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AmeriScan: July 6, 2005

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Hurricane Dennis Headed for Southeastern Coastal States

MIAMI, Florida, July 6, 2005 (ENS) - In the Caribbean Sea, Tropical Storm Dennis reached hurricane strength late today, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, based on reports from Air Force Reserve reconnaissance aircraft.

National Weather Service forecasters predict the storm could reach Category 3 levels and come ashore somewhere along Florida’s Western coast on the weekend.

The latest projected path for Dennis takes it near Haiti and Jamaica tonight. A hurricane warning is in effect for Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, and parts of Cuba. Forecasters expect the storm to bring up to eight inches of rain to those areas.

“We are already starting to prepare,” said Laura Howe, American Red Cross spokesperson in Alabama. “We’re watching weather models, and placing staff on standby. We’re opening a response center in Birmingham tomorrow, and start giving some serious attention to where to position staff and where to preposition supplies.”

Forecasts from the National Weather Service suggest that the warm waters of the Caribbean could push Dennis to become a Category 3 hurricane. According to the Saffir-Simpson Scale for hurricane strength, Category 3 storms have winds from 111 to 130 mph, with storms surges from nine to 12 feet high.

Then, the system is expected to move toward western Cuba by Friday night and Saturday. It will then emerge in the Gulf of Mexico sometime Sunday.

“This is a difficult storm to deal with because we don’t have a real good sense of the track of it yet,” said Howe.

Tropical Storm Cindy came ashore Tuesday night in Louisiana, leaving more than 318,000 people without power.

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour declared a state of emergency in areas affected by the storm. Cindy was downgraded to a tropical depression this morning, but it continues to bring rain as it moves northeast toward Atlanta and up the East Coast.

The Red Cross opened four shelters in areas prone to flooding in anticipation of Cindy, but housed less than 30 residents total. According to Red Cross damage assessments, there are just a few dozen homes in parts of Mississippi that sustained significant damage, said Howe.

Gasoline prices reached record levels as the threat of the two storms created concerns about U.S. offshore oil supplies.

July 5th became the earliest date in recorded tropical storm history that four named storms - Tropical storms Arlene, Bret and Cindy preceded Dennis - had formed in the Atlantic basin.

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Lead Paint Lawsuit Targets EPA

WASHINGTON, DC, July 6, 2005 (ENS) - A dozen public health organizations today formally signaled their intent to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its nine year delay in adopting regulations to ensure that repairs and renovations in older housing are conducted in a lead-safe manner.

The EPA’s own estimates conclude that continued delay in issuing regulations exposes 1.4 million children annually to risk of lead poisoning.

The federal Agency for Toxic Substances says lead can affect almost every organ and system in the body. The most sensitive is the central nervous system, particularly in children. Lead also damages kidneys and the reproductive system. The effects are the same whether it is breathed or swallowed.

In 1992, Congress mandated that the agency must certify contractors to ensure that workers are trained in lead-safe practices when remodeling buildings constructed before 1978.

Under the Toxic Substances Control Act, the deadline for the EPA to adopt these “regulations to renovation or remodeling activities” was October 28, 1996. Despite this mandate, the Bush administration has balked at issuing the regulation, which had been prepared during the Clinton years.

In 2004, then Deputy EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson vetoed renovation regulations in favor of a voluntary approach.

Then on May 16, the EPA filed a one-word Federal Register notice that the voluntary program was "withdrawn."

The EPA now claims to be working on new regulatory approaches but has not indicated what it may propose, or when the new regulations will be issued.

"EPA’s own studies indicate that this regulation is one of the most cost-effective public health actions in the agency’s arsenal,” said General Counsel Richard Condit of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), who filed the notice on behalf of the coalition.

“These regulations would more than pay for themselves if just a fraction of the affected children avoided losing even one IQ point due to elevated blood lead levels,” Condit said.

“Dust thrown up in renovation and repair of older residences is a principal source of lead dust exposure to U.S. children," he said. "Unless the dust is contained, it permeates the carpet, ductwork and soil, so that the children breathe the dust for months and years to come.

