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AmeriScan: July 29, 2005

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Poultry Anti-Bacterial Banned Over Drug Resistance Issue

WASHINGTON, DC, July 29, 2005 (ENS) - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned use of the antimicrobial drug enrofloxacin for the purpose of treating bacterial infections in poultry because when humans eat the treated poultry they absorb the drug, making it easier for the same bacteria to infect them.

This animal drug belongs to a class of drugs known as fluoroquinolones and is marketed under the name Baytril by Bayer Corporation.

FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford explained that the agency's Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) began proceedings to withdraw use of this animal drug in poultry because of scientific data that showed that the use of enrofloxacin in poultry caused resistance to emerge in Campylobacter, a bacterium that causes foodborne illness.

Chickens and turkeys normally harbor Campylobacter in their digestive tracts without causing poultry to become ill.

Enrofloxacin does not completely eliminate Campylobacter from the birds' intestinal tracts, and those Campylobacter bacteria that survive are resistant to fluoroquinolone drugs.

These resistant bacteria multiply in the digestive tracts of poultry and persist and spread through transportation and slaughter, and are found on chicken carcasses in slaughter plants and retail poultry meats.

Campylobacter bacteria are a significant cause of foodborne illness in the United States, Crawford said.

Fluoroquinolones used in humans are ineffective if used to treat Campylobacter infections that are resistant to them. This failure can significantly prolong the duration of the infections and may increase the risk of complications.

"The proportion of Campylobacter infections that are resistant to fluoroquinolones has increased significantly since the use of enrofloxacin in poultry was approved in the U.S," the FDA warned.

Antimicrobial treatment is recommended for people with severe illness as well as the very young, the elderly, and people with certain medical conditions. Complications of such infections can include reactive arthritis and, more rarely, blood stream infections. Early treatment can lessen symptoms and may decrease the risk of complications.

Bayer Corporation has 60 days from the date of the decision to appeal the withdrawal to a U.S. Court of Appeals.

If no appeal is filed, the Final Rule withdrawing approval of the antimicrobial drug enrofloxacin for the purpose of treating bacterial infections in poultry will be effective on September 12, 2005.

For the Final Decision please go to www.fda.gov/oc/antimicrobial/baytril.pdf and for the Federal Register documents please go to www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets.

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House Passes National Energy Bill, Few Democrats on Board

WASHINGTON, DC, July 29, 2005 (ENS) - The House of Representatives passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005 Thursday by a vote of 275 to 156. Most yes votes came from Republicans, with a few dozen Democrats, and most nay votes came from Democrats, with a few dozen Republicans.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi called the measure "anti-taxpayer, anti-consumer, and anti-environment."

Still, she said it could have been worse but for the actions of Democrats on the House-Senate conference committee that reconciled the two versions of the bill.

"We kept the heat on the MTBE give-away and the massive roll-back of the Clean Air Act until they were withdrawn," Pelosi said. "We fought to protect the Arctic National Refuge, making it too hot for the Republicans to handle - forcing them to withdraw from the energy bill their plan to drill in the pristine wilderness."

"Nonetheless, like its predecessors, this energy bill is a missed opportunity. It does not address the issues that the American people care about - lower gas prices at the pump, a healthy environment, safe water to drink, and cleaner air.

"It is anti-taxpayer with billions of dollars in gifts to the oil, gas, and nuclear industries, including a new production tax credit for eight years.

"Then there is the special gift for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. After the gavel went down on the energy bill conference, a provision was included that sets up a special $1.5 billion fund for the oil industry to conduct research on how to find oil, and a leading contender to host the consortium is Sugar Land, Texas," she said. Sugar Land is the major city in the Texas district DeLay represents.

Consortium members, including Halliburton and Marathon Oil, can receive awards from the fund, explained Pelosi, saying, "There you have it: big oil, Halliburton, and Tom DeLay, all in one neat symbolic package."

"At a time when Congress is trying to scrape together enough federal funding for veterans' health care, Social Security, education, Medicare, and Medicaid, why are we giving away taxpayer money hand over fist to well-established, profitable companies? she asked.

"The energy bill is anti-consumer. It fails to protect consumers from high gasoline prices. It fails to adequately protect consumers from price manipulations and future Enrons. And it fails to protect our national security by reducing our dependence on foreign oil.

"Last but not least, this bill is anti-environment. It carves out exemptions for the oil and gas industry from the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Clean Water Act. It also authorizes an oil and gas inventory of the Outer Continental Shelf, opening the door to oil and gas drilling in the protected areas off our shores."

