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AmeriScan: July 25, 2005

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Southwest Monsoon Relieves Sizzling Summer

CAMP SPRINGS, Maryland, July 25, 2005 (ENS) - Over the past week, many cities across the country have set or broken records for daily highs or for high minimum temperatures, according to the NOAA Climate Prediction Center. But in the Southwest, the first moisture from the short monsoon season has begun to fall, dampening fires and making life easier for fire crews.

Heat index values have been particularly high over the East the past few days due to very high humidity levels, which also has resulted in hot, sticky nights.

The Climate Prediction Center's latest Seasonal Outlook calls for the August through October temperatures to be above normal along the West coast, in the Southwest, the west-central Plains, and western and southern Texas.

South Florida and much of the deep South are also expected to have above normal temperatures through October.

Rainfall is expected to be above normal along the south Atlantic coast from Virginia through Florida; while below normal rainfall is expected throughout the Great Basin and the Southwest.

Monsoon moisture finally came on July 18, the second latest start on record, and continued through the weekend, ending a long, hot spell for the Southwest, southern Great Basin and Colorado.

The monsoon is expected to bring above normal rainfall to portions of the West, while most of the Plains and Mississippi Valley drought areas will be wetter than normal.

Firefighters made great progress on Arizona and Utah fires over the weekend, with lower temperatures, monsoon precipitation and higher relative humidity helping suppression efforts.

"Over the past several days high pressure aloft over the four corners of the region has become established and will bring monsoon moisture into Arizona and New Mexico," said Wayne Higgins, principal climate scientist at the NOAA Climate Prediction Center. "Typically, the warmest temperatures of the year in the southwestern United States occur in June or early July, just before the start of the monsoon season," he said, holding out hope of cooler weather for the Southwest.

NOAA also released its U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook which reports the soaking rains from Hurricane Emily are expected to result in drought improvement across the southern most counties of Texas. However drought is expected to remain a concern over areas of the Pacific Northwest.

Drought worsened in the northern and western portions of The Great Lakes, Upper Mississippi Valley, and Ohio Valley Region over the past 10 days.

On July 15, Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle declared a statewide drought emergency to expedite irrigation relief for farmers.

Severe dryness combined with extremely hot temperatures - persistently above the 90s - are stressing crops at a critical point in the growing season across much of the Midwest and Great Lakes agricultural belt, according to the latest National Drought Summary.

Corn and soybean crops from Illinois and Iowa to Missouri suffered, streams feeding the Mississippi River are low, and soils are rapidly drying. In Missouri, ponds are down to about 50 percent normal depth, two-thirds of the state’s pasture and rangeland was in poor or very poor condition.

In Nebraska and northern Kansas, 100 degree and hotter temperatures combined with strong winds to dry the soil and desiccate crops, counteracting the beneficial effects of recent rains.

Western weather was dominated by extremely hot temperatures, with several records set at stations ranging from Nevada and southern California to Wyoming. Much of the Southwest has experienced exceedingly hot temperatures during the last month or so, resulting in very high evaporation rates, especially in Arizona.

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National Academy of Sciences President: Earth is Warming

WASHINGTON, DC, July 25, 2005 (ENS) - At two Senate committee hearings on Thursday, the president of the National Academy of Sciences warned lawmakers that global climate change is already occurring.

Summarizing the reports of scientists, engineers, and public health officials who provide consensus advice to the nation on scientific and technical questions, Ralph Cicerone, Ph.D. said simply, "The Earth is warming."

"Weather station records and ship-based observations indicate that global mean surface air temperature increased about 0.7 degrees Fahrenheit (0.4 degrees C) since the early 1970s," he said.

"Although the magnitude of warming varies locally, the warming trend is spatially widespread and is consistent with an array of other evidence," Cicerone said, "including melting glaciers and ice caps, sea level rise, extended growing seasons, and changes in the geographical distributions of plant and animal species."

The ocean, which represents the largest reservoir of heat in the climate system, said Cicerone, has warmed by about 0.12 degrees F (0.06 degrees C) averaged over the layer extending from the surface down to 750 feet, since 1993.

