A Maryland bill designed to encourage the construction of offshore wind farms along the Atlantic Coast hit the political doldrums, with some lawmakers worried about the cost to electricity rate payers. So Governor Martin O’Malley is blowing even harder to keep his clean energy proposal alive. He's now promising that customers would pay a maximum rate increase of $2 more per month. Economic Matters Chairman Dereck E. Davis said the limit "certainly is helpful," according to The Baltimore Sun. A vote could come next week. To learn more, click here.
Okay, here's a tough one for you "Name the Critter Contest" maniacs. The first reader to correctly identify this species wins a free Chesapeake Bay Foundation T-shirt. Enter your guesses in the comment section below. Ready, set, go!
UPDATE: These green eggs are the spawn of the Lavas lampus, a peculiar, bioluminescent invasive species whose populations exploded in dorm rooms across the Chesapeake Bay watershed during the 1970s. April Fools! It's just a picture of a lava lamp my brother Jim sent me. THE WINNER IS MONIQUE TUCKER, who correctly guessed that it is lava lamp. Monique wins the prize! Tom Pelton
In this time of draconian budget cuts, I know a lot of you Bay Daily readers have been following this issue very closely. So here is an update on proposed cuts to programs in Maryland that are vital to the health of the Chesapeake Bay:
Last night, the state Senate approved a $14.6 billion budget for the year starting July 1 that restores $3 million (or about 12 percent) that the state House had cut from the Chesapeake Bay Trust Fund. It's a four-year-old program that uses car rental taxes to pay for projects to reduce runoff pollution in urban and rural areas. The cleanup fund will receive $25 million next year, the same as budgeted this year (and half the amount intended by the original legislation).
Despite overwhelming public support for a tax on natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania and a huge state budget deficit, Governor Tom Corbett still adamantly opposes any state tax on gas extraction. But he has recently indicated he may accept "fees" on the industry that go directly to local government to compensate for damage to roads, as well for public safety expenditures and other costs. To learn more, click here.
If you ever wonder how much of a problem sediment runoff pollution is for the Chesapeake Bay, check out this picture. This NASA satellite image was taken on March 17 after a heavy downpour. It shows a plume of muddy water extending from the Susquehanna River, at the extreme northern end of the Bay, and flowing far south, almost to the Virginia border. "This heavy Spring runoff has resulted in record low water clarity for the month of March in may areas of Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay," the Department of Natural Resources reports. The river of murky silt and pollutants in this photo makes a powerful visual argument for smarter land-use policies that minimize suburban sprawl, parking lots and other impervious surfaces; and encourage better stormwater management systems in urban areas; as well as better runoff control practices on fields, such as the planting of buffer strips of trees and grasses to filter streams. To learn more and see more pictures, visit this Maryland Department of Natural Resources website.
The Maryland House voted last week to approve a $14.6 billion budget for next year. The good news is that the spending plan did not include a proposal to abolish Program Open Space, a popular 42-year-old initiative that directs real-estate transfer taxes into the preservation of land. Earlier this month, Bay Daily warned about a very real threat to permanently eliminate this dedicated fund, which has succeeded in protecting 350,000 acres of land from suburban sprawl over the last four decades.
The bad news is that the state House voted to cut $3 million (or about 12 percent) from the Chesapeake Bay Trust Fund, an innovative program that takes money from car rental taxes to pay for projects to reduce runoff pollution from farms and urban areas.
In less than a week, a handful of local Virginia officials will quietly make a decision that could have huge ramifications for the greater Williamsburg-Norfolk-Virginia Beach region known as Hampton Roads and the entire Chesapeake Bay region. What is curious is that so few people are aware of this consequential decision and that so little public discussion or debate has occurred about it.
On Thursday, March 31, the executive committee of the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission will meet in Chesapeake, Va., to discuss the commission’s “legal options” regarding the federal-state Chesapeake Bay cleanup, perhaps the most significant environmental restoration effort in the nation in a generation. Translation: the group will decide whether it is going to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to delay or halt the Baywide cleanup effort.
Who are these folks considering derailing the culmination of more than 30 years of scientific research, public consensus, state and federal partnerships, congressional and state appropriations, and even a presidential executive order?
Former EPA Administrators William Ruckelshaus and Christine Todd Whitman blasted Congress for launching “a siege against EPA and environmental progress” in an opinion piece published yesterday in The Washington Post.
The former officials, who both served under Republican administrations, castigated the GOP-led House (including U.S. Rep. Robert Goodlatte of Virginia, pictured at left) for approving a bill that would slash EPA’s budget by nearly a third and impede the agency’s ability to stop water pollution in the Chesapeake Bay and elsewhere. The retired EPA leaders also criticized the Senate for trying to pass a bill that would “disapprove” of a scientifically based finding that greenhouse gases endanger public health.
MD House Approves Bills To Control Pollution from Lawn Fertilizer and Drilling....But Approval of Drilling Bill "Is Looking Tough" in Senate
Two important environmental bills are making progress in the Maryland General Assembly, winning votes by large majorities the state House. One bill would reduce lawn fertilizer pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. Another would require safeguards and a two-year state study before Maryland permits hydraulic fracturing for natural gas.
“I think it was a big victory for Maryland’s water, homes, forests, trout streams and hunting grounds," said state Del. Heather Mizeur of Montgomery County, describing the House's vote yesterday 98-40 in favor of the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Act of 2011.
A vote by the state Senate remains the critical next step. Final approval of these bills by the Senate would be required by April 11 if the legislation is to make its way to the Governor's desk for a signature and final approval.
“It's looking tough," Mizeur said of the battle for approval of her bill in the Senate. "We are running up against some resistance (in the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee)... but engaging in dialogue to see if we can't get the Senate to give it a favorable review as well.”
"My, my. Don't I look fiiine in this new toupee." The first reader to correctly identify this vain creature found in the Chesapeake Bay will win a free Chesapeake Bay Foundation T-shirt. Enter your guesses as comments in the section below. Ready, set, go!
UPDATE: It is, in fact, an invasive Oriental Shrimp, Palaemon macrodactylus, and the first reader to guess its identity was Mike Windisch, who wins this week's prize.
Oriental Shrimp look a bit like native Chesapeake Bay Grass Shrimp, but these exotics have only recently been discovered in the Bay and are a potential competitor to the native shrimp, according to the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC). In 2007, SERC scientist Eric Bah found one in the Rhode River south of Annapolis, Maryland, and two others were found in Virginia's James and York Rivers in 2009.