A coalition of health and environmental groups have joined together to congratulate the Rockland County Board of Legislators for voting unanimously to prohibit the sale, application and disposal of waste products in the county from natural gas drilling operations. The new law bans the sale of all gas drilling waste, its processing at all wastewater treatment plants, and its application on all roads including applications for de-icing and dust control purposes within Rockland County. The groups are urging County Executive Scott Vanderhoef to sign the legislation immediately.
In taking this action, Rockland County joins a growing list of New York counties that have enacted legislation to protect their water supplies and the health and safety of their residents by banning radioactive gas drilling waste. Other counties passing similar measures include Westchester, Putnam, Nassau, Suffolk, Orange and Ulster Counties.
"The disposal of highly-contaminated and radioactive gas drilling wastewater, drill cuttings and sludge poses an immediate public health threat for all New Yorkers," said Ellen Weininger, educational outreach director for nonprofit Grassroots Environmental Education.
"Waste from hydrofracking operations in Pennsylvania and active low volume gas wells in New York is being spread on New York roads right now for de-icing and dust control and is being accepted by New York landfills and wastewater treatment facilities," Weininger continued. "With lax oversight from the state and absence of federal and state regulations, local governments are stepping in to protect their residents from dangerous exposures. We commend the Rockland County Board of Legislators for fulfilling that responsibility entrusted to them by passing this critically important legislation.”
"This legislation is a crucial step toward protecting Rockland County residents from the harmful health effects of improper handling and disposal of fracking waste," said Kate Hudson, watershed program director at Riverkeeper. "Preventing wastewater treatment plants from accepting this waste and prohibiting the spreading of fracking brine on roads in Rockland County will address the present risk that the county's precious water resources could become contaminated with heavy metals, naturally occurring radioactive materials, brine and other pollutants that are the toxic byproducts of fracking."
"This far-sighted legislation will protect Rockland County's irreplaceable water resources—its aquifers, streams, wetlands, recharge areas and reservoirs—from contamination by long-lived, cancer-causing radioactive elements. It will help protect the health of all Rockland residents by preventing the spread of radioactive wastes from our roads, onto the tires of cars and trucks and onto school playing fields, lawns, driveways, garages and even homes,” said Marian Rose, PhD, president emeritus of Croton Watershed Clean Water Coalition.
“Rockland Sierra Club commends the Rockland County Legislature for the passage of important legislation which will help protect the health of Rockland's residents from the many risks associated with exposure to toxic waste from gas drilling operations," says Peggy Kurtz, co-chair of Rockland Sierra Club.
Newly developed fracking drilling technologies involve the use of hundreds of toxic chemicals and large quantities of water to extract gas from shale deposits deep underground. Much of this highly toxic mixture returns to the surface with the gas along with other contaminants including heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, brine (approximately eight times saltier than sea water) and high levels of naturally occurring radioactive materials, including radium-226 and radium-228, which are known human carcinogens. Radium-226 has a half-life of 1600 years and is linked to bone, liver and breast cancers. Other chemicals in fracking fluid are known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors.
Radioactive, toxic waste from gas drilling activities can potentially cause irreversible damage to water, air, land, soil and food supplies. Although this waste is hazardous and in fact exceeds the legal criteria for hazardous waste classification, it is categorized as “industrial waste” under federal and state laws as a result of special exemptions given to the oil and gas industry during the Bush-Cheney administration. These exemptions, including the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Superfund Act among others, eliminate tracking requirements for its handling, storage, treatment and disposal of the waste.
Wastewater treatment facilities are not designed to treat chemicals, contaminants and highly radioactive materials present in hydrofracking waste. High bromide levels in this waste are highly corrosive to equipment and can react during water treatment to form brominated trihalomethanes, which are associated with certain cancers and birth defects.
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
Yet another former Trump administration staffer has come out with an endorsement for former Vice President Joe Biden, this time in response to President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.