AmeriScan: January 22, 2007

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U.S. Joins in Global Science Gateway

LONDON, UK, January 22, 2007 (ENS) - The U.S. Energy Department is participating in development of a new international science gateway that will make science information resources of many nations accessible through a single Internet portal.

Dr. Raymond Orbach, Under Secretary for Science of the U.S. Department of Energy, DOE, yesterday signed an agreement with Lynne Brindley, chief executive of the the British Library, to partner on the global science gateway.

"It is timely to make the science offerings of all nations searchable through one global gateway," Dr. Orbach said. "Science is international, and centralizing access will enhance the rate of scientific discovery. It is a privilege to be associated with such a venture."

Called "Science.world," the planned resource would be available to scientists in all nations and to anyone interested in science.

The portal will use existing technology to search vast collections of science information distributed around the globe, providing direct, seamless and free searching of open-source collections and portals.

The agreement notes that international collaboration is essential to revolutionary advances in science.

Science projects are becoming increasingly international in scope, with researchers across the globe collaborating on projects as diverse as energy, linear colliders, genomes and the environment.

Projects such as the international fusion energy research effort, ITER, and the particle accelerator known as the Large Hadron Collider are being conducted as large international collaborations.

Science.world will rely on scientific resources published by each participating nation. Other countries have been invited to participate in this international effort.

DOE's Office of Scientific and Technical Information, OSTI, will work with the British Library, and international counterparts to develop a prototype of Science.world in 2007.

OSTI has experience in offering searching of distributed, deep web databases, through its role in the development of Science.gov, the U.S. government's one-stop searchable portal to major science databases of federal science agencies.

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Nation's Capital Turns Its Eyes to Greener Cars

WASHINGTON, DC, January 22, 2007 (ENS) - The team of transportation experts that helped to write California's new Low Carbon Fuel Standard will be in Washington, DC tomorrow to brief members of Congress and their staffers on the status of clean car and truck fuels and technologies.

The experts from the University of California - Davis will focus on the future of automotive technologies and fuels that have the potential to reduce petroleum consumption and greenhouse gases - biofuels, hybrid electric technologies and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

California Congressman Mike Thompson, a Democrat, is hosting the event.

The UC-Davis team Daniel Sperling, Joan Ogden, Tom Turrentine and Anthony Eggert are all part of a new research initiative, the Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways, STEPS, within the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies.

STEPS will evaluate the technical, economic, environmental and policy issues that will arise as the nation increases its use of nonpetroleum fuels, such as biofuels and hydrogen, and vehicles, such as plug-in hybrids and fuel-cell cars.

Sperling, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies, is co-director of the University of California team that wrote the California low carbon fuel standard, the first such policy in the world, signed into law by Executive Order of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday.

Under the order, fuel providers to the California market must cut the carbon content of fuels by at least 10 percent by 2020, thereby cutting the state's greenhouse gas emissions. In California, 41 percent of such emissions come from transportation fuels.

This briefing is taking place just ahead of the 2007 Washington Auto Show with the theme Presenting Advanced Technologies, which opens at the Washington Convention Center on Wednesday. More than 700 new cars, trucks, mini-vans and sport utility vehicles from over 42 domestic and import automakers will be on view.

As part of a series of events during the German EU and G-8 presidencies that started January 1, the German Embassy will host a symposium at the Washington Auto Show to present the latest technology trends.

At the show, the German automaker BMW will debut the Hydrogen 7, the world's first hydrogen-drive luxury performance automobile, capable of running on gasoline or hydrogen.

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Wetlands Grants Worth Millions Awarded in 14 States

WASHINGTON, DC, January 22, 2007 (ENS) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has awarded $18.8 million in wetlands grants to 14 states. These grants under the National Coastal Wetlands Grant Program will help conserve, restore and protect coastal wetlands.

The grants provide funding for 25 projects and will be supplemented with more than $54 million from partners including state and local governments, private landowners and conservation groups,

The grants are used to acquire, restore or enhance coastal wetlands for long-term conservation benefits to wildlife and habitat.

States receiving funds from the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program include Alaska, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

"One of this program's many strengths is its support of the states' own coastal conservation priorities," said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dale Hall, announcing the grants at the Field Museum in Chicago.