Holding human activity responsible for the warming trend, Cicerone said, "Recent studies have shown that the observed heat storage in the oceans is consistent with expected impacts of a human-enhanced greenhouse effect."

Laboratory measurements of gases trapped in dated ice cores, he said, have shown that for hundreds of thousands of years, changes in temperature have closely tracked atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations.

"Burning fossil fuel for energy, industrial processes, and transportation releases carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is now at its highest level in 400,000 years and continues to rise," Cicerone told the lawmakers.

"Nearly all climate scientists today believe that much of Earth’s current warming has been caused by increases in the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, mostly from the burning of fossil fuels," he said.

The degree of confidence in this conclusion is higher today than it was 10, or even 5 years ago, but uncertainties remain, said Cicerone, citing the Academies' 2001 report, which states, “the changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly due to human activities, but we cannot rule out that some significant part of these changes is also a reflection of natural variability.”

It is important to recognize however, that while future climate change and its impacts are inherently uncertain, they are far from unknown.

The combined effects of ice melting and sea water expansion from ocean warming will likely cause the global average sea-level to rise by between 0.1 and 0.9 meters between 1990 and 2100.

In colder climates, such warming could bring longer growing seasons and less severe winters.

Those in coastal communities, many in developing nations, will experience increased flooding due to sea level rise and are likely to experience more severe storms and surges. In the Arctic regions, where temperatures have risen more than the global average, the landscape and ecosystems are being altered rapidly.

More research is urgently required, Cicerone said.

"Although the scientific understanding of climate change has advanced significantly in the last several decades, there are still many unanswered questions," he said. "Society faces increasing pressure to decide how best to respond to climate change and associated global changes, and applied research in direct support of decision making is needed."

Cicerone views the task of mitigating and preparing for the impacts of climate change as one that will require worldwide collaborative inputs from natural scientists, engineers, social scientists, medical scientists, those in government at all levels, business leaders and economists.

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Enviros, Conservatives Unite Against Asbestos Trust Fund

WASHINGTON, DC, July 25, 2005 (ENS) - Today, at the National Press Club advocates from across the political spectrum joined to voice their common opposition to S.852, the Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act of 2005 or the FAIR Act of 2005. bill. Led by the Coalition for Asbestos Reform (CAR), this group of business and consumer interests united to demonstrateopposition to the bill introduced by Senators Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican and Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat.

"The Specter/Leahy bill will create greater uncertainty for everyone except the few big companies who would be allowed to escape the billions of dollars in costs for which they are responsible," said Thomas O'Brien, chairman of CAR.

"The group that comes together today does not agree on much, but we agree on this - S.852 creates more problems than it solves," O'Brien said. "In fact, the only problem it solves is the liability problem for the biggest companies in America who bear the largest responsibility for the asbestos crisis. Virtually every other stakeholder in the asbestos situation is opposed to this bill."

The Specter-Leahy bill would establish a $140 billion trust fund to compensate victims suffering from asbestos-related disease. Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, has described the legislation as a compromise that balances the interests of victims and businesses.

The effort to stem the rising tide of asbestos litigation cases clogging the nation’s courts began more than three years ago.

The bill is co-sponsored by Senators Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, and Mike DeWine and George Voinovich, both Ohio Republicans, as well as Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, and Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat.

But David Lascell of Hopeman Brothers Marine Interiors said at the Press Club today, "It's companies like Hopeman Brothers, that don't have big lobbyists in Washington and are just trying to stay afloat and keep people employed, that are going to pay the price for this disastrous legislation."

"The Specter Leahy bill is unfair and un-American and must be stopped," Lascell said.

Asbestos exposure can cause serious lung problems and cancer. Exposure to the fibrous mineral usually occurs by breathing contaminated air in workplaces that make or use asbestos. Asbestos is also found in the air of buildings containing asbestos that are being torn down or renovated.

Because it is heat resistant and easily woven, asbestos has been used in roofing shingles, ceiling and floor tiles, paper products, and asbestos cement products, friction products such as automobile clutch, brake, and transmission parts, heat-resistant fabrics, packaging, gaskets, and coatings. Some vermiculite or talc products may contain asbestos.