Environmentalists were disappointed that a national renewable energy standard was omitted from the legislation. The standard, proposed by Senator Bingaman, a New Mexico Democrat, would have required utility companies to obtain 10 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020.

Although the Senate Energy Conference members gathered unprecedented support for the measure, including that of Republican Senators Pete Domenici of New Mexico and Orrin Hatch of Utah, the House Energy Conference members rejected the measure. Representative Joe Barton of Texas, who chaired the conference committee, led the removal of the renewable energy standard from the bill.

But the measure does include a renewable fuel standard for the first time. It mandates the production and use of 7.5 billion gallons of ethanol by 2012, which is estimated to displace over two billion barrels of crude oil. Proponents say America has a strategic reserve of motor fuels in the cornfields of Illinois, the rice fields in California, and the cane fields of Florida.

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Bill to Permanently Protect Roadless National Forests Introduced

WASHINGTON, DC, July 29, 2005 (ENS) - Conservationists announced their strong support for a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives Thursday that would permanently protect much of the nation’s last pristine National Forest land.

The bill codifies the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule, promulgated by President Bill Clinton, which was overturned by the Bush administration in May.

Some governors and the Forest Service are planning to open millions of acres to resource extraction, but the bipartisan measure indicates that there is a way around the Bush resources policy that critics find unacceptable.

“Congress sees that the Bush administration plan is putting us on a path to logging our last wild National Forests, and they’ve responded by saying they have a better plan,” said Michael Francis of The Wilderness Society. “This bill provides an alternative that makes the choice stark for policymakers - we can either ruin our last wild forests, or we can save them."

The Roadless Area Conservation Act of 2005 – a measure to protect 58.5 million acres of National Forest lands from most commercial logging and road-building - was introduced in the House with 146 original co-sponsors.

As required by the Roadless Rule, the bill would allow temporary roads to be constructed in order to fight fires, ensure public safety and provide for thinning to protect forest health.

The Bush rule implemented last May repeals the protections provided by the Roadless Rule, and substitutes for it a process that conservationists say will likely result in even more roadbuilding and logging.

Under the Bush Rule, governors are allowed to petition the Forest Service with their recommendations for the treatment of roadless areas. Western governors particularly have been expressing concern that engaging in the administration’s petition process could be fruitless, since the U.S. Forest Service makes the final determinations.

“This legislation listens to the will of the American people,” said Robert Vandermark of the National Environmental Trust. “Before the Bush Administration officially repealed the Roadless Rule over four million public comments were submitted in support of protecting all our roadless areas.”

The Roadless Rule was approved following years of scientific study and more than 600 public meetings across the country. During its consideration, 2.5 million Americans wrote the Federal government in support of the rule, making it the most popular in American history. Since then, another 1.8 million comments were received by the Bush administration opposing their plan and urging reinstatement of the original protection policy.

Robert Vandermark, director of the Heritage Forests Campaign, said Thursday, "By introducing real protections for roadless National Forests today, 146 members of Congress have made a stand to defend our last pristine forests from logging, mining and drilling."

"Today's action demonstrates a clear and bright alternative to the Bush Administration's meaningless roadless policy and offers the best hope of preserving our last wild forests," said Vandermark. "Millions of Americans have written the Forest Service asking for national protection and less logging in National Forests, and while the administration turned a deaf ear to them, Congress has listened."

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Parks Funding Welcomed But Called Too Modest

WASHINGTON, DC, July 29, 2005 (ENS) - The Department of Interior fiscal year 2006 spending bill passed by the conference committee this week includes $4.5 million to buy lands critical to three national parks in West Virginia, and includes a modest increase for park operations. The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) calls the provision of these funds to acquire land vital for the protection of the national parks in West Virginia.

"We are grateful for Senator Robert Byrd's tireless and successful efforts to protect and enhance America's priceless national heritage," said Joy Oakes, NPCA's Mid-Atlantic regional director, referring to the Democratic senator from West Virginia.

"With national parks in West Virginia threatened by development both inside and alongside their boundaries," said Oakes, "these funds are timely and necessary for the future integrity of these popular parks."

There are two active development proposals to build up to 2,700 houses at and alongside New River, potentially affecting more than 1,000 acres inside the park's boundary. In June, the Jefferson County Planning Commission narrowly denied, in a 5-4 vote, a proposed subdivision inside the boundary of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.

