AmeriScan: September 9, 2005

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Gulf of Mexico Fishery Failure, Resource Disaster Declared

WASHINGTON, DC, September 9, 2005 (ENS) - U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez today announced a formal determination of a fishery failure in the Gulf of Mexico due to the devastation following Hurricane Katrina. The affected area includes the Florida Keys and from Pensacola, Florida, to the Texas border.

The determination came in response to a virtual fishery shutdown in the affected states due to major flooding, damage to fishing boats and fishing ports, waterways clogged with debris and closed processing facilities.

"We are taking action now because of the significant economic effects of Hurricane Katrina on fishing communities in the Gulf of Mexico," Secretary Gutierrez said. "Major commercial fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico include finfish, shrimp and oysters, with an estimated value of almost $700 million per year."

Although the extent of the damage to Gulf fishing industries is not yet known, fishing in the region has been essentially halted. NOAA will work with the states to assess damage to the 15 major fishing ports and the 177 seafood processing facilities in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

Based on preliminary estimates, there are 432 federally permitted fishing vessels in Alabama; 3,738 in Florida; 1,033 in Louisiana, and 351 in Mississippi. Additional fishermen hold state permits.

The action was made through provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, which makes federal relief funds available to assess the impacts, restore the fisheries, prevent future failure, and assist fishing communities' recovery efforts after a natural disaster, and the Inter-jurisdictional Act, which makes funds available for direct assistance to fishermen to alleviate harm resulting from a natural disaster.

Gutierrez said the Bush administration will work with Congress and affected states to identify on-the-ground needs and develop an emergency plan to meet those needs. Once funds are in place for the disaster assistance plan, NOAA will notify fishermen with information about how to apply for relief.

After Hurricane Ivan struck the Gulf Coast last year, $9 million in aid was appropriated to repair the oyster industries in Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana. In 1997, $10 million in relief aid was appropriated to recover from damage caused by hurricanes Hugo and Andrew.

"Working with the Gulf States, NOAA will continue efforts to assess fishing industry damage and long-term impacts to the marine environment," said Bill Hogarth, director of NOAA's Fisheries Service.

NOAA's Fisheries Service has made contact with all of its 132 employees and contractors in the Gulf of Mexico region. The agency's facilities in Pascagoula, Mississippi, sustained significant damage due to high winds and flooding and are currently undergoing engineering assessments.

In the immediate wake of the hurricane, the agency responded to reports of marine mammal strandings. NOAA currently is working to provide marine enforcement agencies in the Gulf States with immediate recovery funding.

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Humane Society Pleads for Help With Hurricane Animal Rescue

JACKSON, Mississippi, September 9, 2005 (ENS) - The Humane Society of the United States says their workers were initially blocked from entering the most devastated areas in Louisiana and Mississippi to rescue stranded animals left by their owners fleeing Hurricane Katrina. But now the organization has 125 people and 39 support vehicles in Louisiana, and more than 100 emergency personnel and 17 support vehicles in Mississippi.

The call is out for many more rescuers to converge on these two states before it is too late.

"What we are finding is truly heartbreaking – animals trapped in flooded houses, caregivers wandering the streets desperately searching for their beloved pets, and nearly destroyed animal shelters where the surviving animals have spent days keeping their heads above water in their cages," said Incident Commander Laura Bevan.

"Block after block, our teams are entering homes and apartments, sometimes forced to break into them, searching for stranded animals," she said.

Yesterday in Mississippi, one of the animal rescue teams found a dog who had been washed into someone's attic; the storm surge had stranded the animal.

"We are finding and rescuing more animals as each hour passes – more than a thousand so far - but with many more thousands needing our help," Bevan said.

The organization is asking for help. Funds are needed, and the society is calling on all federal, state, and local responding agencies to help provide animal rescue assistance immediately. "Even though we've been able to put hundreds of people in the field, we worry they may not be enough," said Bevan

The animal welfare organization is logging thousands of telephone calls through its call center, and responding to thousands of emails.

"Staff members in every section at headquarters dropped their normal duties to assist in the response to Katrina, searching for boats, trucks, crates, carriers, supplies, food, and other essential items for transport and operations in the impact zones of Louisiana and Mississippi," Bevan said.

The online Disaster Center at www.hsus.org features updates on our relief efforts, video and slideshow footage, and ways that individuals can help us save even more animals affected by Katrina.

