2004 Was a Record Disaster YearWASHINGTON, DC, January 10, 2005 (ENS) - Unprecedented damage from hurricanes led a onslaught of natural disasters that resulted in 68 major disaster declarations issued by President Bush in 2004, the most for a single year in nearly a decade, the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reported Friday.
According to FEMA data, a record setting 27 of the total major disasters were declared for hurricane related damage in 15 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, surpassing the previous high of 19 declarations set in 1999.
FEMA figures showed that $4.85 billion of the more than $5.53 billion expended for disaster aid in 2004 was provided for hurricane relief. This topped the previous record of $2.25 billion that was paid out for hurricane damage in 1998.
In addition to Florida, which was hit by four hurricanes, other states declared for hurricane aid included Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.
At the close of the year, recovery efforts were continuing in Florida, where over one million people have registered for assistance, and many of the other states impacted by hurricanes were also engaged in recovery activities.
Among other major events that FEMA responded to in 2004 were:
Perry Nuclear Plant Shutdown Under InvestigationPERRY, Ohio, January 10, 2005 (ENS) - The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has begun a special inspection of the circumstances surrounding problems with two pumps which led to the shutdown of the Perry Nuclear Power Plant early Thursday. The plant, operated by FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Co., is in Perry, Ohio.
Reactor operators shut down the plant after two recirculation pumps unexpectedly shifted speed, and one of the pumps shut down. The recirculation pumps increase the rate at which water flows through the reactor to increase the efficiency and power level of the reactor. The recirculation system does not have a reactor safety function.
During the reactor shutdown, reactor operators were unable to start another pump, used to pump cooling water into the reactor. The operators then started a backup cooling system to maintain reactor cooling.
There was no leakage of reactor cooling water, and no hazard to plant workers or the public associated with the shutdown, the NRC said.
The recirculation pumps have two speeds, a low speed for lower reactor power levels and a high speed for higher power levels. The unexpected speed change reduced the rate of water flow through the reactor, immediately reducing the power level from 100 percent to 46 percent.
The unexpected speed change was similar to an event which occurred at the same plant December 23. The utility determined that problem may have been caused by a faulty circuit card in the control system for the recirculation pumps. The card was replaced, and the utility has continued its review of the event.
A four person NRC inspection team began its review Friday, monitoring the utility’s investigation and repair activities, in addition to the NRC resident inspectors who have been following the event closely.
The NRC inspectors will also review the December 23 incident as part of its inspection.
An inspection report will be issued about 30 days following the completion of the NRC inspection. The report will be publicly available in the NRC’s Agencywide Documents Access and Management System, or ADAMS, at http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/adams.html. Use Docket Number 05000440 to locate the report. Help in using ADAMS is available from the NRC Public Document Room at 1-800-397-4209.
EPA Buys Wind Power for Western Regional Office, LabDENVER, Colorado, January 10, 2005 (ENS) - The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is buying renewable energy certificates for its Denver Regional office and Regional Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. The purchase totals nearly seven million kilowatt-hours per year over the next three years.
EPA Region 8 was one of the first federal facilities to join the Public Service WindSource program, now known as Excel Energy. In October, 2000, EPA contracted with Public Service to purchase 100 percent wind energy for the electricity used at the Regional Lab.
"A guiding principle for EPA's activities is the use of environmental management systems which have a strong focus on energy conservation and use of renewable energy sources," said EPA Region 8 Administrator Robbie Roberts.
"The purchase of renewable energy for 100 percent of our electricity needs shows our commitment to our EMS and to environmental improvement. EPA advocates use of renewable energy and now we are walking the talk."
Aquila, Inc. will provide 6.8 million kilowatt hours of electricity a year to the grid from the Colorado Green wind farm near Lamar in Prowers County, Colorado.
The 6.8 million kilowatt hours that Region 8 will purchase annually is roughly equivalent to the annual output of one and a half utility scale wind turbines - enough electricity to meet the annual needs of 944 average homes in Colorado.
Or, to put it another way, use of the equivalent amount of energy from coal would require burning 3,400 tons of coal and emitting 7,820 tons of carbon dioxide each year, along with 13.6 tons of sulfur oxides per year, 10.2 tons of nitrogen oxides per year, and 1,360 pounds of particulates per year.
