AmeriScan: July 7, 2003

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Army Develops Risk Based Environmental Audits

WASHINGTON, DC, July 7, 2003 (ENS) - U.S. Army installations at greatest risk of environmental enforcement actions or where environmental concerns could most adversely affect operations will receive more frequent evaluations under a recent change to the Army's Environmental Performance Assessment System (EPAS).

Previously, Defense Department policy required an installation and all its environmental media to be audited every three years.

In fiscal 2003, the Army began prioritizing its installations within the continental United States based on relative risk as reflected by a mix of performance, mission criticality and sustainability challenges.

To rank installations, the U.S. Army Environmental Center developed the Army EPAS Risk Model (AERM) in 2002. This system accesses data from Army databases to generate a risk ordered list.

"AERM allows us to rationalize where to go and what to look at. The end result is a better, more cost effective use of Army environmental audit resources," Matt Andrews, Army EPAS team leader told Andrew Caraker writing for the U.S. Army Environmental Center.

The change is part of the EPAS program's response to impending Armywide implementation of environmental management systems.

The EPAS program is being redesigned to focus on installation environmental management performance and end results, rather than compliance checklists.

The Army EPAS Risk Model emerged from collaboration among the assistant chief of staff for installation management, the Office of the Director of Environmental Programs, and the seven Installation Management Agency Regional Offices - four in the continental United States, and three overseas.

The concept of risk also is being applied in determining which media to audit. In past years, there were informal mechanisms for exempting media based on past performance or relative insignificance. That risk based approach is being formalized and will be incorporated into the revised AERM.

A modification of the model for installations outside the continental United States is being developed for each of the three overseas regions - Europe, Japan and Korea - to reflect unique region circumstances.

AERM is slated to serve purposes beyond ranking installations for environmental audits. In April 2003, the Army Chief of Staff approved AERM as one of the four principal environmental measures in the new Strategic Readiness System that will be applied to Army installations worldwide.

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Human Effect on Climate Draws Scientific Consensus

WASHINGTON, DC, July 7, 2003 (ENS) - A group of climate scientists has reaffirmed the "robust consensus view" emerging from the peer reviewed literature that climate warming observed at least in the northern hemisphere in the late 20th century was different from warming in the previous 1,000 years, and that human activity likely played an important role in causing it.

In so doing, they refuted recent claims that the warmth of recent decades was not unprecedented in the context of the past thousand years.

Writing in the July 8 issue of the American Geophysical Union publication "Eos," Michael Mann of the University of Virginia and 12 colleagues in the United States and United Kingdom say that "there is a compelling basis for concern over future climate changes, including increases in global-mean surface temperatures, due to increased concentrations of greenhouse gases, primarily from fossil fuel burning."

The "Eos" article is a response to two recent and nearly identical papers by Dr. Willie Soon and Dr. Sallie Baliunas and others of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, published in "Climate Research" and "Energy & Environment."

Soon and Baliunas challenge the generally accepted view that natural factors cannot fully explain recent warming and must have been supplemented by significant human activity.

Requests from reporters to top scientists in the field, seeking comment on the Soon and Baliunas position, led to memoranda that were later expanded into the current "Eos" article, which was itself peer reviewed.

Paleoclimatologists, scientists who study ancient climates, rely on instrumental data for the past 150 years and indicators such as tree rings, ice cores, corals, and lake sediments to reconstruct the climate of earlier times.

Most of the available data pertain to the northern hemisphere and show, according to the "Eos" authors, that the warmth of the northern hemisphere over the past few decades is likely unprecedented in the last 1,000 years and quite possibly in the preceding 1,000 years as well.

Climate model simulations cannot explain the anomalous late 20th century warmth without taking into account the contributions of human activities, Mann and Oppenheimer say.

Mann and Oppenheimer learned that a number of other colleagues, including Tom Wigley of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado; Philip Jones of the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit in Norwich, United Kingdom; and Raymond Bradley of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst were receiving similar media requests for their opinions on the matter. Their original memorandum evolved into a more general position paper jointly authored by a larger group of leading scientists in the field.

Mann says he sees the resulting "Eos" article as representing an even broader consensus of the viewpoint of the mainstream climate research community on the question of late 20th century warming and its causes.

