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: WIP

War on Rural Maryland?

Over the past year or so the phrase “war on rural Maryland” has appeared with increasing frequency in articles relating to environmental issues in the Chesapeake watershed. At first, it seemed like the work of lobbyists for developers opposed to smart growth restrictions on the destruction of forests and farmland for suburban sprawl. Then it was taken up by the public relations machine of poultry factories defending against charges of damaging Eastern Shore rivers with chicken manure. Now there is evidence that the war on rural Maryland is, at least in part, an element of a deceptive marketing campaign by an avaricious law firm.

On September 20, 2012, an attorney with the firm wrote to the Kent County Commissioners seeking engagement of the firm to represent the county in a “multi-pronged strategy to address the shortcomings of the various mandates and programs billed as Bay restoration actions…” One prong is possible litigation against the Environmental Protection Agency to invalidate parts of the bay wide “pollution diet”, or TMDL, that result in the requirement that counties take measures to reduce nutrient and sediment pollution.

It has been reported that the law firm has made similar solicitations to other Maryland counties and has quoted a fee of $30,000 per county.

The solicitation asserts that counties should be relieved of their pollution reduction obligations under the TMDL because pollution spilling over the Conowingo dam on the Susquehanna River “significantly eclipses [nutrient and sediment pollution] from all Maryland sources.”  The firm relies on a federal report issued in August that shows that pollution passing over the dam is somewhat greater than that predicted and incorporated in the pollution models that support the TMDL process, particularly following major storms. The firm’s assertion that pollution from the dam eclipses all Maryland sources is so at odds with the conclusions of the report that it is either intentionally or recklessly misleading. The author of the report has repudiated the law firm’s misuse of the report.

Moreover, the law firm’s suggestion that the TMDL obligations of counties to reduce pollution should be voided because there are other, larger polluters is ridiculous. It is like telling the judge that your speeding ticket should be torn up because other speeders were going faster than you.

The costs of reversing the degradation of our rivers, streams and the bay are significant and will require sacrifices from all counties, urban and rural. We need to work together to find more cost-effective ways to reduce pollution, including pollution from the Conowingo dam. Driving a wedge between urban and rural counties by promoting a culture of victimhood will hurt that effort.

The citizens and voters of the rural counties will decide for themselves whether they want to buy into the war on rural Maryland. My reaction to the law firm’s letter would not be to pick up my gun but to hold onto my wallet.

You can read the law firm’s solicitation and the federal report at these links: Funk & Bolton letter; and http://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2012/5185/pdf/sir2012-5185-508.pdf.

 

Bob Gallagher

Shady Side, MD

The Session of the Bay

(Posted by Erik Michelsen)

In preparing for the 2012 Maryland Legislative session, the memories of largely unproductive sessions for the environment in 2010 and 2011 were very fresh. The combined environmental community – the Clean Water, Healthy Families coalition – resolved to be more focused, to pursue a direct request of legislators, and to focus on goals that would have a measurable impact on improving water quality. Continue Reading

Va. Rep. Goodlatte Aims to Quash Bay Cleanup

(Posted by Dawn Stoltzfus.)

As has been rumored for many months — yesterday Virginia Congressman Bob Goodlatte introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives that would undercut the clean water act and essentially quash the multi-state Chesapeake Bay “TMDL” pollution diet cleanup process. This would be devastating, as many Bay scientists and advocates are hopeful that the TMDL and each State’s Watershed Implementation Plans could finally provide a solution to making our waters, and the Bay, fishable and swimmable again. Continue Reading

Nutrient Trading, Poultry Farms and Planetary Finitude

(Posted by Stuart Clarke)

(This is the seventh 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?

The Town Creek Foundation will be spending out our endowment and closing our doors in the next ten years. As we approach our sunset, we are working to blend our concern with achieving tangible progress restoring the Chesapeake Bay with our desire to help catalyze the systemic transformations necessary to make that progress sustainable.

We believe that Maryland’s efforts to restore the Bay have evolved to the point where a special window of opportunity has opened for substantial progress. With the Chesapeake Bay TMDL and the Watershed Implementation Plan process, Maryland has established clear goals, an ambitious timetable, and reasonably robust planning processes. Much work remains to be done to sustain this effort where it is strong and to strengthen it where it is weak, and over the next ten years we will be investing in this work.Continue Reading

Change You Must Believe In

(This is the second in a 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.)

(Posted by Doug Siglin.)

What's It Going to Take? The New York Times’ Leslie Kaufman recently reported that in the wake of Congress’ failure to enact carbon-limiting climate change legislation, several national environmental organizations are changing tactics. She wrote: “On the strategy front… a three-prong approach is emerging: fight global warming by focusing on immediate, local concerns; reinvigorate the grass roots through social media and street protests; and renew an emphasis on influencing elections.”

I hope she’s right, although with a couple of exceptions, I don’t yet see much evidence that national groups are really moving in the direction of the locally oriented political work that Kaufman cites.
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Partnering for a Clean Bay: Providing Locals the Necessary Resources to Achieve Success

(Posted by Brenton McCloskey)

It takes the dedication and hard work of communities, businesses, individuals and – most of all, committed partnerships – to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. With the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) prescribed “pollution diet” mandating new reductions in the Bay watershed, partnerships are essential now more than ever.  In order to meet the EPA’s target date to improve the Bay by 2025, the combined efforts of these concerned citizens and organizations is essential to successfully fulfilling these goals.

Local governments have been asked by the State, via federal mandates, to submit individual Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) to meet local water quality goals. With the EPA requirements on a fast-track, it is important that Maryland maximize its available resources to ensure the Bay is healthy and economically viable now and into the future.
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