AmeriScan: June 9, 2004

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Low Emissions Power Plant to Burn West Virginia Waste Coal

WASHINGTON, DC, June 9, 2004 (ENS) - A new $215 million West Virginia power plant that will use new technology to turn waste coal into electricity with fewer emissions than standard coal-fired power plants was commissioned Monday by Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham.

The power plant will serve as the anchor tenant for a new industrial park in Rainelle, West Virginia. Construction is expected to begin in early 2006.

Development of the new technology, termed atmospheric-pressure circulating fluidized-bed combustion, is a joint venture between the Department of Energy (DOE) and Western Greenbrier Co-Generation LLC.

In addition to generating enough electricity to power 85,000 homes, the new plant will concurrently produce useable steam and heat, as well as structural brick from combustion ash byproducts.

When operational, the power plant will produce 85 to 90 megawatts of electricity, up to 30,000 pounds of steam per hour, and about 400 million Btu per hour of low temperature waste heat.

“The Greenbrier plant is a prime example of President Bush’s commitment to coal," Abraham said. "Greenbrier will clean an existing environmental waste site, reduce emissions, deliver needed electric power at affordable rates, and produce new economic activity.

The plant will create some 6,000 direct, indirect and induced new jobs near the communities of Rainelle, Rupert, and Quinwood in western Greenbrier County, Abraham predicted.

Western Greenbrier, a limited liability public corporation, will team with Parsons Corporation, Reading, Pennsylvania; ALSTOM Power Inc. of Windsor, Connecticut; and Hazen Research Inc. of Golden, Colorado, to build the demonstration facility.

Using a new ALSTOM inverted-cyclone separator for the capture and recirculation of solids, the design may reduce boiler construction time by up to 10 percent and the boiler footprint by up to 40 percent.

The Greenbrier plant will consume nearby waste coal refuse, reducing the total estimate of nearly 400 million tons located in several hundred sites in southern West Virginia.

The refuse carries an estimated cleanup cost of $2 billion to $3 billion, which State Department of Environmental Protection officials characterize as West Virginia’s premier environmental hazard.

The commercialization plan for the Greenbrier Co-Production Demonstration Project envisions a network of larger facilities that could ultimately eliminate most of the coal-waste in the eastern coal region of the United States.

The plant will also return fly ash to the Anjean waste-coal pile to neutralize acid runoff, enhancing land restoration for productive use.

Other pluses from the project include consumption of wood waste from local forestry operations, which will be combined with coal combustion ash for co-production of up to 10,000 bricks per day. The bricks - called "Woodbrik"- are a new material that can be used in the building industry.

The project will also provide support for what Abraham calls an “eco-park” that will use waste heat from the power-plant steam cycle to help produce economically valuable crops, including Talapia, a marketable fish.

The project will be administered by DOE's Office of Fossil Energy and managed by the National Energy Technology Laboratory. It is one of eight projects selected last year from among 36 proposals. The Energy Department's share of the project is $107 million.

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Seattle Rolls Out Nation's Largest Hybrid Bus Fleet

SEATTLE, Washington, June 9, 2004 (ENS) - New hybrid diesel-electric buses began rolling along the streets of Seattle on Saturday, leaving less pollution and noise in their wake than the older diesel buses they replaced.

The 235 General Motors (GM) hybrid buses operate on both ultra-low sulfur diesel and electricity that is generated within the vehicle and stored in batteries on the roof.

They eliminate the need for overhead wires inside the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, which Metro Transit says is important since work begins next year to retrofit the tunnel to carry both buses and light rail.

"This hybrid bus is a first of its kind, and it's not surprising that it is showing up here first," said King County Executive Ron Sims. "We led the region on converting to ultra low-sulfur fuel, and now we are on the cutting edge for hybrid technology."

New Flyer of Winnipeg manufactures the buses with diesel engines supplied by Caterpillar of Peoria, Illinois.

“GM is committed to applying hybrid technology to the highest fuel consuming vehicles on the road, including mass transit buses,” said Beth Lowery, GM vice president of environment and energy. “King County's decision to purchase more than 200 of these buses will save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in fuel savings and more than 750,000 gallons of fuel each year.”

