Next month:
February 2009

January 2009

'Green' Nuclear Power? Beside the Chesapeake Bay?

Kalbird11 Can nukes green the Earth?  The question seems absurd.  To some, it's like asking: “Can radioactive waste help your daffodils grow?” 

But it is a serious question, in light of global warming.  Although it is often demonized by environmentalists, nuclear power churns out vast amounts of electricity while producing little (if any) of the carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases that are causing climate change.  Some argue,  in this context, nuclear power is a “clean” and therefore “green” energy source.  Of course, nuclear waste disposal remains a major issue, as does the cost of building reactors.

Scientific American this week is publishing a fascinating series of articles about how climate change and President Obama's election are changing the political climate surrounding nuclear power.

Continue reading "'Green' Nuclear Power? Beside the Chesapeake Bay?" »

Firewater from Drilling in Pennsylvania

Kalbird8 For some folks, walking while chewing gum is a bad idea.  For a few others, smoking while washing hands might be dangerous.  Turn on the faucet and… boom! 

In northeastern Pennsylvania, a company that has been drilling lots of natural gas wells is providing “alternative water sources” to four homes after “reports of flammable vapor” emerging from their drinking water, the (Scranton, Pa) Times-Tribune reports

The Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation has also had hired a contractor to inspect wells at two other homes in the Dimock Township area (north of Scranton), where the state Department of Environmental Protection found “a significant presence” of natural gas, according to the newspaper.

Nobody has washed their hands with flame….yet.  But the investigation started because a local family's water well exploded on New Year’s Day, blowing apart a concrete slab in the family's front yard.

Continue reading "Firewater from Drilling in Pennsylvania" »

Water Pollution and Low Sperm Counts in Men

Kalbird5Hold on, men.  Here’s a new reason for you to care about water pollution.  We already know that it harms aquatic life.  But a new study supports evidence that it might also be causing bizarre sexual traits in fish – and could possibly be linked to low sperm counts in human males. Yikes.

The peer-revised scientific journal Environmental Health reports that researcher Susan Jobling and colleagues in England found a link between chemicals called anti-androgens in wastewater treatment plant effluent (the stuff pouring out of sewage plants) and the widespread feminization of male fish in rivers. Some of these chemicals are found in medicines, including cancer treatments and other pharmaceuticals, as well as in pesticides, the online publication Terra Daily reports. Anti-androgens inhibit the function of the male hormone, testosterone, reducing male fertility.  The research suggests that when these drugs and chemicals get flushed down toilets or run off of farm fields, they may play an important role in feminizing male fish.

Okay… fish. But what about us, guys? Dr. Jobling and colleagues write that their study supports the hypothesis that: “endocrine disrupting effects seen in wild fish and in humans are caused by similar combinations of …. chemical cocktails.”

I drink socially, but I’ll take a pass on that cocktail, thanks.

The new study may be of assistance in the continuing investigation of fish kills and ‘intersex’ fish in the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. It is an intriguing mystery.

Continue reading "Water Pollution and Low Sperm Counts in Men" »

Marching in Blue for Clean Water

Kalbird1 Despite snow and numbing cold, hundreds of activists for clean water rallied in Richmond, Va., and marched on the state capitol building yesterday. They chanted ‘Clean Water Now!’ waved signs, wore fish hats and blue-colored scarves to symbolize their devotion to a clean blue Chesapeake Bay.

The event, organized by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), was designed in part to convince Virginia lawmakers not to cut $20 million for agricultural runoff pollution control programs that Gov. Tim Kaine has proposed in next year’s budget. Kaine, like governors across the nation, is under intense pressure to slash from environmental programs because the recession has meant a drop in state revenues.  Such cuts would backfire and prolong the economic crisis, because they would mean more pollution in the Chesapeake Bay – destroying more jobs for fishermen, crabbers, restaurants and the region’s tourism industry.

Kaine Gov. Kaine said he included the money in his budget to prevent pollution in the Chesapeake Bay – the same amount as last year  – despite deep cuts in other areas to make up a projected $2.9 billion revenue shortfall, the (Norfolk) Virginian Pilot reported.

“It was tough, because I am cutting virtually everything in state government,” Kaine said.

That $20 million will look appealing for the General Assembly to cut when it looks for its own way to balance the budget, Kaine said. “This is just too important,” he told the crowd. “Go up and tell these legislators how important that $20 million is.”

Continue reading "Marching in Blue for Clean Water" »

Officer Obama Writes Warning to SUV Drivers

Kalbird12 Pull over, SUV drivers! There’s a new cop patrolling the highways: Officer Barack Obama. And his lights are flashing in your rearview mirror as he scribbles you a friendly warning.

President Obama today is announcing that he is ordering the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reconsider the Bush administration’s refusal to grant permission to California, Maryland and a dozen other states to impose limits on global warming pollution from vehicles.  Obama is also directing the federal Department of Transportation to issue rules to make the American vehicle fleet get an average of 35 m.p.g. by 2020. 

Change may be driving in the fast lane.

More locally, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has thrown his support behind a bill that would require a 25 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from all sources (except manufacturers) by 2020. 