"It’s truly a race against the clock," said Humane Society President Wayne Pacelle. "Our teams are working feverishly to rescue as many animals as possible and get them out of the watery cesspool left behind by Hurricane Katrina.”

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GIS Data Map Compiled for Toxic Exposure After Katrina

DURHAM, North Carolina, September 9, 2005 (ENS) - Duke University environmental scientists are amassing large overlays of Geographical Information System (GIS) data for a website that public health and environmental experts will use to assess effects of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and elsewhere in the stricken Gulf region.

That information includes "flooded areas, the locations of medical facilities, police stations, fire stations and industrial facilities, warehouses that might be flooded out, agricultural operations, refineries and oil pipelines, among other things," said project leader Marie Lynn Miranda.

"There's just layer upon layer of different kinds of data that, when geographically correlated, could aid assessment of hazards and the process of recovery," she said.

Miranda is an associate professor at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, and is a principal investigator and does GIS mapping for mercury at Duke's Superfund Basic Research Center. She also directs the Children's Environmental Health Initiative, which uses GIS technology to help authorities evaluate childhood exposures to various contaminants in North Carolina.

GIS technology combines various kinds of maps, satellite images and other information to provide investigators insights and connections that might not be recognized if the components were considered separately. Another advantage is that the information is all spatially referenced, meaning that all the information is connected to a particular geographic location.

Miranda's involvement resulted from a Labor Day conference call with officials at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) in Research Triangle Park, who are creating the website as part of its initial response to a national effort to assess the large array of potential toxic contaminants in the floodwaters.

Among the layers of relevant data, said Richard Di Giulio, a Nicholas School professor of environmental toxicology, "are effects that might be associated with oil refinery petrochemicals - compounds like hydrocarbons for which cancer is sometimes a major long term health hazard." Di Giulio directs Duke's Superfund Basic Research Center.

"Pesticide chemical companies down there, depending on what they make, could be sources of potent neurotoxins and neurodevelopmental toxins, Di Giulio said. "There could also be concerns about radioactive materials and chemicals from flooded hospitals."

Di Giulio enlisted Miranda and her colleagues following conference calls involving all 20 university-based Superfund Centers, which do basic research into the effects and detection of toxic chemicals covered by the federal Superfund Act in coordination with the NIEHS.

"Dr. Miranda is organizing non-confidential information that's already out there on the web or through other kinds of data sources," said Bill Suk, who directs NIEHS's Superfund Basic Research Program as well as its Center for Risk and Integrative Sciences.

"It's an incredible amount of data that's coming in," Suk added. "All the data is already out there, but it's never been put together and integrated in this way. So this is a resource that is very valuable."

After the overlaid GIS information is made interactive with help from a supercomputer at San Diego State University, the data will be used in the field to aid environmental and health investigators, Suk said

The Centers for Disease Control is attempting to analyze health data on people from the area who have been scattered through various refuge centers in Texas. "The GIS system that we're developing should help explain what they might have been exposed to," Suk said, and determine whether or not there are going to be any potential health consequences.

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Utah's Skull Valley Nuclear Waste Storage Approved

WASHINGTON, DC, September 9, 2005 (ENS) - The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) today denied the state of Utah’s final appeals in the adjudication on an application by Private Fuel Storage (PFS) to construct and operate an independent spent nuclear fuel storage facility in Skull Valley, Utah.

By a 3-1 vote the Commission authorized staff to issue PFS a license once the staff has made the requisite findings under NRC regulations.

Utah petitioned for Commission review of a Febrary 24 decision by the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, which rejected the state’s assertions that there is too high a probability of a radiation release resulting from an accidental crash of one of 7,000 flights over the Skull Valley each year by F-16 single-engine jets from Hill Air Force Base.

The Commission’s memorandum and order also dismisses as moot petitions by PFS and the NRC staff for review of portions of an earlier ASLB ruling.

“Our decision today concludes this protracted adjudication, which has generated more than 40 published Board decisions and more than 30 published Commission decisions,” the Commission said in its memorandum and order.

“The adjudicatory effort, plus our staff’s separate safety and environmental reviews, gives us reasonable assurance that PFS’s proposed [storage facility] can be constructed and operated safely,” it said.

Private Fuel Storage submitted its application for the license in June 1997. The NRC issued its final Environmental Impact Statement in January 2002 and a Consolidated Safety Evaluation Report in March 2002.

