Lieberman Proposes Global Tsunami Warning SystemWASHINGTON, DC, January 7, 2005 (ENS) - U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat, unveiled legislation Thursday to create a global tsunami early warning system, which he plans to introduce as soon as the next Congress begins.
Lieberman said that although the probability is slim, the coasts of the United States are vulnerable to tsunamis and the U.S. currently has a limited tsunami detection and early warning system in place. New and better sensors have been developed and could be deployed at a reasonable cost.
"A couple of relatively inexpensive sensor buoys and a satellite for them to talk to could have provided the warning the people of Sri Lanka, Thailand and other nations needed to evacuate before the wall of water was literally pounding down their doors," Lieberman said.
"Today I am proposing legislation that will close gaps in our present tsunami warning system and establish a global network that will give all the world’s coastal communities a chance to evacuate – much like our hurricane and typhoon warning system works today across international boundaries."
"When nature gives us a warning about a coming disaster – as it did in South Asia – we should be smart enough, and prepared enough, to take it and save many lives as a result," Lieberman said.
The Global Tsunami Detection and Warning System Act would instruct the administration to:
Energy Star Power Adapters Could Save Americans BillionsLAS VEGAS, Nevada, January 7, 2005 (ENS) - As many as 1.5 billion power adapters are in use in the United States – about five for every American, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said Thursday, announcing the availability of highly efficient Energy Star adapters at the Consumer Electronics Show.
If the 1.5 billion power adapters that connect electronic devices to wall outlets used less power, Americans could save billions of dollars on their electric bills and protect the environment, the agency said.
Companies working with the EPA on this energy saving adapter launch include Phihong, Lite On and Bias Power. These power adapter manufacturers alone account for more than 22 percent of the current power supply market. EPA is also working with Hewlett-Packard, Samsung Telecommunications America and Panasonic.
Power adapters, also known as external power supplies, recharge or power many electronic products – cell phones, digital cameras, answering machines, camcorders, PDAs, MP3 players and other electronics and appliances.
In the United States, more efficient adapters have the potential to save more than five billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy per year and prevent the release of more than four million tons of greenhouse gas emissions the equivalent of taking 800,000 cars off the road.
The new adapters meet the EPA’s newly established energy efficiency guidelines.
Power adapters are devices that convert alternating current (AC) power from a wall outlet into direct current (DC) power that is used to power electronic products. Adapters are crucial to the operation of all small electronic devices, yet they are inefficient.
In the United States, the EPA says, total electricity flowing through external and internal power supplies is about 207 billion kWh/year, equal to about $17 billion a year, or six percent of the national electric bill.
On average, says the agency, Energy Star qualified power adapters will be 35 percent more efficient.
The EPA is promoting the most efficient adapters since they are bundled with most popular consumer electronic and information technology products.
Sales of these products continue to show explosive growth worldwide. If this trend continues, the energy use from consumer electronics and small appliances could account for almost 30 percent of a typical home’s electricity bill by 2010, the agency says.
By comparison, the average household today spends 45 percent of its energy bill on heating and cooling, and just six percent to continuously run a refrigerator. Encouraging the use of more efficient power adapters will help stem this growing energy consumption.
Consumers will soon be able to purchase some products shipped or sold with Energy Star qualified power adapters. Eventually, the new efficient adapters will be incorporated into more products including laptops, cordless phones, and office equipment, and as replacement adapters sold separately.
Products with qualified adapters will be identified by the Energy Star label on product packaging, literature, or store displays.
Power adapters join the more than 40 categories of products, including lighting, appliances, home office equipment, home electronics and heating and cooling equipment that can earn the Energy Star label. Visit: http://www.energystar.gov.
Washington State May Phase Out Toxic Flame RetardantsOLYMPIA, Washington, January 7, 2005 (ENS) - When Christine Gregoire is inaugurated as Washington’s 22nd governor on January 12, she will have the option to carry forward a plan to phase out toxic flame retardants and other problem chemicals developed by the current governor, Gary Locke with the help of two state agencies.
Last January, Locke directed the Department of Ecology, in collaboration with the Department of Health, to develop a plan to reduce the threat of PBDE (polybrominated diphenyl ether) flame retardants, which are added to plastics or fabrics so they will not catch fire or burn so easily.
On Wednesday, Governor Locke received a list of recommendations developed by the state departments of Ecology and Health that calls for a ban on the use of two of the PBDEs in new products.