Continue reading "Officer Obama Writes Warning to SUV Drivers" »

Bay Daily and EPA Lawsuit Featured on Daily Kos Blog

Here’s a bulletin from the blogosphere.  Word of CBF’s lawsuit against the EPA is bouncing around the Internet, and provoking heated discussion.

The blog Daily Kos is talking about the federal government’s failure to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. And it has urged its millions of readers to consider writing new EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to push for action.

Writer Dadadata says this on Kos: “It's a travesty that the national capital is on a body of water that can't be cleaned up. It's not as if the causes aren't known. To help force the EPA to finally stop spending money on 'studies'  and administration, the CBF's Will Baker has circulated an e-mail asking citizens to send a letter…to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.”

Continue reading "Bay Daily and EPA Lawsuit Featured on Daily Kos Blog" »

'Green' Whiskey and the Debate over Eco-Marketing

Kalbird11Would you knock back more whiskey if you knew it was green?  I don’t mean tinted by food coloring, as some bars do with their brew on St. Patrick's day.  I mean, perhaps eco-tipplers might plunk down more cash to buy more shots if they knew the distilleries were powered by renewable energy.

An intoxicating report this morning by the Reuters news service describes how a group of liquor manufacturers in England (the makers of Cutty Sark and Chivas Regal, among other products) have received permission to build a power plant fueled by the burning of left-over grain products to generate electricity. The extra juice (the electrons, not the whiskey) would be pumped to local families and businesses – enough to light up about 9,000 households.

The allure of “green” products like this pose perplexing questions for consumers in the Chesapeake Bay region and elsewhere.  On one hand, shoppers can encourage good corporate behavior by buying from a booze manufacturer or shirt maker that recycles, uses only organic products, or contributes money to an alternative energy or “carbon neutral” fund.  Money drives the market – and we want to drive capitalism toward more responsible use of fossil fuels.

Continue reading "'Green' Whiskey and the Debate over Eco-Marketing" »

The Ax Falls Hard... But Spares the Trees

Kalbird12 Chop. Whew!  That was close.  The budget ax fell hard in Maryland, but funding for the Chesapeake Bay and land preservation survived.  Governor Martin O’Malley deserves high praise for keeping his word and standing strong behind environmental programs– even in the most dire fiscal mess in decades, and even though he was under intense pressure to cut.

Similar good news has arrived from Virginia. Governor Tim Kaine recently committed to spending  $20 million for agricultural conservation programs that help stop pollution into the Bay in the year starting July 1 – level funding, despite hard times.

Now, here's the rub. Will state lawmakers stand by these pollution reduction programs? Or will they cut from the governors’ budgets in the upcoming weeks?  Spending to preserve and restore our waters, forests and fields may seem like window dressing to some. But it is really the lifeblood of employment in the Chesapeake Bay’s tourism, fishing, crabbing and agricultural industries. 

Readers, what do you think about this?  O’Malley showed real spine yesterday.  Because of the recession and a nearly $2 billion budget shortfall for next fiscal year, the state budget will shrink for the first time in 15 years (by 1.3 percent, to $14.4 billion). 

Continue reading "The Ax Falls Hard... But Spares the Trees " »

The Budget Knife and Environmental Programs

Kalbird4  (To hear a radio version of this story, click here.)

Today at 1:30 p.m., Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley is scheduled to release his proposed budget for the upcoming year.  One of the big questions is whether O'Malley will cut funding for Chesapeake Bay cleanup, which is badly needed to restore the nation's largest estuary.  Does this matter?  Readers, let us know what you think.

The recession has hit Maryland hard, as it has states across the country.   O’Malley is facing a nearly $2 billion budget gap for next year, and is considering layoffs to more than 500 state workers.

Nearly everything is on the table, in terms of budget cuts. At risk is the new Chesapeake Bay 2010 Trust Fund, a new program to reduce polluted runoff into the Bay and the rivers that feed it.   But during a recent press conference at the State House in Annapolis, O’Malley said there’s at least one thing that’s untouchable.  It’s a 39-year-old program that sets aside a portion of the state’s real estate taxes every year to buy up and preserve fields and forests, and create parks,  playgrounds and wilderness preserves.

Continue reading "The Budget Knife and Environmental Programs" »

Rally for Clean Water

Kalbird1 Want to make your voice heard?  Monday (January 26) is your big chance, if you live in Virginia or Maryland. Events are  planned in each state to allow advocates for clean water and average citizens to speak out about environmental issues they think are important in the state legislative sessions now underway.

Hundreds of supporters of strong action to clean up the Chesapeake Bay are expected in Richmond for The Rally for Clean Water. The day will start with a briefing at 9:30 a.m. at the Centenary United Methodist Church, 411 East Grace Street in Richmond. People are encouraged to register first by clicking here (although you can also register when you arrive). Then everyone will march to the Bell Tower at Capitol Square (near the intersection of 9th St. and Franklin St. in Richmond) for the big 11 a.m. rally. Governor Tim Kaine is expected to speak about efforts to save the Bay

Continue reading "Rally for Clean Water " »