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December 2009

EPA's New Bay Cleanup Plan Called Too Weak

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation and several other environmental organizations criticized EPA's new Bay cleanup proposal as too weak and vague during a press conference yesterday.

CBF Senior Scientist Beth McGee said that a letter EPA released on Monday proposing consequences for states that fail to meet their cleanup obligations "lacks specifics about when EPA will impose those consequences. The letter lacks concrete standards that will ensure when EPA will act."

The EPA letter is available here.


My Guitar Jam With A Legendary Coal-Country Crusader

Mountaintopremovalmining

I took a road trip out to West Virginia recently to hear and see firsthand the impact of mountaintop removal coal-mining. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is fighting the construction of a huge new coal-fired power plant in Surry County, Virginia, which would add hazardous and illegal amounts of mercury and nitrogen pollution to the Chesapeake Bay and nearby rivers.

But I also wondered: What about the pollution all the way up at the beginning of the coal production line?
Road to cabin

And what about the impact on human lives?

I'm a musician, and I've always thought the best way to tell a story is through song. So I visited legendary West Virginia songwriter Mike Morningstar. He writes folk songs about strip mining and performs them as a form of protest.

But to find him, I had to drive six hours into the mountains, ending up on a long gravel road that tiptoed beside a cliff.

Continue reading "My Guitar Jam With A Legendary Coal-Country Crusader" »


Is It Scrooge-Like to Send E-Cards For X-Mas?

Holiday Card 2009 Would Scrooge & Marley send an E-Card blast for Christmas?  After all, electronic holiday greetings are cheaper -- and we all know how Scrooge loved to save money (for example, by not heating his office, and by refusing to give his employee Bob Cratchet a decent wage or time off for the Holidays).

A silly question, obviously.  Scrooge would probably send his clients registered letters on Christmas Eve, threatening to foreclose on their properties if they didn't pay up in full by New Year's.

But I ask the question because I sent my first Christmas E-Cards this year. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation also distributed E-Cards this year (pictured above). You, too, can send  Chesapeake Bay Foundation holiday e-cards, by clicking here.

At first I felt awful -- positively Scrooge-like -- about my family's E-Cards. 

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What Is In This Photo? Looks Like A Heaping Pollution Problem

ManurepileThis picture stirred up quite a controversy.

An environmental group called Assateague Coastkeeper took this photograph of what it said was a huge pile of manure leaking pollution from an Eastern Shore farm into a tributary to the Pocomoke River, which flushes into the Chesapeake Bay.

The Assateague Coastkeeper thought it was chicken litter.  After the group filed a complaint, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) investigated and determined it was, in fact, not poultry waste but treated human waste.  MDE spokeswoman Dawn Stoltzfus said that the pile was sewage sludge, produced by composting human waste from a sewage treatment plant and often used as fertilizer.

The Assateague Coastkeeper reports that it performed water testing in a ditch downstream from this Berlin, Maryland, poultry farm, and found very high levels of fecal coliform, phosphorus and nitrogen that suggest a manure runoff problem.

Continue reading "What Is In This Photo? Looks Like A Heaping Pollution Problem" »


Have Yourself A Slow Little Christmas

Cookies Like a lot of folks, I'm scrambling around, madly trying to get my Holiday shopping done.  And then I read this article that suggests, "Have a Slow Holiday." 

Ahhh.  It is such a soothing concept -- and actually an idea that is not only good for our blood pressure, and family relations, but also for the world.  Less driving around to malls, less buying of stuff that's going to be thrown out anyway. More cooking of food, the old fashioned way.

A few years ago, my daughters and I started a little neighborhood tradition that has become my favorite part of Christmas. Every year, we bake a whole bunch of oatmeal cookies with raisins. We put them in bags, decorated with hand-cut paper snowflakes.  And then we walk around the neighborhood, giving them out to all the local families.  It's so cheap, nobody feels guilty to get a present like this.  And it provides a great opportunity just to walk up and down the street, talking to the people who live near to us -- but who we're sometimes too busy to visit with.

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Juiced-Up Cows and Electric Chickens

Cows Got electricity?

The Obama administration yesterday announced an agreement with dairy producers to cut methane emissions by 25 percent by 2020 by building systems that capture the greenhouse gas and burn it to generate electricity.

It’s a way of milking technology to reduce global warming pollution.

The plan requires millions more in federal and private investment in so-called “methane digesters,” which are already pumping out electricity on hundreds of dairy farms across the country.

Here’s my electric idea.  Wouldn’t it be cool if poultry operations in the Chesapeake region signed a similar agreement to reduce their output of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in exchange for government investments in technology to burn their waste to generate electricity?

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It's Not About Family Farms. It's About An Industry Trying To Protect Its Exemption From Pollution Law.

Kalbird1 It's all about exemptions from pollution control laws.

I've come to this conclusion as I reflect on the nuclear attack that industrial-style farm group lobbyists have launched against important new federal legislation to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. The Chesapeake Clean Water Act, pending in Congress, would for the first time set in law binding pollution reduction goals for the Bay area states, and threaten federal penalties to states if they fail to meet these cleanup targets.

Big agricultural business groups have been frightening their members, falsely claiming that the bill will bankrupt family farmers.  But oddly, they have also been saying that they don’t know exactly what the bill will require for farmers.

Continue reading "It's Not About Family Farms. It's About An Industry Trying To Protect Its Exemption From Pollution Law." »


A Chesapeake Nutcracker, With a Pinch of Crab

Swirling jellyfish, tumbling crabs, a committee of scientists -- and a biologist, stuck in the middle, head in her hands, wrestling with a nightmare about it all.  These are the features of a high-energy dance about the Chesapeake Bay that was performed Friday at Roland Park Elementary School in Baltimore.


The dance, called "A Scientist's Nightmare," was choreographed by my wife, Liz Pelton, who runs the dance club at our local school.  A friendly neighborhood biologist, Dr. Eric Schott, brought a bunch of live blue crabs to the dance studio, so the dancers could observe their movements and imitate them on the dance floor. As might be predicted, the kids love to pinch each other.

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Petition Asks EPA To Seize Control Over Maryland Environmental Programs

Kalbird1 The Waterkeepers Alliance this week filed a petition with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) demanding stronger enforcement of water pollution laws in Maryland.

The legal action asks EPA to seize control of the water pollution permitting program at the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), which the Waterkeepers charge is not inspecting or fining  polluters often enough.

The Waterkeepers deserve a lot of praise. Not only are they great boots on the ground (acting as citizen inspectors of waterways), but their legal action shines a helpful spotlight on the importance of having effective and well-funded state environmental agencies.

Continue reading "Petition Asks EPA To Seize Control Over Maryland Environmental Programs" »