Dennis McLerran, executive director of the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, praised King County's commitment to clean air programs. "King County Metro Transit was one of the first partners in our regional Diesel Solutions program, which we launched three years ago," McLerran said. "They are continuing this commitment to helping us all breathe easier with this new hybrid fleet."

General Motors plans to roll out more than 270 of its hybrid buses to 10 cities in 2004. These buses deliver 60 percent greater fuel economy than conventional transit buses, and can reduce certain emissions up to 90 percent, the company says.

"Replacing 13,000 transit buses in America's nine largest cities with hybrid buses would save 40 million gallons of fuel a year," GM says.

Washington Senator Patty Murray, a Democrat, secured $5 million in fiscal year 2004 federal transportation funding for the hybrid program. "Federal funding of hybrid technology is money well spent," she said,and I will continue to encourage other states, counties and cities across the country to get on board with similar hybrid programs for their bus fleets."

“This bus, the first of its kind to come to Washington State, employs the most efficient hybrid architecture available in the world today, and is the first step in a larger GM initiative,” said Tom Stephens, group vice president of GM Powertrain.

Washington residents will be able to order Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra hybrid pickup trucks in local dealerships beginning this fall. “Not only are Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra hybrid pickups available to customers in Washington State, we have developed a second generation advanced hybrid system, based on this hybrid bus technology, offering fuel economy gains of up to 35 percent on our largest sport utility vehicles.”

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Air Pollution From Large Ships Will Lessen Next Year

WASHINGTON, DC, June 9, 2004 (ENS) - New international air pollution rules for large ocean-going vessels that take effect in late May 2005 will affect ships in U.S. waters. Although the United States has signed the formal treaty, known as Annex VI to the International Convention on the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) neither the Clinton nor the Bush administrations have asked the Senate for the necessary permission to ratify it.

Annex VI, known as The Regulations for the Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships, sets the first global limits on ship exhaust emissions, bunker fuel content, on-board incineration and release of ozone depleting substances by ships.

The new air rules apply to cargo, container, cruise and other sea-going ships built since January 2000 and flagged by nations, including the United States, that are party to the MARPOL treaty on shipping pollution.

The new rules include a global cap on the sulfur content of fuel oil and authorize the International Maritime Organization to monitor the worldwide average sulfur content of fuel once the treaty comes into force.

Ships must fit an exhaust gas cleaning system or use any other technological method to limit sulfur emissions. Another section of the treaty sets limits on emissions of nitrogen oxides.

San Francisco's Bluewater Network, a national advocacy organization, says the new standards will reduce smog forming emissions from ships in U.S. waters by only 12 percent by 2030, but will open the door to setting more stringent environmental standards for ship engines and bunker fuels.

“While these standards will not stop ships from blackening the air with diesel exhaust, it will provide a mechanism to begin ratcheting down engine emissions standards and requiring cleaner fuels in coastal waters,” said Teri Shore of Bluewater Network. “However, international negotiations take years to conclude, so we urgently need stronger national and state measures in the interim.”

Areas where emissions of sulfur oxides (SOx) must be limited will be established. Bluewater Network has begun work with state and federal agencies to forward a proposal to establish a SOx Emission Control Area along the coasts of North America.

The rules prohibit the incineration on board ships of certain products, such as contaminated packaging materials and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). But they do not prohibit incineration in ports or coastal waters except for certain materials, including oil sludge.

The deliberate emission of ozone depleting substances, such as halons and chlorofluorocarbons is banned, and new installations containing ozone depleting substances are prohibited on all ships. But new installations containing hydro-chlorofluorocarbons are permitted until January 1, 2020.

The rules have the support of The International Association of Independent Tanker Owners, INTERTANKO, which worked with the other shipowners’ organizations to provide the last push necessary for full ratification. Samoa’s ratification on May 19 brought the number of ratifying states to the required 15 states with over 50 percent of world merchant shipping tonnage.

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Mouse Allergens Found in Majority of U.S. Homes

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, North Carolina, June 9, 2004 (ENS) - Scientists at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) have found detectable levels of mouse allergen in the majority of a representative sample of U.S. homes. Dust samples used in the study were collected from kitchen and living room floors, upholstered furniture, beds, and bedroom floors.

The odds of having elevated mouse allergen concentrations were increased when rodent or cockroach problems were reported.

Exposure to mouse allergen is a known cause of asthma in occupational settings, but until now, exposure to these allergens had not been studied in residential environments on a national scale.

