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Natural Resources Defense Council, May 23, 2019

EPA Plan on Rocket Fuel in Drinking Water
 Will Make You Sick

WASHINGTON – The Environmental Protection Agency issued a proposed standard to limit perchlorate in drinking water that will gravely threaten public health.  The agency’s plan comes after a decade of delay and a lawsuit by NRDC compelling it to set a standard.  Perchlorate, a toxic chemical that is a component of rocket fuel, has been detected in the drinking water systems that serve up to 16.6 millions Americans.  Even at low levels, it can present serious health risks to children and pregnant women.

The following is a statement by Erik Olson, senior director for Health and Food at the Natural Resources Defense Council:

“This is enough to make you sick—literally.  As a result, millions of Americans will be at risk of exposure to dangerous levels of this toxic chemical in their drinking water.  Fetuses and infants are especially vulnerable to harm from perchlorate. EPA has more than tripled the amount of perchlorate it now recommends allowing in water.  Scientists recommend a limit that is 10 to more than 50 times lower than what the agency is proposing.  This is another Trump administration gift to polluters and water utilities that have lobbied to be off the hook for cleaning up the problem.”


EPA is proposing a standard of 56 parts per billion—more than 3 times its own previous limit of 15 parts per billion.  State standards based on scientists’ recommendations set the limit dramatically lower—2 parts per billion (Massachusetts) and 6 parts per billion (California).

Perchlorate impairs hormone production critical to brain development.  It has been widely used by the military and defense industries.  It is commonly used not just in rocket fuel, but also fireworks and explosives.  It is highly soluble in water, and can move quickly into ground and surface water when it contaminates soil.

The EPA has revised drinking water standards since the 1996 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act, but this is the first new standard the agency is putting forward for an unregulated contaminant in more than 23 years.

For more on NRDC’s lawsuit that triggered the agency’s action, click here.

Greenpeace Press Release, May 20, 2019

Greenpeace: Whole Foods must go further
 on plastic reduction efforts 
by Perry Wheeler

Washington, DC – In advance of a Greenpeace report ranking U.S. supermarkets on plastic reduction efforts, Whole Foods announced several new initiatives today. Whole Foods announced that it will eliminate most plastic straws, making them available upon request for customers with disabilities and offering Forest Stewardship Council-certified paper straws for those who want them. In addition, the retailer will switch to smaller plastic produce bags and replace hard plastic rotisserie chicken containers with bags that use less plastic.

Whole Foods has also previously eliminated plastic grocery bags and polystyrene/Styrofoam meat trays from its stores.

In response to the news, Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner David Pinsky said:

“It’s good to see Whole Foods acknowledging its role in the plastic pollution crisis and making some changes, but retailers must go much further than phasing out plastic straws and cutting down on the amount of plastic used in select packaging. As a forward-thinking company, Whole Foods must release a comprehensive public plan to reduce plastic throughout its stores to match the scale of the problem. Now more than ever, we need retailers like Whole Foods to embrace real innovation — moving toward systems of reuse and thinking beyond throwaway materials. Our oceans, waterways, and communities depend on it.”

From the Sierra Club Borderlands

Take action for #NoBorderWall and for 
equal protection under the law for the borderlands!

Border communities generated tens of thousands of comments against border walls in South Texas. 
Credit: Laiken Jordahl

Please use these links to raise your voice against harmful new border walls in Arizona and New Mexico . Tell the Department of Homeland Security that we don’t want wasteful, harmful walls, and that we do want real solutions such as sustainable development in Mexico and Central American countries.

Background: The Trump Administration is mocking the law and the American people. Congress already gave Trump about $3 billion for border walls, but he wants more, so he’s raided about $1 billion from the military and intends to take even more. That money has already been awarded to profiteering border wall construction companies, even though the call for public comments on the project remains open!  

Next, Homeland Security waived 32 laws for new border walls in New Mexico and Arizona, bringing the total number of laws waived under this administration to a whopping 49. Please take action and tell them it’s not OK to impose lawless, wasteful walls!

Press Release NRDC - Natural Resources Defense Council, April 18, 2019

Press Release, Earth Justice May 16, 2019


Water-sucking project threatens endangered species, climate, air quality

Bonana, UT — Conservation groups today sued the Trump administration to challenge what would be the nation’s first commercial-scale oil shale mine and processing facility. The lawsuit says officials failed to protect several endangered species when they approved rights-of-way across public lands to provide utilities to the proposed oil shale development.
The massive Enefit project in northeast Utah’s Uintah Basin would also drain billions of gallons of water from the Green River, generate enormous amounts of greenhouse gas pollution and exacerbate the Uintah Basin’s often-dismal air quality.