The goal of the authors, he says, is to reaffirm support for the American Geophysical Union position statement on climate change and greenhouse gases and clarify what is currently known from the paleoclimate record of the past one thousand to two thousand years, in particular, the bearing of this evidence on the issue of the detection of human influence on recent climate change.

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Luzenac Buys Wind Power for Yellowstone Talc Mine

PORTLAND, Oregon, July 7, 2003 (ENS) - The Bonneville Environmental Foundation announced today that Luzenac America, Inc. has offset 100 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with electrical energy use at its Yellowstone Talc Mine through a purchase of Green Tags from the foundation.

The Green Tags, known as Tradable Renewable Energy Credits, represent over 1,700 megawatt­hours of renewable energy produced from wind power.

Luzenac's Green Tag purchase makes the electrical energy use at its Yellowstone mine located in Cameron, Montana completely climate neutral and non-polluting, according to Pat Nye spokesperson for the Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF), a non-profit organization.

Luzenac's purchase supports an increase of wind power in the national power grid and a corresponding reduction in electricity generated from fossil fuel utilities.

This results in the annual savings of 1,190 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, primarily carbon dioxide (CO2) that would otherwise have been released into the atmosphere.

Luzenac's commitment to Green Tags is the CO2 offset equivalent to planting 486 acres of trees or taking 234 cars off the road for one year.

"Our people in Montana run their operation in a model fashion, and we are pleased to build on past environmental programs with our recent Green Tag purchase," said Rich Zazenski, director of environment, sustainable development, and product safety for Luzenac.

Zazenski continued, saying, "Luzenac and its employees have a deep respect for the environment, and we have a sincere interest in preserving land in which we work and live. By entering into this partnership with BEF, we hope to promote the awareness, viability, and potential of renewable energy."

Luzenac's Yellowstone Talc Mine has been in operation since 1950. Its talc is used in the paper industry in which it functions as a non-toxic agent for pitch control in the paper making process.

As more and more paper is recycled and paper producers require virgin pulp from sustainable forestry, talc's ability to trap detrimental substances helps paper makers utilize their prime material more efficiently. This equates to over 10 million tons of pulp, paper and recycled fiber being improved without the use of chemicals.

Luzenac America is part of the Luzenac Group of companies, which produces, ships and sells in excess of 1.4 million tons of talc from over 30 talc mines and processing plants in Europe, North and Central America, and Australia. Luzenac Group's parent company is Rio Tinto PLC, a global mining and industrial materials production company.

BEF's Green Tags are Green-e certified by the Center for Resource Solutions and designated Climate Cool by the Climate Neutral Network as having a net zero impact on the climate. The Natural Resources Defense Council, Renewable Northwest Project and the Northwest Energy Coalition certify new renewable energy resources that produce BEF's Green Tags.

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Urban, Community Forest Projects Win $1 Million

WASHINGTON, DC, July 7, 2003 (ENS) - Federal grants worth $1,047,000 have been awarded to 15 organizations for urban and community forests, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman announced Thursday.

The organizations will match those funds with an additional $1,374,000 for research and education projects for urban forests.

The grants fund projects in four categories - urban and community forestry for and with minority and underserved populations, promoting livable communities, communication programs, and research and technology development.

"These grants will help fund programs to promote the importance of urban and community forestry," Veneman said.

"Enhancing forests in urban areas will help improve the quality of the environment and the quality of life in our urban communities."

Recipients of the grants were selected in a competitive process, based on criteria developed by the National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council, a 15 member advisory council created by the 1990 Farm Bill to provide advice to the Secretary of Agriculture on urban and community forestry.

Council members include representatives from communities, universities, non-profit forestry and conservation citizen organizations, landscape and design consultants, the forest product or nursery industry, professional renewable natural resource organizations and U.S. Department of Agriculture. The council reviews the proposals and makes recommendations to the U.S. Forest Service, which awards the grants.

Previous grants resulted in developing community forest plans, methods for identifying the costs and benefits of trees in communities, ways to conserve energy, techniques for communities to care for their forests, and educational programs to promote the importance of urban and community forestry.

The largest grant totalling $321,630 will go to NatureTalks on the Hawaiian island of Kauai for a national assessment of minority and underserved populations' experiences in urban and community forestry.

