AmeriScan: June 26, 2007

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San Francisco Mayor Bans Bottled Water at City Agencies

SAN FRANCISCO, California, June 26, 2007 (ENS) - Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco Monday issued an order to permanently phase out the purchase of bottled water by the City and County of San Francisco.

Beginning July 1, there will be a ban on any city department or agency purchasing single serving bottles of water using city funds, unless an employee contract specifies usage. This prohibition will apply to city contractors and city funded and/or sponsored events. There will be no waivers from this prohibition, the mayor said.

By September 30, all city departments and agencies occupying either city or rental properties will have completed an audit to determine the viability of switching from bottled water dispensers to bottle-less water dispensers that utilize Hetch Hetchy supplied water.

City departments will work with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, Department of Real Estate and the City Purchaser to conduct the audit.

By December 1, 2007 all city departments and agencies occupying either city or rental properties will have installed bottle-less water dispensers that utilize Hetch Hetchy supplied water. Waivers will only be granted by the Public Utilities Commission based on legitimate engineering, health and fiscal concerns, the mayor ordered.

Mayor Newsom said the environmental impact of the bottled water industry has been "profound."

He cited figures from the Container Recycling Institute, supplying the plastic water bottles that American consumers purchase in one year requires more than 47 million gallons of oil, the equivalent of one billion pounds of carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere.

More than one billion plastic water bottles end up in California’s landfills each year, taking 1,000 years to biodegrade and leaking toxic additives such as phthalates into the groundwater, Newsom said.

Water diverted from local aquifers for the bottled water industry can strain surrounding ecosystems, he said, adding that "transporting bottled water by boat, truck and train involves burning massive quantities of fossil fuels."

"All of this waste and pollution is generated by a product that by objective standards is often inferior to the quality of San Francisco’s pristine tap water," the mayor said.

The International Bottled Water Association IBAW, was critical of the move, saying that the Mayor's comments and actions only encourage an unnecessary and confusing "bottled water versus tap water" debate.

Plastic beverage bottles are among the most recycled packaging in this country and beverage companies continue to reduce the amount of plastic used in their packaging, said the Association, adding that "Rather than focusing on one beverage choice, it would make more sense for our government officials to focus on improving recycling rates for all consumer packaging."

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Felon Griles Sentenced to 10 Months in Prison

WASHINGTON, DC, June 26, 2007 (ENS) - James Steven Griles, the former second ranking official at the Department of the Interior, has been sentenced to 10 months in prison for obstructing the U.S. Senate’s investigation into the corruption allegations surrounding former Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Griles, 59, of Falls Church, Virginia, was also ordered to pay a fine of $30,000, and serve a term of three years of supervised release by U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle for the District of Columbia.

Lawyers for former Interior Deputy Secretary Steven Griles are arguing that the convicted felon should not serve any prison time but instead be sentenced to perform community service for a program funded by The Walt Disney Company and recreational industry lobbyists.

According to court documents, Abramoff gained access to Griles through Italia Federici, the founder and president of the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, CREA, a tax exempt organization for which Griles had actively assisted in raising funds before he became deputy secretary at the Department of the Interior.

On June 8, Federici pleaded guilty to a two-count criminal information charging her with tax evasion and obstruction of U.S. Senate proceedings – the same congressional inquiry at issue in this prosecution – relating to her extensive dealings with Abramoff and Griles and serving as their conduit. Federici, who is cooperating in this ongoing criminal investigation, is scheduled to be sentenced on November 16, 2007.

Court documents reveal that Griles asked Abramoff for return favors. Notable among them was the defendant’s pre-confirmation request that Abramoff raise $100,000 in funds for CREA.

Ultimately, Abramoff personally and through his Native American tribal clients donated a total of $500,000 to CREA between March 2001 and May 2003.

Griles admitted that he knowingly and willfully made material false and misleading statements when he testified before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on November 2, 2005.

Specifically, he testified that "Mr. Abramoff is no different than any other lobbyist" and that, "there was no special relationship for Mr. Abramoff in my office. It never did exist."

Griles admitted that his false and misleading statements had the effect of influencing the committee’s findings.

Abramoff is currently serving a 70 month prison sentence for his guilty plea on conspiracy and fraud charges brought in Miami. Abramoff also has pleaded guilty to corruption, fraud, conspiracy and tax charges in the District of Columbia.

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USDA Sued for Grazing Sheep in Yellowstone Ecosystem

SILVER CITY, New Mexico, June 26, 2007 (ENS) - Two conservation groups sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture Monday over the grazing of domestic sheep on more than 100,000 acres of public lands in and near the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem of Idaho and Montana.