The sole U.S. manufacturer of the two chemicals ceased production at the end of 2004, and a state ban would ensure that no one could resume or initiate production and use of the chemicals in products sold in Washington state.
Locke’s proposed budget for the 2005-07 period provides funds to begin implementing the plan and to pursue a separate effort to identify and restrict the use of other problem chemicals.
"We must pay closer attention to the chemicals we’re being exposed to in our daily lives," Locke said. "Too often we learn these chemicals are a problem only after we’ve been exposed to them for years. We need to change that, and this plan calls for action to reduce current exposures and prevent future ones."
PBDEs escape from products and make their way into the environment, wildlife and people. They have been detected in human blood and breast milk, at steadily rising levels, as well as in the environment and food chain.
Ecology and Health are calling for a ban on the use of two PBDEs – Penta-BDE and Octa-BDE – in new products.
If Locke’s budget proposal is approved, the agencies also will develop a plan to phase out the use of the third PBDE, known as Deca-BDE. The plan would allow time for more investigation of potential alternative products that are safer.
"We don’t know everything about Deca, but we can expect it to break down into problem chemicals over time," said Ecology Director Linda Hoffman. "That’s why we need to reverse its buildup in our environment."
Although Deca is not considered toxic in its original state, recent studies indicate that it can break down into more harmful forms, depending on surrounding conditions. Its manufacturers maintain that the chemical poses no threat.
"We have some real health concerns," said Health Secretary Mary Selecky. "Current PBDE levels do not pose an immediate health threat. It makes sense to take action now instead of allowing levels to rise and waiting to see real effects in people, especially children."
There has been no research on the health effects of PBDEs on humans. In recent animal studies, exposure to PBDEs at higher levels has been shown to cause neurological damage in lab animals. If comparable levels were reached in people, those most likely to be at risk would be fetuses and infants in the crucial stages of early development.
The action on PBDEs is part of a broader initiative, also directed by Locke, under which Ecology will track other potentially harmful chemicals that are known to build up in the food chain. Ecology has drafted a proposed regulation that identifies 26 persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic chemicals or chemical groups that might pose a threat to environment or health and could warrant further action.
The interim PBDE plan and recommendations, along with more information about PBDEs, are available online at www.flameretardants.org.
The rule on persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic chemicals is online at http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/eap/pbt/rule/index.html.
New Jersey Seeks Ways to Avoid Water Supply EmergenciesTRENTON, New Jersey, January 7, 2005 (ENS) - The state of New Jersey is spending $850,000 to study water supply infrastructure throughout the state.
Announced by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Thursday, the study will investigate ways to mitigate and avoid drought emergencies and address what measures are needed to prevent a catastrophic loss of water due to natural disasters or terrorism.
DEP Commissioner Bradley Campbell said, "In light of recent domestic security concerns, this study is an important component of our overall strategy to protect New Jersey's critical water resources in emergency situations."
Gannett Fleming, an international consulting firm, will conduct the 18 month long study, which should be complete by April 2006.
The evaluation will include all public community water systems serving a population of at least 10,000 people. Ninety percent of New Jersey's population is served by these water systems. It is expected to recommend operational changes and infrastructure improvements, if necessary.
"Rather than manage our water resources from emergency to emergency, we need to make sure that when the next drought occurs, we have safeguards in place so that we can minimize the need for measures that adversely affect businesses and communities," said Campbell.
In the summer of 2002, New Jersey suffered a recordbreaking drought, and the state imposed water use restrictions. Despite a rainy summer and fall, experts predict that another drought is likely to occur in the future.
The infrastructure study will examine existing major water transmission routes and interconnections assessing how these separate systems can be integrated and operated as a statewide system to best manage and distribute resources during an emergency situation.
A hydraulic model will also be developed to assist DEP in evaluating a variety of "what if" scenarios to ensure an adequate water supply is available in the event of an emergency, said Campbell.
The DEP is also soliciting proposals for alternative water supply strategy projects from over 400 water purveyors, dischargers and agricultural users throughout the state. DEP is evaluating the proposals submitted and will provide grants using funds secured from the 1981 Water Supply Bond Fund. The proposed projects include using treated wastewater effluent for landscape irrigation and other non-potable uses.
In other measures to protect the state's water during the past three years, 614 miles of streams and 7,800 acres of reservoirs have been given the highest level of protection, preserving the drinking water for future generations and preventing any measurable deterioration in the existing water quality.
DEP has also adopted new stormwater regulations, which protect water quality and preserve the integrity of drinking water supplies statewide.
