American Farm Bureau Road Apples

As Bay Daily readers no doubt know, the national farm lobby has gone to court to oppose the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, the federal-state plan to restore the Bay (in EPA-speak, the Bay Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL).

In recently published reports, American Farm Bureau Federation attorney Ellen Steen contends, “Our appeal has nothing to do with stopping the ongoing work of restoring the Chesapeake Bay. We are fighting to preserve the careful balance of federal versus state and local power that Congress built into the Clean Water Act.

“It’s not about whether EPA can set a total pollutant load – it’s about whether EPA can dictate which land can be farmed, or where homes, schools and roads can be built. Those who claim otherwise are either failing to read our court papers or are intentionally misleading the public.”

A few weeks ago, the Farm Bureau recruited the attorneys general from 21 states across the country to jump on the bandwagon to fight the Bay cleanup. One of them, the Florida attorney general, echoed Steen’s claim about EPA in a recent op-ed in The Florida Times-Union newspaper:

“The best way to serve the cause of environmental protection is to recognize the states’ authority and be vigilant about EPA overreach. This brief is not about whether to protect the environment; it is about defending the role Congress gave states in protecting their own widely varying environments. I will remain steadfast in my efforts to stop the federal government from exceeding its authority and infringing on our rights.”

Bay Daily is here to say…BUNK!

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Midwestern Clean Water Advocates Rally in Defense of the Chesapeake Bay

Chicago skyline ALLIANCE FOR THE GREAT LAKESClean water advocates across the country are rallying in support of the Chesapeake Bay cleanup effort, which is under attack by lawyers for the agricultural industry and their allies.

The Chicago-based Alliance for the Great Lakes, the Ohio Environmental Council, the Lake Erie Waterkeeper, and the Sierra Club are the most recent organizations to express their support for EPA pollution limits for the Chesapeake Bay and the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.

The EPA pollution limits have been challenged in federal court by the American Farm Bureau Federation, which recruited 21 state Attorneys General -– including in Michigan, Indiana, and Texas -– to join the fertilizer industry, developers, and others in a national crusade against pollution limits.  The opponents of the Chesapeake cleanup plan argue that the federal government should not be involved in setting pollution limits, and instead leave such issues to the states. “If this (Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan) is left to stand, other watersheds... could be next,” the opponents wrote in a court brief.

Lyman Welch, a director of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, said in a press release this week (February 25) that EPA’s collaboration with the Chesapeake Bay region states in setting pollution limits and creating a cleanup plan should be praised, not challenged in court.  He suggested that EPA should set similar pollution limits for Lake Erie, for example.

“When pollution crosses state lines, threatens drinking water and chases people away from the lakes, a partnership of states and EPA only makes sense,” Welch said.

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We’re All Downstream

The massive coal ash spill in North Carolina’s Dan River earlier this month is a dramatic demonstration that environmental pollution doesn’t confine itself to state borders. That’s a hard lesson that Danville and other Virginia localities are learning firsthand.

According to news reports, a pipe running under a coal ash pond collapsed at Duke Energy’s Dan River Steam Station in North Carolina on Feb. 2 and spilled up to 82,000 tons of coal ash mixed with 27 million gallons of contaminated water into the Dan River. The Dan flows north out of the Tar Heel state into Virginia, where it provides drinking water for Danville and other communities down river.

The full impact of the North Carolina spill on Virginians is still not known, but already the incident has sparked great concern in localities dependent upon the Dan for water, prompted more time and money on water quality testing, launched investigations by Virginia and federal environmental officials, and engaged Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who has said his office is closely following events.

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Maryland's Clean Energy Law is Liquored Up and Needs a Dose of Sobriety

Black liquor banner CCANTen years ago, the Maryland General Assembly passed a clean energy law called the “Renewable Portfolio Standard.”  It requires home owners and businesses across the state to pay a little bit more on their electric bills to subsidize the creation of  renewable energy.

The law has a virtuous goal: to boost the percentage of the state’s energy generated in environmentally friendly ways from 10 percent today, to 20 percent by the year 2022.

But lawmakers included a loophole at the request of lobbyists for the paper industry.  An industrial wood waste product –- a tar-like liquid called “black liquor” -- was included in the language of the bill as qualifying renewable energy source.

As a result, today, the single largest recipient of these clean energy subsidies is not wind farms or companies with solar panels on their roofs -- but out of state paper mills.   About 45 percent of the Maryland’s renewable energy credits last year went to subsidize the burning of black liquor and wood waste, according to a 2013 report from the Maryland Public Service Commission.  That’s  triple the financial support the program gave to wind power and solar power, combined.

Oddly, the paper mills didn’t have to invest in any new technologies to receive millions of dollars a year in subsidies from Maryland rate payers.  The burning of this tar-like liquid to generate electricity at has been a standard procedure at paper mills for decades.

“It is one of the most offensive subsidies to polluting companies in all of America,” said Mike Tidwell is director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “It is flat out an inappropriate polar opposite of what clean electricity standards are all about.”

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Maryland Governor Stands up to Texas, Florida, and Other Opponents of the Chesapeake Bay Cleanup

Governor O'Malley at Mount Vernon event CBFBravo to Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley for standing up to defend the Chesapeake Bay cleanup, even as 21 states take legal action to try to stop it.

On February 3, Attorneys General for the 21 states, many in the in the Midwest and South, joined the American Farm Bureau Federation and development industry lobbyists in their legal appeal of EPA pollution limits for the Chesapeake Bay and the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.   The opponents are worried that if the Bay pollution limits are successful they might have to reduce their pollution, too.

