After decades of effort, the voluntary, collaborative approach to restoring the health and vitality of the Chesapeake Bay— the largest estuary in the United States—has not worked and, in fact, is failing. A diverse group of 57 senior scientists and policymakers have joined forces to save the Bay. This is our plan.

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Category Archives: Riverkeeper

Perdue’s PR Campaign of Deceit

(Posted by Bob Gallagher)

A group of legislators, following a script conceived by the public relations machine of Perdue and the Maryland Farm Bureau, have joined in Perdue’s unprecedented effort to derail an environmental lawsuit that has singular importance for the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The effort is unprecedented in the extent to which Perdue and its enablers are attempting to use the media and the political process to win a case that they have as yet been unable to win in court. Here is the story.

The Waterkeeper Alliance, working with the Assateague Coastkeeper, filed suit against Perdue and one of its contract chickens growers. The suit alleges that Perdue and the contractor, Hudson Farm, polluted the Pocomoke River with chicken waste in violation of the Clean Water Act (CWA).

Waterkeeper Alliance is a community supported organization that operates on a tight budget. It has thousands of supporters in Maryland. It makes extensive use of volunteers and public interest lawyers who work without charge. In this case, it is represented by the student lawyers of the University of Maryland School of Law’s highly regarded Environmental Law Clinic. The Alliance has worked with the Clinic in other cases to stop pollution of our rivers, to protect public health and to protect marine-related jobs and economic activity.

Represented by one of the biggest law firms in Baltimore, Perdue asked the court to dismiss the case as flawed at its inception. The distinguished senior judge hearing the case denied the motion. Perdue’s lawyers then unleashed a blizzard of paperwork on WKA and its lawyers apparently hoping to wear them down in the legal “discovery” process. That didn’t work either. It just made the young law students want to work harder.

Next Perdue filed a motion for summary judgment. That means judgment without a trial. They filed with the court thousands of pages of documents and transcripts of testimony of expert and other witnesses. The judge ruled that all they managed to prove was that the case was sufficiently complicated that it could only be decided after a trial.

From the beginning of the case, Perdue has been very uncomfortable with the idea that this case will be decided by an impartial, independent judge applying the rule of law. Recently, Perdue’s preference for trying the case in the court of public opinion became apparent. It launched a slick website called SAVEFARMFAMILIES. The website was created for Perdue by Levick Strategic Communications. Levick specializes in “crisis” and “high stakes” communications. Its website invites potential clients to hire it to “drive the narrative.” Levick has planted articles, spinning the facts to match Perdue’s objectives, in media across the Eastern Shore, rural Maryland and elsewhere.

On March 14, 2012, the Appropriations Committee of the Maryland House of Delegates held a hearing on House Bill 1349. The bill appears to be the latest sortie in the Perdue/Farm Bureau strategy. Introduced by an Eastern Shore delegate with the zeal of a carnival barker, the bill would punish the University of Maryland for the Law Clinic’s participation in the case by requiring the University to reimburse Hudson’s legal expenses, even if the Court finds Hudson guilty of violating pollution laws.

The delegate’s opening gambit in support of the bill was screening a video portraying the case as being about a rich, foreign organization on a subversive campaign to bankrupt family farmers. The video is expensively produced and professionally narrated.

The delegate used the video to incite a handful of other delegates to threaten the Clinic with dire consequences if it does not withdraw from the case. The website and video have created a backlash of public opinion against the Alliance and the Clinic in some segments of the farm community.

One of the reasons that, in a democracy, we entrust resolution of significant disputes to an independent judiciary applying an objective rule of law is that judges are trained and ethically bound to seek the truth and apply the law fairly. The court of public opinion has no such constraints. In the court of public opinion, the person with the most money often wins.

One of the most insidious aspects of the Perdue/Farm Bureau strategy is that it also entices our legislators to make their own judgment on the case based on the “facts” presented by Perdue’s public relations machine. The video, like the website, is a layer cake of deceit – one layer of sticky sweet lies upon another. Many of the lies are apparent from a review of readily available public documents. But, the point of this piece is not to point out each lie. The truth is for the court to determine.

