Environmental news, good or bad, especially when it’s local, tends to grab my attention, so I was eager to read the report in this paper of the Jan. 26 tanker truck rollover along Route 6 in Delmar Township. According to the state Department of Environmental Protection, the liquid in the tanker was something called “produced water,” characterized as “a naturally-occurring, high-salinity water that is a byproduct returned to the surface through the natural gas drilling process.”

I’m not sure how water can be “produced” and also “naturally-occurring,” and I’m also curious about the potential of “contamination from various metals and chloride that are naturally contained in the produced water.” Conflicted terminology aside, I was somewhat encouraged to see the amount of resources over the course of several days that were devoted to removing the 3,000-plus gallons of naturally-occurring, produced water from this region of the Marsh Creek watershed, which, just as a BTW, is adjacent to the much-touted rail-trail, feeds Pine Creek and serves as habitat for many species of birds, including bald eagles, as well as other living things.

People, too.

In the same issue there was a Department of Conservation and Natural Resources press release about policy changes related to ATV trails on public land. The existing DCNR policy has a moratorium on new trail development, but now there will be discussions about new trails and “connectors on state forest lands” and about how DCNR might “enhance motorized recreation in Pennsylvania.”

I was kind of amused to read that there had been a survey of ATV users asking for, among other things, their views on recreational opportunities. Not surprisingly the responders indicated “a strong desire” for more trails, longer trails, more interconnected trails and access to secondary roads.

The survey, in my opinion, was somewhat self-serving, It would be like LCB polling state store patrons: Do you want more access to more kinds of alcohol, or less?

A sentence in the executive summary says it all: “…there are a large number of ATV riders in the state, paying registration fees for their machines and desiring more opportunities to ride.” I’m sure that’s the case, but it’s not the taxpayers’ or DCNR’s obligation to provide more of those opportunities. Since when is it DCNR’s job to promote fossil fuel consumption and noise pollution?

There are already more than 200 miles of ATV trails in state forests, many townships have adopted a shared use policy that permits licensed ATV riding on their roads and riders wanting more opportunities can ask permission from private property owners for access to their land.

At least the state is taking comments. The deadline to submit written comments regarding possible changes to ATV trail use and increase is March 27. You can read the study at the DCNR website. It’s long but interesting.

There is a little good news from the environmental front, however. As of Jan. 27, the Wegmans stores in New York will no longer pack groceries in single-use plastic bags. You bring your own bags to the store (and don’t bother trying to sneak in your old single-use bags from your bottom-of-the-cupboard overflowing bag of bags) or you pay for paper bags. Statewide (New York), a ban on single use plastic bags takes effect March 1.

Now there is some debate over whether those single use plastic bags are more or less environmentally damaging than paper. It depends in part on who you ask, just like the DCNR survey on ATV trails, and the results you want. And personally I don’t want to think about the carbon footprint of reusable totes, made in some faraway factory under dodgy conditions, shipped here and then proclaimed to be environmentally friendly.

Nobody has to go that route, however. You can make your own reusable, washable, tote out of a pillowcase that you can buy for next to nothing at Goodwill or the NTCH or a yard sale. No paper, no plastic, just percale with a new purpose.

Gayle Morrow wears several different hats, depending on the day and the need, but mostly she just thinks too much. She has been sharing her opinions in this space off and on since 1988.