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Stopping LNG Exports Key to Preventing the Spread of Fracking
For people concerned about the harmful effects of fracking in the U.S., they should do whatever they can to prevent natural gas companies from exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG). Deborah Rogers—a shale gas industry expert, former investment banker and founder of Energy Policy Forum—underscores the importance of anti-export campaigns. She contends that stopping LNG exports is the most important step citizens can take to prevent shale gas companies from creating even larger industrial fracking zones in their communities.
Here's the nightmare scenario: LNG exporters, together with their gas-producing partners in the shale gas fields, are forced to take all of the necessary steps to ensure they don't default on the terms of the contracts they signed with foreign countries and companies. In this scenario, shale gas drillers, already super-busy across the country, will significantly boost their fracking operations to satisfy both domestic and foreign demand, Rogers explained in a recent speech at the Stop the Frack Attack National Summit in Dallas, Texas last month.
Fracking is already disrupting communities and destroying ecosystems. Imagine the scope of environmental damage inflicted by the industry once gas-producing companies are required to fill supply orders from both domestic end-users and overseas buyers seeking to quench their growing thirst for natural gas.
In Pennsylvania and Ohio, for example, well pads, fracking operations and pipelines will begin to cover even larger portions of the states, both of which sit above prominent shale gas formations. Reluctant politicians in New York may eventually cave into industry pressure and open their state to fracking. Domestic natural gas prices are guaranteed to rise due to LNG exports creating a tighter supply-and-demand balance. When this happens, shale gas companies will likely become even more aggressive in their attempt to gain access to New York, given the incredibly huge profits at stake.
If all of the LNG export terminal developers get federal approval to send natural gas overseas and then get the financing to begin construction, it could result in a 45 percent to 50 percent increase in fracking, Deb Nardone, director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Natural Gas campaign, said at the Dallas summit.
"I live in central Pennsylvania. It's proposed to have 8,000 wells in the next handful of years that are fracked wells," Nardone said. "That would mean 12,000 potential wells. My backyard is already devastated. I could only imagine what a 50 percent increase in fracking would mean for Pennsylvania."
Even before Rogers made her pronouncement in Dallas, environmental groups such as Nardone's were targeting LNG exports. Rogers' call to arms amplified the notion that exporting huge volumes of LNG from multiple terminals in the U.S. would create a much greater fracking disaster.
That's why the Sierra Club and other environmental groups are pushing the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to conduct comprehensive studies of fracking's environmental impacts, given the relationship between LNG exports and increases in shale gas drilling. Almost every industry observer—not just environmental activists—acknowledges that LNG exports will induce significantly greater levels of fracking.
"LNG exports, even if just a handful of these terminals get authorized, we're looking at a significant amount of fracking that's going to be necessary to meet both foreign and domestic demand," Nardone said in an interview with EcoWatch.
In recent weeks, anti-fracking activists have directed their attention to President Obama's nomination of MIT professor Ernest Moniz as U.S. Secretary of Energy. Moniz, if confirmed, is expected to green-light requests by companies that want to export domestically produced natural gas. Groups such as the Sierra Club and Food & Water Watch are using Moniz's nomination to raise awareness about the connection between LNG exports and wide-scale fracking.
Along with fighting Moniz's nomination, a coalition of environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, on April 8 petitioned the DOE to revise the Natural Gas Act and create a new policy to dictate how the agency reviews and processes applications to export LNG. The members of the environmental coalition want DOE to ensure that any updated policy guidelines are fully informed by "transparent and thorough economic and environmental assessment."
The environmental groups are targeting DOE because they believe there is some wiggle room for the department to make decisions on LNG export authorization requests that address the public's interest, not the industry's interest. The National Environmental Policy Act "requires the Department of Energy to conduct an environmental assessment," Nardone explained. "Legally we're going to hold them accountable to it."