“The EPA takes pride in this procurement as it supports greenhouse gas emission reductions for federal agencies," said David Lloyd, director of the Facilities Management and Services Division in EPA’s Office of Administration and Resources Management in Washington DC. "The purchase of 100 percent zero-emission green power develops renewable energy markets on a local scale while providing global air quality benefits."
The purchase is the first in a new partnership of the EPA with the Western Area Power Administration, which managed the solicitation and provided contracting services for this procurement. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory provided technical support.
Today, EPA purchases more than 220 million kilowatt-hours of green power each year for 26 laboratories and offices across the nation. This energy provides nearly 80 percent of the agency’s annual electrical needs.
In addition, Region 8 is building a new headquarters in the downtown Denver area known as Lower Downtown, or LoDo, that is designed to be one of the most energy efficient buildings in Colorado.
For more information on green tags and renewable energy, visit EPA’s Green Power website at: www.epa.gov/greeningepa/greenpower.htm.
To find a renewable energy product in your area, visit the Green-e website at: www.green-e.org.
For more about Western’s renewable resources program, log on to: www.wapa.gov/powerm/pmtags.htm.
New Director Named for National Renewable Energy LabWASHINGTON, DC, January 10, 2005 (ENS) - On Saturday, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)in Golden, Colorado will have a new director,Dr. Dan Arvizu, a former senior vice president and chief technology officer for the engineering, construction and environmental services giant CH2M Hill.
NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy’s primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. Arvizu succeeds Vice Admiral Richard Truly, a former NASA astronaut who has headed NREL since 1997.
Midwest Research Institute (MRI) also appointed Dr. Arvizu senior vice president. MRI, headquartered in Kansas City, has operated and managed NREL for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) since the NREL facility opened in 1977. Beginning in 1998, Battelle has teamed with MRI in managing and operating NREL through an integrated subcontract agreement.
“Dan is well known around the Department of Energy as someone who understands energy technology - not just renewable energy, but nuclear and fossil energy as well," said DOE Assistant Secretary of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy David Garman.
"Dan shares our view about the importance of getting our technology out of the lab and into the marketplace, and he is an excellent choice to lead NREL. Under Dan’s leadership, we expect NREL to achieve new heights of technical excellence and market relevance,” Garman said.
Arvizu holds both a Ph.D. and Master of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University. He was recently appointed to the National Science Board by President George W. Bush and serves on a number of other boards and councils including the Army Science Board for the Department of Defense, the National Coalition Council for the Department of Energy, Corporate Advisory Board for the Colorado School of Mines.
Arvizu joined CH2M Hill in Englewood, Colorado, in 1998, as vice president and director of the Energy and Industrial Systems Business Group, a newly created group. After leading the energy group to a $100 million dollar operation, he was promoted in 2002 to senior vice president and chief technology officer for the federal and industrial client sector. Arvizu held this position prior to his new appointment at NREL.
Before joining CH2M Hill, Arvizu was a researcher and manager in the energy field at Sandia National Laboratories (SNL). At the time SNL was operated by Bell Labs. While in this assignment he managed the construction of the heliostat field for what was at the time the largest solar facility in the world.
While at Sandia, Arvizu and his team received international recognition for achieving world records in solar-to-electricity conversion efficiency.
For the past several months Arvizu also has held an interim position as a loaned executive with the University of Chicago as executive director of energy programs working with officials to leverage research resources toward new energy initiatives for the university.
Public Asked to Help Identify Non-Native Bird SpeciesWASHINGTON, DC, January 10, 2005 (ENS) - Some familiar birds - the domestic goose, the European robin, the common canary, and the zebra dove so numerous in the Hawaiian islands - are among 113 birds on a draft list of the non-native bird species that have been introduced by humans into the United States or its territories.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published the list in the Federal Register last week for public comment. If a bird species is determined to be a non-native species, introduced by humans, it does not qualify to be federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), which implements U.S. commitments under international conventions with Canada, Mexico, Russia and Japan to protect shared migratory birds.
The list, required under the 2004 Migratory Bird Treaty Reform Act, covers birds whose biological families are referred to in bilateral treaties that underlie the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, but which were introduced by people and are not considered to be native to the United States.
