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November 2011

Video Investigation of Gas Drilling Sites Reveals Invisible Air Pollution

A Chesapeake Bay Foundation infrared video investigation of natural gas drilling and processing sites in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia found invisible air pollution rising from almost three quarters of those examined.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) sent the video to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today with a letter explaining that the video shows that emissions from drilling sites are not being adequately controlled, and that proposed new EPA regulations for the drilling industry do not recognize the extent of the problem or a solution.  CBF's video provides important new evidence that "the industry is not sufficiently limiting the amount of leaks from drilling and processing operations,"Jon Mueller, CBF's Vice President for Litigation, wrote to the federal agency.

DrillingsiteThe video, which can be viewed by clicking here, demonstrates the need for a comprehensive federal study of the environmental and human health impacts of the growing amount of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in the region’s Marcellus shale formation, according to two experts who reviewed CBF’s videotapes.

The images also raise troubling questions about exemptions for gas drilling rigs from air pollution control permits and regulation in federal and state law, the experts said.

“It makes no sense to exempt an emissions source that we don’t know enough about,” said one of the experts, George Jugovic, former director of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s southwest region office, who examined the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) videos.  “In Pennsylvania, we just don’t know if the emissions (from drilling rigs) are significant or negligible.”

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"Wham-Bam Double Win!" and Other Reactions to Coal-Plant Decision

ODECsketchHere are some headlines that will please opponents of a proposed coal-fired power plant in southeastern Virginia. The Old Dominion Electric Cooperative (ODEC) plant would be the largest coal-fired power plant in Virginia and contribute pollution to the region’s air and water. But the project recently suffered setbacks in court and county government (although the battle is not over yet).

Judge voids Dendron council votes on power plant

A Wham-Bam Double Win for Hampton Roads Locals Fighting Largest Proposed Coal Plant in Va

Opponents of Proposed Virginia Coal Power Plant Win in Court

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Judge and County Side Against New Coal Power Plant

A double-dose of good news regarding a coal-fired power plant proposed by the Old Dominion Electric Cooperative (ODEC) for the Town of Dendron in Surry County, Va.:

Last Thursday, a Surry County circuit court judge threw out the town’s rezoning and conditional use permit granted to ODEC last year because, the judge said, Dendron had not properly given public notice to the community before town council members voted on the issue.

The ruling is a significant victory for Michael Drewry and other nearby property owners who challenged the town’s February 2010 decision, contending Dendron had not followed state-mandated public notice procedures in granting ODEC’s rezoning request to build the giant power plant. Dendron and ODEC attorneys had argued that Drewry and his fellow citizens lacked standing, or the legal right, to challenge the town in court and that, regardless, no breach of public notice procedures had occurred.

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These Farmers Are Leading the Way to a Saved Bay

Virtual diaryThe Chesapeake Bay Foundation has long maintained that healthy, well-managed farms are among the Chesapeake Bay’s best friends. That’s why it is so heartening to see some of the best farmers in the Bay watershed spotlighted by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in its new online series called Chesapeake Bay Virtual Diary.

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Chesapeake News and Events


According to a study by Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, the oxygen-starved ‘dead zones’ of the Bay have been shrinking.  The encouraging news may point to the effectiveness of regional reductions in nutrient pollution. 

In other news:

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Atlantic States Move to Protect the "Most Important Fish in the Sea"

MenhadensmallAdvocates for the health of the Chesapeake Bay  and fisheries along the East Coast won a historic victory today in protecting menhaden, a small fish that some call the “most important fish in the sea.”

During a meeting in Boston, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission voted to tighten standards for menhaden fishing. The new standards will likely mean commercial harvests of the runty and oily but ecologically vital fish will be cut by roughly a third from 2010 levels.

However, a final decision on fishing restrictions has not yet been made -- and will require further decisions by the commission, then a vote by the Virginia General Assembly (which has in the past resisted efforts to regulate the East Coast's only remaining industrial menhaden fishing fleet, based in Reedville, Virginia) or action by the federal government.

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Atlantic States Decide Not to Restrict Fishing for Striped Bass

StripedbassimageA coalition of Atlantic coast states has decided not to place new restrictions on fishing for striped bass, a popular sport fish and icon of the Chesapeake Bay and East Coast. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission voted 9-6 yesterday not to reduce the harvest of "stripers" by 50 percent next year.  The commission is set to vote later today on a proposal to impose restrictions on the industrial harvest of a smaller fish, menhaden, that striped bass and other larger species need for food.  Stay tuned for that decision.

UPDATE:  Conservationists late Wednesday applauded a decision by the commission to set new limits on fishing for menhaden, which have been overfished 32 out of the past 54 years. The population of menhaden has fallen to its lowest size on record.  “If striped bass could speak, they’d be hooting and hollering,” said CBF President Will Baker.

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Die-Off of Oysters Reported in Northern Bay

OysterThe Maryland Department of Natural Resources is investigating a die-off of oysters in the northern Chesapeake Bay, with watermen suspecting the heavy rains and runoff pollution from Tropical Storm Lee.  UPDATE: The Baltimore Sun, however, is reporting the deaths are less extensive than first thought, and are limited to two areas north of the Bay Bridge that account for only 2 percent of total harvest.

Second Life for Proposed "Sprawl Highway" in Southern Maryland? No.

AerialWill the "Sprawl Highway" rise from the dead? No.

During their meeting at 11:30 a.m. on November 8, the Charles County, Maryland, Board of Commissioners discussed whether to appeal the Maryland Department of the Environment's decision to deny a wetlands destruction permit for a major highway project called the Cross County Connector. UPDATE: The board voted 5-0 not to appeal the state's decision. "I am very happy and thankful," said Bonnie Bick, a leader in the battle against the project who was honored as the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's "Conservationist of the Year."

The proposed "Sprawl Highway" would have paved over woods in northern Charles County and triggered spread-out residential development that would have polluted the Mattawoman Creek, one of the most productive fish breeding grounds in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Continue reading "Second Life for Proposed "Sprawl Highway" in Southern Maryland? No." »