Today’s lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Utah, argues that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service violated the law by ignoring the potential harm to endangered fish. In its biological opinion, the agency considered only the harm from water depletions necessary to build the pipeline, not the billions of gallons of Green River water that will be sent through the pipeline to Enefit’s oil shale development. 

“The responsible federal agencies have worn blinders in approving this project, leaving themselves and the public in the dark about the immense ecological harm it would cause,” said Alex Hardee, attorney at Earthjustice. “We’re going to court to uphold the nation’s environmental laws and save the Upper Colorado River Basin from the devastating effects of oil shale.” 

The Bureau of Land Management also violated the law by failing to adequately analyze the significant environmental impacts of the proposed oil shale development, which likely would not occur but for the agency’s approval of the rights-of-way.

“This is a prescription for disaster for our climate, wildlife, and the Colorado River Basin,” said Ted Zukoski, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Draining the Green River to mine one of the most carbon-intensive fuels on the planet sends us in exactly the wrong direction. It’s putting us on a collision course with climate catastrophe so a foreign fossil-fuel company can make big bucks.”

The Trump administration paved the way for the project last year by approving rights-of-way for electricity, oil, gas, and water lines across public lands. At full buildout, the Estonian-owned Enefit American Oil facility would produce 50,000 barrels of oil every day for the next 30 years or more from the Green River Formation.

"The environmental destruction, air pollution and water pollution inherent in this proposed oil shale mining project is something that every citizen of Utah should be alarmed about,” said Dr. Brian Moench, president and founder of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. “That it would become a long-term public health disaster is being callously dismissed by a BLM that is being run as a subsidiary of the dirty energy industry.”

Huge amounts of water are required in the oil shale production process. The water pipeline will allow Enefit to drain more than 10,000 acre feet annually from the Green River, harming critical habitat for endangered fish, including the Colorado pikeminnow and the razorback sucker. The project comes as Western states struggle with record droughts and climate-driven declines in river flows in the Colorado River Basin.

"Our region is already feeling the effects of pollution and climate change. To destroy our public lands in order to drill for more polluting fossil fuels would be a disaster for our communities and our planet," said Dan Mayhew, conservation chair of the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club. "We should be accelerating the transition to clean energy, not sacrificing our water, air quality, and climate for an investment in one of the dirtiest fossil fuels in the world. Today we continue the fight to ensure that federal agencies can't continue to approve dangerous, dirty energy projects without fully considering the totality of environmental damage that would result.”

Enefit intends to strip-mine about 28 million tons of rock a year over thousands of acres of high-desert habitat, generating hundreds of millions of tons of waste rock. It will also construct a half-square-mile processing plant, about 45 miles south of Dinosaur National Monument, to bake the rock at extremely high temperatures to turn pre-petroleum oil shale rock into refinery-ready synthetic crude oil. That will require vast amounts of energy and emit huge amounts of ozone precursors in an area recently listed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as not in attainment with healthy ozone standards.

Oil shale is one of world’s most carbon-polluting fuels, with lifecycle carbon emissions up to 75 percent higher than those of conventional fuels.

“BLM’s approach here is to ignore the elephant in the room, which never ends well,” said Ann Alexander, senior attorney with Natural Resources Defense Council. “They’ve focused exclusively on the relatively small impact of building some power lines and pipes, hoping no one will notice that this infrastructure will facilitate large-scale environmental destruction. Well, we noticed.”

The project would produce 547 million barrels of oil over three decades, spewing more than 200 million tons of greenhouse gas — as much as 50 coal-fired power plants produce in a year. Those emissions would contribute to global warming and regional drought already afflicting the rivers and their endangered fish.

“Enefit's proposed oil shale operation could deplete more than 100 billion gallons over three decades,” said Sarah Stock, program director at Living Rivers. “That's water taken away from other current water users and the downstream river ecosystem. The BLM needs to stop side-stepping their responsibilities by ignoring the devastating impacts that oil shale development will have on the climate and downstream water availability in the Colorado River Basin."

“As a result of mismanagement, drought, and accelerating climate change, the Colorado River system is on the verge of collapse,” said Daniel E. Estrin, advocacy director at Waterkeeper Alliance. “Yet despite this crisis, BLM and FWS have approved rights-of-way across public lands for a project that could remove 100 billion gallons of water from the basin, push several endangered species closer to extinction, and rapidly degrade the water supply of almost 40 million people. These approvals, that will allow an Estonian hard rock oil shale company to exploit US public lands and resources, must be reversed.”