NIEHS researchers analyzed dust samples, asked questions, and examined homes in the first National Survey of Lead and Allergens in Housing, a survey of 831 homes. Allergen levels were studied and related to demographic factors and household characteristics.

The mouse allergens were found in 82 percent of U.S. homes. The findings by NIEHS scientist Dr. Darryl Zeldin and Dr. Rich Cohn of the Constella Group appear in the June 2004 issue of the "Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology."

The survey was conducted using established sampling techniques to ensure that the surveyed homes were representative of U.S. homes. The homes were sampled from 75 randomly selected areas - generally counties or groups of counties - across the country.

The 831 homes included all regions of the country, all housing types, and urban, suburban, rural settings.

The selection of homes was controlled to be a representative sample of U.S. homes. For statistics derived from the 831 homes, the contribution from each home was weighted as necessary to ensure that the statistics are representative of the U.S. population, the researchers explained.

Kitchen floor concentrations exceed 1.6 micrograms of allergens per gram of dust in about one in five homes, 22 percent. The amount of these allergy triggering particles on the kitchen floor is high enough to be associated with allergies and asthma.

Residents of high rise apartments and mobile homes are at greatest risk, but the allergen is present in all types of homes, researchers found.

The NIEHS study, with collaborators from the Harvard School of Public Health, characterized mouse allergen prevalence in a representative sample of U.S. homes and assessed risk factors for elevated concentrations.

"Clinicians should consider these risk factors when treating allergy and asthma patients," the researchers advised.

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Chemicals in Cosmetics Untested

LOS ANGELES, California, June 9, 2004 (ENS) – Most cosmetics and other personal care products sold in the U.S. contain chemicals that have never been assessed for safety, according to a computer-assisted investigation by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

The California office of the research group has released results of a study of 7,500 brand-name products that for the first time lets consumers learn what chemicals are in their soap, shampoo, toothpaste and other products.

The report finds the majority of ingredients in personal care products have not been assessed for safety and cautions that of those that have been studied, some are listed by government agencies as known or probable carcinogens or reproductive toxins.

In light of its findings, EWG filed a petition Tuesday with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to assess the safety of scores of products that may be adulterated, and to declare as misbranded hundreds of products containing ingredients the industry's own self-policing safety panel has found lack sufficient data to be considered safe.

"This news is cause for concern, but not alarm," said Jane Houlihan, EWG's vice president for research. "Studies to understand the potential health impacts from low-dose lifelong exposures to chemical mixtures like those in personal care products have yet to be done. In the meantime, consumers can use our online, interactive product guide to choose personal care products that pose fewer potential risks."

A survey of more than 2,300 people conducted by EWG and five other public health and environmental organizations found that the average adult who responded uses nine personal care products daily and is thus exposed to 126 chemicals every day.

Of the 10,500 chemical ingredients used in personal care products, only 11 percent have been safety assessed — and the assessments were not conducted by government officials, but by a panel funded by manufacturers.

The cosmetic industry polices the safety of its own products: the Food and Drug Administration cannot require safety testing of ingredients or products before they are put on store shelves and into our bodies.

EWG’s report can be found at: http://www.ewg.org. It provides product rankings of known and probable health hazards associated with ingredients in each of the 7,500 products assessed, including information on ingredients linked to cancer and reproductive harms.

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Better Refrigerators Could Chill Energy Costs

WASHINGTON, DC, June 9, 2004 (ENS) – Consumers could save some $10 billion over 25 years if the U.S. Energy Department strengthened current energy efficiency standards for home refrigerators by 30 percent, according to a petition filed with the agency by a coalition of public interest groups.

The petition requests that the agency begin the minimum efficiency standard upgrade process for residential refrigerators, freezers, and refrigerator freezers.

“A new refrigerator standard ranks among the most significant actions the Energy Department could do to save energy,” said Steven Nadel, executive director with the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

According to Energy Department data, the electricity saved over 25 years by such a stronger standard would be enough to meet the total electricity needs of every home in the United States for 18 months.

“Refrigerators are much more efficient than they were 30 years ago,” said David Goldstein, senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “But they still account for about 14 percent of electricity use in our homes. Fortunately, manufacturers’ innovations make further improvements in the efficiency standards possible.”