The Private Fuel Storage facility would be located on the reservation of the Skull Valley Band of Goshute Indians, about 50 miles southwest of Salt Lake City.

The proposed above-ground facility would use up to 4,000 NRC-approved Holtec International HI-STORM 100 storage casks, each of which can hold up to 10 tons of spent fuel.

The HI-STORM cask consists of a steel canister in which the fuel is stored and a steel and concrete overpack. To shield the spent fuel, the canister is welded closed and then placed in the overpack of two steel shells encasing a wall of concrete more than two feet thick. The concrete provides additional shielding from radiation during storage. The cask weighs 180 tons when full.

Separate from the NRC’s actions, the Bureau of Indian Affairs must issue final approval of the lease between the company and the Skull Valley Band of Goshute Indians. Also, the Bureau of Land Management must approve a revision of the land resource management plan for Skull Valley to permit PFS to construct and operate a rail line on a right-of-way through BLM land to connect the Private Fuel Storage site and the Union Pacific Railroad main line.

Utah Governor Jon Huntington has opposed the nuclear waste storage site.

U.S. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada said, “Transporting high-level radioactive waste to Utah is as dangerous as it would be transporting it to Nevada. Thousands of tons of deadly nuclear material will pass homes, schools, businesses and churches in communities all across the country, and there is simply no way to safely do this."

"In Nevada, we will continue to fight as hard as we always have to stop the proposed Yucca Mountain site," Reid said. "The safest and smartest solution to solving the nation’s nuclear waste problem is to store waste at the facilities where it is already being produced, as Senator [John] Ensign and I have proposed.”

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EPA Proposes Ethical Safeguards for Human Pesticide Studies

WASHINGTON, DC, September 9, 2005 (ENS) - Under fire from citizens' groups and some legislators for allowing human dose pesticide studies that could harm children, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this week proposed a rule that will establish stringent enforceable ethical safeguards governing the conduct of third-party intentional dosing research with human subjects.

Among other new ethical protections, EPA proposes to prohibit all new third-party intentional dosing research on pesticides with children and pregnant women intended for submission to EPA, a

The agency announced a "categorical ban" on such studies saying that EPA "will neither conduct nor support any intentional dosing studies that involve pregnant women or children."

"We are pursuing a rigorous set of protections for human research participants," said Susan Hazen, principal deputy assistant administrator in EPA's Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances.

"EPA believes that regulatory decisions should be supported by the best scientific information," said Hazen. "We should consider human data only if that information has been developed with the foremost goal of providing protections for research participants. We want to send a clear signal to the public that unethical research should never be conducted and will not be accepted by EPA."

This rule is intended to ensure that people who volunteer for third-party pesticide studies involving exposure to humans are treated ethically, with full disclosure as to potential risks.

For any new, intentional dosing studies with pesticides, this proposal would require researchers to comply with the requirements of the Common Rule - current ethical standards for research conducted or supported by the federal government.

Hazen says that EPA sponsored or supported research now meets current federal ethical standards set forth in the Common Rule, and the agency's new proposal would extend those and other safeguards to third party research involving pesticides.

Researchers would have to submit detailed study protocols to EPA prior to initiation so that EPA can review them to ensure the study meets the new ethical protections and is scientifically sound. Then, once the study is conducted, researchers would have to provide detailed information to EPA describing how the study met the necessary ethical protections.

This rule would also put in place standards that EPA would follow in determining whether to rely on human studies. The agency is proposing to establish a Human Studies Review Board to review study protocols and selected available studies. The new protections would apply to pesticide intentional dosing studies conducted by EPA, those supported or sponsored by EPA, and those conducted by a pesticide manufacturer or other researchers.

This rule focuses largely on pesticide studies because such studies have elicited a strong expression of public concern, and because the risks they potentially present to people who volunteer to participate. Today's proposal is the first in a series of potential actions that will address the full spectrum of human studies issues at EPA.

The agency says it has been conducting "a comprehensive review" of older pesticides to ensure that they meet current health and safety standards so that the public, especially infants, children and other sensitive people, are protected from pesticide risks.

EPA welcomes public input, and the proposal includes a 90-day public comment period. For more information on the rulemaking, visit: http://www.epa.gov/oppfead1/guidance/human-test.htm

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States Sue Feds for Lack of Tough Appliance Energy Standards

NEW YORK, New York, September 9, 2005 (ENS) - A coalition of 15 states and the City of New York filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the federal Department of Energy for violating Congressionally enacted mandates to adopt stronger energy-saving standards for 22 common appliances that use large amounts of electricity, natural gas and oil by deadlines stated in the law.