As well as the familiar birds, more exotic bird species are on the list - the white-faced whistling duck, the spectacled owl, and the King vulture and the lesser flamingo.
While a 2001 court ruling required the Service to protect the mute swan, which is generally considered to be non-native, the Service has traditionally excluded non-native species from the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
"The Reform Act restores and clarifies the original purpose of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act - the conservation and protection of migratory birds native to North America," said Service Director Steve Williams. "The Reform Act will allow federal and state agencies to effectively manage introduced species at levels that do not conflict with obligations to conserve native species and habitats."
Of the 113 species on the draft list, only 19 are known to have established self-sustaining breeding populations in the United States. Mute swan, Eurasian collared-dove, and rock pigeon are the best known of those species included in this draft list.
Several common introduced species, including ring-necked pheasant, chukar, European starling, and house sparrow, do not belong to families listed under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and so are not affected by this notice.
The presence of a species on the list does not change the protections that it might receive under other laws or treaties such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the Endangered Species Act, or the Wild Bird Conservation Act, said Williams.
In addition, states and communities can protect non-native, human introduced species at their discretion.
The Federal Register notice is available on the Internet at http://migratorybirds.fws.gov.
Written comments can be mailed to Chief, Division of Migratory Bird Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Mail Stop 4107, Arlington, VA 22203; faxed to (703) 358-2272; or e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Written comments must be received by the Service by the close of business on February 2, 2005.
DC Concrete Company Wins Expanded Storm Water PermitWASHINGTON, DC, January 10, 2005 (ENS) - A ready mix concrete company that discharges a mixture of storm water and water from washing the concrete trucks into the Anacostia River appears likely to succeed in its application for an expanded National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. The new permit will include three new outfall points in addition to repermitting the company's original outfall point.
The Anacostia River runs through the nation's capital. It is used for swimming, boating, fishing, navigation, aesthetic enjoyment, protection and propagation of fish, shellfish and wildlife. Laws regulate the water quality for protection of human, wildlife and environmental health.
Officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Mid-Atlantic Region said that they have made "a tentative determination" to reissue an NPDES permit to the CTIDC facility at 25 Potomac Ave., S.E. The company, CTIDC, based in Springfield, Virginia, was formerly known as DC Materials.
The federal agency says all permit conditions for a reissued NPDES permit "are as stringent as the previous permit."
This permit establishes limits and monitoring requirements for the discharge of process water from washing the company's concrete trucks and discharge of storm water from stock piles, production areas and paved areas.
This discharge water is captured by a series of integrated wastewater containment pits which filter out solids before chemical treatment. The process water is recycled for use in the concrete manufacturing process and for truck washout. Before discharge to the river, sulfuric acid may be added to the discharge water to control the pH balance.
The permit is being reissued to include the company's previous outfall in case a discharge results from incomplete process water recycling. In addition, the EPA has added three new outfalls within the coverage of this permit to consolidate the storm water discharge outfalls under NPDES authority.
Solid waste from the pits and leftover concrete are retained onsite and hauled away to be used as fill material.
The permit requires compliance with Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) of pollutants in the river already approved by the EPA. Total suspended solids effluent limits of 30 milligrams per liter (mg/l) monthly average and 60 mg/l daily maximum will be imposed. These figures are based on a standard known as Best Professional Judgment, and they will be achieved through use of sedimentation basin technology.
In addition, CTIDC must implement Best Management Practices for storm water to achieve a reduction in the company's discharge of total suspended solids. These practices must be outlined in the company’s Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan.
The District of Columbia's Anacostia River Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) TMDL requirements allocate a zero discharge for point sources and a 50 percent reduction in BOD for storm water discharges.
To assure compliance with these limits, BOD monitoring has been included in the company's permit for storm water outfall Nos. 2, 3, and 4.
If monitoring reveals BOD discharges from the storm water outfalls, Best Management Practices must be implemented to reduce them to the levels allowed.
The Endangered Species Act requires all federal agencies to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service when taking an action that may adversely affect endangered and threatened species. To meet the NPDES Permit obligations, the EPA has requested informal consultation with the two agencies although the EPA regional office says "no threat to endangered or threatened species has been identified within the permit area."
