AmeriScan: July 17, 2006

* * *

Dry Cleaners Must Phase Out Perc in Residential Buildings

WASHINGTON, DC, July 17, 2006 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is tightening rules for all dry cleaners that use the chemical perchloroethylene (perc), including a phase-out of the chemical in dry cleaners located in residential buildings.

Under the Clean Air Act, perc is one of 187 pollutants EPA regulates as air toxics, also known as hazardous air pollutants. These toxics are pollutants known or suspected to cause cancer and other serious health problems.

"This is an important step in our comprehensive strategy to expand and enhance public health protections in the dry cleaning industry," said Bill Wehrum, EPA's acting assistant administrator for air and radiation. "The phase-out in residential buildings and improved protections are good for public health and good for the environment."

While the potential for health effects from most dry cleaners across the country are generally low, EPA found that a small number of dry cleaners located in residential buildings posed a risk that warrants action.

For residential buildings, the final rule requires the phase-out of perc machines as they wear out.

By 2020, dry cleaning machines in residential buildings are prohibited from using perc; they may continue to operate if they use alternative technologies. In the interim, owners of perc machines will use enhanced technology to detect and repair leaks as they occur.

The final rule will also require dry cleaners to use more sophisticated methods to detect and repair perc emissions from large and commercial dry cleaners and small dry cleaners often found in shopping centers.

EPA's Science Advisory Board has identified perchloroethylene as a "possible to probable" human carcinogen. Exposure to perchloroethylene has been linked to the development of liver tumors in mice.

Exposure to perchloroethylene also is associated with chronic, non-cancer health effects, including liver and kidney damage in rodents, and neurological effects in humans. Acute exposures can result in loss of coordination; eye, nose and throat irritation; and headache.

Since the implementation of EPA's 1993 air toxics standards, dry cleaners have reduced perc emissions by about 15,000 tons a year through increased use of alternative solvents, replacement of older dry-cleaning machines and state and industry programs to improve efficiency and reduce perc use. Nationwide, some 28,000 dry cleaners use perc.

For more on the new perc rule, visit: http://www.epa.gov/air/drycleaningrule/basic.html

* * *

Car and Truck Fuel Economy Worse Than 18 Years Ago

WASHINGTON, DC, July 17, 2006 (ENS) - Model year 2006 cars and light trucks are the fastest and heaviest since 1975, yet they average the same 21.0 miles per gallon they got last year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) annual fuel economy trends report released today.

But the 21.0 mpg average fuel economy for cars and light trucks is five percent lower than the average fuel economy peak value of 22.1 mpg achieved in 1987-1988.

Based on sales projections provided by automakers, "Light-Duty Automotive Technology and Fuel Economodel year Trends: 1975 Through 2006" provides data on the fuel economodel year and technology characteristics of new light-duty vehicles (cars, vans, sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks) for model years 1975 through 2006.

Since 1992, "average real-world fuel economodel year " has ranged from 20.6 to 21.4 miles per gallon (mpg).

For model year 2006, cars and light trucks are each projected to account for about 50 percent of vehicle sales. This market share has been relatively stable for five years.

The EPA says recent technology developments, such as hybrid-electric vehicles, clean diesel technology, improved transmission designs, and engines equipped with variable valve timing and cylinder deactivation, hold promise for stable or improving fuel economy in the future.

Since 1975, the fuel economy of the combined car and light truck fleet has moved through four phases: a rapid increase from 1975 continuing to the mid-1980s; a slow increase extending into the late 1980s; a gradual decline until the mid-1990s; and a period of relatively constant fuel economy since then.

Since model year 1990, the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard for cars has been the value set by Congress at 27.5 mpg.

The truck CAFE standards, as set by the U.S. Department of Transportation for model year 2006 and model year 2007 are 21.6 and 22.2 mpg, respectively.

For model year 2008 to 2010, the truck CAFE standards give manufacturers a choice. They can choose to comply with standards of 22.5 mpg for model year 2008, 23.1 mpg in model year 2009 and 23.5 mpg in model year 2010.

