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November 2007
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January 2008

Saving the Bay from the Bench

Nanticoke_015_3 Excerpt of a Baltimore Sun Op/ed written by Kim Coble, Executive Director of CBF's Maryland Office.

When citizens want to change how the government protects the environment, they generally work toward changing legislation, regulations or government leaders. Rarely do people think about judges.

But they should.

Maryland's judges are thoughtful people whose primary experience is with criminal and business law. But they are often unaware or insufficiently educated about the environment and the laws meant to protect it. Too often, these judges do not have a fundamental understanding of the complexity and importance of our natural resources...Lacking a larger understanding, they can be overly sympathetic to claims that protecting our water, air and land should be subordinate to an individual's property rights...As a result, in recent years, we have seen cases in which the legislature had to go back and rewrite legislation to repair damage done to environmental laws through misinterpretation by the court system.

...The courts and other judicial institutions (as well as many local planning offices) have chosen to ignore the cumulative impact of the next shopping center, apartment complex or industrial park. Each case is reviewed independently, and thus the courts look only at the impact of just this "one" case: One parking lot. One gazebo. One bed of underwater grasses destroyed. One wetland lost.

It's an argument developers routinely deliver, with amazing success. But the cumulative effects of these "ones" is death by a thousand cuts for our environment, our rivers and streams, and our bay.

...Sadly, the cost of mounting a legal challenge to each case is beyond the financial ability of most citizens. And special-interest organizations, willing to act on behalf of concerned individuals, are rarely even allowed to appear because of an overly narrow interpretation of who has "standing" - that is, who has the right to appear before the board or court.

...Judges who respect our natural resources and the common good, who have a demonstrated record of protecting the public interest, can help preserve and restore the land, air and water that belong to all citizens.

Maryland has good environmental laws. They could be stronger, but even the strongest and most well-crafted laws are only as good as those who enforce them.

Read the complete Op/Ed here...and recommend it when you're done.


Bush administration abdicates responsibility to the Bay...again

On December 27, the folks in D.C. did it again. In the federal omnibus spending bill signed by President Bush on Thursday, the administration cut funding to programs critical to reducing pollution and restoring the Chesapeake Bay.

Seven years ago, federal and state governments pledged to Bay pollution reduction goals for 2010. At December's Chesapeake Executive Council meeting, Bay state governors promised to redouble their efforts to clean up the Bay by 2010. Watching our federal "partner" reduce its investments in programs that are working is more than frustrating--it feels criminal. Once again, the federal government is abdicating its responsibility to meet its commitments, enforce the Clean Water Act, and ensure the health and welfare of those who depend on clean water for their livelihood or recreational opportunities.


When the Bay's Health Earns a "D" Who Gets Grounded?

Sotb My kids bring their interim reports home from school this Friday, and I'm expecting to see a few low grades working their way a bit higher. I'm trying to get my son and daughter to understand that everything counts. Falling behind in the routine, like not turning in homework assignments, will torpedo their grades as surely as if they didn't prepare for a test. And not preparing for tests, regardless of how well they think they already know the subject matter, will inevitably come back to bite them.

202096 Unfortunately, another report came home today, and the grades didn't improve. CBF released its annual State of the Bay report, an index of 13 indicators of the Bay's health. This year the Bay brought home a disappointing grade of "D." Not a single indicator improved from last year, and three dropped still further. If my son brought that report card home he'd lose Playstation privileges for a month.

It's not just the grade. If my son or daughter is getting low grades because they are having difficulty with the subject I know that's something we can work on together. But if the grades reflect work that just isn't being done or effort that just isn't being exerted, that's unacceptable.

That's what makes this year's State of the Bay report so frustrating—it doesn't reflect a lack of skill, it reflects a lack of will.

At a press conference this morning, CBF President Will Baker put it this way:

"The Chesapeake Bay Program has been acclaimed as a model federal/state partnership. Unfortunately, the federal participation has been a model of failure under this administration. While our governors and legislators at the state and federal level have achieved important victories in recent years, the Bush Administration has made no contribution toward the pollution reduction goals in the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement. In fact, they have issued regulations that allow coal fired power plants to continue to spew mercury and nitrogen when this should have been prohibited under the Clean Air Act long ago. And while the states have increased funding to improve sewage treatment, President Bush has cut funding."

Science has given us the plan we need to turn things around. Our elected officials need to act on it.

On Wednesday, the Chesapeake Executive Council will meet to evaluate the state of the Bay. We are asking them to publicly announce timetables for the programs they will implement to complete their commitments. Will they chose to continue the politics of postponement or will they take action to save the Bay?


We're Going to Miss You, Jane

Jane_lawton_3 written by Kim Coble, CBF Maryland Executive Director

The environment and the Bay lost a good friend last week.

Delegate Jane Lawton (MD - District 18) died on Thursday, November 29.  Jane was a member of the Environmental Matters Committee, which is where I had the distinct pleasure of working with her on a number of important environmental bills. Jane was passionate about protecting the environment and truly made a difference.  She was the lead sponsor of the Stormwater Bill in 2006--a bill that will help reduce polluted stormwater runoff from new development. There is no doubt, Maryland's waters will be better because of Jane's efforts.

Jane was always someone we could count on to give us honest feedback and valuable input. She was the type of bill sponsor you dream of. She learned the issue, worked hard and was politically savvy.

It is difficult to think of Jane as gone. She was always full of energy and smiles.

I was very touched when I heard that Jane's family asked that contributions be made in her memory to CBF and to the Montgomery County Abused Persons Program. This is an honor that is hard to describe. Jane committed a lifetime to public service, working at various levels of government and on a variety of issues. The decision to support these two organizations is a tribute to her commitment to her constituents and their quality of life. All you need to do is read the condolences and memories that have been posted to her website and to the Maryland Politics Watch blog to understand what a wonderful woman we have lost. It's fitting that someone who cared so deeply during her life will continue to help those she served even after her death.

I will miss Jane personally and professionally. She was a friend to me and to the Bay. Her family is in our thoughts and prayers.

Contributions in memory of Jane can be made to:

Chesapeake Bay Foundation
To the Jane Lawton Memorial Fund
Online at www.cbf.org
or by mail to
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
6 Herndon Avenue
Annapolis, MD 21403

Montgomery County Abused Persons Program
(Emergency assistance for domestic violence victims)
1301 Piccard Drive
Suite 1400
Rockville, MD 20850
Write on memo line "Jane Lawton Memorial Fund"