A bald eagle, a federally listed threatened species, is known to have a nest located within a mile and a half of the CTIDC facility, and the eagle may feed within the vicinity of the discharge outfalls. The National Marine Fisheries Service has indicated that the endangered shortnose sturgeon occurs in the Potomac River drainage area and may occur within the District of Columbia.
EPA Sues Mosquito Company for Endangering WorkersNEW YORK, New York, January 10, 2005 (ENS) - It was in the summer of 2000 when the first New Yorkers were coming down with West Nile virus that Clarke Environmental Mosquito Management, Inc. of Roselle, Illinois was hired by the City of New York to spray pesticides around the city to ward off the mosquitoes bearing this possibly fatal disease.
But now the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has filed a complaint against Clarke Environmental Mosquito Management for violating the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act between May and November of 2000.
EPA is seeking penalties of $742,500 against the company for having pesticide applicators use the registered pesticides Anvil and Vectolex throughout the five boroughs of New York City in a manner not permitted by the labeling.
"In an atmosphere of heightened concern about the spread of West Nile virus, Clarke Environmental sent its employees out into the neighborhoods of New York City to apply mosquito control sprays with disregard for their health," said Kathleen Callahan, acting EPA Region 2 administrator.
"By failing to comply with label precautions, the company allowed the workers to be exposed daily to the potentially harmful effects of the chemical ingredients of these products, clearly violating federal pesticide rules," she said.
Clarke Environmental has the opportunity to plead its case before an administrative law judge or to contact EPA to negotiate an informal settlement of the matter.
Scientists Learn How Olive Oil Guards Against Breast CancerCHICAGO, Illinois, January 10, 2005 (ENS) - U.S. researchers have discovered why the Mediterranean diet, with its high intake of olive oil, seems to protect against breast cancer. The olive oil is high in oleic acid, which slashes levels of a gene that is associated with breast cancer.
The scientists have also found evidence that oleic acid may have a future role in cancer treatment. Their findings are reported today in "Annals of Oncology."
Lead researcher, Dr. Javier Menendez, assistant professor at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago and a research scientist with the Evanston Northwestern Healthcare Research Institute, said, "Our findings underpin epidemiological studies that show that the Mediterranean diet has significant protective effects against cancer, heart disease and ageing."
In a series of laboratory experiments on breast cancer cell lines, Menendez and his team demonstrated that oleic acid cuts the levels of an oncogene called Her-2/neu, also known as erb B-2.
High levels of Her-2/neu occur in over a fifth of breast cancer patients and are associated with highly aggressive tumors.
Not only did oleic acid suppress over-expression of the gene, other tests on the cell lines showed that it also boosted the effectiveness of trastuzumab (Herceptin), the monoclonal antibody treatment that targets the Her-2/neu gene and has helped to prolong the lives of many breast cancer patients.
The strongest evidence that monounsaturated fatty acids such as oleic acid may influence breast cancer risk comes from studies of southern European populations, but animal research to date has thrown up inconsistent results, possibly because olive oil has been administered as a mixture of several fatty acids and other natural protections and not on its own.
"To our knowledge this is the first report that a dietary monounsaturated fatty acid previously suggested to be protective against breast cancer significantly down-regulates the expression of Her-2/neu, cutting it by up to 46 percent. Her-2/neu is one of the most important oncogenes in breast cancer," said Menendez.
Working with Spanish scientists, Menendez is now looking to identify the ultimate molecular mechanism through which oleic acid supplementation inhibits the expression of Her-2/neu, as its blocking action appears to work in a different way from that of Herceptin.
Also, they are seeking funds for a study to see whether a high virgin olive oil diet will modulate the expression of the Her-2/neu oncogene in human breast tumors in animals and make the tumors less aggressive.
In addition, they want to investigate whether oleic acid-rich diets have any effect on the anti-tumour activity of Herceptin.
Menendez emphasised that while it was important to be cautious about the implications of the study, as laboratory results did not always translate into clinical practice, their findings did present the concept that a higher level of oleic acid in breast tissue could provide an effective means of influencing the outcome of breast cancer in patients carrying high levels of the "rogue gene."
"They may also help in designing future epidemiological studies and, eventually, dietary counselling to delay or prevent drug resistance developing in patients taking Herceptin," he said.