The standards sought by the lawsuit, according to the federal government’s own numbers, would generate substantial savings for consumers and reduce air pollution and global warming emissions from power plants.

New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer said, “As oil and gas prices hit record levels and the impacts of global warming become more apparent, it is profoundly disappointing that the federal government has failed to adopt these crucial energy saving standards. The law requires it, and common sense dictates it. These standards will save energy and money for consumers and help protect our health and environment.”

California Attorney General Bill Lockyer said, “Energy efficient appliances help protect the environment and our pocketbooks. These conservation goals are simply common sense.”

Congress directed the Department of Energy to strengthen efficiency standards for a wide range of household and commercial products, including furnaces, water heaters, clothes washers, dryers, air conditioners, dishwashers, heat pumps, motors, ranges, ovens, motors and lamps.

Congress established initial efficiency standards for most of the products, and directed the Department of Energy periodically to review and strengthen them. For the remaining products the Department of Energy is to establish the initial efficiency standards and also periodically strengthen them.

The Department of Energy is six to 13 years behind schedule and has not adopted any appliance efficiency standards since January 2001 when the Bush administration took office.

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Kathleen McGinty, who headed the White House Office of Environmental Quality in the Clinton administration, said, “Some have suggested conservation is cute. They’re wrong – it’s critical. Energy efficiency must be recognized as an important component to America’s energy future. Enhanced standards would mean immediate environmental improvements and additional cost savings for consumers.”

New York City Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo said, "New York City residents and businesses pay some of the highest energy prices in the country. In addition, the City suffers from high levels of ozone and fine particulate matter. Forcing the Department of Energy to revise the efficiency standards for these products, as it is required by law to do, will benefit the City’s residents and businesses in terms of both energy costs and air quality.”

New Mexico Attorney General Patricia Madrid said, “New Mexicans have recently been told that they can expect their heating bills to increase up to 30 percent this winter due to an increase in natural gas prices. On top of this, consumers are faced with record high costs for oil and gasoline. This is a time when energy savings measures are most needed. This is not the time for the federal government to turn aside cost efficient approaches to saving energy.”

Wisconsin Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager said, “The administration’s failure to act on these standards will have a devastating effect on Wisconsin consumers as we head toward winter. With fuel prices rocketing out of control and other energy costs rising, it’s critical we demand enforcement of the energy efficiency standards as soon as possible.”

Based on the Department of Energy’s estimates, the average annual energy savings would meet the total annual energy needs of between three million to 12 million American households, depending on how fast the new standards are phased in and what the new standards are.

Annual electricity savings alone would approximately equal the output of up to 42 large power plants, the attorneys general said.

The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court, Southern District of New York. It is available on the New York Attorney General’s website at: www.oag.state.ny.us

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Consumer Electronics Companies Support Recycling Fee

WASHINGTON, DC, September 9, 2005 (ENS) - In testimony Thursday before the United States House of Representatives Subcommittee on Environment and Hazardous Materials, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) called for a national framework for electronics recycling.

The CEA represents more than 2,000 corporate members involved in the design, development, manufacturing, distribution and integration of audio, video, mobile electronics, wireless and landline communications, information technology, home networking, multimedia and accessory products, as well as related services that are sold through consumer channels.

The testimony came as the subcommittee convened for the second of a two-part hearing examining the issue of electronics recycling and the proper federal role.

"The consumer electronics industry has reached consensus on many elements of an electronics recycling approach," said Parker Brugge, CEA's senior director and environmental counsel. "There needs to be national consistency and a uniform framework."

There should be "a limited and clearly defined scope of products," Brugge said, and "major stakeholders should bear some responsibility for the recycling," he said.

Once the electronics are collected, he said, "best business practices should be established for recyclers to ensure the safe and appropriate recycling of electronics."

Brugge told the committee that "a large majority of CEA's members favor a visible advanced recovery fee.

"These companies believe that a fee is convenient and transparent for consumers, and is the most effective way to handle the large volume of historic product already in the marketplace," he said.

CEA suggested federal policy initiatives that could aid in confronting the national electronics recycling issue such as tax credits available to all stakeholders involved in the end-of-life infrastructure and better federal procurement policies.

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