AmeriScan: July 10, 2006

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New Jersey Back in Business

TRENTON, New Jersey, July 10, 2006 (ENS) - New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine Saturday signed into law the Fiscal Year 2007 budget bill that allows the resumption of government services after a week-long shutdown that closed all by but essential services.

On July 1, Governor Corzine signed an Executive Order that shut down the government after the constitutional deadline for enacting a balanced budget passed. About 45,000 state employees across 31 departments, agencies and authorities were furloughed.

Most state parks re-opened to the public on Sunday, and all state park services will resume this week, with the exception of two parks and recreation areas closed by flooding.

Bull's Island Recreation Area in Hunterdon County is still closed due to flood damage, and so are portions of Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park in Somerset County.

Hatcheries, game farms, and wildlife management areas re-opened to the public on Sunday.

At the same time the government shutdown was in effect, many New Jersey residents were struggling to recover from torrential rains and disastrous flooding that affected the state beginning June 23.

In a July 1 letter to President George W. Bush, Governor Corzine sought emergency federal relief for victims of the New Jersey floods.

President Bush Friday declared a major disaster for the State of New Jersey due to damage resulting from the severe storms and flooding.

The President authorized the Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), R. David Paulison, to allocate funds to New Jersey for disaster assistance and administrative expenses.

"I’m grateful that the federal government has recognized New Jersey’s need for disaster assistance and I appreciate FEMA’s quick response," Corzine said. "This aid will go a long way towards repairing the damages caused by the floods and helping folks get back on their feet."

Under the presidential declaration, federal funds are approved for individual assistance to homeowners suffering substantial flood damage in Warren, Hunterdon and Mercer counties. Funds were also approved for debris removal and for reimbursing state, county and local emergency response in the counties of Sussex, Warren, Hunterdon and Mercer.

Starting Saturday, FEMA, and State Police Office of Emergency Management personnel with assistance from county and local officials began to provide residents in the affected areas with pamphlets and briefings on assistance programs for which they are eligible.

For Private Well Testing Act results, the required electronic submittals will be due one day after the state government has been re-opened and services are returned online, July 11, 2006.

Effective July 12, beach water quality data will again be available through the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection website. Coastal county health departments will continue to conduct beach monitoring activities.

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Government, Industry to Collaborate on Next Generation Renewables

GOLDEN, Colorado, July 10, 2006 (ENS) - The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) opened its new $22.6 million science and technology facility Friday with a ceremony attended by Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman.

With space for 75 researchers, the new facility is designed to help accelerate the development and commercialization of the next generation of renewable energy technologies in electricity from solar cells, hydrogen fuel cells and distributed energy.

"This new Science and Technology Facility will enable government and industry to work side by side to accelerate the scientific discovery and marketability of new, clean and renewable energy sources that will help strengthen our nation’s energy security," Secretary Bodman said.

A major component of the facility is the Process Development and Integration Laboratory, which will allow NREL researchers, working in coordination with industry, to develop new manufacturing processes.

This will allow industry representatives and researchers to work side-by-side to reduce the time it takes to move new technologies from the laboratory bench to commercial manufacturing.

One research goal is to bring down the cost of solar energy systems to make them competitive with conventional electricity sources in the United States by 2015, leading to substantial increase in installed solar electricity generating capacity.

Bodman highlighted the Department of Energy’s new $170-million, three-year, solicitation (FY ’07-’09) for cost-shared, public-private partnerships to advance solar energy technology.

The solicitation will focus on building partnerships for development, testing, demonstration, validation, and deployment of new photovoltaic (PV) components, systems and manufacturing equipment. PV materials are semiconductors that convert sunlight directly into electricity.

DOE is requesting proposals from industry-led teams, which may include one or more companies, universities, national laboratories, and/or non-governmental organizations.

Because DOE is requiring that the industry-led teams match their awards dollar for dollar, a total investment of $340 million will be realized when the private cost share is included.

NREL is the nation’s primary laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. Established in 1974, NREL began operating in 1977 as the Solar Energy Research Institute. It was designated a national laboratory of DOE in September 1991 and its name changed to NREL.

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EPA Strengthens Rule Governing Lead in Drinking Water

WASHINGTON, DC, July 10, 2006 (ENS) - The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to tighten its rules on lead in drinking water according to revisions proposed Thursday to the Lead and Copper Rule.

The proposal would revise monitoring requirements to ensure that water samples show how effective lead controls are.

It would clarify the timing of sample collection and tighten criteria for reducing the frequency of monitoring the lead levels in drinking water.

Water utilities would be required to receive state approval of treatment changes so that states can provide direction or require additional monitoring.

Water utilities would be required to notify occupants of the results of any testing that occurs within a home or facility. It also would ensure that consumers receive information about how to limit their exposure to lead in drinking water.

Water utilities also would be required to reevaluate lead service lines that may have previously been identified as low risk after any major treatment changes that could affect corrosion control.

"These revisions will prescribe stronger requirements for water system operators and will ensure the American people have access to the fundamental public service of clean, safe drinking water," said Benjamin Grumbles, EPA assistant administrator for water.

