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October 2009

CBF Fights Rubber-Stamping of Gas Drilling Permits, Wins Victory

Drill head The Chesapeake Bay Foundation won a victory over environmentally sloppy natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania this week. It was a first step in making sure that the wave of drilling across the state is handled responsibly.

CBF had filed legal challenges to three erosion and sediment control permits for gas wells being drilled in northern Pennsylvania.  One of the wells is in the Tioga State Forest, the other on private land in  Tioga County.  All three sit atop the vast, gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation, which has seen a surge in new gas wells.

CBF was concerned that the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) was rubber stamping drilling permits, and fast-tracking approvals, without a thorough environmental review to protect streams and water supplies.

On Wednesday, DEP revoked the permits for Ultra Resources Inc. and Fortuna Energy Inc. because of what the state agency called “numerous technical deficiencies discovered after our approval of the permits.”

To read more about the state decision, check out this article.

Record Increase in Funding Approved for EPA Bay Cleanup Program

Moran It looks like the federal government is finally taking the Chesapeake Bay seriously.  

The U.S. House and Senate recently approved a record $50 million in funds for the Chesapeake Bay Program, the EPA-led Bay restoration effort. The money, some of which would be passed along to Bay area states, would pay for projects to reduce runoff pollution from urban areas, suburbs and farms.  The federal funding is an impressive 60 percent higher than last year.

Of course, it’s far too early to declare victory yet.  Restoring the Bay will also require stepped up enforcement of the federal Clean Water Act, and strengthening the law.  But tightening up the law could be on the way with new legislation called the Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act. This bill was proposed recently by Sen. Ben Cardin and U.S.  Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, among several other sponsors.

Continue reading "Record Increase in Funding Approved for EPA Bay Cleanup Program" »

The Key Question: When Will Enforcement Take Place?

Sediment In response to yesterday’s blog, about EPA creating a new pollution diet for the Chesapeake Bay, a  reader emailed me with a note of frustration.

“When will enforcement take place?” demanded Ned Tillman, chair of the Environmental Sustainability Board in Howard County, Maryland.

An excellent question, and one that I find myself asking.  After all, thoughtful, well-designed pollution reduction strategies for the Bay have been largely ignored for years – most  recently, the Chesapeake 2000 agreement between EPA and the Bay area states, which was supposed to have cleaned up the Bay by 2010.  What’s been lacking is the political will to put these plans into action – and, on a more basic level, to simply enforce existing clean water laws.

Pollutants like sediment (pictured above), as well as nitrogen and phosphorus, continue to smother the nation's largest estuary.

Continue reading "The Key Question: When Will Enforcement Take Place?" »

Let's Put the Bay on a Diet. Here's How You Can Help.

Bayfromair As you may have noticed from yesterday’s posting, Bay Daily is back. One thing I’m going to try to do more often in upcoming months is highlight public events and hearings that are critical in our fight for clean water in the Chesapeake Bay region.

For example: EPA plans to hold 14 public hearings across the Chesapeake Bay watershed in November and December on water pollution reduction goals (dates listed below).  EPA is creating what is called a “Total Maximum Daily Load,” or TDML for pollutants entering the Bay. That may sound like just another bureaucratic acronym, but it’s actually critically important – the total amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution that EPA is going to allow into the estuary.

Basically, EPA plans to put the Bay on a diet – and the TMDL is analogous to the maximum amount of calories that the Chesapeake will be allowed to eat each year.  The Bay area states will have to figure out how they are going to stay within this diet, or else face the potential loss of federal grants or other punishments.

Continue reading "Let's Put the Bay on a Diet. Here's How You Can Help." »

Why Has Public Belief in Global Warming Dropped Sharply?

Pewgraph The impact of climate change on the Chesapeake Bay is obvious to both scientists and average observers. Just look up and bear witness to the all the brown pelicans soaring over the Bay. These are fishing birds native to Florida and the Gulf Coast that were never in history observed nesting in our region, until the 1990s. Now, they're all over.

Rigorous monitoring has found average water temperatures in the Bay have risen by about a half degree Fahrenheit per decade over the last century, according to EPA.

So given all the evidence, it’s puzzling that a rapidly growing number of Americans don’t believe global warming is even happening, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.  Over the last year, the percentage of people who think there is solid evidence of global warming has fallen to 57 percent of 1,500 people surveyed by phone in October 2009, compared to 71 percent in April 2008, according to the Pew Center.

This decline has come, unfortunately, at a time when climate change legislation has moved to the fore in Congress. Tomorrow, for example, the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works is holding a hearing on a greenhouse gas control bill.

Continue reading "Why Has Public Belief in Global Warming Dropped Sharply? " »

I Confess My Sins: My Illicit Dumping Is Fouling The Bay


I have a confession to make. Last year, I dumped 12 pounds of nitrogen pollution into the Chesapeake Bay.  I know, I know – a bit awkward, considering I’m supposed to be a professional clean water activist.  A hypocrite, you say?  Well, to be honest, I didn’t even realize I was doing it.  I was just living my daily life, flushing my toilet, driving my car, turning on my lights.  It made me think twice about all the driving I do.

Bayfootprint You may not realize how much pollution you’re contributing to the Bay, either.  But you can find out by checking out this cool website called “Your Bay Footprint,” created by my colleagues, Chesapeake Bay Foundation senior scientist Dr. Beth McGee and website manager Mike Dougherty.  It’s the first of its kind, anywhere, that I'm aware of – a nitrogen calculator that shows you how much impact your lifestyle has on local water quality. 

Continue reading "I Confess My Sins: My Illicit Dumping Is Fouling The Bay" »

No, It Ain't Over... Lawsuit Negotiations With EPA Continue And Will Bear Fruit for Bay


A few reports in newspapers today suggest that the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s decision to temporarily stay our lawsuit against EPA means we’re giving up.

For example, The (Newport News, Va.) Daily Press wrote that CBF is “backing away from a lawsuit it had filed to force the Environmental Protection Agency to step up its cleanup efforts.” 

That’s an unfortunate misinterpretation of what’s really going on. After CBF filed its lawsuit against the EPA in January, the Obama Administration began to move in a more aggressive direction toward Bay cleanup. And last month, EPA proposed to take pollution reduction steps that we asked for in our legal action.

Continue reading "No, It Ain't Over... Lawsuit Negotiations With EPA Continue And Will Bear Fruit for Bay" »