Or they can choose to comply with a reformed standard based on a relationship between vehicle size, or footprint, and fuel economy.

Starting in model year 2011, truck CAFE standards will be based on the reformed system.

* * *

Sheetz First Retail Chain in Pennsylvania to Offer Ethanol E85

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania, July 17, 2006 (ENS) - The Sheetz convenience store chain will become the first chain retailer in Pennsylvania to carry E85, a fuel blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline that burns with reduced greenhouse gas emissions compared to gasoline.

Derived from plants such as corn, the fuel will be available at selected Pittsburgh Sheetz locations, due a collaborative partnership with General Motors Corporation, VeraSun Energy Corporation, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Sheetz will offer VeraSun's branded VE85 at its Pleasant Hills store on Clairton Blvd. and Lewis Run Road. Two additional Sheetz stores will offer VE85 later this year with more locations to follow.

"Sheetz is proud to be the first large retail chain in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to offer VE85, an ethanol-based alternative fuel. We expect to be able to offer the fuel to our customers at a lower price than 87 octane," said Louie Sheetz, executive vice president of marketing.

Pennyslvania Governor Ed Rendell participated in the official announcement July 10. "One of the biggest obstacles to greater use of E85 is availability - especially at the retail level. Here in Pennsylvania, we are leading the charge to greater accessibility as the first state in the Northeast to open publicly available retail E85 stations," the governor said.

VeraSun Energy, the nation's second largest ethanol producer, has partnered with GM and retail partners in other states to make E85 more available and bring awareness and credibility to this emerging, renewable alternative fuel.

"Working with GM and Sheetz to promote VE85(TM), we're confident that Pennsylvania consumers will quickly recognize and appreciate the benefits of using this ethanol-based renewable fuel, which reduces our dependence on foreign oil, contributes to our domestic economy, and burns cleaner than regular gasoline," said Bill Honnef, VeraSun's senior vice president of sales and marketing.

General Motors manufactures E85 flexible fuel vehicles, which can run on ethanol or gasoline, and is committed to increasing the awareness and availability of E85 to consumers through marketing initiatives and dealer outreach.

Since May 2005, GM has announced partnerships with states and fuel providers around the country and expects to help launch more than 160 new E85 fueling locations by the end of 2006.

"GM already has more than two million vehicles on the road today that are capable of using E85 fuel," said Elizabeth Lowery, GM vice president of environment and energy. "We appreciate VeraSun and Sheetz for joining our efforts to make this great fuel alternative available to more people."

* * *

Wyoming Range Oil and Gas Lease Sale Placed on Hold

PINEDALE, Wyoming, July 17, 2006 (ENS) - Ruling that a proposed sale of an oil and natural gas lease likely will require an updated analysis of impacts to the environment and popular recreation areas, a panel of administrative law judges at the U.S. Department of the Interior has placed a temporary hold on a December 2005 sale of an energy lease in the Wyoming Range portion of the Bridger-Teton National Forest.

Located south of Jackson Hole near the Wyoming-Idaho border, the Wyoming Range encompasses tall peaks, high mountain meadows inhabited by deer and elk, the best lynx habitat in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and blue-ribbon trout streams.

Jim Vilos from Kemmerer, who has hunted and fished the Wyoming Range all his life, welcomed the decision. "I think with those lease sales that all forms of uses are in jeopardy in the Wyoming Range - hunting, fishing, photography, biking. This is great news and it's about time."

The stay, granted by the Interior Board Land Appeals (IBLA) of the Department of Interior, stalls the issuance of a federal oil and gas lease auctioned in December. The lease would have granted an energy company the right to build roads and drill gas wells on national forest lands in the Wyoming Range.

The December lease was the first in a series of lease sales that federal agencies have planned to encompass 44,600 acres in the Wyoming Range. In addition to the December lease sale halted by the IBLA ruling, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) also auctioned Wyoming Range leases in April and June and plans another auction in August.

