Keystone XL Debate to Take Center Stage in New Congress
It looks like the Keystone XL pipeline will be making headlines again when Congress reconvenes next week—and three Democratic congressmen are getting a head start in laying down the gauntlet.
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When Senate approval of the pipeline was defeated by one vote in November, incoming Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell vowed to make approving the pipeline his first order of business when the new Senate with its Republican majority opened its session. And new chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Lisa Murkowski followed through, announced that Keystone XL will be her committee's first item of business when it meets next week.
On the other side of Congress, the House has voted in the past to approve the pipeline and appears poised to do so again—so quickly, in fact, that three Democrats sent a letter to Speaker John Boehner this week, urging that the House follow the full process of vetting a bill. Representatives Peter DeFazio of Oregon, Frank Pallone of New Jersey and Raul Grijalva of Arizona, ranking members of the three committees that have jurisdiction over the pipeline—Transportation and Infrastructure, Energy and Commerce, and Natural Resources—asked Boehner not to bypass the committee process to bring an immediate floor vote.
“It is our understanding that you may schedule the House of Representatives to vote on a bill to approve TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline during the first two weeks of the 114th Congress," they wrote. "Given the magnitude of this issue, we urge you not to bypass the committee process and regular order for consideration of this controversial legislation. This past November, 61 new members of Congress were elected by the American people to represent their interests in the House. These new members, and in fact all members of the House, should have the opportunity to consider, debate and propose their own ideas on this legislation through committee hearings and markups, before it is scheduled for House floor consideration. While past congresses have debated legislation to approve the pipeline, this new Congress has not had the opportunity to be a part of the process."
The three congressmen said they believe that new information has emerged since the previous pipeline hearings in the House, pointing to the dramatic changes in U.S. crude oil production and the steep drop in global oil prices and the uncertainty about the future of production of the Canadian tar sands oil the pipeline is intended to carry.
"Members of Congress should have an opportunity to learn more about these changed circumstances as they weigh the costs and benefits of TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline," they said.
They pointed out that there is a case pending in the Nebraska Supreme Court that could impact where the pipeline can be built.
They wrote, "In February 2014, the Nebraska District Court declared that the Nebraska Governor’s Keystone XL pipeline siting decision violated the Nebraska Constitution and, as such, the proposed route was null and void. The Nebraska Supreme Court is considering this issue on appeal and is expected to issue its decision in the coming weeks. We hope that we can all agree that Members of Congress deserve to know the route of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline prior to casting a vote on whether to approve it."
They also referred to an op-ed that House majority leader Kevin McCarthy wrote in the Washington Post five months ago, promising a commitment to the committee process and regular order in the new Congress and to working across the aisle, saying "a sense of mutual respect is necessary for constructive dialogue.” They called on him to follow through on the promise.
"New and returning Members of Congress should have the right to debate the short- and long-term effects of approving a project that could reverse the carbon pollution reductions and environmental and safety improvements that we have worked so hard to achieve in the United States," they wrote. "We urge you to use this opportunity to recommit to the value of thoughtful deliberation."
President Obama has made statements suggesting he would most likely veto legislation approving the Keystone XL pipeline.
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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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