Congress set initial national standards for refrigerators in 1987, which were updated by the DOE in 1989 and 1997.

Under the appliance standards law, the Energy Department must grant a petition for a new rulemaking if petitioners show evidence that a new standard is technically feasible, would save a significant amount of energy, and would be cost effective.

If the coalition's petition is granted, a full rulemaking process will follow.

According to agency data cited by the petition, more than 687 refrigerators on the market today exceed the current standard by 15 percent or more - some refrigerators exceed the standard by as much as 30 percent.

According to the petition, based on analysis of Energy Department and U.S. Census Bureau data, the incremental cost of a 15 percent improved refrigerator could be as low as $7 and the incremental cost of a 30 percent improved refrigerator could be as low as $28, once new standards become effective.

The electricity savings from these improvements would pay back these costs to consumers in one to two years.

In addition to ACEEE and NRDC, the petitioners include: the California Energy Commission; National Grid, USA; Consumer Federation of America; Pacific Gas and Electric Company; National Consumer Law Center; Northwest Power and Conservation Council; Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships; Vermont Energy Investment Corporation; and the Appliance Standards Awareness Project.

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Yellowstone Cell Tower Under Investigation

WASHINGTON, DC, June 9, 2004 (ENS) – The National Park Service must explain why it allowed construction of a 100 foot cell phone tower over the Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park, according to a letter sent this month to the park’s superintendent by the national Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

The letter, released Tuesday by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) says the decision violated both historical preservation laws and public notice requirements.

The Council, which enforces the National Historic Preservation Act, has opened a formal review of the legality of the structure.

It notes that the silvery pole and its three antennas are unshielded by trees, without camouflage, and clearly visible from almost every part of the Old Faithful Historic District.

The Council, which enforces the National Historic Preservation Act, also cited the Park’s failure to respond to a January 7, 2004 letter from the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office urging the park service to “reduce or eliminate this adverse effect” caused by the large cell phone tower looming over the Old Faithful Historic District.

Prompted by a complaint filed by PEER, the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office also found that the park service had changed the size and contours of the structure from what had been submitted to the state for review.

In addition, the National Park Service failed to file a notice in the Federal Register as required by law that it was even considering approving the tower.

”Old Faithful is one of the most valued views in the world and deserves better care than it is receiving,” said PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, whose organization has pushed the park service to develop a policy on cell tower placement rather than let telecommunication companies decide where and how many towers will be built in parks. “By any standard, the Old Faithful cell tower is an eyesore.”

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Ozark Forest Projects Target Insects, Wildfires

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas, June 9, 2004 (ENS) - The U.S. Forest Service will partner with southern universities and state forestry agencies to conduct two research projects on the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest to address infestations of the southern pine beetle and red oak borer, insects which threaten forest health in the region.

The red oak borer alone has damaged 340,000 acres of the forest over the past few years, the Forest Service says.

Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, Council on Environmental Quality Chairman James Connaughton, and Interior Assistant Secretary Craig Manson announced this agreement and several others on Monday. They were in Little Rock for a national conference on the Bush administration's Healthy Forests Initiative and the Healthy Forests Restoration Act.

In the course of applied research projects covering 1,500 acres, researchers will conduct and evaluate a variety of land management practices to reduce problems associated with the current outbreak of the red oak borer and southern pine beetle.

The Forest Service intends to translate that information for practicing professionals, landowners, and the public.

The federal officials announced another project in the region. The Ozark-St. Francis National Forest has initiated a 60,000 acre stewardship project with The Nature Conservancy, with hunting organizations the National Wild Turkey Federation and Quail Unlimited, with the Audubon Society, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and with the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma.

The Ozark National Forest covers 1.2 million acres, mostly in the Ozark mountains of central Arkansas. The project seeks to improve wildlife habitat, forest health and reduce the risk of fire to surrounding communities. The municipal water supplies of Hector, Dover, Russellville and Clarksville in nearby watersheds are targets for protection under this project.

In another forest restoration effort, the Departments of Agriculture and Interior and the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) signed an agreement to work together to reduce wildland fire risks and promote what federal officials called "biomass utilization" projects on federal and private lands adjacent to communities throughout the United States.

The federal departments will work with NACD to develop communication tools and sponsor workshops to spread the word that "biomass removal and use can be an effective fuel reduction strategy."

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