The Asian Initiative for Urban and Community Forestry submitted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in partnership with the TreeTrust in St. Paul, Minnesota will receive a total of $294,540.

TreeLink in 12 Languages submitted by TreeLink in Salt Lake City, Utah will receive a total of $160,000.

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Washington's Wenatchee River Studied for PCBs

YAKIMA, Washington, July 7, 2003 (ENS) - Wenatchee River fish and Wenatchee area groundwater will be the subject of two studies being conducted by the Washington Department of Ecology over the next year.

This summer, Wenatchee River fish will be sampled for concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The study comes in response to findings of PCBs in fish samples in 1993, and in the river water in 1999.

PCBs are synthetic chemicals that persist in the environment for decades. They have been used as coolants and lubricants in transformers, capacitors and other electrical equipment. The manufacture of PCBs was stopped in the United States in 1977 because of evidence they build up in the environment and can harm the health of humans and animals.

"Because of these earlier findings in the Wenatchee River, we want to sample a variety of fish - trout, whitefish and bottom fish - to learn the extent of the PCB problem," said David Schneider, a water quality specialist for the Washington Department of Ecology.

The information gathered will be integrated into an overall plan to clean up the Wenatchee River. Members of the Wenatchee Water Quality Technical Advisory Committee, led by the Chelan Conservation District, are working on multi-faceted plan to improve the river's water quality.

In a second study, the department plans to monitor ground water along several tributaries of the Wenatchee River. The study will examine how pollution, groundwater and surface water interact in the Mission, Brender, Peshastin, Chumstick and Nason creek watersheds.

"We want to establish a baseline of water quality in the area and determine what needs to be done to protect water for area residents and fish habitat," Schneider said.

Additional information on the overall project, also known as the Wenatchee Multi-parameter Total Maximum Daily Load, is available online at: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/pubs/0210023.pdf.

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Arkansas Wants Buyers for Abandoned Chemical Site

WEST HELENA, Arkansas, July 7, 2003 (ENS) = The Arkansas Department of Environment together with local elected officials, has established a process whereby ADEQ will solicit proposals from prospective buyers to redevelop or operate the Cedar Chemical facility and to address the existing environmental contamination at the site.

Cedar Chemical Company, which produced herbicides and pesticides at the West Helena facility, ceased operations and filed for bankruptcy in March 2002, leaving behind a site with extensive soil and sub-soil contamination on the property, and groundwater contamination that extends beyond the property boundaries. Some of the contamination occurred before Cedar Chemical Company operated at the site.

As dictated by the bankruptcy court, ADEQ has secured the property, limited further environmental contamination, and overseen the site since October 2002. As part of the bankruptcy decree, ADEQ will direct Cedar Chemical Company to transfer ownership of the West Helena property to a buyer selected by the ADEQ.

The agency has prepared a comprehensive site assessment that identifies and characterizes the contamination and environmental concerns at the site, and has received an independent appraisal of the property's value.

The property and equipment are valued at $6.4 million, before considering the reduced value because of the environmental contamination at the site.

Beginning next week ADEQ will contact potential buyers requesting proposals to purchase the property and equipment, redevelop or operate the facility, and address environmental contamination at the site. Proposals must include plans to clean up or contain soil and sub-soil contamination at the site, and to limit further groundwater contamination.

All proceeds from the sale of the property will be used by ADEQ to address environmental contamination not addressed by buyers' proposals, including the existing groundwater contamination.

ADEQ Director Marcus Devine said, "Governor [Mike] Huckabee has an interest in quickly redeveloping the property. He wants us to bring the property back to productive use, making this an economic development success, as well as an environmental success."

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Eagles Poisoned by Euthanasia Drug

WASHINGTON, DC, July 7, 2003 (ENS) - Across the country, eagles and other wildlife are dying due to accidental poisoning by the euthanasia drug sodium pentobarbital.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) says that more than 130 bald and golden eagles have become casualties of pentobarbital poisoning from eating the carcasses of animals that have been euthanized. Residue from the chemical remains in the meat of animals long after they have been euthanized.

These deaths occur when euthanized carcasses are left exposed to birds and other scavengers instead of being incinerated or properly buried, procedures that are required by many state and local laws. Some birds die immediately after eating poisoned meat, while others are able to fly for several miles. These birds usually die in subsequent vehicle collisions, electrocutions, hypothermia, predator attacks, drowning or falling from perches while sedated by the drug.