The presence of these domestic sheep, and management actions taken on their behalf, hurts sensitive and endangered native wildlife such as Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, lynx, gray wolves and grizzly bears, the plaintiffs claim.

The Center for Biological Diversity and Western Watersheds Project filed suit against the Sheep Experiment Station, Agricultural Research Service and Forest Service, all agencies of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Sheep Experiment Station manages about 48,000 acres, where it is grazing sheep without any environmental analysis or consideration of impacts to endangered species.

"The Sheep Station also grazes sheep on over 54,000 acres of Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management allotments, where its permits have expired, management plans date back to the 1960s, and little to no analysis has been completed," the groups complain.

"The Sheep Experiment Station is a relic of the past," said Jon Marvel of Western Watersheds Project. "It is time to protect our wonderful native wildlife on these public lands lest we risk losing them."

The 100,000 acres of public land where the sheep are grazed include connective habitat for wildlife attempting to travel between the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and the large wilderness and roadless areas of central Idaho.

The groups say diseases transmitted from domestic sheep also threaten bighorn sheep herds. "The largest concentration of bighorn sheep in the world is jeopardized by this lawless grazing," said Robinson.

Lynx, wolves and grizzly bears also are at risk from the sheep grazing by predator control measures, since steel leghold traps and strangulation snares, aerial gunning, and poisons are all typically used to prevent wildlife from preying on domestic sheep.

The groups say that without environmental analysis the public has been kept in the dark as to impacts on wildlife.

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Red Tide Closes Atlantic Coast Shellfishing

CONCORD, New Hampshire, June 26, 2007 (ENS) - To protect the public from consuming contaminated shellfish, officials from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services and the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department have closed the Atlantic coastal waters to the taking of shellfish until further notice.

This action is in response to elevated levels of paralytic shellfish poisoning, PSP, commonly known as red tide, detected in blue mussels collected from the Isles of Shoals and from Hampton/Seabrook Harbor.

"This event is just beginning to affect New Hampshire waters. The nature of red tide blooms vary from year to year, and it is too soon to know how severe this one will be, or how long it might last," said Chris Nash, Shellfish Program Manager for NHDES.

The 2005 red tide event was the most widespread and toxic event on record for New Hampshire waters, while last summer brought a less severe event, characterized by high toxicity in the offshore area and only low levels of toxin along the beaches. "Toxicity levels are increasing right now. Sampling over the next few weeks will tell us if the effects of the algae bloom are intensifying or not," Nash said.

Harvesting areas along the immediate Atlantic shoreline have been closed since June 7, due to high bacteria levels following heavy rainfall.

Since then, an offshore bloom of the marine algae that causes PSP toxicity in shellfish has begun to affect the area.

Blue mussels collected from Hampton/Seabrook last week showed toxin levels above the mandatory closure threshold of 80 micrograms toxin per 100 grams shellfish tissue. Higher toxicity levels were measured in samples collected this week. Blue mussels from Star Island, Isles of Shoals, are also exhibiting high toxicity values.

Red tide is a condition in which filter-feeding shellfish such as clams, oysters, and mussels accumulate a potent neurotoxin produced by a naturally occurring marine algae.

Ingesting the toxin is potentially fatal to humans, and cooking does not make contaminated shellfish safe for consumption. For more information,

Other New Hampshire shellfish harvesting areas, including the oyster beds around Nannie Island and Adams Point in Great Bay, are not affected by this PSP closure of Atlantic waters.

Officials from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services will continue to monitor shellfish toxicity levels throughout coastal New Hampshire and will implement additional closures as needed.

Changes to the open/closed status of shellfish waters will be announced on the Clam Flat Hotline (1-800-43-CLAMS) or click here for Fish and Game's Clam Flat Hotline web page.

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Murrelet Habitat Protection Could Cost $1.4 Billion

WASHINGTON, DC, June 26, 2007 (ENS) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today released a draft analysis estimating the potential costs related to the conservation of areas proposed for the marbled murrelet critical habitat at $69.4 million to $1.4 billion over the next 20 years.

The marbled murrelet is a small seabird that spends most of its time in the marine environment and nests in forests along the Pacific Coast.

In releasing the analysis, the Service reopened the public comment period on its September 2006 proposal to designate critical habitat for the species. The 30 day public comment period opens today.

The Service is proposing to designate 221,692 acres of critical habitat for the marbled murrelet, a threatened species protected under the Endangered Species Act. Areas proposed for critical habitat include portions of California, Oregon and Washington.

The critical habitat proposal would revise a 1996 critical habitat designation for the marbled murrelet that included nearly 3.9 million acres.

The proposal designates only those areas of suitable habitat known to be occupied by marbled murrelets and to contain features essential to the species' survival. No marine areas are being proposed for designation, because they do not require special management.