Joining PEER in the notice of intent to sue are:

  • The Alliance for Healthy Homes, a national organization dedicated to protecting children from lead poisoning and other in-home health hazards
  • The Lead and Environmental Hazards Association,
  • Improving Kids’ Environment and the Organization of the New Eastside - both of Indianapolis
  • Project 504, of Minneapolis
  • The Maine Lead Action Project
  • Cleveland Citizens Organized Against Lead
  • Philadelphia Citizens for Children and Youth
  • Group 14621 Community Association, Inc of Rochester
  • California Communities Against Toxics
  • The Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry, of Cleveland
  • The Arc of the United States, a national organization of and for people with mental retardation and related developmental disabilities and their families
In another lead related event, on June 29, $48 million in funding targeted at dealing with the most urgent lead problems in cities was restored by the U.S. House of Representatives.

The House approved an amendment to the FY 2006 Transportation-Treasury-HUD-Judiciary-DC appropriations bill restoring the $48 million that had been cuts from the budget of the Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The cuts, proposed by the Bush administration and approved by the House Appropriations Committee in mid-June, would have eliminated the High Lead Area Removal Initiative that is targeted to cities with the most urgent lead hazard problems.

The amendment, sponsored by New York Democratic Congresswomen Nydia Velazquez and Louise Slaughter and Republican Congressman Lee Terry of Nebraska, passed the full House on a voice vote with no members opposed. The full appropriations bill passed June 30.

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Cargill to Build Nation’s Largest Biodiesel Plant in Iowa

IOWA FALLS, Iowa, July 6, 2005 (ENS) - With the capacity to produce 37.5 million gallons of renewable, clean-burning biodiesel a year, Cargill’s planned biodiesel plant in Iowa Falls, Iowa is set to be larger than any of the United States’ current plants.

Cargill announced last month that it plans to start construction of the new plant this summer, with production expected in April 2006.

Organizers say the plant will initially produce biodiesel exclusively from soybean oil, but in the future, they hope to add animal fat and waste grease capabilities as well.

Adjacent to its existing soybean crush facility in Iowa Falls, Cargill also plans to build a glycerin refinery that can turn out 30 million pounds per year.

“The price volatility of the soybean oil and petroleum markets can be challenging for biodiesel producers," said Wayne Teddy, president, Cargill Grain and Oilseed Crush Supply-North America. But "by leveraging Cargill’s experience with other renewable fuels, utilizing our expertise in processing, logistics and risk management, as well as accessing our production of multiple feedstocks,” the company will make the enterprise a success, Teddy said.

Cargill is the nation’s third largest ethanol producer. It has an ethanol facility in Eddyville, Iowa that produces 35 million gallon per year and another just across the Nebraska border in Blair that produces 85 million gallons per year.

"Our biodiesel initiative reflects ongoing government support for renewable fuels and our broader commitment to invest in the U.S. renewable fuels industry, while generating new markets and applications for American farmers,” he said.

“I think it’s great that Cargill is entering the biodiesel market. It’s wonderful,” said Roy Arends, a director for the Iowa Soybean Promotion Board and farmer from Alexander, Iowa.

“Some might see this as competition for the farmer-owned biodiesel plants, but I see it as a good sign for the future. Cargill obviously thinks it’s going to be profitable long term or they wouldn’t be doing it.”

Iowa farmers have invested millions of tax form checkoff dollars in the development, production and promotion of soy biodiesel.

There are 52 biodiesel retail fueling stations and more than 350 biodiesel fuel distributors in the state.

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Musician Willie Nelson Expands Biodisel Brand BioWillie

CARL'S CORNER, Texas, July 6, 2005 (ENS) - Musician Willie Nelson spent the Independence Day weekend expanding his chain of biodiesel fueling stations to the truck stop Carl's Corner along Interstate 35.

Carl's Corner now offers “BioWillie,” the singer’s unique brand of B20, a fuel made of 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent petroleum diesel. It is supplied to filling stations by Willie Nelson Biodiesel, founded by the musician.

In Texas, Carl’s Corner is not only the name of the city, but also the truck stop of the July 3 biodiesel celebration, which included amusements such as a chili cook-off and concert by Nelson.

“The response from my trucker customers so far has been phenomenal,” said Carl Cornelius, co-owner Carl’s Corner. “Almost everybody who’s used it has been totally satisfied. I’m learning from truckers they find better mileage, smoother performance, more power. They’re pretty excited. Everybody ought to get on this bandwagon.”

During the Texas event, the National Biodiesel Board presented Cornelius with the Biodiesel Pioneer Award for his commitment to bringing biodiesel to truckers.