The proposed rulemaking affects public water systems that are classified as community water systems - systems that provide water to year-round residents in places like homes or apartment buildings.

In addition, non-transient, non-community water systems are affected. These are systems that provide drinking water to people in locations such as schools, office buildings, and restaurants, state agencies, and local and tribal governments.

The proposal is an outgrowth of EPA's March 2005 drinking water lead reduction plan. The agency developed the plan after analyzing the effectiveness of the Lead and Copper Rule and how states and local governments were implementing it.

The agency collected and analyzed lead information required by the regulations, reviewed the states' implementation, held five expert workshops about elements of the regulations, and collected information about local and state monitoring for lead in drinking water in schools and child-care facilities.

Lead is not a natural constituent of drinking water. It is picked up as water passes through pipes and household plumbing fittings and fixtures that contain lead. Water leaches lead from these sources and becomes contaminated.

In 1991, EPA issued the Lead and Copper Rule to reduce lead in drinking water. The rule requires water utilities to reduce lead contamination by controlling the corrosiveness of water and, as needed, replace lead service lines used to carry water from the street to the home.

Even at low levels, lead causes behavioral problems and learning disabilities in children six years old and younger, whose brains are still developing. Children are most often exposed to lead from the paint of older homes. Lead in drinking water can add to the exposure.

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New Orleans Lakefront Trees to Be Cut for Hurricane Protection

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana, July 10, 2006 (ENS) - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says lessons learned during Hurricane Katrina indicate that trees must be cut along Lake Pontchartrain in suburban Jefferson Parish to protect the hurricane-protection levee’s first line of defense - a low, earthen structure that extends 130 feet toward the water.

The structure, known as a wave berm, safeguards the levee’s ability to protect the cities of Metairie and Kenner. The berm’s low-angle slope slows down a hurricane storm surge, reducing its destructive energy.

Three hundred sixty trees are rooted in the berm near water’s edge in East Jefferson. Another eight are located along floodwalls flanking East Jefferson.

"A hurricane’s power could uproot these trees. The roots would rip away the grass and pull up the soil. This would expose a hole that could be enlarged by the waves," said Col. Richard Wagenaar, commander of the New Orleans District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The trees will be cut off at about 4.5 feet. That will eliminate the trees’ vulnerability to blowing over from wind and wave. After the hurricane season, the Corps will remove the stumps and backfill the holes with soil. Removal before that time would expose fresh fill material to the danger of wave erosion. The Corps awarded two contracts Friday to cut the Jefferson Parish trees under the government’s program for small and disadvantaged businesses.

All of the trees are located within the levee right of way. The lakefront trees are on the lake side of the levee. All of the floodwall trees are on the protected side of the floodwalls.

Next, the Corps plans to cut trees along the lakefront and canal levees in New Orleans. It is expected that a contract will be awarded in the next few weeks for about 25 trees along the New Orleans lakefront. Contracts to remove the trees along the canal levees will be awarded later this summer.

"Science and engineering tell us that trees should be kept off levees in order to protect the levees’ integrity," said Michael Stout, project manager for tree removal. "The berm is an integral part of a levee, so the berm must remain intact."

Katrina uprooted 20 to 30 trees last year in East Jefferson, according to Stephen Finnegan, a landscape architect who is the assistant manager for the tree project.

"More than two thirds of the trees to be cut are hackberries," Finnegan said. "The wood of this species, Celtis laevigata, is heavy but weak, making it relatively likely to fail in a storm. Cutting the trees on the berm now prevents that from happening in a future storm."

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West Coast Home and Garden Stores Post Pesticide Hazard Signs

SEATTLE, Washington, July 10, 2006 (ENS) - Home and garden stores on the West Coast are now required to post signs warning customers of the dangers to salmon posed by seven common pesticides that run off the land into waterways.

All pesticides with the ingredients malathion, carbaryl, 2,4-D, diazinon, diuron, triclopyr, or trifluralin must carry the warning, according to court order. The consumer education campaign targets hundreds of products containing seven pesticides that contaminate urban streams, and can harm salmon or salmon habitat.

The warning reads, "SALMON HAZARD. This product contains pesticides that may harm salmon or steelhead. Use of this product in urban areas can pollute salmon streams."

The salmon hazard signs have been distributed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of a legal settlement with consumer and salmon advocates.

The lawsuit against the EPA was brought by the Washington Toxics Coalition, the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, and the Institute for Fisheries Resources.

Patti Goldman, the Earthjustice attorney who won the protections on behalf of the plaintiff groups, said, "This is a victory for consumers and their families. Gardeners have a choice when it comes to buying pesticides, and salmon will swim in cleaner streams as a result."

In January 2004, Federal District Court Judge John Coughenour of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington imposed buffer zones restricting use of 38 pesticides along streams supporting threatened and endangered salmon. The order requires 20 yard no-spray buffers and 100 yard buffers in which aerial applications cannot occur.

Judge Coughenour also ruled that for seven pesticides that have been frequently detected in urban surface waters, the EPA must provide point of sale warnings that the pesticides may harm salmon when used in urban areas, because they pollute salmon streams.

