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AmeriScan: September 19, 2002

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Chemical Controls Inadequate to Prevent Accidents

HOUSTON, Texas, September 19, 2002 (ENS) - Inadequate controls of reactive chemicals are responsible for continuing deaths, injuries, and environmental and property damage around the country, according to the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB).

The CSB's new findings and recommendations stem from a two year investigation into hazards at U.S. sites that manufacture, store or use potentially reactive chemicals. The study examined 167 serious chemical accidents in the U.S. over the last 20 years that have involved uncontrolled chemical reactions.

These accidents caused 108 deaths as well as hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage. CSB investigators have concluded that reactive chemical accidents pose a "significant problem" and that the pertinent federal process safety regulations contain "significant gaps" in their applicability and in their specific provisions.

The CSB convened in Houston Tuesday to vote on recommendations to federal agencies and trade groups to improve the safety of industrial processes that use reactive chemicals, which can lead to hazardous chemical reactions if not managed right. These uncontrolled reactions can cause fires, explosions and toxic gas releases.

CSB's investigation was triggered by a runaway reaction at a Morton International facility in New Jersey in 1998, in which chemicals reacted to release heat, leading to an explosion.

The CSB study found that more than half of the 167 surveyed incidents involved chemicals that are not covered by either the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Process Safety Management (PSM) or U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Risk Management Program (RMP) rules. These rules require companies to apply good safety management practices to certain hazardous chemical processes.

"The lack of comprehensive regulatory coverage for reactive hazards has been a deficiency since the process safety rules were first issued in the 1990s," said Carolyn Merritt, CSB chair and chief executive officer.

"The reactive chemical study is thus one of the most important investigations the CSB has done," Merritt added. "We will be voting on recommendations to OSHA, EPA, and industry that - if thoroughly implemented - will have a significant impact on chemical process safety in this country."

The CSB is an independent federal agency established in 1998 with the mission to protect workers, the public, and the environment by investigating and preventing chemical accidents.

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Air Force Base Exempted from Reporting Rules

WASHINGTON, DC, September 19, 2002 (ENS) - President George W. Bush has suspended certain waste reporting requirements at the Air Force's operating location near Groom Lake, Nevada due to security concerns.

Noting that the base is the subject of two ongoing environmental lawsuits that could force the release of sensitive information, Bush said, "I find that it is in the paramount interest of the United States to exempt the United States Air Force's operating location near Groom Lake, Nevada from any applicable requirement for the disclosure to unauthorized persons of classified information concerning that operating location."

The order, made in a memorandum to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Secretary of the Air Force, exempts the Air Force base "from any federal, state, interstate or local provision respecting control and abatement of solid waste or hazardous waste disposal that would require the disclosure of classified information concerning the operating location to any unauthorized person."

The exemption is effective for one year.

The Bush order notes that existing environmental laws are not intended to require the disclosure of classified information, specifically citing the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Under RCRA, the EPA regulates hazardous waste from its creation to its safe disposal, and waste generators must report on their wastes to the EPA.

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Restaurants, Grocers Boycott GE Fish

SEATTLE, Washington, September 19, 2002 (ENS) - More than 200 grocers, restaurants and seafood distributors across the nation have pledged not to purchase or sell genetically engineered fish.

The latest business to join the boycott is Ray's Boathouse and Madison Market in Seattle, which announced its pledge at a press event this morning.

"Our mission and respect for our members it to ensure food purity in everything we sell. We are not willing to compromise our integrity by embracing unproven, untested, and potentially dangerous biotechnology," said John Foss, board member of Madison Market.

In February 2001, John led the charge for Madison Market to create the first Eco-Sustainable seafood counter of its kind. Madison Market only buys from sustainable small family fishers, and no farmed fish products.

Signed pledges boycotting engineered fish have been gathered by a campaign called Protect Our Waters from Genetically Engineered Fish, an alliance between the Center for Food Safety, Clean Water Action and Friends of the Earth. Through the campaign, thousands of consumers, and environmental and fishing groups, are demanding a moratorium on the domestic marketing and importation of genetically engineered fish - including a ban on their use or release into open net pens and ponds.

Concerns about the commercial release of genetically engineered fish arose after an application was filed with the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approval of an experimental salmon developed by Aqua Bounty Farms.

"Approving Aqua Bounty's experimental salmon would mean releasing them into the wild," said Foss. "Escapes from fish farms are routine and impossible to prevent. Earlier this year, more than 8,000 salmon escaped from a single fish farm in Canada."

The Center for Food Safety, with the support of Friends of the Earth and more than 70 other organizations, has filed a legal action with the federal government seeking a moratorium on the approval of GE fish.

"The FDA should listen to what the public is saying. Consumers everywhere have spoken, and we don't want genetically engineered fish on our plates or in our waters," said Lisa Ramirez, campaign coordinator for Friends of the Earth.

