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November 2010

Virginia's New Bay Cleanup Plan: Better, But Still Lacking Firm Commitments

Bayscene Three observations about Virginia's most recent proposed plan to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, which was submitted by the Commonwealth yesterday to EPA:

1) Virginia clearly made progress since its earlier draft plan, which was submitted to EPA in September. The new plan proposes to cut more pollution from sewage treatment plants and urban stormwater systems.

2) The Commonwealth continues to miss the mark on pollution reductions from farms.

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A Cleaner Route to Economic Recovery

Waterfronthome Save the Bay, save the real estate market?

It may sound illogical. But in fact, clean water can increase by as much as 25 percent the value of single family homes up to three-quarters of a mile from the water’s edge, according to a report by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Think about that for a moment. The implication is that hundreds of thousands of homes in the Chesapeake Bay region have their value suppressed right now by not only the recession, but also by water pollution. 

So cleaning up the Bay could be an important way to pour life back into the region’s economy.  

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Students Helping Oysters, Oysters Helping Students

When oysters finally return in great numbers to Virginia’s Rappahannock River, tip your hat to the teachers and students at Christchurch School for helping make it happen.

This 89-year-old Episcopal boarding school on the banks of the Rappahannock in Middlesex County has made oysters a big part of its education mission. The school is using oyster aquaculture and oyster restoration as tools for learning about ecology, economics, history, problem solving, sustainability, and making real for students the school’s motto, “Great journeys begin at the river.”

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Maryland is the Saudi Arabia of Chicken Manure

Chicken An advocacy group called Environment America released a report today, “Corporate Agribusiness and America’s Waterways,”  that details the water pollution problems caused by farm manure.

Among the findings was that the 568 million chickens produced on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and the rest of the Delmarva Peninsula each year  produce more than 1.1 billion pounds of chicken litter annually. "When nutrients from chicken manure find their way into the Chesapeake Bay, they contribute to algae blooms that leave only 12 percent of the Bay with adequate levels of dissolved oxygen during the summer months,” the report says.

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The Future in the Balance: Community vs. Sprawl

Cambridge etc. 063 The next few days may determine the future of Cambridge, Maryland. 

The Cambridge City Council will decide, perhaps as early as Monday, whether to chart a new course for the Eastern Shore town's economic development away from strip malls, chain restaurants, and sprawl, and toward a healthy downtown.

The city’s planning commission has offered a new blueprint for the city, a Comprehensive Plan that proposes to revitalize Cambridge from the inside. The plan envisions micro-financing loans to encourage downtown entrepreneurs, as well as training and mentoring; development along the downtown waterfront; improved streets and intersections for bikers and walkers; and a "green belt" around the city beyond which no development will be allowed, as well as other measures.

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Smoke on the Water: Manufacturing Scientific Uncertainty

Girlwithcigarette You thought the tobacco industry made cigarettes? They also manufacture doubt, which is almost as deadly. Now uncertainty-pushers are taking aim at the Chesapeake Bay cleanup effort, trying to undermine public confidence in EPA’s regulation of water pollution.  The skeptics claim that the computer modeling EPA uses is flawed, while experts support it as sound science (as demonstrated by this November 8 letter to the federal agency). I'll go into more detail about that issue later.

But first, let’s take an historic look back at the tactic of doubt-dealing to derail government regulation. Sit back breathe in the public relations mastery of Big Tobacco during the 1960s and 1970s. Decades after conclusive evidence that smoking cigarettes causes lung cancer, the industry’s message maestros figured out that all they had to do to delay regulation (and keep customers hooked) was trot out a few well-funded researchers from time to time who would tell lawmakers and the public that the latest seemingly damning report about smoking contained some tiny degree of scientific uncertainty.

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