Trump Admin Finalizes 'Atrocious' Plans to Allow Drilling and Mining on Gutted National Monuments
The move completes a process begun in 2017 when the administration announced the largest rollback of land protection in U,S. history: It shrank Utah's Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent and its Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by nearly half. Now, the Interior Department is releasing a land-use blueprint that would allow oil, gas and coal companies to lease land for drilling and mining on around 861,974 acres that were once part of Grand Staircase-Escalante, The New York Times reported.
"These plans are atrocious, and entirely predictable," Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Senior Director for Lands Sharon Buccino said in a statement emailed to EcoWatch. "They are the latest in a series of insults to these magnificent lands by the Trump administration that began when Trump illegally dismantled Bears Ears and Grand Staircase at the behest of corporate interests two years ago."
@BLMNational https://t.co/6danmQpYnD— NRDC 🌎 (@NRDC 🌎)1581022671.0
Conservation and Native American groups are especially outraged by the administration's action because they are in the midst of suing to block the the shrinking of the monuments in the first place, The Guardian explained. The shrunken monuments include land sacred to Native American tribes and important sites for paleontological research, as well as unique, relatively undisturbed ecosystems. The groups think the courts will rule the administration's actions illegal under the Antiquities Act.
"It's the height of arrogance for Trump to rush through final decisions on what's left of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante while we're fighting his illegal evisceration of these national monuments in court," Center for Biological Diversity Public Lands Director Randi Spivak in a statement reported by The Guardian. "Trump is eroding vital protections for these spectacular landscapes. We won't rest until all of these public lands are safeguarded for future generations."
The administration, meanwhile, presented its actions as a boon to the Utah economy against the overreach of past administrations. Former President Bill Clinton designated Grand Staircase-Escalante as a national monument in 1996, while Barack Obama created the Bears Ears National Monument in 2016.
"The approved plans keep the commitment of this Administration to the families and communities of Utah that know and love this land the best and will care for these resources for many generations to come," Interior's Acting Assistant Secretary of Land and Minerals Management Casey Hammond said in the government announcement. "These cooperatively developed and locally driven plans restore a prosperous future to communities too often dismissed and punished by unilateral decisions of those that would not listen to the voices of Utahns."
However, so far the decision has not generated a lot of interest from industry.
"There has been almost no interest in mining and drilling on the lands excluded from Grand Staircase," Interior spokeswoman Kimberly Finch told The New York Times.
The decline of coal also means there has not been much interest expressed in a reserve of the fossil fuel found on the now-unprotected lands, according to The Guardian.
However, if this changes, the decision to shrink the monuments wouldn't just contribute to the climate crisis. It would also make it harder to study it."As a result of its physical isolation and areas of minimal human impact, as well as its enormous ecological diversity, it provides mankind with rare opportunities for unique comparative climate change studies," Grand Staircase Escalante Partners Executive Director Sarah Bauman told The Guardian of the monument.
"Without protections, these opportunities will be lost and with them our ability to build essential knowledge and resources for mitigating climate change."
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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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