Governor O’Malley, chair of a regional alliance called the Chesapeake Executive Council, responded by calling on all of the member states to join Maryland in supporting EPA in court.   “As we continue to make great strides in restoring and protecting the Chesapeake Bay, it is critical that we protect our hard-won progress,” O’Malley said. “As a result, I have asked the Attorney General to submit an amicus brief to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in support of the Environmental Protection Agency's defense of the Chesapeake Bay (Clean Water Blueprint).”

In December 2010, EPA created pollution limits for the Chesapeake Bay after two voluntary agreements between the regional states (in 1987 and 2000) failed to make adequate progress toward restoring the health of the nation’s largest estuary.

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The Miraculous Return of an "Evil" Fishing Bird

CormorantEPADouble-crested cormorants are an ancient and peculiar-looking fishing bird -– with black feathers, long, snake like necks, webbed feet, and hooked beaks.

They often have a pair of shaggy tufts -– double crests -– on their heads that make them look like disheveled professors. They nest in colonies, and sing in grunts that sound more like the calls of pigs or toads than birds.

Around the Chesapeake Bay, you may have seen cormorants standing on pilings in their trademark pose: with their black wings held out sideways, to dry in the sun.

It is this vampire-like posture –- and the fact that cormorants eat fish -– that has made the birds hated by fishermen and misunderstood for centuries. Long a symbol of bad luck and evil in Western literature and myth, cormorants have been persecuted and slaughtered by fishermen and even governments, according to a new book called The Devil’s Cormorant by Richard J. King.

“It’s really interesting to see how far back it goes, this sort of anti-cormorant feeling in literature and art,” King said in an interview. “Milton famously had Satan sitting like a cormorant on the tree of life. Shakespeare uses cormorant imagery four times in his plays. And in Shakespeare’s time, being ‘cormorous’ meant being greedy or insatiable.”

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Landscaping with Nature, Va. Bank Reduces Runoff, Boosts Business

Photo 4 for chuck
More than a decade ago, Union First Market Bank had purchased an abandoned lot on Barracks Road in Charlottesville, Va., and was building a new bank branch on the site.

The landscape architect for the project, Eugene Ryang, could have offered a variety of site designs to bank executives, including a conventional plan that stripped out most trees, flattened the earth, piped and buried a stream on the property, and paved much of the lot for parking (below right). Bank Design and Images 2

But Ryang pitched an alternative, low-impact design he calls “eco-revelatory” landscaping – a plan that preserves the natural contours and features of the land and seeks to inspire visitors by revealing the ecology and aesthetics of nature.

Fortunately for all concerned, Union First Market executive Rod Gentry and bank President John Neal opted for trees over asphalt. There was really never any doubt.

“I grew up in Charlottesville and used to hunt in the woods where Barracks Road is now,” Gentry says. “And I’ve been an amateur naturalist my whole life. As a kid I used to collect snakes. I’ve always had a deep and abiding interest in wildlife.

“I was thinking this site could be a little pocket park with a bank on it. But it would never have been possible without John Neal’s enthusiastic support. He’s a lifelong outdoorsman. He said, ‘Let’s do it.’”

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Florida Attorney General Joins Legal Battle to Stop Chesapeake Bay Cleanup

Pam Bondi FL AGHey, Florida! You worry about the Everglades. Let us clean up the Chesapeake Bay.

Florida Attorney General Pamela Jo Bondi (pictured at left) cast a cloud over the sunshine state last week. She joined with 20 other state Attorneys General across the country in filing a brief to support the American Farm Bureau, the Fertilizer Institute, and their allies in a legal appeal to overturn EPA pollution limits for the Chesapeake Bay.

Their reason for involving themselves in a lawsuit so far from their own borders? These states (which include Texas, Alaska, and Kansas) worry that if the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Chesapeake Bay region states are successful in their cooperative effort to implement the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, these other states might have to reduce their pollution, too.

That sounds more like a promise than a threat. But the folks driving this campaign against clean water are anti-regulatory and anti-EPA. Apparently, they think that even the moderate, science-based, collaborative approach being used so successfully in the Chesapeake Bay region is a threat to their comfortable status quo. Therefore, these opponents have concluded the Chesapeake Bay cleanup must be stopped before it spreads to other regions, including the huge Mississippi River drainage area.

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Runoff Bills Trapped, Filtered in Virginia

DSC_0025Some good clean water news from Virginia’s General Assembly.

This week, legislation advancing runoff pollution efforts in Virginia was passed overwhelmingly by the state’s House of Delegates and cleared a major state Senate committee. While a few issues are still to be resolved, most believe the measure will be approved by the full Senate and signed into law by Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

That would be a solid victory for clean water and the Chesapeake Bay. The bill represents a compromise among conservation groups, developers, and local governments about how best to implement new state runoff pollution standards. The new, tougher standards were adopted by Virginia several years ago but have been delayed multiple times.

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"Keep the Weed Killer Out of My Crab Cakes"

Runoff Kirsta Schlyer ILCP.jpgAn advertising and You Tube battle has erupted over pollution control fees in Maryland. 

On one side is this radio ad.  “Keep the weed killer out of my crab cakes,” Baltimore-based singer Matt Hutchison sings in the ad.   “Motor oil out of my rockfish.  Fertilizer out of my flounder.  That'd make a hideous dish.”

The ad was produced by the Clean Water, Healthy Families Coalition and Annapolis-based Flying Brick Radio, and is airing on radio stations in Baltimore, Annapolis, and Washington.  The goal is to convince the Maryland General Assembly to vote against bills that would overturn the state’s 2012 stormwater runoff pollution control law.  That law is under attack by some anti-tax activists because it requires the state’s 9 largest counties and Baltimore city to collect runoff pollution control fees.

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