"The coastal areas supported by this program represent essential habitat for aquatic and terrestrial plants and animals," Hall said. "Not only will these funds be used to support recovery of imperiled species, they will also help prevent species from becoming threatened by restoring and protecting the coastal areas where they live."

In Illinois, a grant will fund the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to complete coastal habitat enhancement, including invasive species removal, on 240 acres of dune and swale communities within the ecological coastal wetland complex of Illinois Beach State Park and Spring Bluff Nature Preserve.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, working with The Nature Conservancy, will purchase 139 acres of land in a buy that will create more than 13 miles of protected shoreline on the Mink River, considered one of the highest quality freshwater estuaries on the western Great Lakes. One million dollars in grant funds will be leveraged with more than $1.5 million in partner funds.

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources will use a grant to purchase 25,668 acres from the International Paper Corporation to protect wetlands at the confluence of the Great and Little Pee Dee Rivers, including 38 miles of river frontage. Four endangered species, 10 state species of concern, and numerous migratory birds and fish will benefit. One million in grant funds will be leveraged with an additional $1 million in partner funds.

Three grants worth $2.4 million go to the state of Hawaii to help conserve, restore and protect coastal wetlands. The Hawaii grants will fund three projects on Kauai, Oahu and Maui and will be supplemented with more than $3.3 million from state government, private landowners and conservation groups. One project will target the Mana Plain coastal wetlands on Kauai where the state will restore and enhance 141 acres inhabited by endangered water birds.

Including the 2007 grants, the Service has awarded more than $182 million to states and insular areas since the program began in 1992. When the 2007 projects are complete, they will have protected, restored or enhanced more than 39,000 acres of coastal habitat. A total of more than 235,000 acres will have been protected or restored since the grant program began.

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Silvery Minnow Recovery Plan Open for Comment

WASHINGTON, DC, January 22, 2007 (ENS) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released a draft revised Recovery Plan that outlines recovery strategies for the endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow, a fish native to its namesake river and the Pecos River.

The plan, released last week, outlines suggested conservation measures for improving and increasing the fish's population and habitat. The Service says its goal is to recover the minnow so that it no longer needs Endangered Species Act protection.

Recovery plans are prepared for federally threatened or endangered species. They outline conservation strategies, provide recovery criteria, identify partners, and include an implementation schedule of recovery actions with suggested timelines and estimated costs. Fully voluntary, recovery plans do not obligate the federal government or its partners to take the actions outlined in the plans.

The Rio Grande silvery minnow recovery plan recommends three separate fish populations. It identifies several possible locations to consider reintroducing the fish. The Service is exploring the Big Bend area of the Rio Grande as a possible site for reintroduction.

"The plan serves as a blueprint to recover the minnow," said Benjamin Tuggle, regional director of the Service's Southwest Region. "We believe the fish should have healthy, self-sustaining populations in three separate areas of its historic range with the habitat and water quality to support them."

Once widespread throughout the entire Rio Grande and Pecos Rivers, the silvery minnow is now found only in the New Mexico reach from Cochiti Dam to Elephant Butte Reservoir.

The fish declined after destruction and modification of its habitat due to dewatering and diversion, water impoundment and river modifications. Competition and predation by introduced non-native species and water quality degradation also contributed to its decline.

The Recovery Plan was drafted by an interagency team familiar with fisheries and water issues in the Southwest.

The Rio Grande and Pecos Rivers once migrated across wide floodplains with numerous secondary channels, backwaters, lakes and marshes. Floods supported a high water table that maintained some open water during dry times, an ideal environment for supporting silvery minnows.

Restoring these habitats throughout the middle Rio Grande and reestablishment areas is critical to recovering this species.

"The draft Recovery Plan includes our best advice on how to restore a native fish that belongs in the Rio Grande," said Tuggle. "We had the assistance of many knowledgeable, talented people in crafting this plan. I welcome comments."

The plan is available online at: http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/Library. Comments on the draft are sought through April 18. Email comments to: jennifer_parody@fws.gov.