The conference committee approved $2 million for land acquisition from willing sellers at Harpers Ferry National Historic Park in the Eastern Panhandle; $2 million for the New River Gorge National River near Beckley; and $500,000 for the Gauley River National Recreation Area.

"National parks in West Virginia protect priceless natural and cultural treasures, and support local economies," said Oakes. "Visitors at New River alone last year spent more than $61 million, supporting more than 1,300 jobs."

The spending bill also includes $2 million for the acquisition of threatened lands around Big Thicket National Preserve in Texas.

The nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association says these funds do not go far enough to protect the Texas treasure.

"This funding is welcome, but doesn't go far enough to halt the march of developers that are encircling Big Thicket," said National Parks Conservation Association Vice President for Government Affairs Craig Obey, "or to address the annual funding shortages that are crippling Big Thicket and national parks across the country."

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Texas Republican, had requested $3.6 million for land acquisition needs at Big Thicket; the final bill includes only $2 million.

The National Park Service is hoping to use the funds to purchase the Village Creek Corridor, which was added to the park in 1993 as part of the Big Thicket National Preserve Addition Act.

The Interior spending bill also includes a modest $60 million increase for the operations of national parks, including Big Thicket. However, this is far short of the need. NPCA's analysis indicates that the national parks suffer from an annual shortfall in excess of $600 million.

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Washington State Needs Better Oil Spill Response Capacity

OLYMPIA, Washington, July 29, 2005 (ENS) - Shipping companies and oil handling facilities should take immediate steps to increase the number of boats available to respond to oil spills in Puget Sound and along Washington's coast, urged state Department of Ecology Director Jay Manning.

A newly released study commissioned by the Department of Ecology found that there are not enough vessels available to simultaneously deploy oil booms, transport oil spill equipment and supplies, and provide other spill response assistance needed during a major oil spill.

"With as much shipping and tanker traffic as we have in Washington's waters, a significant oil spill is a very real threat, and we have to be able to stage a rapid and aggressive response effort," said Manning.

The study, prepared by Glosten Associates of Seattle, evaluated a hypothetical spill of a half-million gallons of oil in the San Juan Islands and found a shortage of 15 response vessels of various types. Although the study did not examine response vessel capacity on the Washington coast, Ecology officials say a similar shortage exists there, too.

To help increase the number of boats with trained crews available in the event of an oil spill, the report recommends organizing fishing vessel operators to help with spill response. Similar arrangements already exist in Alaska and British Columbia.

Manning said the report's findings are timely, since Ecology is revising the spill response requirements that all ships and oil handling facilities in Washington must follow. He has directed his staff to require increased vessel response capacity in the new regulations, which will be formally proposed near the end of the year and take effect by mid-2006, he said.

"There is a clear need to improve response capacity in Washington. I urge the shipping and oil industry to start putting the resources in place now, and not wait for the regulations to take effect next year," Manning said.

Ecology plans to convene an advisory group to further evaluate the response vessel needs and what it would take to launch a program to prepare commercial fishing boats to help with spill response. The information will be used in crafting the new regulatory language.

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Sierra Club Joins Lawsuit Against Canadian Smelter

SPOKANE, Washington, July 29, 2005 (ENS) - The Sierra Club USA and Sierra Club of Canada filed a friend-of-the-court brief Thursday in support of members of the Colville Tribe and of the state of Washington in the case of Pakootas v. Teck Cominco Metals, Ltd.

Over the course of nearly a century, Teck Cominco Metals dumped millions of tons of heavy metals into the Columbia River from its facility in Trail, British Columbia, located about 10 miles north of the U.S.-Canada border.

Between 1906 and 1995, Teck Cominco annually dumped more than 145,000 tons of slag, a byproduct of the smelting industry that contains carcinogens and other toxins such as arsenic and lead.

Much of these contaminants have settled around the bed and banks of Washington state's Lake Roosevelt - the reservoir formed by Grand Coulee Dam - in northern Washington. The pollution poses a threat to tribal members who use the reservoir to fish and for cultural and spiritual reasons, as well as the thousands of people who recreate in the area.

"Lake Roosevelt is an extremely popular recreation area," said John Osborn, a Spokane physician and conservation chair for the Northern Rockies Chapter of the Sierra Club. "Most of the people swimming, boating, and fishing there have no idea they are recreating in a lake that one selfish mining company used as a toxic waste dump."

