Decline of Black Skimmer is an Example of Biodiversity Crisis

This is the call of a black skimmer.Also called the stormgull or scissor bill, black skimmers are curious-looking birds that fish along the Atlantic Coast. They have black and white feathers, bright orange and black beaks and what looks like a ridiculous underbite. The lower portion of their beak juts far beyond their upper beak.

Surveying the Music of Maryland’s Marshlands

It’s an hour after sunset on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Glenn Therres, a wildlife biologist and associate director at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, is up to his usual Friday night routine: prowling the back roads in a pickup truck, surveying frogs.He pulls off on a swampy roadside near the Miles River and scrambles out to identify several species of amphibians by their trills and grunts.“Each of the frogs has a unique call,” Therres said. “Some of them are fairly similar but most you can distinguish from each other. So the little rattle-y sound here? Sounds like crickets? Those are called northern cricket frogs. And they really sound like someone taking a can of paint and shaking it and hearing that little ball inside. That’s a cricket frog. The bullfrogs are the kind of ‘mrrp, mrrp, mrrp.”’Keeping track of frogs, toads, and salamanders is increasingly important because amphibians are in sharp decline around the world. The journal Science recently published a study that found that an invasive species of fungus called "chytrid" is contributing to the decline of more than 500 species of amphibians globally.

At War with a Changing Climate

At the far southern end of the Chesapeake Bay, Jonathan White, a former rear admiral in the U.S. Navy, directed a tour of the world’s largest naval base, Naval Station Norfolk.While some dismiss climate change as a hoax, Admiral White described the very real threat that sea-level rise caused by global warming poses even to the military.

Lawmakers Ban Styrofoam and Pass Controversial "Clean" Energy Bill

The Maryland General Assembly wrapped up its annual session at Midnight on Monday with a solemn and emotional tribute to House Speaker Michael Busch, the veteran lawmaker and Chesapeake Bay champion who died of pneumonia on Sunday.

Farm Lobby Scuttles Bill to Ban Brain-Damaging Insecticide

For the second year in a row, lawmakers in the Maryland House of Delegates voted to approve a bill that would outlaw an insecticide called chlorpyrifos. Farmers spray the chemical on apples, peaches and other fruits, but scientists have linked the pesticide to brain damage in children.

Study Shows Sea-Level Rise’s Costs to Backyard of MD Lawmakers

Many people think of climate change and sea-level rise as issues that may threaten future generations and far-flung locations.But a Stanford University researcher recently published an innovative study that documented that rising sea levels, driven by global warming, for years have been eroding the annual revenues of businesses in Maryland’s state capital, Annapolis.

Study Shows Sea-Level Rise’s Costs to Backyard of MD Lawmakers

A Last Interview with the First Governor to Champion the Chesapeake Bay

A flood of words have been written about the recently departed Harry Hughes, the governor of Maryland from 1979 to 1987. But not enough has been said about the truly historic nature of his decision, in 1983, to organize and launch a six-state partnership to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.He created the first regional environmental effort of its kind in the world.Here’s a recording I made of Hughes in 2015 reflecting on what inspired him to make the Chesapeake Bay his legacy.“It runs right down the center of Maryland, and it sort of characterizes Maryland, I think,” Hughes said in a call from his home in Denton, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. “It’s a marvelous natural resource. And it’s very unusual. Among all the bays of the world, this is a very unique one. It was an easy decision, as far as I was concerned, that we out to do whatever we can to preserve it.”

A Last Interview with the First Governor to Champion the Chesapeake Bay

A Writer’s Crusade to Stop the Trashing of Baltimore

Tom tells us about local journalist Alec MacGillis' efforts to clean up pollution in Baltimore.

U.S. House Investigates Trump EPA’s Failure to Enforce Laws

Last week, the new Democratic majority in the U.S. House held its first oversight hearing into what the Trump Administration has been doing to the Environmental Protection Agency. Tom tells us more.

Study of E-Cigarettes Reveals Brain-Damaging Lead in "Vaping"

It’s almost impossible to walk into a convenience store, pass a bus stop, or even to watch You Tube videos these days without being assaulted with ads for vaping or electronic cigarettes. But what effect does it have on people who vape, those around them, and the environment?

Lawmakers Want to Trash Subsidies for Garbage Incineration

Last week, the Baltimore City Council passed a bill that would significantly reduce air pollution from the city’s single largest source of emissions: the BRESCO trash burning incinerator beside Interstate 95.The company that owns the 34-year-old incinerator, Wheelabrator, has warned that the pollution limits could force the shutdown of a facility that burns 700,000 tons of trash a year for Baltimore and surrounding counties and provides steam heat for downtown buildings.This, in turn, could force Baltimore residents to pay millions of dollars more to truck the garbage to landfills. The move may require the expansion of the city’s landfill on Quarantine Road in far south Baltimore, which is nearing capacity.

MD Lawmakers Consider Constitutional Right to Healthy Environment

Last week, amid the shutdown and paralysis of the federal government, the Maryland General Assembly took action and opened its 2019 legislative session.The most sweeping environmental legislation being debated this year is a proposed amendment to the Maryland Constitution that would add to the state's Declaration of Rights the right to clean air, clean water, and a healthy environment.

