AmeriScan: March 30, 2005

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New Cancer Risk Guidelines from the EPA

WASHINGTON, DC, March 30, 2005 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Tuesday released new guidelines for assessing cancer risk from exposures to environmental pollutants. In the works for years, the two documents are supposed to to guide EPA scientists in their investigations.

"These guidelines will help us apply the most up-to-date science and to incorporate new science as it becomes available in assessing the risks associated with environmental exposures to carcinogens," said Acting Assistant Administrator for the Office of Research and Development Tim Oppelt. "EPA's guiding principle is that our cancer risk assessments be public health protective."

One set of guidelines describes possible approaches that EPA could use in assessing cancer risks exposures to children from 0 to 16 years of age. This marks the first time that a guidance specifically related to children has been issued. It includes a review of existing scientific literature on chemical effects in animals and humans.

The young peoples' guidance summarizes the results of the cancer studies that investigated early life exposure, EPA's analysis of those studies, and analysis to strengthen the scientific basis for adjusting from studies conducted in adults to children.

The agency says this document is consistent with the National Research Council's 1994 recommendation that "EPA assess risks to infants and children whenever it appears that their risks might be greater than those of adults."

But the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is critical of the new guidelines, saying that the White House Office of Management and Budget undermined them by "inserting language in the guidelines that make it easy for industry to block EPA from following them when assessing cancer-causing chemicals."

"The White House decided it was more important to protect the chemical industry than protect our kids from cancer," said Dr. Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist with NRDC’s environmental health program.

The Office of Management and Budget inserted language allowing for "expert elicitation," opening the door for any outside party to challenge the way EPA applies the guidelines to assess chemicals, Sass said.

Such a challenge could slow the agency down for months, if not years, in making a decision on regulating a cancer-causing chemical, according to NRDC.

The Office of Management and Budget also weakened the guidelines by adding language requiring any EPA cancer evaluation to meet the standards of the Data Quality Act, a law designed by tobacco industry consultants to quash protective regulations, Sass said.

By opening the process to relentless industry challenges, she said, the White House "set the bar so high that children will not be adequately protected from many cancer-causing chemicals."

Read both documents online at: http://cfpub.epa.gov/ncea/cfm/recordisplay.cfm?deid=116283

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Saline Spill Fouls North Slope

PRUDHOE BAY, Alaska, March 30, 2005 (ENS) - More than 100,000 gallons of oily water spilled onto the tundra Monday in one of the largest industrial spills the North Slope oil fields have seen.

According to a report in the "Anchorage Daily News" dozens of workers are cleaning up the spill from a buried pipeline at the Kuparuk oil field, the Slope's second biggest oil field after Prudhoe Bay.

Crews are scrambling to clean the spill of mixed crude oil and seawater, known as produced water. The oily liquid covers about two acres.

Although the amount of oil in the spill is small, salt can kill tundra plant life just as crude oil can, Leslie Pearson, spill prevention and emergency response manager for the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, told the newspaper. But the frozen ground acts as a protective shield for the fragile root systems.

The cause of the pipeline leak is under investigation.

ConocoPhillips's Kuparuk Pipeline Company is the managing partner of Kuparuk Transportation Company, the owner of the Kuparuk Pipeline System. Three companies own Kuparuk Transportation Company: ConocoPhillips with 57 percent; BP with 38 percent; followed by Unocal with five percent.

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Health and Safety Inspectors Sickened by Beryllium

WASHINGTON, DC, March 30, 2005 (ENS) - The toxic metal beryllium is making inspectors for the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sick after they are exposed to it on the job, according to an internal OSHA email released Monday by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

According to an internal email sent to OSHA staff on March 24, by Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Jonathan Snare, 10 OSHA employees out of 271 have tested positive for beryllium sensitization. Results reported in January found only three positives.

Sensitization to beryllium is the precursor for chronic beryllium disease (CBD), a progressive, potentially fatal lung disease.

Machinists may be sensitized and so may workers in industries such as nuclear weapons production, and production of ceramics and alloys containing beryllium.

The testing was prompted by the public protests of a former top OSHA official who was then transferred,

Dr. Adam Finkel, the former OSHA Administrator for the six state Rocky Mountain Region, revealed that several thousand current and former inspectors were unknowingly exposed to beryllium at concentrations up to several hundred times higher than permissible levels.

