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March 2010

Obama Drills Hole in Chesapeake Cleanup

Oilterminal Drilling off the mouth of the Chesapeake would be a punch in the mouth for the Bay.  Think, don’t drill, baby.

The Obama Administration is reportedly planning to approve oil and gas exploration off of America’s East Coast, including the possible leasing bottom off of Virginia’s coast as soon as two years from now, according to news reports this morning.

Offshore drilling off the Chesapeake and along the East Coast has long been banned by the federal government, and for good reasons.  The potential for oil and chemical spills and environmental catastrophe is too great for a region that is ecologically on life support, and economically dependent on beaches, tourism and seafood.

In 2008, the Bush Administration lifted the executive branch’s prohibition on drilling along this coast.  And then the U.S. House and Senate decided not to renew a Congressional ban that had been in place for more than 20 years.

Now the Obama Administration is looking to push ahead with this bad idea as part of a broader energy strategy that includes increasing the fuel efficiency of cars and trucks.

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Coal Power Plants: Demand Falling, Trouble Rising

Coal The skies are growing cloudier for new coal fired power plants.  So why build one near the Chesapeake Bay?

Demand for electricity has fallen 5 percent nationally over the last two years, according to a recent report in the Dow Jones Newswire.

And, to muddy the waters even more for coal, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is moving forward on regulations under the Clean Air Act that will require new plants to install the "best available technology" to reduce carbon dioxide.

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"Poultry Power Play" Attempts to Intimidate Environmental Lawyers

Kalbird8 Everyone in the Chesapeake Bay region should be outraged about the blatantly anti-environmental arm twisting and intimidation that is now rearing its ugly head in the Maryland General Assembly.

Eastern Shore lawmakers are threatening to withhold $250,000 or more of the budget of the University of Maryland’s Environmental Law Clinic unless it submits a report of the work it has performed over the last two years, including a list of its clients.

The subtext here is obvious, and appalling.  It appears that some powerful people are trying to punish the law clinic for representing the Waterkeepers Alliance, an environmental organization, for filing lawsuits to stop pollution from poultry farms and other sources of runoff.

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Not Your Typical Spring Break

Restoring the Chesapeake Bay sometimes seems like pushing a big rock up a hill. Each step seems to take enormous effort, progress comes in small increments, and it’s hard to just keep plugging away.

But one thing that always stokes my enthusiasm and keeps me personally optimistic about reaching the top of that hill is the consistent enthusiasm of volunteers for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.  

Case in point: We recently put out a call to Virginia college students to lend us a hand with a variety of environmental projects during this month’s traditional college spring break week.* Many students, of course, typically abandon campus during spring break and head for sunny beaches, snowy ski resorts, or home to take it easy.

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Striking Back Against the Oyster Thieves

Oysterwars For far too long, a "wild west" mentality has inspired some watermen to view the Chesapeake Bay’s oysters as their rightful bounty, laws be dunked.

In the late 19th century, some fought violently –- with bullets and ambushes -- against Maryland police who tried to restrict oyster harvesting. Government regulations at the time of the  “Oyster Wars of the Chesapeake Bay” might have seemed unnecessary, because oysters were still relatively plentiful.

But even back then, a few wise voices warned that much stronger regulation and law enforcement were necessary to protect this filter feeder that is so vital to the Chesapeake Bay’s ecological and economic health.

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Forum: What is the Future of the Chesapeake?

Bayscene Is there any hope left for the Chesapeake Bay? 

This is the question that will be asked at a forum this Saturday in Annapolis that will feature a wide range of views from experts.  The event, scheduled for 10 a.m. at the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, 801 Chase Street, is being sponsored by The Annapolis Capital newspaper, which recently published an analysis of the Bay’s problems.

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Heavy Rains Likely to Cause Large "Dead Zones" This Summer

Waterimage Rain, rain, go away. Don’t give us a murky Bay.

All the heavy rains and snows over the last few months will likely mean that the Chesapeake Bay will have severe low-oxygen “dead zones” in the Chesapeake Bay during the summer of 2010, some scientists are predicting.

Rain and melting snow flushes fertilizers and other sources of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution off of fields, yards and streets. These nutrients spur the growth of algal blooms that die and rot, sucking oxygen out of the water.

Dr. Bill Dennison, a professor of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, said this morning that he expects the "dead zones" in the Chesapeake Bay will be widespread this summer.  He and colleagues in the Chesapeake Bay Program this spring will crunch the numbers and release an official projection of low-oxygen zones in the bay for summer of 2010. So far, he said, it's not looking good.

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Take a Look at The Last Boat Out

Most of us working at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) are suckers for any article, book, or movie about the Bay, however wonky or obscure. I wish I had a quarter for all the times I’ve suggested to friends, “Hey, you gotta watch this!” only to hear, “Hey, let’s grab a beer!”

Epes But here’s a genuine tip: When your local public television station airs "The Last Boat Out" this spring, watch it. I guarantee it won’t bore or drive anyone to drink. I hope instead it drives viewers to take action to help Save the Bay.

The "Last Boat Out," a 26-minute documentary about the plight of Chesapeake Bay watermen, tells the compelling story of two families of Newport News, Va., watermen who are being driven out of business by changing times and a changing Bay.

“The film is really a labor of love,” says writer/director/producer Laura Seltzer, a Newport News native who grew up just around the corner from the recently condemned pier off the James River that for decades was home base for the watermen.

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