"S.852 was not written for present and future victims, but instead to bail out corporations who exposed workers and consumers to asbestos," said Linda Reinstein, executive director and cofounder of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO).

According to Matt Kibbe, President of FreedomWorks, "Instead of fixing the problem, the Specter/Leahy Trust Fund approach - S.852 - abandons our court system in favor of a bureaucratic, tax-and-spend process. We're not ready to give up on the American legal system, and that's why FreedomWorks strongly opposes S.852."

"This asbestos bill is corporate welfare at its worst," said Jillian Aldebron, civil justice counsel for Public Citizen's Congress Watch. "It is designed to protect the companies most egregiously responsible for the asbestos crisis from paying their fair share. It fails hundreds of thousands of victims of asbestos exposure and their families and it fails all who believe in a just and fair society."

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in April, Senator Leahy introduced S.852, saying, "This bill marks a significant improvement over similar efforts in past Congresses. We have traveled a long road from the early days of bills that provided no funding but would have imposed restrictive medical criteria. We have increased the resources devoted to providing fair compensation from last year’s $108 billion to $140 billion."

"The legislation provides higher compensation awards for victims and provides medical monitoring for all unimpaired asbestos victims," Leahy said, and it "will also provide medical screening for high-risk workers."

But CAR members were not persuaded. At today's event, CAR unveiled its broadcast advertising campaign against the legislation. Beginning this morning, two spots, entitled "Bailout" and "Real Conservative," began airing in the Washington, DC market and on the Fox News Channel. The initial advertising campaign will run through the week.

CAR is a group of small and medium sized businesses and their insurance companies committed to educating U.S. businesses and policymakers about the serious flaws in S.852.

The coalition mobilized in June to launch a major national campaign to explain the effect of the Specter/Leahy bill on hundreds of local businesses that face potential asbestos liability, most of whom are unaware of the devastating impact of $140 billion in new taxes S.852 authorizes to finance the Trust Fund mandated by the bill.

They say the companies supporting the Specter/Leahy bill are among the biggest businesses in America, and they "have billions of dollars riding on the bill's passage."

"Their deep pockets have allowed them to help write the legislation and disguise its negative consequences on several thousand smaller businesses and their employees, on victims of asbestos poisoning, and on American taxpayers," CAR said in its statement today.

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Electronics Recycling a Hit With New England Consumers, Retailers

BOSTON, Massachusetts, July 25, 2005 (ENS) - Owners of obsolete electronics equipment brought tons of unwanted computer equipment in for recycling when offered the opportunity to do so last summer. The federal agency, retailer and nongovernmental organization that cooperated to make the program possible are declaring it a success.

The pilot program, a collaboration between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Staples, Inc., and the Product Stewardship Institute, Inc. was held inthe summer of 2004, but the analysis of results was completed only this month.

The program sought to determine if a major retailer such as Staples could provide recycling services for unwanted electronic equipment, known as eWaste, to its retail and commercial customers within the company’s existing distribution infrastructure.

The project collected unwanted electronic equipment sold by Staples - laptops, computer processing units, monitors, printers, fax machines, and small peripheral devices - from both retail and commercial customers, and provided recycling services using “reverse logistics” via Staples’ delivery trucks and its existing product distribution network.

“The successful “eCycling” pilot shows that consumers and businesses will respond, if given the chance to recycle consumer electronics,” said Robert Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “By creating new opportunities to reuse and recycle items like old computers, monitors and printers, we can keep these devices from ending up in landfills.”

The pilot was conducted with the help of a $46,000 EPA grant. Analysis of the pilot indicates that eCycling was cost effective, and was well received by consumers and Staples.

The Boston based Product Stewardship Institute (PSI), a national non-profit organization that promotes sustainable resource use, managed the grant. PSI designed and implemented the project along with Staples to test whether computer recycling could be consistent with Staples’ business model.

"This pilot project shows without a doubt that retailers and manufacturers can work with their customers to recycle computer equipment in an environmentally responsible and cost effective manner," said PSI Executive Director Scott Cassel. "This is a model that works, saves resources, and can ultimately be expanded to other product areas."

The partners recognized that retailers may want to charge nominal user fees to offset the collection and recycling costs. High transportation costs are one of the barriers for providing cost-efficient eCycling services.

