AmeriScan: January 10, 2007

* * *

2006 Was Record Warmest Year Across USA

ASHEVILLE, North Carolina, January 10, 2007 (ENS) - The 2006 average annual temperature for the Lower 48 United States was the warmest on record and nearly identical to the record set in 1998, according to government scientists at the NOAA National Climatic Data Center in Asheville.

Meteorologists said the past nine years have all been among the 25 warmest years on record for the contiguous United States, a streak which is unprecedented in the historical record.

Seven months in 2006 were much warmer than average, including December, which ended as the fourth warmest December since records began in 1895, the agency said Tuesday.

Based on preliminary data, the 2006 annual average temperature was 55 degrees Fahrenheit. That is 2.2 degrees F (1.2 degrees C) above the 20th century mean and 0.07 degrees F (0.04 degrees C) warmer than 1998.

These values were calculated using a network of more than 1,200 U.S. Historical Climatology Network stations. These data, primarily from rural stations, have been adjusted to remove artificial effects resulting from factors such as urbanization and station and instrument changes, which occurred during the period of record.

An improved data set being developed at the National Climatic Data Center and scheduled for release in 2007 incorporates recent scientific advances that better address uncertainties in the instrumental record.

Although undergoing final testing and development, this new data set also shows 2006 and 1998 to be the two warmest years on record for the contiguous United States, but with 2006 slightly cooler than 1998.

Five states had their warmest December on record - Minnesota, New York, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire - and no state was colder than average in December.

The unusually warm start to this winter reflected the rarity of Arctic outbreaks across the country as an El Niño episode continued in the equatorial Pacific. It is known that El Niño is playing a major role in this winter's short-term warm period.

U.S. and global annual temperatures are now approximately 1.0 degrees F warmer than at the start of the 20th century, and the rate of warming has accelerated over the past 30 years, increasing globally since the mid-1970s at a rate approximately three times faster than the century-scale trend.

* * *

Anti-Environmental Judicial Nominee Myers Withdraws

WASHINGTON, DC, January 10, 2007 (ENS) - For the first time, a nominee for a lifetime federal judgeship has been forced to withdraw because his anti-environmental record generated bi-partisan opposition.

William Gerry Myers III has asked that his nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit be withdrawn.

Appointed by President George W. Bush to be solicitor general for the U.S. Department of the Interior in 2001, Myers drew fire from environmentalists for decisions favoring the livestock and mining industries, which he represented while in private practice.

President Bush will not rename Myers and three other controversial federal appeals court nominees whose confirmations were blocked last year, Republican officials said Tuesday.

Myers was blocked by bipartisan Senate action. Unlike court of appeals nominees William Haynes, Terrence Boyle and Michael Wallace, who have also withdrawn, Myers was blocked by the bi-partisan "Gang of 14" agreement that saved the Senate filibuster.

In that agreement, seven Republican and seven Democratic senators provided for confirmation of certain controversial judges but specifically exempted Myers.

Myers was the first nominee opposed by Senators primarily on environmental grounds, and the first to be formally opposed by Native American groups.

The nonprofit public interest law firm Earthjustice hailed Myers' withdrawal.

"The Senate blocked William Myers's nomination because of his discredited actions as the Interior Department's top lawyer." said Glenn Sugameli, senior legislative counsel at Earthjustice.

"As the Department's Solicitor, he unjustifiably favored mining companies and other special interests at the expense of his responsibilities to enforce the laws that protect taxpayers, tribal rights, and the environment. Myers' legal positions as Interior Solicitor were rejected by the Interior Department and by federal and state courts."

As a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals judge, Myers would have had the power to turn his pro-industry bias into legal precedents governing nine Western states that contain nearly three-quarters of American public lands.

* * *

EPA Rules Out Carcinogenic Wood Preservative for Homes

WASHINGTON, DC, January 10, 2007 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, is taking legal action to deny all applications for registration of acid copper chromate, ACC, as a wood preservative pesticide intended for residential use.

ACC contains hexavalent chromium, a known human carcinogen when inhaled and a skin irritant and sensitizer.

"The U.S. continues to set the gold standard for pesticide safety," said EPA Assistant Administrator Jim Gulliford. "Today's decision protects American families, workers and the environment."

