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August 29th, 2014:

Jersey’s toxic waste problem a warning

Thursday, 28 August, 2014

I refer to the letter by Chan Fung-chun (“Superficial platitudes on waste [1]”, August 26) berating Elvis W. K. Au, assistant director of environmental protection, on the limited landfill space in Hong Kong.

Having just returned from my home in Jersey, in the Channel Islands, for a summer holiday, I was perplexed and interested in the similar situation there regarding a recently constructed energy-from-waste incinerator. The disposal of the waste ash does not seem to have been properly addressed.

A report in the Jersey Evening Post [in 2012] said the island may require an additional reclamation site “if a solution is not found to deal with the island’s toxic ash”.

This ash came from burning waste in the incinerator. It was buried in lined pits that were close to capacity.

The paper said that “the move has sparked strong criticism from environmental campaign groups, who fear that the toxic substance could eventually leak into the sea”.

This is becoming a major problem for the tiny island of Jersey, and I have been following the for-and-against arguments for our own incinerator here in Hong Kong with the proposed siting in Shek Kwu Chau.

For Jersey, it may well be that there will be two islands soon, one for the inhabitants and one, getting increasingly large every year, for the toxic waste.

Peter Keeping, Causeway Bay

dynamco Aug 28th 2014


In September TTS started the tender process for the export of air pollution control residue (APCr), this is now well underway. Jersey will be exporting both IBA and APCr, thereby reducing the harmful elements stored in the ground. The Transport & Technical Services Minister, Deputy Kevin Lewis, said “When I became Minister I said I did not want to leave this material at La Collette as a legacy for future generations.” (HINT!)

“Plans to invest in increasing recycling/pursuing the option of exporting Guernsey’s waste have been approved”
HKG ENB officials were impressed with NIMBY incineration method in Sweden- which imports trash to burn to keep its incinerators operational, then it ships the toxic ash back to the trash origin.
In HKG’s case, we are repeatedly told our landfills are almost full. Yet we have no source separation of waste legislation, we have no Govt organised collection of voluntarily separated recyclables o/s housing estates, our alleged recycling figures are ‘cooked’ as revealed when Operation Green Fence stranded imported transit trash ‘recycling stats’ intended for China,here.
So our Govt will have to beg for the building of HKG’s own ‘Pulau Semakau’ island in the sea as the new ash lagoons. Unlike Singapore, HKG is in a typhoon area & no doubt the future super typhoons will wash everything into the sea.
Great thinking – NOT.

Airport Authority’s fixation with third runway is blinding it to other options

Thursday, 28 August, 2014

Albert Cheng says more feasible ways to reduce airspace congestion must be considered, not least because of the hefty costs of airport expansion

Over the years, the Airport Authority has been funding research and more research to legitimise its claim that Hong Kong needs a third runway. The findings have boiled down to a single conclusion – that the proposed three-runway system is environmentally acceptable and economically indispensable.

Another such report – an environmental impact assessment – was submitted to a subcommittee of the Advisory Council on the Environment for endorsement earlier this month. In a nutshell, the document concludes that mitigation measures can limit the potential damage to the environment to within permissible levels.

This is what sociologists refer to as “instrumental rationality” in action. It is all about finding ways to achieve one’s defined goals with the available resources, whether or not the goal is worth the cost.

Thus, a person who believes he is a dog might be considered instrumentally rational as long as he acts in accordance with canine beliefs and desires. If he’s got his eye on a bone for lunch, he would yap and howl in order to get it.

The third runway is the metaphorical bone for the Airport Authority. To the exclusion of other considerations, it has convinced itself that a third runway is the only way to keep Hong Kong vibrant as an aviation hub. The feasibility studies – economic, technical and environmental – are just a means to that preconceived end.

The authority’s latest bark came in the form of its environmental report.

Green groups have dismissed the assessment as a whitewash. More importantly, members of the council’s subcommittee were sceptical, too.

In particular, they voiced doubts that the Chinese white dolphins, which would be displaced during construction, would come back to a new marine park as claimed.

After three days of deliberation, the panel withheld its recommendations. Members said the report lacked hard data to substantiate its claims that the environmental impact would be acceptable.

This should be a wake-up call for the authority.

Environmentalists say there are alternative ways to solve the supposed congestion at Chek Lap Kok.

Green Sense’s Roy Tam Hoi-pong noted that the Chinese military required flights leaving Chek Lap Kok to enter mainland airspace at a minimum height of 4,800 metres. To do this, planes from Hong Kong have to first head south and fly in circles to climb to that altitude, wasting up to 20 minutes of flight time. The reverse applies for flights landing in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong’s existing two runways are designed to accommodate between 82 and 86 flights an hour. The tally actually achieved is fewer than that, thanks to this “sky wall”.

What Tam did not point out was that, whatever the military requirement, there is a stronger reason why careful coordination is necessary : the Hong Kong and Shenzhen runways are positioned close by, at right angles to one another.