"It looks like OSHA is sleeping through yet another wake-up call,” said Dr. Finkel, speaking from his new office at Princeton University. “When I protested the decision not to test or inform our employees, I was concerned that one or two percent of them might be sensitized - but now OSHA admits that nearly four percent are.”

Over Dr. Finkel’s objections, Assistant Labor Secretary John Henshaw decided to deny recommended blood screenings for employees and to not inform individuals of their exposures.

More than 18 months after Dr. Finkel blew the whistle, OSHA began a medical monitoring program in April 2004 but only for a portion of exposed compliance officers.

“OSHA’s actions in this matter belie its stated concern for the health of its own workers,” said PEER Executive Jeff Ruch. “OSHA has taken only small, grudging steps that completely ignore the health risks to its retirees, its state partners and other workers.”

Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao did not respond to a January letter by PEER urging six steps to improve the beryllium testing program, including that OSHA disclose the location of facilities visited by inspectors who became sensitized so that state inspectors, EPA inspectors and the workers inside those facilities could make informed decisions about whether to seek medical testing.

Snare sent PEER a letter dated March 24th that avoided any of the suggestions but said, “We value the health of all OSHA employees.”

On the OSHA website, Snare posted a statement March 24 saying, "OSHA is presently evaluating whether changes need to be made to current protections against beryllium exposure. The issue is listed in the Department of Labor's Semiannual Regulatory Agenda (Dec. 13, 2004). The next step in the process is initiating a small business panel (required under the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act) to determine impacts of rulemaking on small businesses."

The beryllium problem may be more extensive that it appears today, say Finkel and Ruch, because inspectors were not informed of their specific exposure levels, so the most seriously exposed may remain to be tested.

Finkel and Ruch say OSHA has ignored the hundreds of former inspectors and state inspectors who may have been similarly exposed. It also appears that OSHA inspectors exposed for only a few hours have sensitization rates equal or greater than those of workers who have spent years in environments laden with beryllium. "This suggests that OSHA inspectors may have been subjected to extremely high exposures," they said.

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Hazwaste Left at Superfund Sites Bothers Senators

WASHINGTON, DC, March 30, 2005 (ENS) - One in four Americans lives within four miles of a hazardous waste site, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and at many of these sites, the waste is left in place because the agency believes it is impossible, impractical, or too costly to clean up the contaminated property so that it can be used without restriction.

Cleanups at such sites often rely on institutional controls - legal or administrative restrictions on the use of land or water at the site - to limit the public’s exposure to residual contamination.

To find out how effective these institutional control are at protecting the public from hazardous waste, Senators Barbara Boxer of California, a Democrat; Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, a Republican; and Jim Jeffords of Vermont, an Independent, asked the investigative branch of Congress to conduct a study.

The results of that investigation, reported by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on January 28, are of concern to Boxer, she said in a statement Tuesday.

The United States has two federal programs to deal with hazardous waste. Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980, which established the Superfund program to clean up the most seriously contaminated of these sites. In addition, in 1984, the Congress amended the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) to add a corrective action program to clean up contamination at facilities that treat, store, and dispose of hazardous waste.

Boxer said the GAO report shows that these two programs are not protecting the public from exposure to hazardous waste.

"I am very concerned," she wrote, "that the Environmental Protection Agency is not doing its job of cleaning up these sites in the first place and is relying more and more on land use restrictions. In addition, the Agency is not even following up to see that the public is protected by enforcing these restrictions."

At the vast majority of hazardous waste sites, according to the report, the EPA failed to adequately implement, monitor or enforce remedies necessary to minimize exposure to contamination left on-site after the cleanup was completed.

The GAO report found that the EPA increasingly adopts cleanup remedies that rely on institutional controls, such as ground water use restrictions or local zoning, to minimize future exposure to hazardous waste rather than requiring more expensive cleanups that would enable unrestricted use of the property.

At the overwhelming majority of sites examined, EPA remedy decision documents failed to identify how the institutional controls would be implemented, monitored or enforced.

