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March 2011

February 2011

Report Exposes Air Pollution and Radioactive Waste From Drilling

Put down your lunch. Wait until all the children are gone from the room. Then watch this disturbing video by The New York Times about air pollution from natural gas drilling and its possible health effects, on both people and (gulp) newborn baby goats.

It's a good time to take a look at the regulation of air emissions from drilling sites, as Pennsylvania's new governor proposes to suspend and reconsider key air pollution controls governing the drilling industry, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

Anyone interested in the gold rush of gas extraction in shale formations across the U.S. should read the investigation published by The New York Times on Sunday. The Times uncovered some fascinating new details about how often drilling wastewater is released, only partially treated, back into rivers while it still has naturally occurring radioactive material (picked up underground) in concentrations hundreds of times higher than would be allowed by federal drinking water standards.

UPDATE: On March 2, The Times reported that while drilling companies boast about how often they recycle waste water, these claims are inflated -- and polluted water mixed with radioactive materials is sometimes just dumped on roads, where it can run off into streams or drinking water supplies.

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It’s Official: Stripers are Virginia’s No. 1 Saltwater Fish

800px-Striped_bass_FWS_1 The striped bass, long a favorite of Chesapeake Bay anglers and seafood lovers, has been the official state fish of Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and South Carolina for years.

This week, Virginia’s General Assembly made stripers the official saltwater fish of the Old Dominion as well. The popular Morone saxatilis, also called rockfish, joins the brook trout, Virginia’s official freshwater fish, in the Commonwealth’s pantheon of official critters.

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Name the Bay Critter Contest!


"Ack! That claw I ate is trying to escape!" The first reader to correctly identify this denizen of the Bay watershed will win a free Chesapeake Bay Foundation T-shirt. To compete, post your guess in the comment section below.


UPDATE:  It is an Eastern Hellbender Salamander, a.k.a., a  Giant Salamander, eating a crayfish. And the winner is: Paul from Annapolis! Paul, email your T-shirt size and mailing address to me at, and I'll mail you your prize.

Eastern Hellbenders are big, thick salamanders that live in fast-moving streams.  Normally, they come out at night, and they love to eat crayfish (as seen in this photo).  

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O'Malley Administration and Lawmakers Want Two-Year Study and Safeguards Before Any Hydraulic Fracturing Starts in Maryland

Gasflare Cancer-causing chemicals.  Heavy truck traffic. Contaminated drinking water. Polluted streams.

These are some of the potential problems that motivated Maryland's Environmental Secretary, a children’s health expert, and several Western Maryland residents and business owners, to join with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and other environmental groups today in endorsing proposed state legislation designed to stop the negative impacts of natural gas drilling.

A bill called the “Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Act of 2011”  was inspired by a boom of hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas from a rock formation called the Marcellus shale that lies under Pennsylvania, Western Maryand, New York, West Virginia and other states.

Mizeur Maryland State Delegate Heather Mizeur of Montgomery County (right) and 21 other lawmakers introduced the bill. It would prohibit the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) from issuing drilling permits until applicants demonstrate that the drilling will not pollute groundwater and surface water, among several other steps.

Maryland's Acting Environmental Secretary, Dr. Robert Summers, said MDE supports House Bill 852, with amendments. One of the amendments requested by MDE and the O'Malley Administration --and supported by the bill's sponsor -- would require a careful study of the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on the state's environment before the state issues any permits.  The study would be conducted between now and July 1, 2013 by MDE and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

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Who Voted For The Bay, and Who Voted Against It

MarshlandsDoes your Congressional representative really support the Chesapeake Bay and clean water?  Or do you have reason to be skeptical the next time you see him or her on TV claiming, “We all want to clean up the Bay.”

Not all. 

Let the record show that when the fate of the nation's largest estuary was really on the line, 18 U.S. Representatives in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia who represent parts of the Chesapeake Bay watershed voted against the health of the Bay. On Friday, these 18 voted in favor of an amendment by Congressman Robert Goodlatte of Virginia that would strip all federal funding from EPA in fiscal year 2011 to help implement new pollution limits (called a “Total Maximum Daily Load”) for the Chesapeake Bay. To see a map of how everyone voted, click here.

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New Fertilizer Law Will Cut Bay Pollution, Save Money

Fertilizer Good news from the oldest continuous lawmaking body in the New World, the Virginia General Assembly:  Legislation that bars the Virginia sale of fertilizer containing phosphorus for use on established lawns has passed both the House of Delegates and state Senate and is on its way to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

That’s a big deal because once the measure is enacted into law and becomes effective in 2013, it could cut up to 230,000 pounds of phosphorus pollution per year, or 22 percent of Virginia’s phosphorus reduction goal for 2017. And that could save Virginia localities millions of dollars by reducing their need to install expensive runoff treatment systems to comply with the new Chesapeake Bay pollution “diet.” 

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Name the Bay Critter Contest!

Interestingfellow3 "Comb my hair? Why don't you comb your hair?" The first reader to correctly identify these quarrelsome Chesapeake Bay creatures will win a free Chesapeake Bay Foundation T-Shirt. Enter your guesses as comments below. Ready, set, go!

UPDATE: They are, in fact, great egret chicks. And the first reader to correctly identify their identity was Janet Sturgis of Franktown, Virginia, a skilled birder. She will receive the prize.

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VA Congressman Proposes to Strip Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Funding

Goodlatte Virginia Congressman Bob Goodlatte has proposed an amendment to this year’s federal budget that would strip funding for reducing pollution in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, including the Shenandoah River, which runs right through his district. 

The voters of Virginia’s Sixth Congressional district, which includes much of the Shenandoah Valley, are well aware of the fish kills and disturbing water pollution problems in their historic and beautiful river.

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Shielding the Chesapeake Bay From Eco-Bankruptcy

Creditcard When you’re trying to pay down a big credit card debt, you cut spending, but you do it wisely.  If you stop paying for maintenance of the car that you need to drive to work, you’ll lose your ride -– and with it, perhaps your job and paycheck.  Then you end up with much worse debt.

Our nation faces a projected budget deficit this year of $1.6 trillion. That’s a big credit card bill.  But it would be counter-productive for the federal government to slash away at the things that we need for our long term for economic viability, such as clean water and a healthy Chesapeake Bay.

The Obama Administration recognized this when it released a proposed budget for the 2012 fiscal year that trims more than 200 programs –- but increases federal spending for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay program, from $50 million in the current year to $67 million.

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