AmeriScan: July 5, 2007

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Kansas Refinery Spill Disperses Before Reaching Reservoir

COFFEYVILLE, Kansas, July 5, 2007 (ENS) - About 42,000 gallons of crude oil that spilled into the Verdigris River when floodwaters hit a refinery in Coffeyville on Sunday, has dispersed without contaminating a drinking water reservoir in Oklahoma.

None of the oil reached Oklahoma's Lake Oologah, a source of drinking water for Tulsa and other communities, Oklahoma environmental officials said Wednesday.

Coffeyville Resources began moving back into its administrative facilities and some warehouses Wednesday at its refinery and fertilizer plant, as water from weekend flooding slowly recedes.

Part of the facility remains under water, but overflow of crude oil from the refinery's main storage tank has stopped, the company said Wednesday.

Company officials are investigating the incident to determine the root cause of the spill and to determine the amount of crude oil lost during the flood.

"We will not resume operations at either facility until it can be done safely," said Jack Lipinski, chief executive officer of Coffeyville Resources. "Once we know the extent of the damage, we will have a better idea of when we might be able to restart the facilities."

Coffeyville Resources' crude oil gathering system in Oklahoma and Western Kansas remains fully operational, and crude oil disbursements are being handled in a timely manner, the company said.

Some workers at the refinery and the fertilizer facility already are returning to work. Others have been told to remain at home until contacted by their supervisors to return.

Lipinski says the company is working closely with city, state and federal agencies engaged in mitigating the environmental impact of the loss and is actively reaching out to those people affected.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, was helping the Coffeyville Police Department to conduct air quality tests for potential hazards.

At least 1,000 people have been displaced from their homes throughout southeast Kansas, says the Kansas adjutant general's department.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment, KDHE, is distributing tetanus vaccine to prevent the illness in people who have come in contact with the floodwaters.

Health officials are warning residents to stay out of the flood waters due to sewage, hazardous materials, and other contaminants. Individuals should contact their nearest health department for a tetanus vaccine if they have had a recent, significant injury or if they have entered the water and have not had a tetanus vaccination in the past 10 years.

The Kansas Highway Patrol is providing an aircraft to transport tetanus vaccines, and ground units are relaying additional vaccines to local health departments.

Many Kansas water treatment plants have been flooded, and bottled drinking water is being sent to the affected areas. Residents are urged to ration their existing water sources. The KDHE says recommended use is one gallon per person per day.

The Salvation Army and American Red Cross are supplying drinking water at established shelters. The organizations are establishing food banks providing non-perishable, ready-to-eat meals that either do not require heating or include a self-heating system.

The Federal Emergency Management Administration, FEMA, is providing five semi-loads of bottled drinking water to Wilson and Montgomery counties.

The EPA advises people returning to property that may be contaminated with oil and other contaminants to wear work boots, open doors and windows for ventilation, and avoid taking oil-contaminated items to non-contaminated locations.

KDHE is working with the local household hazardous waste programs to set up solid waste locations in each county.

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Hawaii Becomes Second State to Curb Greenhouse Gases

HONOLULU, Hawaii, July 5, 2007 (ENS) - Hawaii has become the second state in the nation, after California, to pass a statewide cap on greenhouse gas emissions responsible for the planet's rising temperature.

The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2007, which took effect quietly on July 1, establishes a state policy to bring Hawaii's greenhouse gas emissions down to 1990 levels by 2020.

The Democratically controlled State Legislature passed the measure in May by overwhelming bipartisan votes in both houses - a 48-2 margin in the House and 23-2 in the Senate.

But Republican Governor Linda Lingle has let the bill become law without her signature and without fanfare, unlike her counterpart in California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who won political points by signing a parallel law last September.

The Hawaii Legislature's statement of concern contained in the language of the bill is unequivocal.

"The legislature finds that the Earth's atmosphere is now warming at the fastest rate in recorded history," the legislation states.

"The scientific evidence is now compelling that recent climate change is caused at least in part by human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels, which has driven atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations to their highest levels in 420,000 years."

Climate change poses a serious threat to the economic well-being, public health, natural resources, and the environment of Hawaii, the bill warns.

"The potential adverse effects of global warming include a rise in sea levels resulting in the displacement of businesses and residences and the inundation of Hawaii's freshwater aquifers, damage to marine ecosystems and the natural environment, extended drought and loss of soil moisture, an increase in the spread of infectious diseases, and an increase in the severity of storms and extreme weather events," states the legislation.

The lawmakers hope that by reducing emissions, Hawaii will serve as an example "to other states, the federal government, and other countries to protect our fragile global environment."

By investigating and pioneering new technologies to meet this goal, the lawmakers say Hawaii will position its economy, technology centers, financial institutions, and businesses to benefit from national and international efforts to reduce greenhouse gases.

