AmeriScan: November 20, 2006

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Expect Warmer Than Average Weather This Winter

WASHINGTON, DC, November 20, 2006 (ENS) - In their final three-month forecast of the year, meteorologists at the NOAA Climate Prediction Center said this winter is likely to be warmer than the 30-year norm (1971-2000) over much of the nation, yet cooler than last year's very warm winter season.

For December, January and February, the federal government agency predicts a two percent warmer winter than the 30 year average but about nine percent cooler than last year.

"The prediction for a warmer than normal winter season does not mean we won't have winter weather," said Mike Halpert, lead seasonal forecaster at the NOAA Climate Prediction Center. "What it does mean is that on average this will be a milder than average winter across much of the North, with fewer Arctic air outbreaks,

Meanwhile, a strengthening El Niņo event continues to develop in the equatorial Pacific and is likely to continue into spring 2007.

"During moderate as well as strong El Niņo episodes, an increase in the occurrence of extreme cold days, especially in the Northeast, becomes less likely," said Vernon Kousky, research meteorologist at the NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

"However, this current event is not expected to reach the magnitude of the very strong 1997-1998 El Niņo episode," he said.

Overall, NOAA seasonal forecasters expect warmer than average temperatures across the Pacific Northwest, the northern and central plains, the Midwest, the Northeast and northern mid-Atlantic, as well as most of Alaska during December 2006 through February 2007.

Near-average temperatures are favored for parts of the Southeast from Louisiana through North Carolina, while below-average temperatures are anticipated for Hawaii.

Parts of the mid-Atlantic, the Tennessee Valley, the Southwest from Texas to California and the intermountain West have equal chances of warmer, cooler and near-normal temperatures this winter.

The precipitation outlook calls for wetter than average conditions across the entire southern tier of the country from central and southern California across the Southwest to Texas and across the Gulf Coast to Florida and the south Atlantic Coast.

Drier-than-average conditions are forcast in the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys, the northern Rockies and Hawaii.

In 2007 NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, celebrates 200 years of science and service to the nation, starting with the establishment of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1807 by Thomas Jefferson.

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Conservationists Propose Atlantic Marine Reserves

BOSTON, Massachusetts, November 20, 2006 (ENS) - The Conservation Law Foundation and World Wildlife Fund-Canada today issued a report recommending that marine reserves be created in about 20 percent of the ocean from Cape Cod to Eastern Canada's Scotian Shelf, and extending 10 to 200 miles from the coast.

Several of New England's most lucrative fishing areas would be encompassed within the boundaries of the proposed reserves.

"Our goal is to protect biodiversity for the future," said John Crawford, senior scientist at Conservation Law Foundation and director of the group's Initiative on Marine Ecosystem Conservation.

Presidential or Congressional authorization would be required to establish marine protected areas in federal waters.

The groups say protected areas would prohibit most commercial fishing, sand and gravel mining, and oil and gas drilling, and may require ships to slow dowm in areas frequented by the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale.

In writing their report, CLF and WWF-Canada scientists relied on government data on the life cycles, habitats, and populations of fish, whales, and other marine organisms.

The groups reviewed patterns of seawater temperature, salinity, depth, and seafloor ecology. They used a computer program to pinpoint the areas that protected the most species and habitats in the most efficient way so the least amount of ocean would need to be restricted.

The 20 percent goal for protected areas was recommended in a scientific report by the U.S. National Research Council.

Commercial fisherman say they are not opposed to protected areas, but they want to ensure that enough of the ocean is accessible to them so that they can make a living.

The groups say their goal is to have as little human disturbance as possible in each protected area.

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EPA Takes Six Years to Phase out Toxic Pesticide AZM

SEATTLE, Washington, November 20, 2006 (ENS) - Over the next six years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, says it will phase out the use of the pesticide AZM, an organophosphate insecticide that poisons farmworkers and injures their children.

The chemical substance is azinphos-methyl, AZM, also known as guthion - a neurotoxic organophosphate insecticide.

Exposure to organophosphate insecticides harms the human brain and nervous system. It can cause dizziness, vomiting, convulsions, numbness in the limbs, loss of intellectual function, and death.

Farmworker families and communities are exposed to organophosphates through "take home" exposures on clothing, contamination of cars and drift onto outdoor play areas.

The phase out will take six years for the most widespread uses of the pesticide. That length of time is far too long to continue to subject workers and their families to poisoning risks, says Erik Nicholson of the United Farm Workers of America.

"This pesticide has put thousands of workers at risk of serious illness every year," he said. "The phase out is welcome, but it is inexcusable for EPA to allow this pesticide to continue poisoning workers for six more years."

EPA will phase out all uses of AZM by 2012 with some uses phased out by 2007.

The decision would eliminate aerial spraying, require 100 foot buffers around water bodies, reduce application rates, require buffers around buildings and occupied dwellings, and require medical monitoring of workers entering fields sprayed by AZM.