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Rare Salamanders Were Illegally Denied Protection

SAN FRANCISCO, California, January 22, 2007 (ENS) - In a lawsuit brought by a coalition of five conservation groups, federal Judge William Alsup ruled Friday that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service illegally denied protection to two species of salamanders as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. One of the species was discovered only last year, but logging of its forest habitat has put its survival in jeopardy.

The judge ordered the Service to issue a new 90 day finding on the petition by March 23, 2007. This finding is expected to begin a 12 month review of the status of the Siskiyou Mountains and Scott Bar salamanders.

"We're delighted that the Siskiyou and newly discovered Scott Bar salamanders, which are threatened by extensive logging, will finally be considered for the protection they deserve," said Noah Greenwald, conservation biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the plaintiff groups.

To date, the Bush administration has protected just 56 species - by far the fewest for any five year period in the history of the Endangered Species Act.

There were 512 species protected under Bill Clinton and 234 protected during the first Bush presidency. The current administration has denied or delayed protection for hundreds of imperiled species.

"We have a responsibility to prevent the extinction of wildlife, because once they are gone, we cannot bring them back." said Joseph Vaile, campaign director for the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, another plaintiff group. "The Scott Bar salamander was just discovered last year. It would be a tragedy if politics led to its extinction."

Both species of salamander live in mature and old growth forests such as those that once covered much of the Northwest. Today only fragments of these forests remain, facing increasing pressure from logging and development.

In the finding, the Fish and Wildlife Service admitted that logging affects the salamanders' habitat and had occurred extensively throughout the species' ranges, but denied protection anyway based on a purported lack of information.

Judge Alsup rejected this rationale, stating, "This order agrees that on this record, plaintiffs have demonstrated substantial information presented by various scientists that logging and other activity threatened the salamanders."

"Logging of the last remaining old growth forests in the Pacific Northwest threatens the survival of not just the Siskiyou Mountains and Scott Bar salamanders but countless other species," said Amy Atwood, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center, which represented the groups.

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EPA OKs Cause Marketing Labels for Disinfectants

WASHINGTON, DC, January 22, 2007 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved display of promotions for causes or charities on labels of pesticides, disinfectants and other commercial toxics.

Documents revealing the agency's policy change were released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, PEER, a national association of workers in natural resources agencies.

As a result, these products may now feature tie-ins with charitable organizations and marketing slogans on their labels which are otherwise supposed to be devoted to consumer safety and usage information.

The change came in response to a request from the Clorox Company to advertise a pledge that it will donate a small percentage of the retail purchase price of its bleach products to the Red Cross.

The EPA dropped earlier objections following a meeting in July between top agency and corporate officials, according to an EPA briefing provided in early December to state pesticide agency officials.

At Clorox's urging, EPA will allow placement of the phrases "Dedicated to a healthier world" and "Help Clorox raise $1M for the Red Cross," as well as the use of the Red Cross logo on both the front and back panels, on five Clorox products.

"Thanks to EPA, even the most dangerous chemical can now wrap itself in a cloak of wholesomeness, featuring claims that it helps the planet, benefits sick children or even saves the whales," said PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch.

"EPA is squandering its limited regulatory resources to referee promotional slogans rather than protecting consumer health," Ruch said.

The new agency cause marketing option will be open to every manufacturer of regulated products.

By law, EPA regulates the content of labels on registered pesticides, rat poisons, fungicides and anti-microbial agents, such as bleach.

Agency guidelines emphasize safety and usage information and discourage any "symbols implying safety or nontoxicity, such as a Red Cross or a medical seal of approval (caduceus)."

"EPA's concession to Clorox appears to violate the spirit, if not the letter, of its own consumer protection guidelines," Ruch said. "Critical safety warnings may be drowned out by purely promotional visual clutter."

Under the emerging policy, cause marketing labels would not be permanent but would be limited "to a specific time interval negotiated between the charity and the registrant," according to the EPA briefing.

In addition, EPA would police the legitimacy of charities involved and would require chemical makers to "certify that all references to the donation plan and any charity participation will be consistent with Better Business Bureau guidelines."

EPA would also prohibit any "direct or implied statement that the charity sponsors or endorses the product" and require "a disclaimer to this effect on the label."

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