“The BLM approved the rights-of-way to service Enefit’s proposed oil shale mine and processing facility based on an utterly inadequate analysis of potentially devastating air, water, climate and species impacts,” said Michael Toll, a staff attorney at Grand Canyon Trust. “Considering the rights-of-way are a public subsidy of an otherwise economically unfeasible oil shale development, the public has a right to know exactly how Enefit’s project will impact their health and environment.”

The groups filing today’s lawsuit are Living Rivers/Colorado RiverKeeper, Center for Biological Diversity, Grand Canyon Trust, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment and Waterkeeper. The groups are represented by attorneys from Earthjustice, Grand Canyon Trust and the Center for Biological Diversity.

Greenpeace Press Release April 23, 2019

(Click on image to enlarge.)

Since China banned plastic waste imports in January 2018, countries in Southeast Asia - particularly Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia - have accepted an increased amount of plastic waste. Between January and July 2018 alone, Malaysia imported 754,000 metric tonnes of plastic -- the weight of approximately 100,000 large elephants. It came from countries like the United States, Japan, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Finland, France, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

New research exposes a crisis in the 
global trade of “recyclable” plastics
by Greenpeace International 

Hong Kong / Berkeley, USA – Water contamination, crop death, illness, and the open burning of plastic waste have all flooded into Southeast Asia along with the world’s “recycled” plastics, according to a report by GAIA (Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives) with data analysis on the global waste trade from Greenpeace East Asia.

“Plastic waste from industrialised countries is literally engulfing communities in Southeast Asia, transforming what were once clean and thriving places into toxic dumpsites. It is the height of injustice that countries and communities with less capacity and resources to deal with plastic pollution are being targeted as escape valves for the throwaway plastic generated by industrialised countries,” said Von Hernandez, the global coordinator of the Break Free from Plastic movement.

To measure changes to the flow of ‘recyclable’ plastic waste before and after China’s 2018 foreign waste import ban, Greenpeace East Asia collated import-export data from the 21 top exporters — with USA, UK, Germany, and Japan at the top —  and 21 top importers of plastics scraps.

Meanwhile, GAIA’s field investigations in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand detailed illegal recycling operations and crime syndicates, open burning, water contamination, crop death, and a rise of illness tied to environmental pollution that has led citizens to protest and governments to rush in restrictions to protect their borders, many following China’s lead with import bans.

Data indicates that Southeast Asia’s current plastics crisis is the pinnacle of a global experience, with waste piling up globally and domestically for all countries involved, even former exporters. Across the board, plastic waste exports dropped almost 50%, from 12.5 million tons in 2016 to 5.8 million tons in 2018 (available data from January to November 2018). Because plastic manufacturing is projected to rise, this drop in exports in part means ‘recyclable’ plastics will continue to stockpile or head for improper disposal at home. [Note 1]

But even the export of this waste doesn’t ensure proper disposal. Today, exports make their way into any country without adequate regulation to protect itself. North Sumengko, Indonesia, for example, turned into an international dumping ground almost overnight, and GAIA’s field investigation found trash piled two meters high, makeshift dumps, and open burning in the farming community.

This process will continue until decisive action is taken. After China’s import ban, waste flooded into Malaysia, Vietnam, and Thailand, who quickly set up import restrictions. Then, exports overflowed into Indonesia, India, and Turkey.

“Once one country regulates plastic waste imports, it floods into the next un-regulated destination. When that country regulates, the exports move to the next one. It’s a predatory system, but it’s also increasingly inefficient. Each new iteration shows more and more plastic going off grid — where we can’t see what’s done with it — and that’s unacceptable,” said Kate Lin, a senior campaigner with Greenpeace East Asia.

The Basel Convention will convene April 29 to May 10 in Switzerland to consider a proposal from Norway for greater transparency and accountability in the global trade of plastic waste. The proposal says exporters of plastic waste should receive permission from destination countries in advance — a system known as “prior informed consent” that is already in place for other types of hazardous waste.

“As wealthy nations dump their low-grade plastic trash onto country after country in the global south, the least the international community can do is safeguard a country’s right to know exactly what is being sent to their shores. However, ultimately, exporting countries need to deal with their plastic pollution problem at home instead of passing the burden onto other communities,” said Beau Baconguis, Regional Plastics Coordinator at GAIA Asia Pacific.

This plastics crisis also has a clear origin: corporations that mass produce plastic packaging to boost profits.

“Recycling systems can never keep up with plastic production, as only 9% of the plastics ever produced are recycled. The only solution to plastic pollution is producing less plastic. Heavy plastic users — mainly consumer goods companies like Nestlé and Unilever, but also supermarkets — need to reduce single-use plastics packaging and move towards refill and reuse system to get us out of this crisis,” said Lin.

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