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Bills Would Help Combat Marine Invasive Species

WASHINGTON, DC, September 19, 2002 (ENS) - Several members of Congress introduced legislation Wednesday that would create a comprehensive strategy to combat invasive aquatic species in U.S. waterways.

The bipartisan National Aquatic Invasive Species Act and the Aquatic Invasive Research Species Act would reauthorize and strengthen the National Invasive Species Act of 1996 with specific emphasis on species that live in water. The bills represent a coordinated effort among lawmakers representing many different regions of the country to address the threat of aquatic invasive species.

Invasive aquatic species such as the Asian snakehead fish that invaded Maryland waterways earlier this year, zebra mussels, Asian swamp eels and invasive weeds such as the Eurasian milfoil and spartina cost the United States billions of dollars each year to combat and control.

These exotic species prey on, outcompete and otherwise harm native species - almost half of all the plants and animals listed as federally endangered are at risk from invasive species.

"In building a better defense for the Great Lakes against the introduction of new invasive species, we must make vigorous use of the most effective tools currently available," said Representative Pete Hoekstra, a Michigan Republican and cosponsor of the House versions of the legislation. "Through a comprehensive regulatory process and additional ballast water management requirements, we can reduce the risk of further introductions of aquatic invasive species in the Great Lakes."

"For now, we are losing the battle against Great Lakes invaders," Hoekstra said. "We need to move forward on all fronts as aggressively as we can to combat invasive species."

The National Aquatic Invasive Species Act requires the introduction of new regulations requiring ships to meet interim and final standards for invasive species management. It also directs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in consultation with the Coast Guard, to develop a clear environmental standard and certification protocol for ballast water treatment technologies.

A coalition of conservation groups and fishing interests is urging Congress to pass the legislation in the current session.

"Aquatic invasive species are devastating our native plants and animals and can undo much of the progress we have made in conservation. Such a widespread threat demands a comprehensive approach like the National Aquatic Invasive Species Act," said Steve McCormick, president of The Nature Conservancy. "The Conservancy strongly endorses the bill and we sincerely hope for the sake of America's waters that the 107th Congress passes this important legislation."

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Professor Recognized for Air Pollution Research

WASHINGTON, DC, September 19, 2002 (ENS) - A Brigham Young University (BYU) professor whose research into the computer modeling of fuel combustion has led to new insights into the formation and prevention of air pollutants is the 2002 recipient of the Energy Department's Homer H. Lowry Award.

L. Douglas Smoot, who will retire at the end of the year from being a full time faculty member of BYU's College of Engineering and Technology, will receive the 2002 Lowry award, the highest honor given by the Energy Department for outstanding contributions to fossil energy science and technology.

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham announced the award Wednesday, and will present the award and $25,000 to Dr. Smoot at an awards ceremony in Washington, DC on October 9.

"Dr. Smoot has championed the use of computational fluid dynamics to better understand the complex chemistry that occurs when fossil fuels burn," Abraham said. "Today, throughout the world, industrial and academic institutions are using the computer programs he helped develop. From his research has come a much better understanding of how pollutants such as nitrogen oxides are created when coal and other fuels burn, and equally important, how new technologies can reduce or prevent their formation."

"In short, Americans are breathing cleaner air today due in large part to the brilliance of Dr. Smoot's computer models and his advocacy of computer modeling throughout the fossil fuel industry," Abraham added.

Dr. Smoot is a chemical engineer who earned dual bachelor degrees in chemistry and chemical engineering in 1957 from Brigham Young University and a doctorate in chemical engineering from the University of Washington in 1960. After serving as an assistant professor at BYU for three years, he joined Lockheed Propulsion Company before rejoining BYU in 1967.

Since then, he has served as chairman of the Chemical Engineering Department for seven years and dean of the College of Engineering and Technology for 17 years. He was the founding director of the Advanced Combustion Engineering Research Center at BYU and the University of Utah.

This is the sixth time the Energy Department has presented the Lowry Award since it was established in 1985. The award is named for Dr. Homer H. Lowry, a chemist who founded the Carnegie Institute of Technology's Coal Research Laboratories and who edited Chemistry of Coal Utilization, first published in 1945, which became the standard work of reference for coal scientists and technologists.

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Coal Research Grant Winners Announced

WASHINGTON, DC, September 19, 2002 (ENS) - Twenty-five winning projects were announced Wednesday in the Department of Energy's University Coal Research Program, the agency's longest running student teacher research grant program.

With more than $3 million in grants from the Energy Department, teams of university professors and their students will explore a variety of innovative concepts that could lead to the cleaner use of America's coal reserves.

"The University Coal Research Program continues year-after-year to be one of our best sources of creative concepts for the cleaner and more efficient use of coal," said Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham. "This program not only produces outstanding research, it also gives hundreds of students a hands on introduction to advanced energy technology."