The state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism has until the end of 2008 to update a list of all sources of greenhouse gas emissions.

The Hawaii Department of Health will be responsible for enacting rules to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

A 10 member Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Task Force will have four members from business, two state department heads, two University of Hawaii representatives and two environmental group members.

The task force will have until the end of 2009 to develop a plan for "maximum practically and technically feasible and cost-effective reductions in greenhouse gas emissions."

The task force must deliver to the 2010 Legislature its plan and regulations for accomplishing the reduction - giving the state 10 years to roll back emissions to 1990 levels.

Sierra Club Hawaii director Jeff Mikulina applauded the new law. "Enactment of the Global Warming Solutions Act heralds a new era in Hawaii's history. This law will require that Hawaii begin the transition away from dirty, imported fossil fuel sources and to clean, indigenous supplies of energy," he said in a statement.

The state will use a mix of conservation, alternative energy programs, more efficient power generation, cuts in motor vehicle emissions, controls on the fertilizing and burning of agricultural fields and other measures.

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Bush-Cheney Offshore Oil Plan Challenged in Court

WASHINGTON, DC, July 5, 2007 (ENS) - The Bush administration's nationwide plan governing the sale of all offshore oil and gas leases in federal waters over the next five years is facing a legal challenge from the Center for Biological Diversity.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, raises claims under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Endangered Species Act.

The Minerals Management Service's 2007-2012 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program was approved by Secretary of Interior Dirk Kempthorne last Friday.

The program, effective July 1, schedules 21 lease sales in eight planning areas across the nation. Twelve sales are scheduled for the Gulf of Mexico, eight off the coast of Alaska, and one off the coast of Virginia.

In addition to fouling some of the most pristine and sensitive marine habitat in the country, the program would generate more than four billion tons of greenhouse gases over the expected life of the leases, the conservation group warns.

The lawsuit alleges that even though the leasing program will result in more greenhouse gas emissions than virtually any other single federal approval, the administration did not study the environmental consequences of emissions from the program.

"This plan is the culmination of the Cheney energy policy," said Kassie Siegel, climate program director of the Center for Biological Diversity. "It will further our national addiction to fossil fuels, contribute to global warming, and at the same time directly despoil the habitat of polar bears and other imperiled wildlife."

Five of the proposed lease sales would be in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas off Alaska, turning prime polar bear habitat into a polluted industrial zone. Oil development in the Beaufort Sea would likely also be visible from the shores of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

An additional lease sale proposed in Alaska's Bristol Bay is within critical habitat for the North Pacific right whale, the world's most endangered whale, while two lease sales are proposed for Cook Inlet, home to endangered beluga whales and sea otters.

"Short of sending Dick Cheney to Alaska to personally club polar bear cubs to death, the administration could not have come up with a more environmentally destructive plan for endangered marine mammals," said Brendan Cummings, ocean program director of the Center. "Yet the administration did not even analyze, much less attempt to avoid, the impacts of oil development on endangered wildlife."

In addition to its contribution to global warming and severe impacts on marine mammals, the leasing program would hurt commercial fisheries and subsistence activities in Alaska.

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New Jersey Sues Makers, Marketers of Gasoline Additive MTBE

TRENTON, New Jersey, July 5, 2007 (ENS) - The state of New Jersey has filed 120 lawsuits that could result in hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation from polluters who have harmed New Jersey's natural resources, including numerous manufacturers and marketers of the gasoline additive MTBE.

Department of Environmental Protection, DEP, Commissioner Lisa Jackson announced the lawsuits Friday, saying, "We are committed to holding accountable those polluters whose actions have sullied our rivers, land and ground water, diminishing public enjoyment of these natural resources."

One of the lawsuits targets scores of designers and manufacturers of the gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether, MTBE, as well as major brand refiners and marketers of gasoline that used MTBE, including Amerada Hess, Atlantic Richfield Co., BP America, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Getty, Shell, Texaco and Valero Energy.

MTBE was widely used to raise the oxygen content of gasoline to make it burn cleanly enough to meet federal standards. But releases of MTBE-containing gasoline from underground storage tanks have contaminated drinking water in New Jersey and other states, and by late 2006, most American gasoline retailers had ceased using MTBE as an oxygenate.

With this lawsuit, New Jersey becomes the third state to seek natural resource damages caused by the release of MTBE.

Attorney General Anne Milgram said, "We are working with DEP to ensure that contaminated properties are cleaned up and restored, and that, where appropriate, polluters compensate the residents of New Jersey for the loss of precious natural resources."

The lawsuits seek compensation above and beyond cleanup costs and fines that DEP levies against polluters. DEP uses money from natural resource damage settlements toward ecological restoration projects, typically in the same watershed or general area where the damages occured.

