International business briefs: Ford fights emissions regulations, Kids air quality, Oil slick conviction, Great Lakes Declaration, World Bank gets a little greener

Global Exchange and Rainforest Action Network have denounced Ford Motor Company and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers for filing a Federal lawsuit to overturn California's widely popular new vehicle emissions standards. California's new regulations are the nation's first-ever rules to reduce emissions linked to global warming and the most advanced automotive greenhouse gas reduction targets in the world. The announcement came on the same day as the release of "Automaker Rankings 2004," a new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists that ranks Ford as having "the absolute worst heat-trapping gas emissions performance of all the Big Six automakers." The Environmental Protection Agency has ranked Ford with the worst overall fuel efficiency of all major automakers for 20 or the last 30 years, including every year since 2000.

Working with the US EPA to ensure a safe and healthy learning environment for millions of American school children, over 500 school representatives and health, technical and environmental experts have participated in EPA’s 5th Annual Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools National Symposium. At a national awards ceremony, EPA recognised schools and individuals from across the country that have made efforts to protect indoor air quality for kids at school. EPA invited hundreds of local school officials from across the country to discuss the basics of how to identify and resolve indoor environmental problems in schools. Indoors, factors such as mould, mildew, dust, animal dander, radon, secondhand smoke, asbestos and formaldehyde can affect air quality and trigger various allergies and asthma. Asthma alone accounts for 14 million missed school days each year. The rate of asthma in young children has risen by 160% in the last 15 years, and today one out of every 13 school-age children has asthma.

Rick Stickle, Chairman and CEO of Sabine Transportation Inc of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has been convicted in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida in Miami on charges of conspiracy, and of obstructing a Coast Guard investigation by giving false statements. The charges arose from the improper ocean dumping of approximately 442 metric tonnes of wheat that had become contaminated with diesel fuel. The dumping took place in the South China Sea in February 1999. The wheat had been intended for humanitarian relief in Bangladesh, but it had become contaminated with oil while on the ship. Rather than pay for proper disposal of the wheat, the defendant engaged in a conspiracy to dump it at sea and falsely claim that it had been processed through the ship’s pollution control equipment before it was discharged. In reality, the pollution control equipment aboard the ship was not designed to handle this type of waste. Dumping of oily wastes that have not been properly passed through pollution control equipment harms fish and aquatic life.

Dozens of government officials and Tribal representatives convened in Chicago to sign a Great Lakes Declaration and a framework document for the Great Lakes Regional
Collaboration. Officials in attendance included members of President Bush’s cabinet, United States senators and congressmen, state senators and representatives, and Great Lakes governors, Tribes and mayors. The Great Lakes Declaration is an intergovernmental pledge of support to further protect, improve and restore the Great Lakes through the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration process. The Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Framework Document outlines the process for developing a Great Lakes restoration and protection strategy.

And finally, late last year, officials at the World Bank decided it was time to practice what they had been preaching about reducing carbon emissions. Well, sort of. Some green types at the international finance agency calculated the bank spewed 147 tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere when it flew in attendees for a conference in Washington in October 2003. Looking to set a cheap and practical example on the worldwide issue of carbon emissions, the Washington-based organisation went halfway around the world to a tiny village located in the remote jungles of southern India. An oil mill in Powerguda village makes oil from pongamia, a native tree species that substitutes diesel fuel and lowers carbon emission substantially. By providing the raw material for an alternative to dirty diesel, Powerguda was effectively reducing the overall carbon load in the atmosphere, so the World Bank decided to buy to offset the carbon emissions resulting from its conference. The price tag: $645. For that the bank got the village’s entire potential carbon emission savings for the next 10 years.

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