EPA's scientific review process concluded that the risks associated with residential uses of ACC outweigh the minimal benefits.

The proposed residential uses of ACC would pose a cancer risk to treatment and manufacturing workers, as well as non-cancer risks to homeowners, children and contractors, the agency said.

Skin exposures to hexavalent chromium for children contacting treated wood surfaces exceed the agency’s level of concern for skin sensitization.

In addition, disposal of the ACC-treated wood could require that it be handled and disposed of as a hazardous waste since the wood may contain high levels of chromium.

The agency believes that there are no labeling requirements that could reliably reduce exposure to acceptable levels either in the occupational or residential setting.

The decision is a setback for the chromium industry, and former Republican Senator Bob Dole, the lobbyist for a company that was pressuring the EPA to approve a new registration for ACC by January 20, 2007.

There's a legal process for getting this registration, and we've met all the requirements," Dennis Morgan of Forest Products Research Laboratory, the company that Dole represents, told "USA Today" in 2003.

Environmentalists had lobbied to prevent the registration of ACC.

Under the federal pesticide law, EPA is following the administrative process to finalize this decision.

* * *

Additives in Aircraft De-Icers Make Them More Toxic

WASHINGTON, DC, January 10, 2007 (ENS) - The U.S. Geological Survey, USGS, has been examining the relative toxicity to aquatic life from chemicals used to remove or prevent dangerous ice buildup on aircraft.

Not the basic chemicals for ice removal or prevention, but proprietary chemicals added by manufacturers are responsible for the toxicity they observed, agency researchers said after comparing nine different formulations.

Neither of the primary ingredients - ethylene glycol and propylene glycol - nor the known additives accounted for all observed toxicity of these formulations.

Additives are used in de-icers and anti-icers to facilitate product application, ensure that the product will adhere to aircraft wings and fuselage, and enhance its overall effectiveness. Those that are proprietary have compositions known only to the manufacturers.

Study results indicated that anti-icers are more toxic than de-icers due to the larger percent of additives contained in anti-icers.

Some additives are of special concern not only due to the toxicity of the additive, but because they can become increasingly toxic as they degrade in the environment.

"Airports in cold climates throughout the world use de-icers or anti-icers nearly every day during the winter, and those in warmer climates also must use them periodically. The most intensive de-icing and anti-icing application often occurs during extreme weather conditions including periods of snow, freezing rain, and high winds," said Steve Corsi, USGS scientist and lead author of this study.

"This occasionally makes it difficult to contain the spent fluids and they are released to the environment. While they are a necessity for aviation safety, these products are potential environmental contaminants," said Corsi.

For this study, completed in cooperation with Milwaukee's General Mitchell International Airport and the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, formulations were collected directly from storage tanks and de-icing vehicles and tested on minnows, water fleas, green alga, and marine bacterium.

The sensitivity of tested organisms varied according to formulation of the product. Concentrations of deicer and anti-icer components previously observed in airport effluents have, at times, exceeded the toxicity levels shown in results of this study.

The U.S. EPA acknowledges that there is environmental impact from aircraft de-icers and anti-icers and is studying possible guidelines in consideration of national regulation to limit its runoff from airports.

Many airports have implemented measures to reduce runoff of chemicals into the environment, so the fate of these substances varies depending on the individual airport and weather conditions during their use.

The report, Aquatic Toxicity of Nine Aircraft De-Icer and Anti-Icer Formulations and Relative Toxicity of Additive Package Ingredients Alkylphenol Ethoxylates and 4,5-Methyl-1H-benzotriazoles is published in the journal "Environmental Science & Technology," and is online. Click here.

* * *

New Process Killed All Microbes in Katrina Floodwater Sample

NEW YORK, New York, January 10, 2007 (ENS) - Engineers have developed a water purification technique that can eliminate 100 percent of the microbes in New Orleans water samples left from Hurricane Katrina.

The technique makes use of specialized resins, copper and hydrogen peroxide to purify tainted water.

The system is considered safer, cheaper and simpler to use than many other methods.

While the method cleans the water, it does not make the water drinkable. However, the method may eventually prove useful for limiting the spread of disease at disaster sites around the world.