The GAO found that:

In his letter to the requesting senators, GAO Natural Resources Director John Stephenson wrote, "We found that controls at the Superfund sites we reviewed were often not implemented before site deletion, as EPA requires. In some cases, institutional controls were implemented after site deletion while, in other cases, controls were not implemented at all."

The GAO recommended that the Environmental Protection Agency cleanup, "clarify its institutional controls guidance."

"We recommend that EPA ensure that adequate consideration is given to the controls’ objectives; the types of controls to be used; the timing of their implementation and their duration; and the party who will be responsible for implementing, monitoring, and enforcing them," Stephenson wrote.

The EPA agreed with many of the report's findings but said, "An increased use of institutional controls should not be misinterpreted to mean that less treatment is occurring at Superfund cleanups or other cleanup programs."

The GAO report, titled “Hazardous Waste: Improved Effectiveness of Controls at Sites Could Better Protect the Public,” can be found at http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-05-163.

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Counties, Groups Oppose Relicensing Indian Point Reactors

GREENBURGH, New York, March 30, 2005 (ENS) - On Tuesday night, Riverkeeper and the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition launched their Fight IP's Relicensing Campaign at Greenburgh Town Hall as an extension of their long running campaign to shut down the nuclear power plant on the Hudson River.

Indian Point’s 40 year licenses will expire in 2013 for Unit 2 and 2015 for Unit 3, but the owner-operator Entergy is expected to begin applying for 20 year license extensions as early as July 2005.

Riverkeeper's Chief Prosecuting Attorney, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., discussed the region's efforts to prevent what he calls "Entergy’s irresponsible plan to continue Indian Point’s operation for an additional 20 years."

"Indian Point is neither safe nor secure and remains vulnerable to a terrorist attack," the Riverkeeper believes. "As the facility continues to age, Indian Point will experience an increasing number of equipment failures. The consequences of a radioactive release from Indian Point – whether triggered by a terrorist attack or accident – pose serious risks to the region’s residents, environment and economy."

Indian Point is located 24 miles north of New York City in Westchester County. This county and three other nearby counties - Rockland, Ulster, and Hudson County, New Jersey - have passed resolutions opposing license renewal for the nuclear power plant.

In addition, 11 towns and villages in southeastern New York and New Jersey, including Greenburgh, have passed similar resolutions.

Those opposed to relicensing of the nuclear plant say it could turn into a "Chernobyl on the Hudson," which is the title of a report produced in September 2004 outlining the terrorist threat to Indian Point and the health and economic consequences of a large release of radiation.

For more information visit: http://riverkeeper.org/campaign.php/indian_point/you_can_do/875

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Public Allowed to Hear Skull Valley Nuclear Waste Arguments

ROCKVILLE, Maryland, March 30, 2005 (ENS) - The state of Utah has succeeded in persuading the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, an independent judicial arm of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, to hear oral arguments in public on the state's request to keep waste fuel from U.S. nuclear power plants out of Skull Valley, Utah.

With the approval and participation of the Skull Valley Band of Goshute Indians, Private Fuel Storage, a consortium of eight commercial nuclear utilities, is proposing to transport 44,000 tons of high-level radioactive waste to be stored in large cylindrical casks at interim storage facility on the Skull Valley Goshute Reservation.

The facility proposed by the Private Fuel Storage consortium would be located on the reservation, about 50 miles southwest of Salt Lake City. The state of Utah is the principal opponent of the plan. Governor John Huntsman, a Republican, made defeat of the Skull Valley storage facility a pillar of his campaign for the Governor's Mansion.

On February 24, by a 2-1 vote, the Board ruled in favor of Private Fuel Storage and rejected the state’s assertions that there is too high a probability that a radiation release could be caused by the accidental crash of one of the 7,000 flights made down Skull Valley every year by F-16 single-engine jets from Hill Air Force Base.

The evidence before the Board did not deal with deliberate crashes, because the Board has no jurisdiction over terrorism issues.

The Board majority concluded that the probability of a crash into a cask at a speed and angle sufficient to breach one of the internal stainless steel canisters holding spent nuclear fuel was less than one in a million per year.

Under the NRC’s standards, a facility like PFS does not have to be designed against such an unlikely accident.