It is apparent from Perdue’s actions that it desperately wants to avoid a court ruling in the case. That might be because a ruling against Perdue could make Perdue responsible not only for its waste from the Hudson farm but from its many other contract growers.

Trial in the case will proceed if the case cannot be settled in mediation. The Law Clinic has made it clear that, even in the face of intense criticism, its fledgling lawyers will continue to meet their ethical responsibility to represent their clients to the best of their ability.

It won’t surprise many readers that a number of the people involved in the effort to stop the Perdue litigation are also behind the effort to delegitimize proposals to reign in sprawl and pollution from septic systems as a “war on rural Maryland.” I suggest that some of those people could learn something about civic duty from the law students.

It’s Time to Put Up or Shut Up

(Posted by Chris Trumbauer Anne Arundel County Councilman

(This is fifth in an ongoing series of posts on What’s It Going to Take?: A look at how the environmental community can regain the initiative and build the political will necessary to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.)
Whats It Going to Take?

If your family is like mine, the struggling economy is making every household economical decision a critical one. I cringed when I got my latest fuel oil bill and turned the thermostat down a couple of degrees to try and lessen the pain of the next bill. My wife and I both own fuel-efficient cars, but we still restrict driving as much as possible to delay filling up our tank as long as we can. Like many families, we are putting off important purchases, hoping to get a little more time out of a pair of shoes or a winter coat.

None of this, however, dampens my strong desire for clean water and healthy air. Pollution is pollution whether it contaminates our environment in a recession, or in an economic boom.
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Worcester County Commissioners Kick the Clean Water Can Down the Road

(Posted by Kathy Phillips.)

In an extremely disappointing move, the Worcester County Commissioners have failed to take some very simple steps to protect our local waterways while contributing to state-wide efforts to save the Chesapeake Bay.

At the Worcester County Commissioners December 6th regular meeting, the County Commissioners threw out the Phase II Watershed Implementation Plan documents that county staff had spent months preparing and voted 6-1 not to submit their plan to MDE by the December deadline. In fact, they intend to bury the document and “take their time” cooperating.
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Reducing Pollution and Improving Communities in Anne Arundel County

(Posted by Chris Trumbauer

Last month, I introduced, along with County Council Chairman Dick Ladd, bipartisan legislation(Bill 79-11) to create a dedicated funding source to reduce polluted stormwater runoff in Anne Arundel County, Maryland.

Our county has a strong attachment to our local waterways, as we have a large and vibrant recreation community, a robust maritime industry and over 500 miles of shoreline. I introduced this bill not just because I want clean rivers and streams and a healthy Chesapeake Bay – but because I care about where my family lives, works and plays. Cleaning up our polluted runoff will help make our waterways safer, and building this infrastructure to reduce pollution also greatly improves our communities.Continue Reading

Foundation Among Critics of O’Malley’s Law Clinic Interference

(Posted by Jeanne McCann.)

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley’s attempt to get the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic to drop its water pollution case against Hudson Farm has drawn criticism from a long list of environmental, legal and news organizations. Joining the list is a somewhat unexpected institution – the Town Creek Foundation.

Foundations don’t regularly take public stands on policy, but in this case Town Creek has sent a letter to Dean Phoebe Haddon of the University of Maryland Law School expressing thanks for the Dean’s strong response to the governor and the foundation’s continued support for the law clinic’s work.Continue Reading

O’Malley Piles On

(Posted by Tom Horton.)

Governor Martin O’Malley presumably thinks he’s helping Maryland poultry growers and processors by pressuring the University of Maryland’s environmental law clinic to drop out of a lawsuit aimed at stopping chicken farms from polluting.

But the pollution is real, it’s substantial and it’s not going to get better until the governor and agricultural interests acknowledge we have a problem with too much poultry manure.Continue Reading