During the economic slowdown in the wake of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, the Shenzhen airport was looking for buyers. Some Hong Kong businessmen were serious about acquiring the facility. Unfortunately, the Hong Kong authorities sat on their hands and failed to help the businessmen clinch a deal. The window of opportunity was lost.

If both Chek Lap Kok and Shenzhen were under the same command, aircraft movements could be more easily coordinated, within one large airspace rather than the two disparate ones now.

The authority’s executive director for corporate development, Wilson Fung Wing-yip, told the press that once the third runway was operational, the sky wall problem would be solved. But he did not spell out how.

He has put the cart before the horse. If the Hong Kong authorities can be more determined in dismantling this invisible barrier, taxpayers will not have to foot an estimated bill of some HK$200 billion for an additional runway.

This should be a big enough economic incentive to demand that our negotiators try harder.

Could we pay off Shenzhen with that amount to ask them to move their airport to a location where the sky wall will no longer be relevant to us? This is, of course, a long shot.

The former head of the Observatory, Lam Chiu-ying, suggested a more realistic solution. He argues that the airport’s capacity can be markedly improved by allowing the use of more wide-body planes.

Building on that premise, we can follow the practice of other advanced economies, whereby priority is given to bigger aircraft. The remaining capacity can then be auctioned to smaller planes. This can boost efficiency and raise revenues.

We may eventually need a third runway decades down the road. Meanwhile, we don’t need to act like a dog.

Approval for Invergordon waste incinerator quashed

Mohamed Al Fayed Mohamed Al Fayed opposed the incinerator

A decision to approve plans for a controversial £43m waste incinerator in Invergordon has been quashed following a legal challenge.

Combined Power and Heat (Highlands) was given the go-ahead in November 2012 following a public inquiry.

Highland Council and former Harrods boss Mohamed Al Fayed’s Ross Estates challenged the decision.

Judges have now ruled that the inquiry must be re-opened, but only deal with the issue of what waste is handled.

Mr Al Fayed has spoken out in the past against the incinerator.

Lawyers for both the local authority and the businessman’s Ross Estates had argued that the entire case should be heard again by a public inquiry.

But the Lord President, Lord Gill, who heard the appeal at the Court of Session in Edinburgh with Lord Menzies and Lord Clarke, took the view that was “unnecessary”.

The judges ruled that a condition allowing the plant to accept a maximum of 100,000 tonnes of non-hazardous waste from within the Highland Council area, but also some from outside the region, should be examined by a public inquiry.

The condition was one of 16 attached to planning consent granted by a Scottish government planning reporter two years ago.

Combined Power and Heat (Highlands) has offered to place a restriction on the waste, but judges said opponents to the scheme should be given a fair chance to make submissions.

Highland Council has welcomed the ruling.

Councillor Maxine Smith said: “I am delighted that we have the opportunity to go back to inquiry to argue that planning permission should be refused.

“This incinerator is not wanted in Invergordon by the majority of people living here.”

Councillor Martin Rattray added: “I think this is a positive outcome and I am sure the community will welcome this as they have worked so hard and fought with such enthusiasm.”

28 August 2014

State approves tax incentives for $193 million Pike County project to turn natural gas into synthetic fuel

Would create 30 full-time jobs paying average hourly wages of $34.16

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Aug. 28, 2014) — Pike County could soon be the location of a $193 million synthetic oil production facility with estimated production of 1,700 barrels a day. Kentucky economic development assistance program  officials in Frankfort today game preliminary approval for $18 million in tax incentives to RCC Big Shoal LLC.

RCC BigShoal is a newly formed company that has developed technology to convert natural gas to synthetic diesel fuel, synthetic base oils and lubricant oils, and synthetic naphtha, according to information presented this morning at the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority’s monthly meeting.

The KEDFA board must approve tax incentive packages that private sector companies negotiate with the state Cabinet for Economic Development under its portfolio of programs. Companies lower their future tax bills for state and local taxes if they fulfill commitments to invest in Kentucky and/or hire state residents.

The project would create 30 full-time jobs paying average hourly wages of $34.16, which does not include benefits. Pike County’s most recent unemployment rate was 12.2 percent, much higher than the state average of 7.5 percent. Information presented at today’s KEDFA board meeting did not list a possible start date for the Pike County project.

RCL Chemical Conversion LLC is listed as owning at least 20 percent of RCC Big Shoal, which could receive state tax breaks through the cabinet’s Incentives for Energy Independence Act program, which the General Assembly enacted in 2007. IEIA incents companies that make or sell non-fossil fuel and alternative energy products, including transportation fuel; products created from coal or biomass; and alternative power generation.

David L. Farmer, president and CEO of RCL Chemical, is the principal of RCC Big Shoal, which filed Kentucky papers in mid-February, according to Farmer previously led construction, startup and operation of the world’s largest commercial scale chemical plasma gasification plant at Dow Corning’s Midland, Mich., facility.