In July 2002, Judge Coughenour ruled that the EPA had violated the Endangered Species Act, because it had failed to take steps to ensure that its authorized uses of 54 pesticides will not jeopardize the survival of threatened and endangered salmon.

"EPA's own reports document the potentially-significant risks posed by registered pesticides to threatened and endangered salmonids and their habitat," the judge wrote.

Judge Coughenour ordered the EPA to comply with the Endangered Species Act by evaluating, with the input of NOAA Fisheries, the effects of these pesticides on endangered and threatened salmon.

The judge ruled that while the EPA was completing this process, interim protective measures should be put in place, and that buffers along salmon streams are a "common, simple, and effective" remedy that should be implemented.

CropLife America, a trade association representing chemical companies, and 34 other industry associations of users, manufacturers, and applicators, intervened in the litigation as defendants on behalf of the EPA. Several other parties, including Syngenta Crop Protection Inc. and Dow Agrosciences LLC filed amicus briefs with the court in an attempt to defeat these protections.

A similar consumer education effort failed in 2004 when the pesticide industry sent consumer warning signs to stores without adequate instructions for posting.

Finally, on May 30, 2006, the EPA sent the consumer warning signs to thousands of stores in more than 500 communities, inhabited by some 16 million people. These retailers are required to post the warning signs near all products that contain the seven pesticides.

"People need to know that the choices they make in the pesticide aisle make a real difference in the health of our salmon runs," said Erika Schreder of Washington Toxics Coalition. "The Salmon Hazard warnings will help consumers buying lawn and garden products make better choices for salmon, and for their families."

"Waterborne pesticides have long been a serious problem for salmon," said Glen Spain of the co-plaintiff Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations. "It is far better to keep these chemicals out of the river in the first place and much harder to clean up a river after the damage has been done."

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Pronghorns Crowded Out of Ancient Migration Routes

BOZEMAN, Montana, July 10, 2006 (ENS) - The mammal that undertakes the longest remaining overland migration in the continental United States could vanish from the ecosystem that includes Yellowstone National Park, according to a study by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and National Park Service.

The pronghorn antelope travels more than 400 miles between fawning grounds and wintering areas, but its ancient migration route could disappear because of continued development and human disturbance outside the parks according to the study.

"It’s amazing that this marathon migration persists in a nation of almost 300 million people," said WCS researcher Joel Berger, the study’s lead author. "At the same time, the migration is in real trouble, and needs immediate recognition and protection."

The study, which appears in the latest issue of the journal "Biology Letters," says that pronghorn have used the existing migration route in and out of the Yellowstone ecosystem for at least 6,000 years.

The antelope travel up to 30 miles a day, over 8,500-foot mountain passes, and through bottlenecks now little wider than a football field due to recent residential development.

Increased petroleum extraction could further impact the migration route. Six of eight antelope migration corridors in and out of the Yellowstone ecosystem have already been lost.

Berger and his co-authors, Steve Cain and Kim Murray Berger, say safeguarding the migration route would be relatively easy, since the antelope population has used the same corridor for so long, unlike other overland migrants, such as caribou, which often change routes from year to year.

While pronghorn are abundant in many areas of the American West, Berger says there are both biological and historical reasons to preserving this particular population, which numbers around 200 to 300 animals.

"The protection of this migration corridor is more than symbolic," he said. "An entire population from a national park could be eliminated, leaving a conspicuous gap in the ecology and function of native predator-prey interactions."

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Vitamin Settlement Funds University of California Nutrition Center

DAVIS, California, July 10, 2006 (ENS) - A new Center for Health and Nutrition Research will be established at the University of California, Davis, to examine the role that California fruits, vegetables and nuts play in providing vitamins and important compounds that lower the risk of chronic diseases, the university announced on Friday.

Initial funding for the center, totaling more than $6.4 million, was recently received as part of the settlement of an eight year old antitrust case involving six major vitamin manufacturers.

The funds will be used over the next four years to establish and operate the center, and will support research focused on the impact during pregnancy of diets that are rich in plant-based compounds called flavonoids, the effects of walnuts and fish on coronary heart disease risks, and the effects of almond consumption on cardiovascular disease prevention.

The center will be led by UC Davis nutrition professor Carl Keen, who holds the Mars Chair in Developmental Nutrition.

Funding for the new UC Davis nutrition center was part of a $310 million settlement, which was reached with three European and three Japanese companies that together control more than 80 percent of the world's vitamin market. The settlement included $85 million for California.

The vitamin manufacturers pleaded guilty in federal court in 1998 to an international price-fixing scheme, which resulted in consumers and businesses being overcharged over a span of 12 years for a variety of products including breakfast cereals, milk, juices, pet food, dietary supplements, animal feed and beauty products.

Because of the difficulty in determining the damage suffered by individual consumers due to the price fixing, the consumer portion of the settlement, totaling about $38 million, will be used to fund "projects of general benefit to Californians," according to the California Department of Justice.

This includes nutrition and aging research, food banks, health education, and grants to the dairy and poultry industry. The UC Davis nutrition center funding is part of this consumer portion of the settlement.

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