This year, for example, one winning team will study a new type of membrane that separates clean burning hydrogen from gases made from coal. Another will build a lab scale model of an advanced desalination plant that one day might provide cooling water to electric power plants and reduce the growing competition in some regions for fresh water.

Another project will explore a new way to manufacture fuel cells that could lower their costs.

In all, nine projects will receive grants of up to $200,000 each for core research that supports ongoing efforts in the department's Fossil Energy program. Another 14 projects will receive $50,000 grants each to explore longer range innovative concepts.

Two universities that had already received innovative concept grants will be awarded $200,000 each to continue developing their concepts. Several universities will contribute additional funding for their projects, adding a total of $326,000 to the federal grants.

This is the 23rd year that the Energy Department has conducted the University Coal Research competition. Since the program began, almost 1,500 students have worked with their professors in more than 600 federally funded research projects valued in excess of $100 million.

Past student professor research has led to several new concepts that are now in commercial practice, ranging from new ways to wash impurities from coal to the more efficient use of carbon ink in office copiers. More detail on the following winning projects is available at the Energy Department's fossil energy web site at: http://www.fossil.energy.gov

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Website Accesses 150 Years of Hurricane Data

SILVER SPRING, Maryland, September 19, 2002 (ENS) - A new Internet based application allows the search and display of detailed tropical cyclone data and coastal population trends.

Emergency preparedness managers, meteorologists and the general public can use the Historical Hurricane Tracks tool to explore more than 150 years of information about tropical cyclones in the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.

Searches can be made using criteria such as storm name, U.S. ZIP code, U.S. state, county, or latitude and longitude. Tropical cyclone activity is archived as far back as 1851. The site also provides a searchable database of population changes from 1900 to 2000 for U.S. coastal counties affected by hurricanes and detailed text reports on the life history and impact of Atlantic tropical cyclones from 1958 to 2001.

This is the first site developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that provides storm and population data side by side.

"To make informed decisions, emergency managers need to know how many people live, work and vacation in coastal areas," said Margaret Davidson, acting assistant administrator for NOAA's National Ocean Service. "Having simultaneous access to population figures and storm data is a significant improvement, since the more you know about past tropical cyclones the better you can prepare for the future."

NOAA National Hurricane Center Director, Max Mayfield, praised the initiative for bringing together useful information to a wide range of users, from professional hurricane watchers to retirees planning to move to the coast.

"Now that the Historical Hurricane Tracks tool is available you have one, easy to navigate site that can answer many questions about tropical cyclone history," Mayfield said.

Historical Hurricane Tracks is available at: http://hurricane.csc.noaa.gov/hurricanes/

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Hawaii Reauthorizes Humpback Whale Sanctuary

HONOLULU, Hawaii, September 19, 2002 (ENS) - Hawaii has approved a revised Humpback Whale Sanctuary management plan, which reauthorizes the Sanctuary in Hawaiian waters over the next five years.

The revision emphasizes a community based process to include new species, such as monk seals and sea turtles, for protection by the Sanctuary within the next five years.

"Five years ago, we took a step forward to protect Hawaii's precious ocean resources," said Hawaii Governor Ben Cayetano. "And after this period of review and public comment, it's evident that the structure and processes put in place work. I'm happy to endorse the revised plan. And, I'm particularly happy that it includes a community based process to consider extending this structure to other ocean resources precious to our islands."

The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary plan was forwarded to Governor Cayetano by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and reflects updated strategies for education, research and administration as a result of public input. No new regulation or boundary changes are proposed.

The plan has the support of the Sanctuary Advisory Council, the State Department of Land and Natural Resources and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

Humpback whales rely on Hawaii's islands as their winter migratory home, where they breed, calve and nurse between December and April before returning north to the colder waters of the Bering Sea.

Scientists estimate that two-thirds of the entire North Pacific humpback whale population - approximately 4,000 to 5,000 whales - migrate to Hawaiian waters to engage in breeding, calving and nursing activities.

The Sanctuary is one of 13 national marine sanctuaries, and includes areas around the islands of Maui, Lanai and Molokai, and parts of Oahu, Kauai and the Big Island. The Sanctuary's goal is to promote comprehensive and coordinated management, research, education and long term monitoring for the endangered humpback whale and its habitat.

Governor Cayetano emphasized the importance of good stewardship of Hawaii's oceans, stating that, "As an island state, preservation of our marine environment is vital to us, our children, and the many visitors to our shores."

Over the past five years, through conferences and other activities, the Sanctuary has promoted Hawaii's leadership in marine science, community based conservation and ecotourism. It has developed the Maui Sanctuary Education and Visitor Center, supported over 20 scientific research projects regarding Hawaii's marine resources and fostered Native Hawaiian cultural awareness.

Thousands have participated in the Sanctuary Ocean Count, the Kauai Family Ocean Fair, and the Annual Ocean User Workshops that have been held throughout the state.

More information regarding the Sanctuary and the plan is available at: http://www.hihwnms.nos.noaa.gov



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