According to the website of RCL Chemical Conversion, which is incorporated in Delaware, its gas-to-liquids technology is the “commercial solution for marketing remote U.S. natural gas reserves and the oversupply of ethane.”

It is pursuing modular GTL opportunities for remote and smaller gas fields where scale has been a limiting factor. Estimates are that less than 10 percent of the world’s gas fields are capable of sustaining a 10,000 barrels per day facility, according to RCL Chemical Conversion’s website.

“However, scaling down to a 2,000 bpd production range is estimated to open 70 percent of the world’s gas fields to economic viability,” it states. “Hence, approximately 30 years of energy independence immediately derived from the U.S.A’s newfound and now procurable natural gas reserves.

Eastern Kentucky’s shale gas reserves could fit that scaled-down model.

Kentucky shale gas activity that rose with the development of hydraulic fracturing techniques has fallen off the past few years in favor more easily worked and more productive plays in the Marcellus Shale formation under Pennsylvania, West Virginia and eastern Ohio. In addition to its Devonian Shale assets, Kentucky is on multiple major gas transmission pipeline routes running between the nation’s main energy processing cluster on the Gulf Coast and the prime consumption markets in the Northeast corridor.

The proposed Pike County project meets IEIA statue conditions, according to the state’s Department of Energy Development and Independence, and the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research. Kentucky’s Department of Revenue reported to KEDFA that RCC Big Shoal is in good standing.

Zero Waste Week: a challenge to send nothing to landfill

Rachelle Strauss

Wednesday 27 August 2014

“Pass to all emergency services. This is a major incident. I repeat; this is a major incident. We require all standby aircraft available, and all available land-based emergency crews as we are in danger of losing Boscastle and all the people in it.”

That was the message to RAF Kinloss Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre (ARCC) from Capt Pete McLelland (Royal Marines) flying above Boscastle, on 16 August 2004. On that day one of Britain’s worst rainstorms was unleashed on the hills above Boscastle, and I was standing in the village holding my three-year-old daughter in my arms. It’s a strange thing when you wonder whether you’ll ever see your husband alive again. Weird thoughts go through your head. My thoughts seemed quite logical – I believed, rightly or wrongly, that everything I’d read about climate change was happening. Not in 50 years’ time, but now. And in that moment, I decided to be part of the solution – for my daughter’s sake.

Boscastle floods

Emergency workers search a house in Boscastle, two days after the flood caused devastation, sweeping away cars and buildings. Photograph: John D McHugh/AP

According to The Story of Stuff, only 1% of the items we buy are still in use six months after they are bought. All the latest gadgets we can’t live without, the tools that promise to make our lives easier, the so-called must-have thing that guarantees us to be more popular/sexy/healthy – the majority of them end up in landfill in under a year.

We generate around 177m tons of waste every year in England alone. This poor use of resources costs businesses and households money and causes environmental damage.

And while it can be a depressing picture if we dwell there too long; I’m all about being part of the solution. A few years after the Boscastle floods, I decided to reduce the amount of waste I send to landfill. I’d seen people’s livelihoods washed out to sea and it made me realise that I wanted to make better use of the resources I had. I started a blog about reducing my waste to keep myself accountable. But every day, people from across the world tuned in to see what I’d found in the back of my fridge or hiding in the attic. And most importantly – what I was going to do about it.

A few months after I started blogging, a fellow waste geek, Karen Cannard from the Rubbish Diet, challenged me to have my own zero waste week. I asked my readers to join in to keep me company and 100 people signed up. At the end of the week I was inundated with emails telling me what fun people had, and now that it was over they intended to keep new habits in place – and so the annual Zero Waste Week campaign was born.

Rachelle Strauss' zero waste week

This year’s Zero Waste Week asks you what ‘one more thing’ can you do to reduce your household waste. Photograph: Claire Holgate

The growth of the campaign over the past seven years has been beyond amazing. What started off as a few individual householders has now grown into several thousand, with small and large businesses signing up, local authorities and large corporations all pledging to make a difference.

Zero Waste Week (1-7 September 2014) is predominantly a social media campaign. People sign up to the mailing list with their email address and pledge. Every year has a theme and this year’s is “One More Thing” in answer to the question: “What one more thing could you do to reduce landfill waste?” If you’re new to this, perhaps you’ll say no to disposable carrier bags and start using a reusable one. If you’ve been reducing waste for a while maybe it’s time to swap a disposable product for a reusable one. And if you’re a bit of a rubbish geek already, you could have your very own zero waste week with the aim of sending nothing at all to landfill. It’s an intense week. I like to think of it as a boot camp for bins – where size zero is acceptable.

I spent a year showing that you could send almost nothing to landfill – we filled just one old fashioned dustbin in 2009 – and now I just do my best, working in more of an advisory role and encouraging others to grab the zero waste baton. After all, it has much more impact if every household and business reduces their waste by a tenth than one household who go to the nth degree. Zero Waste Week applies to me the same way as to others – it gives me the opportunity to stop and think about my choices over the past year and make a commitment to get good habits back in place.