In November 2004, the DEP adopted the strictest drinking water standard in the country for arsenic and has just released reports assessing the vulnerability of drinking water sources throughout the state. These Source Water Assessment reports are available on the Department's website at: www.state.nj.us/dep/swap/.
California on the Path to Stricter Storm Water PermitsSACRAMENTO, California, January 7, 2004 (ENS) - The California State Water Quality Control Board is accepting public comments on a new draft state Industrial General Permit that sets conditions for the discharge of storm water associated with industrial activities.
The last permit was adopted in April 1997 and has now expired. It is being administratively extended until a new permit is in force.
Two public hearings are being held to receive comments on the new draft - on January 31 in Ranco Cucamonga and February 3 in Sacramento, California.
This draft Industrial General Permit has four important differences from the prior permit.
First, this General Permit contains minimum Best Management Practices (BMPs) that all dischargers must incorporate into their Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plans (SWPPPs).
The purpose of the new minimum standards, the Water Quality Control Board says, is to ensure that this General Permit will result in compliance with the best available technology economically achievable (BAT) and best practicable control technology currently achievable (BCT) and that facilities will have uniform practices.
In light of the great diversity of industrial activities throughout the state, the Board said, all facilities must also include site-specific BMPs. The requirements for developing site-specific BMPs are described in as much specificity as possible.
Second, this General Permit has stricter requirements to ensure that discharges comply with water quality standards.
The prior permit included an open-ended repititious process for improving Best Management Practices at facilities that caused or contributed to exceedance of water quality standards, and it provided that, as long as a discharger was engaged in this process, there was no violation of the permit for the exceedances.
Federal law has since been clarified that discharges of storm water associated with industrial activity must achieve strict compliance with water quality standards in a case brought by Defenders of Wildlife against EPA chief in the Clinton administration, Carol Browner.
This General Permit requires that discharges must comply with water quality standards. Where there is a violation of this limitation, dischargers must revise their SWPPPs and improve Best Management Practices within a short time period.
Third, this General Permit includes more extensive monitoring requirements. All dischargers must continue monitoring for a spectrum of indicator parameters and also for additional parameters associated with specified industries.
In addition, this permit requires a one time suite of monitoring for metals, Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD), and semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs) to evaluate the runoff from individual sites.
The Board plans to this data in its development of a database of the constituents of concern and the levels at which they are generally found in runoff. The SWRCB intends to use this database to develop numeric effluent limitations.
Fourth, this permit applies to all industries designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, including what it formerly termed "light industry." This General Permit also incorporates the conditional exclusion from coverage under the permit for industrial facilities that do not discharge.
The public hearing details of time and place are online at: http://www.swrcb.ca.gov/stormwtr/docs/final_draft_indus.pdf
Sea Turtle Concerns Keep Trinidad, Panama Shrimp OutWASHINGTON, DC, January 7, 2005 (ENS) - Venezuela has been added to the list of countries eligible to export wild shrimp to the United States while Trinidad and Tobago and Panama have been dropped from the list because of concerns about conservation of endangered turtles, a notice from the State Department says.
The statement issued Wednesday details the department's December 21, 2004, decisions that impose an embargo on wild shrimp imports from Trinidad and Tobago and from Panama.
Venezuela joins the group of countries whose exports are certified as eligible because their shrimpers' practices pose no harm to endangered sea turtles.
The chief component of the U.S. sea turtle conservation program is a requirement that commercial shrimp boats use sea turtle excluder devices to prevent the accidental drowning of sea turtles in shrimp trawls.
"Sea turtle excluder devices can be 97 percent effective in excluding sea turtles from trawl nets, and their use is associated with an estimated 11 percent increase per year in some endangered nesting populations in the Gulf of Mexico," the State Department said.
Trinidad and Tobago and Panama join a few other countries lacking State Department certification that otherwise could export wild shrimp to the U.S. market. Those countries include Bangladesh, Haiti, India, Indonesia and Nigeria. Some had requests for certification rejected; others never sought it.
Uncertified countries are still eligible to export to the United States shrimp raised by aquaculture.
The State Department certifies countries, most of them around the Caribbean, that require their shrimpers to employ turtle excluder devices to protect the turtles, measures comparable to requirements imposed on U.S. shrimpers.
The department also certifies countries whose shrimpers ply cold waters where the threat to turtles is negligible. Other countries are certified because their shrimpers employ manual rather than mechanical means to harvest shrimp or conduct the harvest in ways not harmful to turtles.
