Groups Unite to Stop BLM from Selling Out Federal Lands for Fracking
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is putting thousands of acres of publicly owned national forest land in Alabama at risk by allowing potential oil and gas drilling in the Talladega and Conecuh National Forests, conservation groups said in a formal letter of protest to the agency on April 16.
The BLM announced its intention last month to sell oil and gas leases for federal lands in several southeastern states, including parcels totaling over 43,000 acres in Alabama's national forests. Almost all parcels are located on the Talladega National Forest in central and east Alabama, and one parcel is on the Conecuh National Forest in southern Alabama.
In the letter of protest (pdf), the Southern Environmental Law Center, representing Wild South and Natural Resources Defense Council, said the BLM is relying on outdated environmental analyses done by the U.S. Forest Service in 2004 as part of the revised management plan for Alabama's national forests. Among other deficiencies, these stale analyses fail to assess the environmental impacts of drilling using high-volume hydraulic fracturing, known as "fracking."
This form of gas drilling, in which millions of gallons of water and chemicals are injected underground to fracture shale and release natural gas, has caused significant and widespread environmental problems in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and elsewhere. Exempt from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act, fracking has been linked to environmental and public health risks, such as contamination of streams and drinking water wells. This type of gas drilling has a large footprint, so drilling operations could significantly fragment wildlife habitat in the national forest and contribute to the industrialization of nearby rural land. The groups are asking the BLM to remove the Alabama national forests from its proposed lease sale, which also includes other states.
"The Bureau of Land Management is proposing a massive intrusion into Alabama's national forests without properly analyzing the potential impacts and without providing sufficient information to the public. Some of the areas they propose leasing for oil and gas development are near some of the most popular destinations in the forests," said Keith Johnston, managing attorney for the Birmingham office of the Southern Environmental Law Center.
"We have a strong sense of place in the South, and our public forests should not be sold to the highest bidder to be destroyed for short-term profit," said Tracy Davids, director of Wild South. "These are the places that families hunt, fish, hike and recreate. Oil and gas drilling will ruin these lands and force us off of our national forests. This is an assault on our heritage and we won't stand for it."
"This is an illegal giveaway to the oil and gas industry, and it must be stopped. The BLM is turning a blind eye to the very real risks of damaging our forests and harming the health of everyone who lives nearby," said Matthew McFeeley, an attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "More than ten percent of the Talladega National Forest is being put on the auction block without giving the public any chance to weigh in."
The Talladega National Forest is a source of clean drinking water for numerous communities, including Anniston and Jacksonville, Ala. In 2009, the Forest Service estimated about 600,000 visits a year to the forest by hikers, hunters, anglers, horseback riders and others who seek out the forest's exceptional recreational opportunities. Some areas proposed for leasing contain or are near important environmental resources such as the popular Pinhoti National Recreation Trail, the Chinnabee Silent Trail, Talladega Scenic Drive, Cheaha Mountain and Rebecca Mountain, and waterways including Choccolocco, Cheaha and Shoal creeks, as well as other tributaries to the Coosa, Tallapoosa, and Cahaba rivers. And, based on the little environmental information available on the proposed lease areas, many are habitat for endangered, threatened or at-risk fish and wildlife, such as the Red-cockaded woodpecker and several fish and mussel species, which the BLM and Forest Service are responsible for protecting.
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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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