Groups Sue Interior Secretary to Protect California Public Lands From Fracking
In the wake of a landmark legal victory against fracking on public lands last week, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club filed a new lawsuit today challenging the Obama Administration’s auction of an additional 17,000 acres in Monterey, San Benito and Fresno counties for drilling and fracking.
The suit against newly appointed Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and the Bureau of Land Management says the government did not fully consider the dangers fracking poses to watersheds, endangered wildlife and air quality before auctioning the leases in December.
A federal judge ruled last week, in response to a previous lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club, that the BLM violated the law by issuing other oil leases in Monterey County without considering fracking’s threat to the environment. It was the first court opinion to find a federal lease sale invalid for failing to address the risks of fracking.
“The federal government has to stop shrugging off the dangers of fracking pollution to California’s public lands,” said the Center for Biological Diversity’s Brendan Cummings, who argued the previous fracking lawsuit in court. “Fracking and drilling in these beautiful places threatens precious wildlife habitat and endangers the whole Salinas Valley watershed. By opening up this land to oil exploitation, the Obama Administration is putting our air and water at risk of contamination by dangerous fracking chemicals.”
Fracking employs huge volumes of water, mixed with sand and toxic chemicals, to blast open rock formations and extract oil and gas. The controversial technique has already been used in hundreds — and perhaps thousands — of California oil and gas wells. Last year the BLM estimated that about 90 percent of wells currently drilled on federal lands were fracked.
“The Sierra Club opposes opening any new areas for oil and gas drilling, especially when long-term impacts to our health, environment and climate are still largely unknown,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “Fracking for oil is not a safe solution for securing our energy future. Instead of leasing land for more dirty fuel drilling, the Obama administration needs to double down on clean energy.”
Oil companies are increasingly interested in fracking the Monterey Shale, a geological formation beneath the BLM leases that contains an estimated 15.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil. Extracting the oil will almost certainly require fracking, which is known to pollute air, contaminate water and destroy natural landscapes.
Last year the BLM auctioned the lands to oil and gas companies at a December lease sale after only a cursory environmental review and despite objections from local citizens and businesses. All parcels were sold, but drilling hasn't started yet.
Fracking routinely uses numerous toxic chemicals, including methanol, benzene and trimethylbenzene. A recent Colorado School of Public Health study found that fracking increases cancer risk and contributes to serious neurological and respiratory problems in people living near fracked wells.
Wildlife is also at risk. Fish can die when fracking fluid contaminates streams and rivers, birds can be poisoned by chemicals in wastewater ponds, and the intense industrial development that accompanies fracking pushes threatened or endangered animals out of wild areas they need to survive.
Continued drilling and fracking also releases huge amounts of methane, an extremely powerful global warming gas. Methane is about 105 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas over a 20-year period, bringing us closer to climate disaster with every well drilled.
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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