Among other companies facing natural resource damage lawsuits are Ciba Geigy Specialty Chemicals in Dover, Ocean County; the Bayway refinery in Linden, Union County; Gloucester City Titanium in Gloucester City, Camden County; Landfill & Development Co. in Lumberton, Mount Holly and Eastampton, Burlington County; as well as Dow/Union Carbide in Middlesex Borough and Piscataway Township, Middlesex County.

Some of the lawsuits focus on polluters that have damaged river resources.

A lawsuit has been filed against ISP Environmental Services and G-I Holdings Inc., located in Linden along Piles Creek near the Arthur Kill. Other lawsuits charge Mallinckrodt Baker, along the Delaware River in Phillipsburg; Genstar Gypsum, located along the Delaware River in Camden; and Rhone Poulenc along the Raritan River in Middlesex Borough with damaging natural resources.

"These companies have left a legacy of pollutants in sediments ranging from PCBs and pesticides to volatile chemicals and hydrocarbons," Jackson said. "Clean rivers are vital to a vibrant economy and a healthy environment."

Since it began in 1994, DEP's Natural Resource Damage program has recovered more than $51 million and preserved 6,000 acres of open space as wildlife habitat and ground water recharge areas as compensation for pollution from 1,500 contaminated sites and oil spills.

Under DEP rules, all parties responsible for polluting a site must conduct a thorough analysis to determine the nature and extent of pollution. Once this remedial investigation is completed, DEP has five and a half years to file a lawsuit to recover damages to natural resources if the responsible party does not restore the injured resource before then.

The Legislature recognized that remedial investigations were completed at some sites many years ago without the filing of natural resource damage lawsuits.

Consequently, the Legislature provided a mechanism that required filing of lawsuits within five and a half years of January 1, 2002. The 120 lawsuits filed last week include sites evaluated by DEP and the Attorney General's office as being affected by this deadline, which expired on June 30, 2007.

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Groups File Suit Against EPA Solvent Exemptions

WASHINGTON, DC, July 5, 2007 (ENS) - Two citizens groups Monday filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, for exempting several industrial sectors from new standards requiring reductions of industrial solvent emissions into the air.

Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future, PennFuture, and the Sierra Club filed suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia over the agency's refusal to control release of solvent cleaners, including perchloroethylene, perc, and trichloroethylene, TCE.

Studies with mice and rats have suggested that high levels of trichloroethylene may cause liver, kidney, or lung cancer. Studies of people exposed over long periods to high levels of trichloroethylene in drinking water or in workplace air have found evidence of increased cancer, according to the federal Agency for Toxic Substances.

Perc causes cancer in laboratory animals at exposure levels close to the level legally allowed in the workplace.

On May 18 in the same court, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, DEP, filed its own legal challenge to the solvent exemptions at the behest of Governor Ed Rendell. (See Pennsylvania Governor Challenges EPA Solvent Exemptions http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/may2007/2007-05-21-09.asp#anchor4)

The DEP has found that TCE levels in the air in the Collegeville area of Pennsylvania are significantly higher than elsewhere in the state and put Collegeville and other Montgomery County residents at a higher risk for cancer.

DEP has identified the sources of the TCE as the companies Superior Tube and Accellent, which Earthjustice calls "the fourth and fifth biggest TCE polluters in the nation."

The EPA's final rule, published May 3 in the Federal Register, exempts three industry sectors from new standards that would require emission reductions of trichloroethylene, TCE, and other degreaser solvents. The three sectors are aerospace, narrow tube manufacturers, and facilities that use continuous web-cleaning and halogenated solvent cleaning machines.

Earthjustice, a nonprofit, public interest law firm representing the two groups, says that despite the documented health risks and the grave concerns of the residents and local leaders, the EPA released a rule on May 3 that allows the plants to release the toxic solvent without any controls, on the grounds that such controls would not be cost-effective for the plant owners.

"EPA's decision to ignore the health risks in Collegeville is a blatant violation of federal law," said James Pew, a lawyer with Earthjustice.

"Hundreds of our 10,000 area members are put at risk by these emissions," said Dennis Winters, conservation chair of the Sierra Club's Southeastern Pennsylvania Group.

Charles McPhedran, senior attorney for the statewide public interest membership organization PennFuture, said, "We will fight EPA in court. While doing that, we urge DEP to order reductions at the Collegeville-area plants so that neighbors know there is an end to this toxic threat."

The DEP has negotiated with the plants' owners for a voluntary agreement to cut the toxic air pollution.

"Contrary to the argument that reductions in TCE emissions will place an unfair burden on the narrow tube industry, we are seeing voluntary reductions by manufacturers in Montgomery County that can be realized within a year," said Governor Ed Rendell. "That calls into question the EPA's evaluation of the facts about this industry."

