Michigan Groups Rally to Stop Fracking on Public Lands
Yesterday, organizations and citizens from across Michigan came together for a day of action in opposition to the bi-annual auction of publicly-owned mineral rights to oil and natural gas companies for fracking.
Last October, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) leased more than 190,000 acres of mineral rights from counties across the state. The average parcel sold for around $18 an acre. During the rally, a diverse group of students, elected officials, indigenous peoples, mothers and activists came together to protest the auction and participate in trainings to take back to their local communities as fracking operations continue to expand across the state.
“Fracking threatens the air we breathe, the water we drink, the communities we love and the climate upon which we all depend," said Tia Lebherz, Michigan organizer with Food & Water Watch. “Today’s actions illustrate the rapidly growing movement of concerned Michiganders who believe long-term stewardship should come before short-term profit.”
Fracking uses high volumes of water mixed with sand and chemicals to access natural gas that is bound in deep, tight shale formations. The chemicals used in the process include known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors as well as chemicals known to cause cardiovascular and respiratory problems. In states where fracking and drilling for natural gas and oil are more prevalent, over 1,000 cases of water contamination have been document near fracking sites since 2008.
“Public lands belong to the citizens of Michigan, yet we've been completely shut out of the decision-making process that decides what is done with them,” said Mariah Urueta, co-founder of Citizens Against Drilling on Public Lands. “Instead, the DNR has chosen to constituently ignore pubic outcry and has allowed these mineral rights to be sold to private industry bidders at devastatingly low costs.”
To date, more than 350 municipalities in the U.S. have taken action against fracking. In Michigan, 15 municipalities have passed local legislation to keep fracking out of their communities, including enacting moratoriums. Orangeville Township recently passed an ordinance to regulate the truck traffic associated with the highly intensive drilling practices.
“In the absence of state and federal intervention, local communities including elected officials and citizens must take action to protect our natural resources and our well being,” said Jim Nash, Oakland County water resource commissioner. “In Oakland County, publicly owned mineral rights have been leased in places like Indian Springs. Oil and gas drilling operations are already underway in highly residential areas close to lakes and streams, putting our communities at risk. ”
Michigan Land Air Water Defense (MLAWD), a grassroots group located in Allegan and Barry County was formed in response to these auctions and is currently involved in a lawsuit against the MDNR arguing previous leases by the agency in Allegan and Barry County violate the public trust doctrine.
“This litigation has the potential to be precedent setting, with implications for the entire state,” said Steve Losher, president of MLAWD. “Our ultimate goal is to have all park, game and recreation land designated ‘non-leasable’ and off limits to horizontal hydraulic fracturing on, under or near them.”
Further, Phil Bellfy with Article32.org a project of Idle No More has visited fracking operations across the state to post public notices indicating such sites are a violation of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People.
The MDNR is tasked with protecting the state’s treasured resources. Groups contend that the inherent risks associated with fracking including groundwater contamination, air pollution and that the clearing of forests for drilling operations is contrary to what the department has been established to accomplish.
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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