Whether she runs for governor or not, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan would need nine lives to bring the state's notoriously broken regulatory system into compliance with the nation's most reckless coal industry.
With state coal production soaring against national trends, Illinois cemented its reputation as the worst rogue state for coal operations last Friday, when the rubber-stamping operations of the state's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a pollutant discharge permit to a company already cited by the state for more than 600 toxic discharge violations at its central Illinois non-union strip mine.
Translation: Imagine the Department of Motor Vehicles renewing the driver's license of a toxic-laden truck driver with 600 DUI's.
Welcome to Illinois—where the brand new Prairie State coal-fired plant is facing "potential fraud" investigations for rocket increases in electricity rates; where the second highest number of contaminated coal ash dump sites in the country abound; where a mind-boggling high hazard coal slurry dam continues to rise in sight of a farm town's nursing home and day care center; where Illinois taxpayers underwrite a huge slush fund for coal marketing, including a shameless "coal education curriculum" for students that blatantly covers up the facts on the state's deadly coal industry; where even the liberal U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin fights for the pork of "clean coal" as the main utility company backs out of the FutureGen boondoggle.
Even with black lung disease for coal miners spiking, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources was also found in violation of state law's for failing to hire enough mine safety inspectors.
It's so pathetic in Illinois that even bankrupt energy companies are granted two-year extensions on their deadly emissions clean up requirements.
It's so pathetic in Illinois that there's not even a coal severance tax, or collection of sales tax for out-of-state transactions--a huge detail when record coal exports now drive the market.
It's so pathetic in Illinois that we don't even celebrate Coal Miners Day—just the coal barons.
And last Friday's notice by the Illinois EPA, sent in an email after working hours, on the granting of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for Springfield Coal's strip mine operation near the township of Industry might be the most unabashed denial of facts and community input in recent memory.
"The fact that this mine, with hundreds of water violations has been allowed to function these past five years without even having their permit approved until after the fact is totally appalling," said long-time area resident Kimberly Sedgwick, who has spent years begging state agencies and organizations to intervene in the violation-ridden mine. "If companies are allowed to proceed without having permits prior, then what sort of atrocities are actually taking place? Unless I am missing something here, This is a complete mockery of our state agency and our Illinois system. It points towards corruption if you ask me. This is totally unacceptable!"
Along with being a dumping ground of toxic coal ash, the industry mine will continue to discharge into Grindstone Creek, a historic watershed that served the first mills in the region, and flows into Camp Creek, a major site for historic Native American occupation, and then into the Lamoine River.
Call it a chronicle of a rigged permit system foretold.
I'll never forget a public hearing on the Industry mine held in Macomb, Illinois, on April 12, 2011, packed to the gills by locals against the strip mine, and listening to Illinois EPA official Larry Crislip inform a concerned citizen that the Illinois EPA had never denied a coal mining NPDES permit. Ever. No matter how bad of an outlaw mining operation.
From the hearing transcripts:
MR. MOOREHOUSE: Okay. In the past the IEPA has refused—has the EPA in the past refused to issue a permit to a serial violator to a coal surface mine?
MR. CRISLIP: To my recollection, I do not recall denying a permit. We work those issues out.
According to Illinois EPA spokesperson Dean Studer, Crislip was not available to explain how Illinois bureaucrats "work those issues out" this week because he was on a two-week vacation.
Kind of makes you miss the old days of disgraced Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was at least open about his Coal Revival Program.
Either way, forget climate change denial. Still in the 19th century regulatory mode, Illinois has become the king of coal denial. And regulated coal destruction.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
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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