Researchers Vishal Shah and Shreya Shah of Dowling College in Long Island, New York, collaborated with Boris Dzikovski of Cornell University and Jose Pinto of New York's Polytechnic University in Brooklyn to develop the technique.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, they will publish their findings in the journal "Environmental Pollution."

"After the disaster of Hurricane Katrina, scientists have had their backs against the wall trying to develop safeguards," said Shah. "No one knows when a similar situation may arise. We need to develop a treatment for decontaminating flood water before it either comes in contact with humans or is pumped into natural reservoirs."

The treatment system is simple. A polymer sheet of resins containing copper is immersed in the contaminated flood water. The addition of hydrogen peroxide generates free radicals on the polymer. The free radicals remain bound to the sheet, where they come in contact with bacteria and kill them.

Applying their technique to water from the Industrial and 17th Street canals in New Orleans, the researchers were able to destroy all of the bacteria within 15 minutes.

In tests with laboratory water samples containing even higher bacterial concentrations, the exact same process killed at least 99 percent of the bacteria in 90 minutes.

The researchers are working to lower the amount of copper in the treated water end product and improving the system's impact on chemical toxins. Shah believes it could be ready for emergency use within five to seven years.

* * *

Bison Will Be Moved to Former Chemical Weapons Site

WASHINGTON, DC, January 10, 2007 (ENS) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced it will establish a pilot bison reintroduction project at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge early this spring.

As part of a larger, ongoing effort to better conserve and protect wild bison, also called buffalo, within the National Wildlife Refuge System, the Service will move 15 bison from the National Bison Range in northwestern Montana to the Arsenal, 11 miles northeast of Denver, Colorado.

During World War II, the U.S. Army purchased what is now the Arsenal Wildlife Refuge to manufacture chemical weapons, such as mustard gas, white phosphorus and napalm.

When the war was over, in 1946, Shell and its predecessor produced agricultural pesticides on site until 1982.

Currently, there are no chemicals or chemical weapons produced or stored at the Arsenal, and cleanup is ongoing.

The pilot bison herd will be located on refuge land and enable the Service to monitor and evaluate the effects bison have on native short-grass prairie ecology at the Arsenal and determine the role of bison in the management of the site.

"Bison were once a key species on the landscape here," said Steve Berendzen, the new project leader for the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge Complex, which includes the Arsenal, Two Ponds National Wildlife Refuge in Arvada, and the eventual Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge in Jefferson, Boulder and Broomfield Counties.

"This pilot project gives us an excellent opportunity to determine, in a controlled manner, the ecological response of habitat and wildlife at the Arsenal to bison," he said.

The bison identified for movement from the Bison Range to the Arsenal contain unique genetic characteristics that the Service has determined important to the long-term conservation of wild bison.

The Service is undertaking a series of bison transfers among and between national wildlife refuges in Montana, North Dakota, Colorado, Nebraska and Iowa aimed at insuring against a catastrophic loss of key genetic material.

These transfers are intended to serve as an initial step toward establishing a more holistic management approach that recognizes and includes bison as a functional part of the National Wildlife Refuge System, and for wild bison in North America.

A buffalo management plan conducted by four federal agencies and the state of Montana Department of Livestock has led to the slaughter of thousands of wild buffalo both inside and outside the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park.

Bison conservationists of the Buffalo Field Campaign witness and document the killing and lobby for an end to the slaughter.

November 15, 2006 was the opening day of Montana's bison hunting season which extends to February 15, 2007. Montana has issued 140 permits to kill members of America's last wild herd, the Yellowstone bison, if they enter the state.

American Bison once spanned the continent, numbering between 30 and 50 million. The Yellowstone bison are America's only continuously wild herd, numbering fewer than 4,000 animals, less than .01 percent of the bison's former population.

The wholesale hunting of bison herds across the continent in the late 19th century removed bison from the prairie ecosystem.

The majority of bison in the United States currently exist in private herds, which have high rates of hybridization from domestic cattle. The Service bison herds, especially those without detectable hybridization or with low levels of detectable hybridization especially valuable for the long-term conservation of wild bison.

* * *