The April and June leases also are subject to pending challenges by environmental groups, recreationists, and outfitters, but the IBLA has not yet issued decisions about those lease sales.

"Although this ruling affects just a small part of the 44,600 acres the Forest Service and BLM have authorized for oil and natural gas development in the Wyoming Range, it's a promising first step," said Lisa McGee with the Wyoming Outdoor Council.

"It is clear from the growing chorus of voices opposing leasing in the Wyoming Range that this area is treasured by local residents. Before the Forest Service and BLM allow oil and gas development here, they need to reconsider the effects such development will have on the range," McGee said. "We hope this decision sends a message to the federal agencies to slow down and listen to the people who know and love the Wyoming Range."

Earthjustice has provided legal assistance to a broad coalition of groups opposing the proposed Wyoming Range leasing, and Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso assisted the Wyoming Outdoor Council in seeking yesterday's ruling from the IBLA.

"This is a win for the 18,000 working men and women and the citizens of Wyoming," says Kim Floyd, the executive secretary of the Wyoming State AFL-CIO which protested the June lease sale. "Finally the federal government has listened. I hope this decision sets a precedent for further leasing on national forest lands. We'll be watching."

In addition to the proposed additional leases, the Bridger-Teton National Forest already has 150,000 acres under lease and a number of working wells.

In the nearby Upper Green River Valley, industry has drilled several thousand gas wells in recent years, fouling the air, displacing wildlife from crucial winter range, and disrupting migration routes, and the BLM is poised to authorize up to 10,000 new wells in the Upper Green over the next decade.

Earthjustice and plaintiff groups argue that because the Forest Service has not studied the cumulative impacts, it does not know how new leasing and development in the Wyoming Range will add to the environmental damage.

* * *

Greek Shipping Companies, Personnel Indicted for Oily Discharge

WASHINGTON, DC, July 17, 2006 (ENS) - A grand jury in Delaware Friday returned a five-count indictment charging two Greek shipping companies and three individuals with conspiracy to commit environmental crimes and obstructing U.S. Coast Guard investigations related to the operation of the tanker vessel Irene E/M.

The charges relate to the dumping of oily sludge and oil-contaminated bilge water into the sea in U.S. waters without treatment by an oily water separator, a required pollution prevention device, in violation of U.S. and international laws.

Charged are Chian Spirit Maritime Enterprises Inc. and Venetico Marine and Adrian Dragomere, Kristos Pagones, and Evangelos Madias.

The Irene is owned and operated by Chian Spirit. A fourth man, Grigore Manolache, pleaded guilty to a charges of giving false information to the U.S. Coast Guard.

According to the indictment, Dragomere was a licensed First Engineer, and at all times was responsible for managing and supervising the engine department, including compliance with laws regulating the discharge of oil from the ship.

Pagones was a technical supervisor for the Irene. Madias was the owner of defendant Venetico Marine and was responsible for the management and fiscal outlays to support the Irene’s ongoing ocean shipping enterprise.

The indictment alleges that on an unknown date, but including at least on or about October 3, 2005, and continuing through on or about December 10, 2005, the defendants and numerous subordinate officers and crew members of the Irene conspired to create and maintain a false Oil Record Book, in violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, and to knowingly impede and attempt to influence a vessel inspection by members of the U.S. Coast Guard.

As part of the conspiracy, Dragomere is alleged to have discharged and ordered the discharge of untreated oily sludge and unprocessed bilge water directly into the ocean from the Irene through the use of a “magic pipe,” which bypassed the oily water separator as much as four times per week. Additionally, he failed to record or cause the recording of these discharges in the vessel’s Oil Record Book.

All defendants are alleged to have directed and encouraged members of Irene’s crew to lie to the Coast Guard about the dumping of oily sludge and oil-contaminated bilge water into the sea.

If convicted, Chian Spirit and Venetico Marine each face up to $2.5 million in criminal fines and five years probation; Dragomere faces up to 15 years in prison, a potential fine of $750,000 and a special assessment of $300; and Madias and Pagones, each face up to 10 years in prison, a $500,000 fine and a special assessment of $200.