"These poisonings can be easily avoided by properly disposing of the contaminated carcasses," according to FWS Special Agent Neill Hartman. "It’s fairly simple to make sure wildlife cannot get to the tainted meat. We hope to get this information out to people across the country who may come into contact with euthanized animal carcasses."

Effective disposal methods include incineration, which the FWS says is the best method, proper burial, or landfilling.

Burial of the animal must comply with state and local requirements. Landfill requirements may include pre-notification and scheduled disposal of properly double-bagged and labeled carcasses, immediate burial of the contaminated carcass at the active face of landfills, and sequestration in secure containers at the landfill whenever immediate burial of euthanized carcasses is not possible.

Hartman says that studies have shown that rendering of pentobarbital tainted carcasses is not an effective means of disposal. The rendering process does not destroy the residues left by the drug.

Species affected by accidental pentobarbital poisoning include both bald and golden eagles, magpies and ravens, California condors, vultures, several hawk species, wood storks, crows, and gulls.

Scavenging mammals potentially affected by pentobarbital ingestion include foxes, bears, martens, fishers, coyotes, lynx, bobcats, cougars, and otters. Domestic dogs have become intoxicated or killed by eating poisonous carcasses, and zoos have documented the deaths of tigers, cougars and lions that were accidentally fed tainted meat.

Cases of pentobarbital poisoning have been recorded in 14 states since the mid-1980s including Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Montana, Nevada, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. Poisonings have occurred in British Columbia, Canada.

Improperly disposing of tainted carcasses may lead to violation of state and federal laws when it results in the death of protected wildlife. Criminal penalties under the Eagle Protection Act for improperly disposing of tainted carcasses can include fines of $100,000 per individual or $200,000 per organization, and may include up to one year imprisonment.

Fines under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act can be up to $15,000 and six months imprisonment.

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Tiny Coral Larvae Hold Clues to Maui Reefs

SANTA CRUZ, California, July 7, 2003 (ENS) - An unprecedented experiment to track the travel route of microscopic coral larvae took place off the coast of Maui last week. It is expected to enable scientists to better understand why certain reefs off West Maui are doing well and others are not.

Corals are small colonial animals that secrete hard outer skeletons. One of the principal corals for building reefs in Hawaii, known as rice coral, Montipora capitata, spawn for four nights after each new moon from May through August.

Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the University of Hawaii, the Hawaiian Division of Aquatic Resources, the Maui Ocean Center, and the University of Washington are trying to learn how waves, currents, and seawater properties affect the dispersal of coral larvae.

Dr. Curt Storlazzi, USGS's chief oceanographer for the project, said the scientists used high-tech instruments to track the coral larvae's night journey.

The packets of eggs and sperm rise to the ocean's surface and float along by the millions in surface currents until the fertilized eggs, or larvae, sink and start to grow on rocky areas. The problem is, said Storlazzi, no one knows exactly where the currents take the larvae.

As researcher Eric Brown of the University of Hawaii explains, "Some coastal areas may not be developing coral reefs simply because the larvae are unable to settle."

Where the larvae go is what the USGS scientists and their collaborators aim to determine. The researchers used underwater tripods that look much like lunar landers to monitor temperature, water clarity, waves, and currents.

At the same time, satellite tracked drifters were released at night to float along with the larvae, and the researchers monitored the drifters' positions all night on radio frequencies.

Storlazzi noted that the currents off West Maui are complex, and understanding the fate of the larvae requires scientists to monitor currents for days to detect shifts due to changes in tides and wind.

Storlazzi will round out the experiment by measuring water speeds along the coast from a boat using an acoustic doppler current profiler.

The USGS Coral Reef Team, led by Dr. Michael Field, has been studying the effects that current movements and sediment particles have on the condition of Hawaiian coral reefs for the past several years to provide resource managers with information on how to best protect these Hawaiian reefs.

Field says, "Our goal has been to identify the pathways of sediment to the reef, and how it is moved onto corals by waves and currents." After several years of research on the islands of Maui and Molokai, the USGS team is applying their expertise to the tracking of microscopic larvae.

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