That decision overturned the Licensing Board’s decision of two years ago, which had upheld the Utah’s argument that the probability of a crash onto the proposed site was too high, leaving it to PFS to attempt to show that such a crash would have no adverse radiological consequences.

The Board will hear arguments on the issue Wednesday, April 6, in Rockville. The session will be open to the public for observation, but participation will be limited to counsel for the state of Utah, PFS and the NRC staff.

All the earlier proceedings leading to the Board’s February 24 decision had been closed to the public because they involved facts and analyses concerning the impact of plane crashes on concrete and steel objects that the Board decided to withhold from the public.

The Board Tuesday directed all counsel to frame their oral arguments to avoid direct reference to the specific facts underlying the issues, so that the session could be an open one.

In the event that this information needs to be discussed explicitly, the Board decided it will hold the discussion at the end of the session after members of the public have been asked to leave the hearing room.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission did not say why the public was not permitted to hear the expert witnesses and documentary evidence presented during the formal 16-day evidentiary hearing that led to the Board’s decision, only that it "could not be disclosed."

The Board did prepare a publicly available version of its opinion that sets forth only a general summary of those aspects of its reasoning. A copy of that version is available on the NRC’s website at: http://www.nrc.gov/what-we-do/regulatory/adjudicatory/pfs-aircraft05.pdf .

The argument will take place in the Board's hearing room on the third floor of the Two White Flint North Building at NRC Headquarters, 11545 Rockville Pike, and will begin at 1 pm.

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Sharp and San Francisco Giants Team Up for Solar Energy

SAN FRANCISCO, California, March 30, 2005 (ENS) - Solar power signage and a solar demonstration will be featured at the San Francisco Giants' stadium when the 2005 Major League Baseball season officially opens on April 3.

Sharp Electronics Corporation and the San Francisco Giants Baseball Club Tuesday announced a sponsorship to promote solar power as an energy alternative. The partners believe the agreement represents a first in both the solar and sports industries.

Complementing a highly visible Sharp Solar sign in left-center field, Sharp will install a 4.5Kw solar energy system on the roof adjacent to the Giants offices at SBC Park. The system will consist of 27 167-watt Sharp solar modules and is typical of the kind of system used on a standard California residence.

The system will transfer energy into the ballpark's electrical grid. The system's electrical output will be monitored by a multi-media kiosk located in the left field concourse. Utilizing a touch-screen display, fans can access information about the system, learn how solar energy works and its benefits and request additional information about solar from Sharp.

Sharp sponsorship of the Crowd Noise Meter at selected games and other promotional programs will be developed to draw attention to the stadium's solar energy system.

"The Giants are proud of our many first-of-their-kind endeavors which we have incorporated into our operations at SBC Park," said Jorge Costa, San Francisco Giants senior vice president of ballpark operations. "We have been on the cutting edge in adapting technologies and procedures that benefit the fan experience. Our partnership with Sharp enables us to stay on top of important trends and technologies that enhance the SBC Park experience."

"Led by California, more and more states are creating diversified energy portfolios, and this has contributed to the growth of a true domestic solar energy industry," said Toshihiko Fujimoto, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Sharp Electronics Corporation, the U.S. subsidiary of Sharp Corporation, based in Osaka, Japan.

"With the recent announcement of California's one million solar roofs initiative, the timing is right to raise awareness of solar through an association with a major, professional sports franchise," Fujimoto said.

Both parties said the multi-year nature of the sponsorship will enable Sharp and the Giants to discuss development of a solar energy system designed to meet more of the ballpark's energy requirements in the future.

"The Sharp-Giants partnership lets the public know that the choice for reliable, clean, affordable solar power is a home run they can hit today," said Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Sharp Electronics is the U.S. subsidiary of Sharp Corporation, Osaka, Japan, the world's leading producer of solar energy and the U.S. market leader. Sharp sponsors more than two dozen professional sports teams in the U.S., and the Giants partnership is the first promoting solar energy.

The 122 year old San Francisco Giants of the National League are one of the oldest franchises in Major League Baseball. They moved to San Francisco from New York in 1958 playing a total of 42 years in Seals Stadium and Candlestick Park before moving into their current home at SBC Park in 2000.

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