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Boeing Debuts Greener Dreamliner Passenger Jet

SEATTLE, Washington, July 5, 2007 (ENS) - Aircraft manufacturer Boeing is introducing its new, fuel-efficient jet plane on Sunday. Boeing says the 787 Dreamliner will use 20 percent less fuel than any other airplane of its size.

An international team of aerospace companies is developing the airplane, led by Boeing at its Everett facility near Seattle.

"In addition to bringing big-jet ranges to mid-size airplanes, the 787 will provide airlines with unmatched fuel efficiency, resulting in exceptional environmental performance," the company says.

The new planes will travel at speeds similar to today's fastest wide bodies - Mach 0.85, Boeing says.

Boeing has selected General Electric and Rolls-Royce to develop engines for the new airplanes and says advances in engine technology will contribute as much as eight percent of the increased efficiency of the new planes.

On Sunday the new plane will roll out with two Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines. The Trent 1000's designers have focused on delivering world's best levels of fuel burn, noise and emissions, Rolls-Royce said today.

Another improvement in efficiency comes in the way the airplane is designed and built. By manufacturing a one-piece fuselage section, Boeing is eliminating 1,500 aluminum sheets and at least 40,000 fasteners.

As much as 50 percent of the primary structure, including the fuselage and wings, will be made of composite materials.

An open architecture will be at the heart of the 787's systems, which will be more simplified than today's airplanes and offer increased functionality. The team is looking at incorporating health-monitoring systems that will allow the airplane to self-monitor and report maintenance requirements to ground-based computer systems.

There will be three members of the 787 family. The smallest, the 787-8 Dreamliner will carry 210 to 250 passengers on routes of 7,650 to 8,200 nautical miles, while the mid-sized 787-9 Dreamliner will carry 250 to 290 passengers on routes of 8,000 to 8,500 nautical miles.

The largest, the 787-3 Dreamliner, will accommodate 290 to 330 passengers and is optimized for shorter routes of 2,500 to 3,050 nautical miles.

Sales began in April 2004 with a record order from All-Nippon Airways. Since that time, 45 customers from six continents have placed orders for 584 airplanes, making this the most successful launch of a new commercial airplane in Boeing's history.

The 787 program will open its final assembly plant in Everett in 2007. First flight is expected in 2007 with certification, delivery and entry into service occurring in 2008.

On Sunday July 8, Boeing will broadcast the premiere of the 787 Dreamliner to viewers around the world live and in nine different languages via satellite and Webcast. The television premier airs at 3:30 pm PDT or 10:30 pm GMT. To view the Webcast, log on to www.boeing.com or www.newairplane.com.

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Ancient Alaskan Wolves Went Extinct 12,000 Years Ago

LOS ANGELES, California, July 5, 2007 (ENS) - Ancient gray wolves that once ranged across Alaska became extinct some 12,000 years ago, and today's Alaskan wolves are not their descendents, an international team of scientists reports in the latest edition of the journal "Current Biology."

The scientists analyzed DNA samples, conducted radio carbon dating and studied the chemical composition of ancient wolves at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History. They then compared the results with modern wolves and found that the two were genetically distinct.

The lead author on the research, Jennifer Leonard, now at Sweden's Uppsala University studied the DNA of more than a dozen wolves that lived 12,000 to 45,000 years ago.

"The ancient Alaskan gray wolves are all more similar to one another than any of them is to any modern North American or modern Eurasian wolf," said study co-author Blaire Van Valkenburgh, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California-Los Angeles, UCLA.

The ancient gray wolves lived in Alaska continuously from at least 45,000 years ago until approximately 12,000 years ago, Van Valkenburgh said.

The ancient gray wolves were not much different in size from modern Alaskan wolves, although their teeth and jaw muscles were larger. They were capable of killing large bison, Van Valkenburgh said.

The ancient wolves suffered many broken teeth and tooth fractures, she said.

Van Valkenburgh has studied tooth fractures in ancient animals at Los Angeles' Rancho La Brea Tar Pits and in modern lions, tigers, leopards, puma and wolves. She says the ancient large mammals broke their teeth frequently when they ate, crunching the bones of their prey much more often than their modern counterparts.

"Because they were hungry, which may have been because it was difficult to catch and hold onto prey when there was much competition and theft among carnivores, forcing them to eat quickly," said Van Valkenburgh, who won a UCLA distinguished teaching award in June.

The ancient wolves' competitors for food included lions, saber-toothed cats and enormous short-faced bears, she said.

The saber-toothed cat and other large mammals became extinct about 10,000 to 11,000 years ago when their prey disappeared due to factors that included human hunting and "dramatic global warming at the end of the Pleistocene," Van Valkenburgh said.

"When environmental change happens very rapidly, animals cannot adapt, especially when the few places for them to move as habitats shrink; they are more likely to go extinct," Van Valkenburgh said. "It was a rapid climate change in the late Pleistocene."

The research was federally funded by the National Science Foundation.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.