The analysis measures lost economic value associated with timber management, development, recreation, transportation and mining, and administrative costs associated with Endangered Species Act consultations, many of which are already occurring due to the listing of the marbled murrelet.

The Service's 2006 critical habitat proposal identifies 3,590,642 acres in Oregon, Washington and California as critical habitat but proposes to exclude 3,368,950 acres already protected under other existing regulations or plans, such as the Northwest Forest Plan, state and tribal management plans, and habitat conservation plans.

An additional 1,574,201 acres were considered but not included in the proposal because they already are managed in ways that meet the needs of the marbled murrelet. These include federal wilderness areas, tribal conservation easements, and Redwood state and national parks.

If the proposed exclusions are finalized, the final critical habitat designation will include 112,037 acres in California, 82,747 acres in Oregon and 26,908 acres in Washington.

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Utah Nature Preserve Created

ST. GEORGE, Utah, June 26, 2007 (ENS) - The Nature Conservancy on Monday announced its purchase of 55 acres of rare habitat in St. George. The $167,100 purchase is the first step in an plan to create a new 800 acre preserve that may determine the fate of several globally rare and federally listed plants in Washington County.

Located in the fast developing South Block in south St. George, the preserve will provide an oasis for plants, animals and people, with plans in the works for public nature trails and educational signage.

Working with partners that include the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, the Bureau of Land Management, the Utah Department of Transportation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the City of St. George, The Nature Conservancy has laid out plans for the creation of the White Dome Nature Preserve.

The newly protected area provides habitat for several at-risk species, including the zebra-tailed lizard and loggerhead shrike, as well as extremely rare native wildflowers.

The reserve will harbor some of last remaining populations of the threatened Siler pincushion cactus, Pediocactus sileri, and the endangered dwarf bear poppy, Arctomecon humilis, which are found in Washington County and nowhere else on Earth.

"This is an important achievement for the natural landscapes, plants and animals that make Washington County so unique," said Elaine York, the Conservancy’s West Desert Regional Director. "The Conservancy is thrilled to be part of a collaboration to save these special places for future generations."

Additional land acquisitions in the South Block by the Conservancy and UDOT will take place this year and next, with a goal of piecing together all 800 acres of the White Dome Nature Preserve in the next few years. The partners are also creating a long-term plan for Preserve management, including fencing, maintenance, rare plant and pollinator research and habitat restoration, as well as the creation of hiking trails and signage that educates visitors about the unique natural features of the preserve.

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Chemistry Challenge Winners Hold Keys to Greener Future

LOS ANGELES, California, June 26, 2007 (ENS) - Adhesives used in manufacturing plywood and other wood composites often contain toxic formaldehyde. Now a soy based alternative has been developed by an Oregon state university professor, and it has earned him a Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award from the federal government.

Professor Kaichang Li of Oregon State University, working with scientists are Columbia Forest Products, and Hercules Incorporated developed an alternate adhesive made from soy flour. Their environmentally friendly adhesive is stronger than and cost-competitive with conventional adhesives.

During 2006, Columbia used the new, soy-based adhesive to replace more than 47 million pounds of conventional formaldehyde-based adhesives.

For the 12th year, the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, is recognizing leading researchers and industrial innovators for their efforts to reduce or eliminate waste through their manufacturing processes.

The awards will be given out this evening, June 26, at the 2007 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards ceremony in Washington, DC.

The other 2007 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge award winners are:

Professor Michael Krische of the University of Texas at Austin, who developed a broad new class of chemical reactions that make bonds between carbon atoms using hydrogen and metal catalysts. The new reactions can be used to convert simple chemicals into complex substances, such as pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and other important chemicals, with minimal waste.

NovaSterilis Inc. of Lansing, New York invented a technology that uses carbon dioxide and a form of peroxide to sterilize delicate biological materials such as graft tissue, vaccines, and biopolymers. Their Nova 2200™ sterilizer requires neither hazardous ethylene oxide nor gamma radiation.

Headwaters Technology Innovation of Lawrenceville, New Jersey was recognized for an advanced metal catalyst that makes hydrogen peroxide directly from hydrogen and oxygen, eliminates the use of hazardous chemicals, and produces water as the only byproduct.

Cargill Inc. of Wayzata, Minnesota developed polyurethane made of renewable, biological sources such as vegetable oils instead of petroleum.

EPA's Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge promotes research to develop less-toxic alternatives to existing technologies, and to reduce or eliminate waste generation in industrial production.

An independent panel of technical experts convened by the American Chemical Society selected the winners from the nearly 100 nominations for this recognition.

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