Nelson intends to establish a chain of BioWillie stations throughout the southeastern United States. "Biodiesel is the future,” he said.

Company representatives say future plans include truck stops carrying the B20 along the east coast from Miami, Florida up to Rochester, New York.

Nelson and Peter Bell, of biodiesel supplier Distribution Drive formed Willie Nelson Biodiesel with three other partners in December 2004. To find out more about Willie Nelson Biodiesel, visit www.wnbiodiesel.com.

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Baltimore Shipping Channel Spoil Restores Poplar Island

BALTIMORE, Maryland, July 6, 2005 (ENS) - Poplar Island, located in the Chesapeake Bay 34 miles south of Baltimore, is being rebuilt by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers using soil dredged from the Baltimore shipping channel.

In the 1700s, Revolutionary War naval battles took place near the island. From the 1630s, it supported a small town, a post office and a school. But erosion began to split the island into separate land masses.

In the early and middle 1900s, one section of Poplar Island still supported the Jefferson Islands Club, which provided weekend retreats for Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and later, Harry S. Truman.

But by 1990, erosion had cut the island into three separate chunks of land totalling less than 10 acres.

Today Poplar Island measures 1,140 acres and may grow by another 570 acres before the project is finished. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Chesapeake Bay Field Office in Annapolis says the reconstructed island will be half wetlands and half uplands. The island will be maze of smaller islands, ponds, channels and marshes.

About 40 million cubic yards of dredge material will be protected by 35,000 feet of containment dikes.

Jason Miller, a biologist with Service’s Chesapeake Bay Field Office, said, "Right before our eyes, we’re building a new island, a new remote area for wildlife. To be a part of this is to be part of something very special.”

"Submerged vegetation means food for ducks, and habitat for fish and even crabs,” Miller said. "The island will have all of those – they’re already here, in fact, and my job is to make sure the ducks and the fish and the crabs have what they need to sustain them."

Miller said that this year, there are more than 500 common tern nests on Poplar Island – the only ones in the Chesapeake Bay.

Foxes have already discovered these tern nests and have crossed the ice in the winter. Miller says it is his job to find ways to discourage them as even a few foxes could destroy the birds.

“We don’t have many opportunities like this one,” Miller said. It’s breathtaking in its scope and will amount to a crown jewel in the bay when it’s finished. It represents engineering at its innovative best. It is the ultimate recycling project – taking dredge material from one project to benefit wildlife in another.”

Ospreys, egrets, terns, herons, eagles, double-breasted cormorants, black ducks and other wild fowl have already discovered an enlarged Poplar Island, unfazed by workers and heavy equipment that move and shape the dredge material that is bulldozed onto the island from barges.

Diamondback terrapins are nesting in large numbers on the island, along the sandy beaches of the southeast shoreline. Last year there were about 185 known nests, accounting for more than 1,000 hatchlings.

When the Baltimore shipping channel is being dredged, barges operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week to move two million yards of fill, from September through March of each year.

The work began in 1998 and Scott Johnson, who manages the project for the Corps, estimates that work will not be finished until 2020, at a total cost of about $400 million, with 75 percent of the cost borne by the federal government and the remaining 25 percent, by the state of Maryland.

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Broken Dam Floods Upstate New York Town

ALBANY, New York, July 6, 2005 (ENS) - New York Governor George Pataki today toured areas of Fort Ann, a town north of Albany near the Vermont border that was damaged by floodwaters following the breach of a dam at Hadlock Pond Saturday night.

The flooding forced the evacuation of residents, damaged roads and bridges and cut electric power to hundreds of people. At least four homes were destroyed by the floodwaters.

On Sunday, the governor declared a State Disaster Emergency for Washington County and said the state would seek federal emergency assistance.

"While the waters have receded, we continue to do everything possible to help the people of Fort Ann and the community recover from this disaster," Pataki said. "State personnel from numerous State agencies have been on the scene since the early hours after the breach and continue to support county and local government in the recovery operations."

After meeting with local officials and touring the flood damaged areas today, the governor said "we are truly fortunate and extremely thankful that there were no deaths or injuries associated with this event."

In announcing the declaration on Sunday, the governor directed state agencies to continue to provide any and all assistance to the county and affected areas.

He authorized the State Emergency Management Office (SEMO) to coordinate the appropriate state agencies in assisting local governments in taking appropriate action to protect lives and property and to assist in the recovery effort from the flooding.