Manolache faces up to five years in prison, a potential fine, a special assessment of $100, and a term of probation up to five years.

* * *

Tons of Marine Debris to Be Removed from Hawaiian Islands

HONOLULU, Hawaii, July 17, 2006 (ENS) - The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has started to remove an estimated 129 tons of marine debris from the main Hawaiian islands.

Marine debris presents a hazard to Hawaiian marine life, habitat and safe navigation. The removal starting today begins the second stage of a project aimed at reducing the presence of marine debris on Hawaiian shores.

The removal effort, which started on Oahu, follows a helicopter survey between February and May, which showed abandoned fishing gear and other debris along the shores and nearshore reefs of all the main islands.

"NOAA has made a commitment to the people of Hawaii to seriously address the issue of marine debris, both through identification and removal, as well as through education and public awareness of this critical issue impacting the health of the Hawaiian ecosystem," said NOAA Administrator Conrad Lautenbacher.

"We have had a longstanding effort in the areas around the recently designated Northwestern Hawaiian Islands National Monument, and are now looking to address the issue in the main islands as well," he said.

The islands of Oahu, Kauai, Hawaii, Maui, Lanai and Molokai were surveyed in 13 days over the course of 50 flight hours. A total of 711 sites with more than a quarter-million tons of marine debris were identified, with most found on beaches.

Oahu, Kauai, and Lanai lead the other islands in both individual debris sites and estimated debris weight. More derelict fishing gear was found on windward shores than leeward shores, indicating that northeasterly trade winds play a primary role in debris deposition.

Also, even though Hawaii does not have a trawl fishery, most nets observed were trawl nets, which are carried to the islands from elsewhere in the Pacific by ocean currents.

Debris removed from beaches and reefs will be transported to Schnitzer Steel Hawaii Corporation for processing prior to being incinerated for energy production, a marine debris recycling effort launched earlier this year.

The main island cleanup is one of five Hawaii-based debris removal projects funded by the NOAA Marine Debris program. These projects are part of a nationwide effort that also includes addressing marine debris in the Pacific Northwest, the Gulf coast and Florida, as well as Hawaii.

* * *

Raw Oysters Sicken Pacific Northwest Diners

SALEM, Oregon, July 17, 2006 (ENS) - In the wake of a sharp increase of illnesses associated with eating uncooked oysters, Oregon public health officials are warning the public that they may contain a bacterium that is a potential health risk.

Oregon, Washington and British Columbia are currently seeing a wave of Vibrio parahaemolyticus infections, officials said Friday.

At least 14 cases have been identified in Oregon during the past few days. Most people report eating raw oysters at restaurants in Portland or Medford.

One victim ate oysters that were privately harvested in Washington State. In the past week, more than 15 cases have also been reported among residents of Washington and British Columbia.

All are linked to raw oyster consumption, according to Paul Cieslak, M.D., communicable disease manager in the Oregon Department of Human Services Public Health Division.

"These most recent cases are a reminder that uncooked shellfish are a recurrent source of illness in the Pacific Northwest," said Cieslak, "It's the same story as with meat and poultry - if you eat it raw or undercooked, there is a real risk of getting sick with some pretty nasty bugs."

Vibrio parahaemolyticus is a bacterium that is naturally present in many marine waters, including those of the Pacific Coast. Sporadic cases and occasional outbreaks associated with raw oyster consumption are reported every year, and almost all reported cases have a history of eating raw oysters within the day or two before illness onset, Cieslak said.

The symptoms of Vibrio parahaemolyticus infection include watery diarrhea, cramps, vomiting and fever. Most cases resolve without treatment. Cieslak advises that anyone sick enough to need medical attention for these symptoms should tell their doctor if they ate raw oysters or other shellfish.

Public health officials are currently working to identify the harvest sites for the oysters involved in this most recent outbreak, Cieslak said.

* * *