion turbines and air pollution control technology that will reduce emissions of smog causing nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide emissions, one of the main pollutants that causes acid rain.
"BEC provides an excellent example of the environmental benefits that can be achieved by redeveloping existing power plant sites with new electric generating equipment and pollution control technologies," said Warren Reiss, general counsel of Scenic Hudson. "BEC demonstrates that New Yorkers can meet their electricity needs while improving the environment and protecting the historic beauty of the Hudson Valley."
Because it is a redevelopment of an existing site, BEC will use existing electric transmission lines and gas delivery pipelines. Pending approvals, construction of BEC could begin in 2002 with the new plant operational in 2004.
"By redeveloping an existing site and guaranteeing pollution reductions, we became partners with the environmental community," said Russell Arlotta, PSEGNY director of development. "The project is a clear example of the environmental, energy, and economic benefits that can be realized by redeveloping existing generating sites and replacing existing equipment with new technology."
PSEGNY also announced it will provide $81,000 to Riverkeeper to fund scientific research on the use of an experimental technology to be installed at BEC to further protect aquatic organisms.
YELM, WASHINGTON RECLAIMS ALL ITS WASTEWATER
YELM, Washington, January 24, 2002 (ENS) - A water reclamation project in Yelm, Washington was honored Wednesday with the state's highest environmental award today for reclaiming and re-using 100 percent of its treated wastewater.
The Environmental Excellence Award is given to individuals, businesses or groups that exemplify model behavior for the overall benefit of the environment.
The award is the state's highest honor for work that benefits the environment, according to Linda Hoffman, deputy director of the Department of Ecology. Hoffmann presented the award to Yelm Mayor Adam Rivas at a city council meeting.
"Yelm is a role model to the rest of Washington's cities. As the competition for water heats up among people, fish and business uses, reusing water is the way to go," Hoffmann said.
Yelm reclaims all of its wastewater to irrigate landscaping at churches, parks, a football field and one residence. The water also is added to streams and is used to recharge water underground at a city wetland park that includes a catch and release fish pond for rainbow trout.
The community now reuses 200,000 gallons of water a day, and expects to someday reuse up to one million gallons of water a day. One benefit of reusing water is that it allows the city to extend the life of its drinking water, Hoffmann said.
Most cities discard their treated wastewater on land or in water under the requirements of Department of Ecology permits. The Ecology Department says Yelm is a role model to the rest of Washington's cities in how to accommodate the increasing water demands by residences, businesses and environmental needs.
EARTH CHARTER DISPLAYED AT UNITED NATIONS
NEW YORK, New York, January 24, 2002 (ENS) - This morning, supporters of the Earth Charter walked the Ark of Hope to the United Nations for exhibit during the second preparatory meeting for the World Summit on Sustainable Development.
The artist who created the Ark, Sally Linder, and hundreds of volunteers, began a 60 day peace walk following the September 11 terrorist attacks to accompany the 200 pound chest from Burlington, Vermont, through Massachusetts and Connecticut, into New York with the goal of presenting it at the United Nations.
The Ark, sailing down the Hudson River aboard the environmental sloop Clearwater, was greeted by Pete Seeger and other friends of the Earth Charter upon its arrival in New York City on November 8, 2001.
The Earth Charter - a declaration of principles for building a just, sustainable and peaceful world - is the product of a decade long, worldwide, cross cultural conversation about common goals and shared values. The Charter, available online at: http://www.earthcharter.org, is an expression of the hopes and aspirations of an emerging global civil society.
In 1987, the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development issued a call for creation of a new charter that would set forth fundamental principles for sustainable development. The drafting of an Earth Charter was part of the unfinished business of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.
In 1994 Maurice Strong, the secretary general of the Earth Summit and chair of the Earth Council, and Mikhail Gorbachev, president of Green Cross International, launched a new Earth Charter initiative with support from the Dutch government. An Earth Charter Commission was formed in 1997 to oversee the project and an Earth Charter Secretariat was established at the Earth Council in Costa Rica.
The Ark of Hope is a hand crafted chest created for a celebration of the Earth Charter held on September 9, 2001 in Vermont, at which biologist Jane Goodall gave the keynote speech. The lid of the Ark is lined with a papyrus copy of the Earth Charter and contains hundreds of citizen expressions of hope and healing.
The Ark will remain on display in the lobby gallery of the United Nations through February 19.
APPLE A DAY COULD KEEP CANCER AWAY
GENEVA, New York, January 24, 2002 (ENS) - A natural cancer fighting compound found in apples may help explain the old adage about an apple a day keeping the doctor away.
Writing in the medical journal "The Lancet," scientists from Cornell University and Seoul National University offer a more precise explanation for vitamin C's anti-cancer activity, and suggest that a natural chemical from apples works even better than vitamin C.
C.Y. Lee, Cornell professor of food science and technology, and his South Korean colleagues, Ki Won Lee, Hyong Joo Lee and Kyung-Sun Kang, found that vitamin C blocks the carcinogenic effects of hydrogen peroxide on intercellular communication. Until this finding, the mechanism for vitamin C's ability to inhibit tumor formation was not understood.
The report also notes that quercetin, a phytochemical found in apples, has even stronger anticancer activity than vitamin C. Phytochemicals, such as flavanoids and polyphenols, are plant chemicals that contain protective, disease preventing compounds.
"Vitamin C has been considered one of the most important essential nutrients in our diet since the discovery in 1907 that it prevents scurvy," said Lee. "In addition, vitamin C has several important functions in our body for the synthesis of amino acids and collagen, wound healing, metabolism of iron, lipids and cholesterol and others. In particular, vitamin C is a well known anti-oxidant that scavenges free radicals."
An anti-oxidant is one of many chemicals that prevent molecules, such as a special form of oxygen, from attaching themselves to cells. Reducing this process, known as oxidation, helps prevent cell and tissue damage from free radicals in the body.
"Vitamin C prevents the inhibition of gap junction intercellular communication (GJIC) induced by hydrogen peroxide," said Lee.
GJIC is essential for maintaining normal cell growth. Inhibition of GJIC is related to the cancer processes including the growth of tumors.
Hydrogen peroxide, a tumor promoter, inhibits GJIC by changing a special protein, connexin43. When rat liver epithelial cells were treated with vitamin C, the researchers report, inhibition of GJIC induced by hydrogen peroxide was prevented.
Although vitamin C protects against oxidative DNA damage through its free radical scavenging activity, Lee and his coworkers believe that the vitamin's anti-tumor action works through a different mechanism.
"The most powerful weapon we have in the fight against cancer is prevention," Lee concluded. "A diet rich in phytochemicals and vitamin C will reduce the risk of cancer. These phytochemicals and nutrients are most readily available in fresh fruits and vegetables."
The report appears in the January 12 issue of "The Lancet," the weekly journal for physicians published in London.