Shortly after the state was notified Saturday evening of the breach and flooding, SEMO activated and dispatched a multi-agency Incident Management Assistance Team to support local operations which consisted of personnel from SEMO, the State Police, the Department of Health, Department of Environmental Conservation and the Office of Fire Prevention and Control.

SEMO recovery professionals are conducting a preliminary damage assessment of the stricken area. A disaster recovery center has been established at the Fort Ann Rescue Squad where a specialist in individual assistance from SEMO and a consumer services expert from the State Department of Insurance have joined representatives of the American Red Cross and local and county governments to help residents impacted by the event.

New York State Senator Betty Little said, "What should have been a beautiful holiday weekend became a weekend of horror for many Fort Ann families and businesses when the Hadlock Pond dam failed. This community is bearing a tremendous physical and emotional toll and we are looking to provide every available means of relief to help them recover."

The surge of water resulted in damage to a water main in the town. Since Sunday, SEMO has provided two 5,500 gallon water tankers from the State's Emergency Equipment Stockpile to provide drinking water to residents in the affected area. The Department of Health is providing technical assistance with experts from its Bureau of Public Water.

With State Route 149 and several other local roads closed because of damage from the flooding, the Department of Transportation personnel have been on scene conducting assessment as well as providing assistance to local governments. An emergency contractor has been retained and emergency repairs are being made.

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Earth Day Founder Gaylord Nelson Dies

KENSINGTON, Maryland, July 6, 2005 (ENS) - Gaylord Nelson, the former Wisconsin governor and three term U.S. Senator, died on Sunday at the age of 89. He will always be known as the founder of Earth Day, first held on April 22, 1970.

Born in Clear Lake, Polk County, Wisconsin on June 4, 1916, Nelson graduated from California's San Jose State College in 1939 and from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1942; he was admitted to the Wisconsin bar the same year. During World War II, he served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army for four years. He served in the Wisconsin State Senate from 1948-1956, and then as governor of Wisconsin from 1959-1962.

Nelson

Gaylord Nelson (Photo courtesy The Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison)
As a Democratic senator from Wisconsin from 1963-1981, Nelson helped enact the 1964 Wilderness Act and the 1968 Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

He spearheaded legislation ranging from mandating automobile fuel efficiency standards to outlawing DDT and Agent Orange. He also helped to pass legislation to preserve the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail and create a national trails system.

In 1995, Senator Nelson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from then President Bill Clinton.

But Earth Day is most central to Gaylord Nelson's legacy.

"Earth Day achieved what I had hoped for," Nelson said. "The objective was to get a nationwide demonstration of concern for the environment so large that it would shake the political establishment out of its lethargy and, finally, force this issue permanently onto the national political agenda."

His creation of a day for the Earth was inspired by teach-ins dealing with the Vietnam War, and by the growing environmental health crisis in the United States, the Earth Day Network said, announcing his passing.

An estimated 25 million people participated in the founding Earth Day, said co-founder Denis Hayes, who chairs today's Earth Day Network. Congress adjourned so members could speak to their constituents, and some 2,000 colleges observed the occasion.

"On the first Earth Day in 1970, 25 million people joined around the country to demand a safer, cleaner and healthier world, starting with the deplorable condition of many of their own neighborhoods," Hayes wrote in the "Seattle Times," on Earth Day 2004.

"The first Earth Day defined 'the environment' as literally everything that surrounds us. We eat the environment. We drink the environment. We breathe the environment. In 1970, Earth Day included eagles and pesticides, but it went beyond those issues to talk about the overall quality of life. It was concerned with the health, diversity and resilience of all living things, including Homo sapiens," Hayes wrote.

Today, Earth Day is celebrated in 174 countries by over a half billion people, making it the most celebrated secular holiday in the world.

Senator Nelson was an active participant in every Earth Day. This year he attended an Earth Day event at his grandson’s school in Kensington, Maryland to witness the planting of trees and a school recycling project.

Senator Nelson was the Honorary Chair of the Earth Day Network, a global year round organization that focuses on education, health, civic participation, development, and environmental issues.

"The passing of Senator Nelson is a great loss to humanity," the Earth Day Network said. "Our thoughts and condolences go out to his family."

Nelson is survived by his wife, Carrie Lee, sons Gaylord Jr. and Jeffrey, and daughter, Tia. Memorial service arrangements are yet to be announced.

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