The Sierra Club brief is in support of the right of U.S. citizens to enforce the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, commonly known as the Superfund Act, against foreign entities that contaminate the U.S. environment.

"If Teck Cominco polluted waters in Canada, it would be required to clean them up," said attorney Elizabeth May, longtime executive director of Sierra Club of Canada. "This is not a question of applying U.S. law in another country. The pollution is in the United States and U.S. law obviously applies."

"Pollution does not recognize political boundaries," said Martin Wagner, an attorney for Earthjustice who helped write the brief. "The responsibility for causing this mess clearly lies with Teck Cominco, so common sense and decency say the company should be responsible for cleaning it up. Otherwise Teck Cominco's waste becomes a burden on U.S. taxpayers."

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Lake Roosevelt contains elevated concentrations of arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, and zinc. The agency reports that liquid effluent from the Teck Cominco smelter is the primary contributor of the large concentrations of these toxins found in sediment samples from the middle and lower reaches of Lake Roosevelt.

In April 2003, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) initiated informal settlement discussions with Teck Cominco, owner and operator of the smelter in Trail, British Columbia, Canada.

The EPA tried to enter into an administrative consent order with Teck Cominco whereby Teck Cominco American of Spokane, Washington, one of Teck Cominco's U.S. subsidiaries, would conduct an investigation of the nature and extent of the contamination in Lake Roosevelt and develop appropriate measures to clean up the site.

On October 10, 2003, the EPA sent a Special Notice letter to Teck Cominco, triggering an automatic 60 day period of formal negotiations with the EPA.

According to EPA, the negotiations broke down on November 26, 2003, due to Teck Cominco's "unwillingness to address U.S. environmental and health standards in its proposed study and to meet the same conditions as U.S. companies must meet."

As a result, on December 11, 2003, EPA issued an enforcement order directing Teck Cominco to conduct the studies required by the Superfund law. On January 12, 2004, Teck Cominco informed EPA that it would not comply with the order because Teck Cominco did not believe the agency had jurisdiction over it.

In July 21, 2004, two members of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation sued Teck Cominco over failure to comply with EPA's order. Joseph Pakootas and Donald Michel filed suit in federal court for the Eastern District of Washington in Spokane. This case was joined by the State of Washington in support of the tribal plaintiffs.

In August 2004, Teck Cominco filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that U.S. law would not apply to them. The court disagreed and Teck Cominco appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Spokane Tribe, as well as a coalition of Washington environmental groups will also be filing friend-of-the-court briefs in support of Pakootas. The government of Canada, National Mining Association, and U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed friend-of-the-court briefs on behalf of Teck Cominco.

"Teck Cominco hopes to brush this pollution under the carpet," said Rick Eichstaedt of the Spokane based Center for Justice and co-counsel on the brief, "but now state, tribal, and conservation groups from both sides of the border have joined forces to make sure this dangerous mess is finally cleaned up."

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University of Michigan Wins North American Solar Car Race

CALGARY, Alberta, Canada, July 29, 2005 (ENS) - The first North American Solar Challenge car race to cross from the United States into Canada ended Wednesday when the University of Michigan team's vehicle, Momentum, crossed the finish line in Calgary with a cumulative time of 53 hours 59 minutes 43 seconds for an average speed of 46.2 mph.

Average speed is determined by dividing the distance traveled by the cumulative time, and includes time spent driving through traffic in cities and towns as well as on open highways.

The University of Minnesota car, Borealis III, came a close second in the 2,500 mile (4,000 kilometer) race, finishing less than 12 minutes later in 54:11:35.

The Minnesota team led the way for much of the race, but was overtaken at the final stage stop in Medicine Hat, Alberta, where the University of Michigan took the overall race lead.

The University of Waterloo car, Midnight Sun VIII, is the fastest Canadian team, finishing fifth in 57:44:59.

All the teams are from universities or colleges.

The solar car race is the biggest of its kind in North America and the 2,500 mile race route makes it the longest in the world for solar cars.

The race started July 17 in Austin at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, then travelled through 10 checkpoints in cities and towns along the route.

The North American Solar Challenge has two classes competing - the open class where teams are allowed to use batteries or solar cells of their choice and the stock class where teams use only lead acid batteries and solar cells approved by race officials.

The stock class winner was the team from Stanford University.

The contest is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Natural Resources Canada, DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, TransAlta, University of Calgary, CSI Wireless, AMD and Manitoba Transportation and Government Services.

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