FERC, as an independent regulatory agency, is less likely to respond to pressure from citizen groups. FERC's commissioners and its staff are entrenched in the belief that the economic and financial benefits that come with the construction of natural gas infrastructure outweigh the environmental harm caused by the gas industry.
FERC has regularly rejected assertions by the Sierra Club and other groups that LNG export projects would induce the production of additional natural gas resources found in shale formations. The commission also has not agreed with assertions that the National Environmental Policy Act requires it to conduct an analysis of the cumulative environmental impacts of building liquefaction facilities at an LNG export terminal.
For the most part, whatever the natural gas industry wants, FERC gives it. If the industry wants to build natural gas pipelines that will require the cutting down of acres of forestland, FERC will promptly give its seal of approval. If the industry wants to build a compressor station in the middle of a community that opposes it, FERC will almost always side with the natural gas pipeline company.
This close partnership is proving beneficial to the natural gas industry as it seeks to transform its LNG import terminals into export terminals. Among the LNG export facilities approved by FERC, the Sabine Pass liquefaction project in Cameron Parish, Louisiana, is furthest along in its development. Along with FERC approval, Sabine Pass also has received authorizations from DOE to export LNG by vessel to both free-trade-agreement countries and non-free trade agreement countries. The liquefaction project will transform the Sabine Pass terminal into the world’s first bi-directional facility capable of exporting natural gas in addition to regasifying imported LNG.
Citizen groups and environmental organizations have pushed FERC to consider the relationship between LNG export terminals and shale gas drilling. In a report released in late 2012, the Sierra Club wrote that "incredibly" neither the DOE nor FERC has completed a full assessment of the environmental risks associated with LNG exports and the expanded gas production needed to support it.
"FERC, which focuses largely on terminal siting, refused to consider any of the upstream consequences of Sabine Pass's plan to export 2.2 billion cubic feet of gas every day," the Sierra Club said in the report, Look Before the LNG Leap: Why Policymakers and the Public Need Fair Disclosure Before Exports of Fracked Gas Start. "It did so even though Sabine Pass's export application trumpets that the project intends to 'play an influential role in contributing to the growth of natural gas production in the U.S.'"
Anti-fracking activists are tackling the LNG export issue from all angles, whether it's applying pressure on DOE or FERC, urging state lawmakers and politicians to enact moratoriums and bans on fracking, or using nonviolent civil disobedience to block fracking operations. "There are significant ways that we can be holding our federal government accountable," said Nardone.
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
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By Joni Sweet
Should you skip your annual checkup? The answer would have been a resounding "no" if you asked most doctors before the pandemic.
But with the risk of COVID-19, the answer isn't so clear anymore.
Are States Allowing Preventive Care Visits?<p>First things first: If you're experiencing a medical emergency, don't delay treatment.</p><p>While there's the potential that you could be <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/hai/data/portal/index.html" target="_blank">exposed to infections at the emergency room</a>, the health risks of avoiding urgent medical care could be far more severe.</p><p>Hospitals have also implemented precautionary measures, like distributing masks to patients, that help cut down the risk of viral exposure.</p><p>Now that that's out of the way, is it possible to start catching up on routine healthcare appointments, like physicals and dental cleanings?</p><p>"Different places are in different stages of opening up," said <a href="https://www.methodisthealth.org/doctors/arvind-ankireddypalli/" target="_blank">Dr. Arvind Ankireddypalli</a>, primary care physician and geriatrician at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare. "Preventative services might not even be available in some communities, [and in others] medical appointments may be on a case-by-case basis."</p>
