Propane Fracking Can't Go Forward without a New Environmental Review
By Kate Sindig
Several recent media reports have described plans by a Canadian gas company, GasFrac Energy Services, Inc., and the Tioga County Landowners Association to drill gas wells using the unconventional technique of fracturing with liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). Troublingly, representatives of the parties have indicated that their intention is to circumvent the on-going environmental review of fracking in New York—which has resulted in the current de facto moratorium on any new high-volume fracking—by using an alternative fracking agent, i.e., LPG instead of water.
LPG’s main constituent is propane, a highly flammable, and hence explosive gas. It is used in a few limited locations as an alternative to fracking with a water-based fracking fluid, but has not, to our knowledge, ever been used in the Marcellus Shale.
Yesterday, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), together with 14 of our allies and a well-respected geologist, sent a letter to New York Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens making clear our position that any application to frack with LPG in New York would trigger the need to undertake a new full environmental review. In short, LPG fracking—and its particular risks and impacts—is not analyzed in either the most recent draft supplemental generic environmental impact statement or the earlier 1992 oil and gas development GEIS. As such, it cannot legally be undertaken in New York absent the preparation of a full environmental review that evaluates its risks.
And it does present real risks—including some that are different in nature from those associated with “traditional” fracking. First and foremost is the risk of explosion—a risk highlighted by two major explosions last year at GasFrac well sites that injured fifteen workers and caused the company to suspend all of its operations for two weeks.
Other hazards relate to the trucking of thousands of gallons of LPG to well sites; compressing and re-condensing the LPG for reuse; mixing the LPG with chemicals, which, as with water-based fracking, is necessary for LPG fracking; and the generation of wastewaters contaminated with not only the usual toxic fracking brew but also explosive gas.
Give them points for creativity, I suppose, but don’t give GasFrac and Tioga County Landowners any permits for propane fracking in New York without first subjecting it to thorough review.
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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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