Once abundant throughout the world's oceans, all eight species of sea turtles are now threatened or endangered.
Grizzlies Cost Defenders of Wildlife Less This YearMISSOULA, Montana, January 7, 2005 (ENS) - When a grizzly bear in Montana or Idaho kills an animal belonging to a rancher, Defenders of Wildlife pays compensation to that rancher in an effort to create more tolerance for the wild carnivores that once roamed freely across what are now ranch lands. This year, the bears have been easier on Defenders' wallet.
The organization paid $12,795 in grizzly bear compensation funds to ranchers and sheep growers in 2004, representing a 32 percent drop from the previous year.
Payments were for one horse, nine head of cattle and 13 sheep that were confirmed kills by grizzly bears and an additional three calves that were most likely bear kills. In all, Defenders has paid $112,668 in compensation from The Bailey Wildlife Foundation Grizzly Bear Compensation Trust since it was founded in 1997.
"Prevention and compensation are crucial for grizzly bear recovery in the West. While overall losses may be small, individual ranchers feel the sting when it’s their sheep or cattle." said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife. "These initiatives help prevent problems in the first place, and promptly compensate local people when they do occur."
Defenders works to reduce the number of conflicts in grizzly habitat through The Bailey Wildlife Foundation Proactive Carnivore Conservation program. This approach uses cost share agreements to prevent problems with large carnivores.
Projects include erecting electric fencing to create secure calving grounds and sheep bedding grounds, purchasing livestock guardian dogs, and retiring grazing allotments in key habitat.
Since its creation, Defenders has invested $191,462 for 53 proactive projects that directly curtails grizzly bear and human conflicts.
"Defenders of Wildlife believes our program is making a difference and we will continue to work in cooperation with private landowners and state, tribal and federal officials on preventing grizzly bear conflicts," said Minette Johnson, Northern Rockies Field Representative for Defenders. "And although we are very worried about the record number of grizzly bear deaths in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem this year, we know none were killed as a result of conflicts with livestock." Thirty-one grizzlies died in the region in 2004.
Livestock losses to grizzly bears average just 16 cattle and 19 sheep a year in Montana and Idaho compared to total losses of 173,000 cattle and 65,000 sheep due to other causes in 2003 according the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Yearly compensation payments for grizzly bear damage average $14,865 a year, ranging from a record low of $10,679 in 2002 to a high of $18,919 in 2003.
Defenders’ compensation program covers losses in Montana and Idaho only, since the state of Wyoming has its own program. Defenders pays 50 percent of the full market value when the cause of death of the livestock cannot be verified but circumstantial evidence suggests that it was probably a grizzly bear.
For maps and other details on grizzly compensation visit: www.defenders.org/wildlife/grizzly/grizcomp.html.
For more information on The Bailey Wildlife Foundation Proactive Carnivore Conservation program visit: www.defenders.org/wildlife/new/facts/pro.html.
Sierra Nevada Backcountry Water Mostly CleanDAVIS, California, January 7, 2005 (ENS) - Except for a few heavily used areas, streams and lakes in the high country of the Sierra Nevada mountains are generally clean and fresh, according to new research by scientists at the University of California at Davis.
The good news for campers can be found in a pair of studies published in the latest issue of the quarterly medical journal "Wilderness and Environmental Medicine."
UC Davis physician Robert Derlet and pathology researcher James Carlson present data gathered from nearly 100 streams and lakes over the 400 mile long Sierra Nevada mountain range during the summer of 2003, including Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks.
Their goal was to analyze wilderness water quality for the presence of harmful bacteria such as E. coli, an indicator of contamination from human or animal waste.
Running counter to popular belief, the two researchers downplay the risk of picking up giardia in backcountry drinking water. In the Sierra Nevada, E. coli and other pathogenic bacteria may pose a greater risk than giardia for causing waterborne illnesses in people.
"What's impressive is that more than half of our water sampling sites had no water quality problems whatsoever," said Derlet, a professor of emergency medicine at the UC Davis School of Medicine and a backpacker with 30 years of experience hiking in California's high Sierra.
"People still should use water filters or purification techniques like boiling drinking water in the backcountry. But our findings also are an indication of the outstanding job done by National Park Service in its wilderness management."
Derlet has spent the past five years on water quality studies in the Sierra Nevada. From his recent sampling sites, only 17 had levels high enough to be directly linked to recreational use or the presence of livestock.
The studies were supported in part by a grant from the Wilderness Medical Society, with assistance from the National Park Service.