Is it Safe to Go to the Doctor?<p>If your state is open (or will end its lockdown soon), you may be able to start booking preventive care appointments, like Pap smears, cancer screenings, checkups, and dental cleanings.</p><p>But is it worth the risk of possible exposure to the new coronavirus?</p><p>Opinions vary among healthcare providers and the conditions of their patients, as well as the infection rate in their communities and availability of personal protective equipment.</p><p><a href="https://www.lenhorovitz.com/" target="_blank">Dr. Len Horovitz</a>, internist, pulmonary specialist, and director of Carnegie Medical, recommends that patients avoid delaying their annual physical or other types of preventive care.</p><p>"You will encounter problems that are best seen earlier rather than later," he said. "It is possible to provide a safe environment for a patient in the doctor's office. There's no reason for people to put off an annual exam; these are important appointments that help keep problems from getting out of control."</p><p>In an effort to curb the spread of infection, Horovitz has been following a strict set of procedures at his office, including allowing just one patient in at a time, requiring patients to wear masks and gloves, and disinfecting the examination room between every patient.</p><p>Other physicians, like Ankireddypalli, conduct a risk-benefit analysis for every patient before agreeing to see them in person.</p><p>"It is probably not appropriate to keep delaying visits for high-risk patients, like older adults or people with chronic conditions," he explained.</p>
Role of Telehealth Visits<p>Telemedicine visits, where doctors connect with patients via phone or video chat, can be an option if in-person appointments are risky or prohibited.</p><p>The <a href="https://www.medicaid.gov/medicaid/benefits/downloads/medicaid-chip-telehealth-toolkit.pdf" target="_blank">Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services</a> and some private insurance companies have expanded coverage for telehealth services during the pandemic. As a result, some practices have seen the <a href="https://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/during-pandemic-telehealth-visits-soar-10-week-300-group-practice" target="_blank">use of telemedicine services soar</a> over the last few months.</p><p>"Telemedicine is a way that patients can be seen, evaluated, counseled, and informed about their healthcare without being exposed to the dangers of going into lobbies and offices," said <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/biographies/ommen-steve-r-m-d/bio-20053861" target="_blank">Dr. Steve Ommen</a>, cardiologist and associate dean of the Mayo Clinic Center for Connected Care, which offers telemedicine services.</p><p>"It is particularly relevant for patients who already have a relationship with a provider, the appointment is for an ongoing care episode, and the patient doesn't need to be touched," he said.</p><p>A virtual doctor's visit can't be a substitute for all routine care, though. Cancer screenings, blood draws, evaluations of lumps, Pap smears, and other services still need to be done in person.</p><p>But even if you do have to go to the doctor's office, telehealth services can help cut down on the amount of time you spend there, thus potentially reducing your exposure to the new coronavirus and other germs.</p>
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By Jeannette Cwienk
When it comes to recycling and recyclability, very little, it seems is straightforward — even something as seemingly simple as orange juice can present a conundrum. In Germany, many smaller shops sell drinks in cartons or plastic bottles, both of which will end up in the yellow recycling bin. But how do their recycling credentials stack up?
More and More Multilayer Packaging<p>How easy is it to recognize multilayer packaging? With drink cartons, it's usually obvious that they're made from a combination of different materials, but with other products, such as candy wrappers, it's a different story.</p><p>Such packaging can be made from a complex mix of up to 10 different films of plastic, which as Joachim Christiani, managing director of German recycling institute cyclos-HTP, explains, is <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/germany-produces-record-amount-of-packaging-waste/a-51293541" target="_blank">invisible to consumers</a>.</p><p>"In recent years there's been a trend toward so-called multilayer packaging, which is extremely light and thin. It saves material as well as CO2 emissions during transport, but can't be recycled," Christiani says.</p><p>Because it is not possible to melt the different plastics together, or — at least for now — to separate the individual films from one another at recycling plants.</p>
Lack of Recycled Plastic<p>A 2017 cyclos-HTP study into the recyclability of conventional packaging waste concluded that a third of it was not recyclable, and only 40% of the remaining two-thirds was made into plastic recyclate. The rest was used as fuel <em>—</em> in other words it was incinerated.</p><p>"There was no economic or political pressure to recycle more than this amount," Christiani says. "The prescribed recycling quotas were met, and there were not nearly enough recycling plants."</p>