Trump Proposal Strips Federal Protections from 34,000 Acres of Chesapeake Wetlands

Last week, the Trump Administration announced proposed new regulations that would eliminate federal Clean Water Act protections for 51 percent of wetlands in the U.S. and at least 18 percent of streams.Republicans at an EPA press conference portrayed the rollback as relief for family farmers. Farmers allegedly faced bureaucratic permitting requirements just to use lowlands with puddles on their own property under wetlands regulations imposed by President Obama in 2015.

Trump Proposal Strips Federal Protections from 34,000 Acres of Chesapeake Wetlands

The Last Stand for Nutria

Nutria, also called Myocaster coypus (latin for mouse beaver), are large rodents native to South America that wreaked havoc on the Chesapeake Bay's wetlands when they were imported in the 1940's for the fur trade.But now nutria face their last stand on Maryland's Eastern Shore. There are almost none left alive after an intensive, more than decade-long trapping campaign by federal and state government agencies.Wildlife managers conducted a successful eradication campaign against the invasive species because they eat the roots of wetlands plants. This accelerates the erosion of marshes that are important breeding grounds for fish and birds, and also work as water pollution filters that clean the Chesapeake Bay.

Climate Change and Vanishing Economies

Last week, on Black Friday, the Trump Administration released a Congressionally-mandated scientific assessment of the impact of climate change. The report examined the future American economy, predicting that wildfires, droughts, and floods will impose hundreds of billions of dollars in costs by the end of the century if nothing is done.

Baltimore Combats Spread of Zebra Mussels Through Permitting Program

Last week on this program, I narrated a feature on the joys of kayaking on the Prettyboy Reservoir in Northern Baltimore County amid the glorious colors of fall. The next day, I received a letter from an attorney at the Baltimore Department of Public Works, which owns the reservoir.The letter said that city officials had heard my show and then checked their records and found that I did not have the proper sticker for boating on the reservoir. "Failure to follow the City of Baltimore Watershed Regulations is...subject to fines up to $1,000," the letter warned.

The Impact of Near-Record Rainfall on Chesapeake Bay Grasses

Maryland has experienced the rainiest year on record in more than a century, with the 43 inches falling through August 15 the most since 1889.So much stormwater has been flooding down the Susquehanna River into the northern end of the Chesapeake Bay that the Exelon Power company opened several of the flood gates on the Conowingo Dam, unleashing a torrent of sediment and pollution that had been trapped behind the dam.

Green Accounting and the Economic Value of Nature

I was paddling down the Big Gunpowder Falls near Sparks, Maryland, when I saw a great blue heron standing on a log in the river, tall and elegant. As I drifted closer, it launched into the air and flew over my head, its six-foot wingspan and knife-like beak all the more impressive at close range.Nearby, atop the riverbank, was a house. I thought: what is the economic value of this heron to that homeowner? Would he be able to sell his house for $505,000 instead of $500,000 if a buyer saw the heron before agreeing to the price? Or maybe the location and the view of the river are all that matter in the fast-moving world of real estate transactions.

Chesapeake Bay as the Wellspring of American Culture and Identity

It was April 26, 1607. Three English ships, the Susan Constant, the Godspeed and the Discovery, were sailing across the wind-swept Atlantic Ocean when their captain, Christopher Newport, saw the low-slung coast of the new world and entered the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.Newport, Captain John Smith and the other founders of the Jamestown colony, had not come for freedom. In that way, they were different than other English colonizers of North America: the Pilgrims, who landed farther north 13 years earlier and established the Plymouth colony. The Pilgrims were religious separatists who endured the alien landscape because they hungered for religious liberty.By contrast, Jamestown was established by the Virginia Company of London strictly as a for-profit business. The corporate mission was to find gold, as the Spanish did when they plundered the Aztecs almost a century earlier.

Green Day in Baltimore: Council Approves Bans on Crude Oil Terminals and Styrofoam

The Baltimore City Council on Monday approved two bills that environmental activists in the city had been fighting to advance for years.The first bans the construction or expansion of any crude oil terminals in the city. The goal of this legislation, which passed by a vote of 14-1 and now must be signed by the mayor, is to reduce the risk that trains carrying volatile crude oil could derail and explode in the city.The second bill outlaws a petroleum product: Styrofoam cups and fast-food containers, which do not break down in the environment like paper products, and so create a persistent source of litter, and a blight in streams and along roadsides.

Green Day in Baltimore: Council Approves Bans on Crude Oil Terminals and Styrofoam

Purchase of Utility Would Spark Natural Gas Pipeline Boom in Maryland

Next month, the Maryland Public Service Commission will vote on whether to allow a Canadian energy company to buy Washington Gas and Light, a public utility that has provided electricity and natural gas to customers in the District of Columbia and Maryland suburbs for more than a century.The proposed merger of AltaGas and Washington Gas is part of a trend across the country. Increasing numbers of locally-owned and controlled public utilities are being bought up by large corporate conglomerates based in distant headquarters, according to Paul Patterson, a utility industry analyst at Glenrock Associates in New York...

Purchase of Utility Would Spark Natural Gas Pipeline Boom in Maryland

Federal Wetlands Rule Rollback has a Swampy Foundation

The Trump Administration announced that it will eliminate an Obama-era regulation called the Clean Water Rule, which was imposed in 2015 to limit development in wetlands and streams.

Sewage

Sewage

Wastewater Trading

Wastewater Trading