The pilots collected and recycled a total of 57 tons of eWaste over the course of the project. In one program, Staples collected electronic equipment from retail customers at 27 Staples retail stores in five states - Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Rhode Island - over a six week period.

In a second program, Staples collected electronic equipment from 14 existing commercial customers in three states - Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire - who typically receive direct delivery of products at their place of business. This pilot tested the “reverse logistics” transportation model using Staples’ product delivery networks. The collected equipment was back-hauled by delivery carriers, consolidated at distribution and fulfillment centers, then transported to Envirocycle, an electronics recycler located in Hallstead, Pennsylvania.

These pilots illustrate the growing need and opportunity to expand collections of electronic waste, both at retail stores and commercial customer locations in New England and nationwide.

EPA is continuing to spur private and public sector partnerships under its “Plug-in To eCycling” program, which promotes shared responsibility for safe electronics recycling.

Since 2003, the Plug-in To eCycling program has attracted 21 partners from the manufacturing and consumer retail sectors, and 26 partners from various local and state government agencies.

In addition to Staples, partners include Apple Computers, Best Buy, Dell Computers, Office Depot and Sony. In the first two years of the program, over 45 million pounds of old electronics have been recycled.

More information on Plug-in To eCycling is at: http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/osw/conserve/plugin/index.htm.

More information on eCycling in New England, including state-specific information, is available at: http://www.epa.gov/ne/solidwaste/electronic/index.html.

More information on last summer’s pilots in New England is available at: http://www.productstewardship.us/pilot_takeback_staples.html.

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New Jersey Proposes to Limit Phosphorus on 400 River Miles

TRENTON, New Jersey, July 25, 2005 (ENS) - The state of New Jersey has proposed new pollution limits for rivers and streams, targeting phosphorus that causes water quality impairment of 200 river miles within the Passaic River Basin and the Wanaque Reservoir, as well as an additional 200 river miles in 20 waterways across the state.

"Improving the water quality of our most significant and largest drinking sources is fundamental to protecting the health of New Jersey's residents," said Acting Governor Richard Codey. "Safeguarding our water resources also is key to supporting New Jersey's growing communities and economy."

Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell said the state is moving quickly now to make up for lost time. "For critical drinking water sources like the Wanaque and others, we will continue to work at an accelerated pace to make up for past delays in setting tougher pollution limits," he said.

For the Passaic River Basin, the DEP has proposed total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) - or pollution limits - to address phosphorus contamination entering the Wanaque Reservoir and over 200 river miles.

Affected rivers within the Passaic River Basin include Pompton River, Ramapo River, Pequannock River, Wanaque River, Upper & Middle Passaic River, Whippany River, and Rockaway River.

The proposal calls for a reduction of phosphorus - from 57,574 pounds to 17,496 pounds per year - going into the Wanaque Reservoir, which lies within the Passaic River Basin.

The proposal requires 42 wastewater treatment plants within the Passaic River Basin to reduce phosphorus discharges by 83 percent, and establishes an 80 percent phosphorus reduction target for nonpoint source pollution.

One measure to address nonpoint source pollution is a requirement for all municipalities impacting the Wanaque Reservoir to adopt a low phosphorus fertilizer ordinance.

The state environmental agency also proposed TMDLs for 20 additional waterways encompassing 200 river miles across 10 watershed areas. These 20 pollution limits call for phosphorus reductions ranging from 21 to 92 percent.

In developing these TMDLs, the state agency identifies the maximum amount of phosphorus that a water body can contain and still meet New Jersey's water quality standards.

The agency then allocates the targeted reduction amongst existing pollution sources to restore the waterways to the state's clean water standard.

The federal Clean Water Act establishes the requirement that states prepare and submit a report identifing waters that do not meet water quality standards.

These waterbodies have impaired water quality and the state is required to develop a total maximum daily load for each pollutant in each waterbody.

The DEP will hold hearings beginning on August 4 to accept public comments on the new phosphorus limits. Contact Barbara Hirst of the Division of Watershed Management at: 609-633-1441, [email protected].