Room for Greenwashing<p>According to a 2018 survey by Germany's vzbv consumer protection association, most consumers would like to see more plastic recycling, especially when it comes to packaging.</p><p>Although some products come in packaging that is advertised as being "made from recycled material," Elke Salzmann, a resource protection officer with vzbv, says that can be misleading.</p><p>"It says nothing about how much recycled material the packaging actually contains," according to Salzmann. "And it also doesn't mean that the recycled plastic comes from collected plastic waste. It could just as well come from plastic leftovers created during the production of primary plastic."</p><p>The term "ocean plastic," which some textile and shoe manufacturers use to advertise the recycled plastic in their product lines, can also be misleading, Salzmann says.</p><p><span></span>"Plastic waste from the ocean is in much too bad a state to be recycled. Instead, they use plastic waste from beaches or riverbanks."</p>
Laws Against Plastic<p>Images of garbage choking our waters and <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/eurythenes-plasticus-a-deep-sea-crustacean-full-of-plastic/a-52663559" target="_blank">killing marine wildlife</a> have played a key role in giving plastic a negative reputation among the public, and politicians have started to act.</p><p>Many countries worldwide have introduced bans on single-use items, and in Germany, a 2019 packaging law stipulates a plastics recycling quota of 90% from 2022, up from 36%. That said, the quota only refers to how much material has to be fed into the recycling system, not how much ultimately needs to be recycled.</p>
Rethinking the Whole System<p>Although plastic is a very useful material, at the end of its life it causes many problems, EASAC environmental program director Michael Norton tells DW, adding that we have to rethink the whole system and completely change the way we use plastic.</p><p>Joachim Christiani says the packaging industry is starting to catch on. Around 70% of recycled mass can currently be generated from packaging, but that figure is expected to rise in the future.</p><p>"95% is quite feasible," says the engineer, adding that sorting facilities are currently undergoing improvements, while packaging design is also changing.</p>
Clear Plastics Are Easiest to Recycle<p>As things stand, PET bottles are easiest to recycle because they're not mixed with other materials. New bottles can therefore easily be made from the old ones and the recycling rate is high. But the color of the bottle can pose a problem.</p><p>Because plastic is sorted by type rather than color, if different colors of plastic are mixed, the resulting recyclate cannot be used for light-colored packaging, which many manufacturers want. The upshot is the introduction of new plastic instead.</p><p>Consumer and environmental associations have long called for recyclability, greater sorting purity and better sorting facilities, but their most important demand remains waste avoidance through reusable systems.</p><p>"Why melt down disposable bottles to make new disposable bottles when you can refill them up to 20 times?" Buschmann asks.</p>
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When the coronavirus pandemic hit, the future of the Cannard Family Farm—whose organic vegetables supplied a single Berkeley restaurant—was looking stark.
Building Food Communities<p>Family farms in California and across the country have been hit hard by the impact of the coronavirus on their markets. But in the health-conscious Bay Area, where celery was already one of the first groceries to disappear from the produce rack, demand for fresh local produce has shot up. The challenge is in redirecting food from farms to new customers.</p><p>Sonoma County has historically been an agricultural region. When the organic food movement sprang up in the 1970s, this area was one of its early proponents. The first farmers markets and CSAs appeared in the 1980s and flourished, but the burgeoning network was later eclipsed by an inflated wine industry, much of it owned by distant corporations.</p><p>According to a 2018 crop report, 60,000 acres have gone to grapes, with only 500 acres in food crops. Land prices have skyrocketed, the cost of labor has gone up, and increased regulations have all made it harder to run a viable business here. Many farmers had turned to "boutique" specialty crops for restaurants.</p><p>"Farmers are always in an uphill battle, especially ecological farmers," says Wiig of the Community Alliance with Family Farmers. "I often hear them say, 'I'm working my butt off and hoping for the best.'" That's even more true now, as the pandemic strangles economies the world over.</p>