"It is outrageous that EPA allowed continued use of this pesticide knowing that it would expose farmworkers to unacceptable risks of pesticide poisonings," said Patti Goldman, an attorney for Earthjustice. "Since growers have already had five years to shift to other pest controls, there is no reason to subject workers and their communities to more poisonings for another six years."

AZM is used primarily to kill insects on orchard crops such as apples, cherries, pears, peaches and nectarines. The highest uses occur in Washington, Oregon, California, Michigan, Georgia, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

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CH2M Hill Hanford Fined for Radioactive Exposure of Workers

WASHINGTON, DC, November 20, 2006 (ENS) - The Department of Energy (DOE) has notified CH2M Hill Hanford Group, CHG, that it will fine the company $82,500 for violations of the department's nuclear safety requirements.

CHG is the prime contractor responsible for managing the storage and retrieval of highly radioactive and hazardous waste at the Hanford Nuclear Site in central Washington state.

The Preliminary Notice of Violation issued Friday cited a series of violations associated with two separate events involving the radioactive contamination of multiple CHG employees.

The first event occurred on September 21, 2005, during disassembly and removal of auxiliary equipment used to support the retrieval of highly radioactive waste from a site storage tank. CHG personnel were contaminated with highly radioactive waste during the disconnecting of a support hose that was both pressurized and internally contaminated.

The second event occurred on March 6, 2006, during operations involving the removal of a camera from a radioactively contaminated catch tank.

Neither event resulted in CHG personnel exceeding federal regulatory exposure limits.

The proposed civil penalty of $82,500 is based on the overall significance of the violations and reflects mitigation granted by the department for prompt, corrective actions taken by CHG to prevent recurrence.

The violations were failures by CHG to effectively control radiological hazards due to deficiencies in both the physical and administrative controls associated with each of the work activities.

One violation cites CHG failures to properly maintain equipment used in responding to radiological contamination events.

CH2M Hill is required to respond to this letter within 30 days and document additional specific actions taken since the investigation concluded.

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Conservationists Establish Bald Eagle Endowment

PIGEON FORGE, Tennessee, November 20, 2006 (ENS) - With the bald eagle set to lose its Endangered Species Act protection and funding early next year, the American Eagle Foundation has created a dedicated endowment that it hopes will support monitoring and protection of America's recovering eagle population for what they call "the long haul."

The Tennessee conservation group estimates it will take at least $100 million to watch over and care for the national bird for the remainder of the decade and beyond.

It is inviting pro-American businesses, organizations and philanthropists to help build a financial "nest egg" that will ensure a healthy status for eagles.

"According to the federal government, we now have over 7,000 nesting pairs of bald eagles in the lower 48 states today," said Al Cecere, president of the American Eagle Foundation. "If only 7,000 individuals or companies step forward and donate $15,000 each - or pledge $1,000 annually for 15 years - to symbolically adopt a single eagle nest, we'd have a national endowment of over $100 million to start with."

The bald eagle historically ranged throughout North America but after World War II the use of the pesticide DDT to control mosquitos became widespread in coastal and wetland areas.

DDE, the principal breakdown product of DDT, built up in the fatty tissues of adult female eagles, preventing the release of calcium necessary to produce strong eggshells, and causing reproductive failure.

The bald eagle initially listed on February 14, 1978 as an endangered species throughout the lower 48 states, except in Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Washington, and Oregon, where it was listed as a threatened species.

On July 12, 1995, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the bald eagle would be reclassified from endangered to threatened in the lower 48 states.

The delisting is expected on or before February 16, 2007.

Cecere says the eagle faces post-delisting challenges from loss of crucial nesting and foraging habitat to the threat of various contaminants, viruses and diseases.

"The bald eagle will soon come off the ESA's threatened species list, but that doesn't mean it has fully recovered and won't continue an up-hill fight for survival," says Cecere. "In an era of government budget cutting, it will cost millions of dollars to monitor and protect eagle nests and adjacent ecosystems on private lands nationally for the remainder of this decade and beyond."

The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940 and Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 will provide some protection for eagles after the delisting, but that neither law has strict provisions for buffering and securing nesting habitat, as the Endangered Species Act does.

The AEF has assembled an advisory board of eagle experts to recommend best use of the endowment funds within federal eagle management guidelines. A qualified money management firm has been enlisted to invest and grow the funds.

For more information, visit the American Eagle Foundation

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Tennessee Tips for a Greener Holiday

NASHVILLE, Tennessee, November 20, 2006 (ENS) - Americans throw away an estimated 25 percent more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day than at any other time of the year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Partners for Environmental Progress.

With this in mind, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation is working with its Pollution Prevention and Keep America Beautiful partners to create greater awareness of these household waste generation patterns, their impacts on natural resources and the resulting increase in landfill disposal costs.

"From giving environmentally friendly gifts to composting Christmas trees when the holiday celebration is over, there are a host of simple steps we can take to reduce waste without sacrificing tradition," said Environment and Conservation Commissioner Jim Fyke. "These tips reflect ways we can celebrate the holidays and still treat the Earth with kindness."

Tips for a Greener Holiday & New Year

For more, visit:

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