For more information about New Jersey's watersheds visit: http://www.nj.gov/dep/watershedmgt

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West Palm Beach Wins Storm Water Management Grants

PALM BEACH, Florida, July 25, 2005 (ENS) - The City of West Palm Beach has been awarded close to $500,000 for two projects managing storm water pollution in drainage systems that outfall into the Lake Worth Lagoon. The lagoon is recognized as one of Florida's important estuarine lagoon systems.

The two grants are part of a $1 million funding agreement approved on Friday by the Lake Worth Lagoon Partnership Grant Program, a state of Florida and Palm Beach County managed initiative.

“Quality projects like the recipients of the 2005 Lake Worth Lagoon Partnership Grants are providing locally driven environmental protection and stewardship,” said Department of Environmental Protection Southeast District Director Kevin Neal.

“Working together, local and state governments can better sustain and replenish natural resources, which provide an ecological and economic boost to our communities,” Neal said.

Other grants that are part of the $1 million round of funding will be used to restore mangroves and seagrass and monitor water quality.

Nearly $420,000 will go to Palm Beach County for protecting and enhancing 30 acres of mangroves north of Ocean Avenue in Boynton Beach.

Approximately $75,000 will continue seagrass and water quality monitoring efforts in Lake Worth Lagoon.

Applicants submitted detailed proposals that included project descriptions, budgets, work schedules and plans to provide a 50/50 match for the State’s funds.

A committee of delegates from the Department of Environmental Protection, South Florida Water Management District, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Florida Inland Navigation District and West Palm Beach Fishing Club selected the winning projects based on the environmental benefit to the lagoon.

The storm water projects planned by the City of West Palm Beach will improve management at four locations - Datura Street, 3rd Street, Lakewood Road and Edmor Road.

The Lake Worth Lagoon is heavily urbanized. As a result of loss of wetlands, lowered water tables, increased watershed imperviousness, and the redirection of historical runoff, the Lagoon has been subjected to extreme salinity fluctuations, according to Palm Beach County Environmental Resources Management.

Typically today, there is too much runoff in the wet season and fewer freshwater discharges during the dry season. Although urbanized, significant regionally important natural resources remain within the lagoon.

Other projects to improve the lagoon include implementing and enforcing regulations to eliminate sewage discharges and planning for construction of a manufactured wetland west of Wellington which will divert polluted storm water from the C-51 West Basin to the Everglades instead of allowing it to be discharged into Lake Worth Lagoon.

Since its inception in 1998, the Lake Worth Lagoon Grant Partnership has funded 33 restoration projects, including enhanced treatment for storm water runoff, sewage connections to replace aging septic systems and habitat restoration.

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Ohio County Settles Wastewater Violations with State, Feds

CHICAGO, Illinois, July 25, 2005 (ENS) - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5, the U.S. Justice Department and the state of Ohio have settled with Licking County, Ohio, for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act at the county's wastewater treatment plant in Buckeye Lake.

The county, located in central Ohio near Columbus, has agreed to pay $75,000, split between the state and federal governments, and make improvements to the plant to prevent future violations.

"Licking County has agreed to a rigorous schedule of improvements to the Buckeye Lake wastewater treatment plant that will help prevent future pollution of the Licking River," said EPA Acting Regional Administrator Bharat Mathur.

"This settlement is an important step toward improving wastewater treatment operations at Buckeye Lake, which is especially critical since the area is experiencing such rapid growth," said Ohio EPA Director Joseph Koncelik.

A lawsuit filed at the same time as the settlement alleges that starting in 1992 the treatment plant had numerous violations including discharging excess amounts of pollutants to the South Fork of the Licking River, and failing to comply with an EPA administrative order.

The plant also allegedly allowed pollutants to bypass and overflow the treatment system and failed to perform required tests to analyze pollutants.

In addition, the treatment plant allegedly failed to properly manage and dispose of sludge from the treatment process, and allowed sludge containing excess amounts of molybdenum to be applied on land.

The county has submitted a corrective action plan that includes schedules for capital improvements, maintenance and other steps needed to permanently eliminate bypasses and discharge violations.

By December 1, 2007, the county shall complete all the steps set out in the plan and provide capacity for full treatment of all wastewater entering the plant.

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