Scaling Up Support<p>F.E.E.D. Sonoma, a food hub that aggregates produce from dozens of local farms, was another quick responder. When the pandemic hit, it went from serving Bay Area restaurants to building a cooperative of farmers, filling food boxes for distribution at F.E.E.D.'s Petaluma warehouse and other drop spots in the county.</p><p>"Our local food system is extremely diverse," says co-founder Tim Page, who has the energy of a visionary combined with the skills of a businessman. "We have a ton of small farms but we don't have the infrastructure to support them. That is what F.E.E.D. is trying to establish." Since converting the restaurant supply business to a CSA, it has gone from 90 boxes to 450. Ultimately, the goal is 1,800 or more.</p><p>"I grew up in L.A.," Page says. "Every single farm is gone. The same thing will happen here if the general public does not understand the importance of it.</p><p>"That understanding was on display at the Sonoma Farmers Market, which now operates with strict restrictions and safety precautions because of the virus. "We think F.E.E.D. is going to save us," said Candy Wirtz, co-director of Paul's Produce, a well-established farm in Sonoma, as she weighed out my purchases. The CSA model could be transformative for Paul's and other farms across the country.</p><p>Subscribing to a CSA is a lifestyle change for consumers, to be sure. It means eating what's in season and learning to cook unfamiliar vegetables. But it's a change that many people are making now because of the stay-at-home orders. "People just have to learn to cook again instead of eating out," says Judith Redmond, part-owner of Full Belly Farm near Sacramento.</p><p>In light of this newfound commitment to CSAs, Perrotti, of Coyote Family Farm, says: "My hope is that this solidifies instead of going back to the way things were. I hope the importance of local farming stays at the forefront."</p>
Farms With Futures<p>To help small farmers stay in business during the crisis, Community Alliance is also advocating for stimulus dollars. "Most often subsidies go to a small number of the largest farms, or to buy food that goes to food banks from far away, while local farmers can't sell their food," Wiig says. "We want food banks to buy from local farms."</p><p>This seems like a win-win. Millions of tons of food is being plowed under as 60 million people are now going hungry, 17 million of them since the pandemic began, according to Feeding America, the national network of food banks.</p><p>But it's complicated. David Goodman of the Redwood Empire Food Bank puts it plainly: Local food is too expensive. "We distribute nine and a half million pounds of produce annually," he says. "It costs about 9 cents a pound, 3 cents to transport. With 82,000 people to feed, it would be a luxury to think of tending to local needs by buying locally."</p><p>That reticence is partly because the food bank system is tangled in bureaucracy. The USDA decides what to purchase and from where. Because of the distances between sites, the federal agency has tended to favor foods with long shelf lives, such as canned and processed foods, and long-lasting produce like apples and potatoes. "If local food is what we need, there has to be a plan," Goodman says.</p><p>Such a plan might be where short-term disaster relief meets long-term resilience. Michael Dimock is president of Roots of Change, a nonprofit organization that advocates for transforming California's food system. To get serious about preparing the food system for future disasters, Dimock says, the government needs to be involved. Roots of Change is now advocating for a tax on sugary beverages to help foot the bill.</p><p>Dimock says the state needs a paradigm shift for farms to remain viable in the face of multiplying disasters to come—not only pandemics, but fires, floods, and other symptoms of climate change. "How bold will people get in the months ahead to demand real change? My hope is they will get more radical."</p><p>Food is fundamental. While farmers have yet to face the full economic impact of this pandemic, their collaborative efforts, along with local grassroots networks, could mark the beginning of a new economy laboring to be born.</p>
By Andrea Germanos
Nearly 200 Canadian organizations on Monday rolled out their demands for a "just recovery," saying that continuing business-as-usual after the pandemic would prevent the kind of far-reaching transformation needed to put "the health and well-being of ALL peoples and ecosystems first."
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Alberta Energy Minister Calls Pandemic ‘a Great Time’ to Build Pipelines Due to Protest Restrictions
Anti-pipeline protests work.
That's the implication behind comments made by Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage Friday on how coronavirus social distancing requirements could ease the construction of Canada's controversial Trans Mountain Expansion project.