Earth Day News Roundup

Celebrate the world — indoors and socially distanced — with some good news

It feels hard to celebrate the Earth while we’re in quarantine. But while we’re in a sort of timeout from the rest of the world, the Earth seems to be enjoying itself on the 50th annual Earth Day: greenhouse gas emissions are at a low with fewer people on the road (although once people leave their homes, the gases will probably shoot back up).

Oregon and Environmentalists Push FERC on Jordan Cove

On Monday, April 20, Klamath Tribes, landowners and more than 25 organizations submitted a joint request for a rehearing to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on its 2-1 decision to approve the Jordan Cove Liquefied Natural Gas project. Later Monday, the state of Oregon sent a request, too.

The Sierra Club filed a request with other organizations, highlighting 10 reasons why FERC wrongfully approved the LNG permit. Among the reasons is that FERC ignored greenhouse gas emissions from the project, which the commission is legally supposed to do, hasn’t addressed the project’s impact on landowners and impacts on water (surface and groundwater).

“Pembina has been unable to secure any of the necessary state permits to build in Oregon because there’s no getting around the fact that this project would pose an unacceptable threat to Oregon’s communities and waterways and is clearly not in the public interest. It’s disappointing that FERC failed to recognize this, and we urge them to reconsider this misguided decision,” Sierra Club Senior Attorney Nathan Matthews said in a statement. “Regardless, FERC’s approval does nothing to change the fact that this fracked gas export terminal has no path forward and will never be built.”

FERC approved Pembina’s permit for Jordan Cove mid-March — when  COVID-19 first hit the U.S. Because we’re in the midst of a pandemic, The Sierra Club added that granting a stay is in the public interest.

In the state’s filing, it argues that FERC suffers from procedural and substantive flaws, such as violating the Clean Water Act and Coastal Zone Management Act.

When FERC issued its ruling March 19, Gov. Kate Brown said, “Until this project has received every single required permit from state and local agencies, I will use every available tool to prevent the company from taking early action on condemning private property or clearing land.”

Aside from commenting on FERC’s approval, Brown has maintained a neutral stance on the project.

Oregon’s Wolf Population is on the Rise

The state’s wolf population increased by 21 — from 137 to 158 in 2019 — according to an April 21 report from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“We’re excited to see some of Oregon’s wolves move into new places and that the state did not kill any wolves this past year for conflicts with livestock,” Amaroq Weiss, the West Coast wolf advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), said in a statement. “Efforts by the state to help livestock operators understand and use nonlethal conflict-prevention tools will be essential for coexistence and continued wolf recovery.”

Oregon’s wolves have seen a 15 percent increase. In the past three years, the growth rate has been around 10 percent. According to the ODFW report, there were seven known wolf deaths, six by people. Four of those wolves were hit by vehicles, one was euthanized after being hit by a car and another by a farmer for chasing his herding dog.

In 2015, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission removed wolves from the state’s endangered species list, even though Oregon’s wolves are still absent from nearly 90 percent of the state’s suitable habitat, according to CBD’s press release. And in 2019, the commission revised the state wolf management plan to open the door to potential wolf hunting and trapping.

Gray wolves are still protected under the Endangered Species Act, but the Trump administration has proposed removing this protection. The Fish and Wildlife Service said last year that the gray wolves have sufficiently recovered.

One of the wolves that apparently died naturally is the famed OR-7, aka Journey, who legendarily traveled from northeast Oregon to California in search of a mate and became the first wolf west of the Cascades since 1947.

Watch an Oregon Wild webcast about OR-7 and Oregon’s wolves on Thursday, April 23 here.

Lane County Leads Oregon in Recyclable Recovery

Lane County announced on Earth Day, Wednesday, April 22, that it recycled and composted 53.8 percent of its trash in 2018, one point higher than the recovery rate in 2017, according to the Department of Environmental Quality. The recovery rate is a measure of how much of the material residents and businesses throw away gets sent to be recycled into new products, is composted or sent to energy recovery facilities.

“This really highlights our community’s understanding of the importance of recycling, including its benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and conserving water and forests — all things that protect our beautiful environment and what residents value,” Lane County Waste Management Division Manager Jeff Orlandini said in a statement. “This number is a reflection of all the efforts of residents and businesses to recover their waste and recycle more.”

What’s especially impressive about this is that it accounts for China’s announcement about no longer accepting post-consumer plastics and unsorted paper. In fact, even with a drop of plastics curbside, the county still increased its recovery rate by one percent compared to 2017, waste reduction specialist Angie Marzano tells Eugene Weekly in an email.

The county saw a 23 percent increase in recycled scrap metal and 32 percent in food waste — two areas that if thrown away improperly can result in increased greenhouse gas emissions. Residents also increased their recycling of florescent lamps by 96 percent compared to 2017. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says recycling florescent lamps prevents the release of mercury into the environment.

The county’s per capita waste generation was 3,156 pounds. Per capita waste generation increased 25 percent since 2013 and 16 percent since 2008. The county’s 2025 goal is to have a 63 percent recovery rate.

Although it is cool that the county is leading the state in recovery, reducing consumption is still the best way to minimize your carbon footprint.

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