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.

Is "Green New Deal" the Political Equivalent of Trump's Wall?

Last week, Congressional Democrats unveiled a resolution that articulated a vision for shifting the American economy to a clean energy future. The so-called "Green New Deal" would encourage alternatives to fossil fuels with the goal of creating jobs in wind, solar, and mass transportation.President Trump's reaction to the "Green New Deal" was to mock the idea at a political rally."It would shut down American energy, which I don't think the people in Texas will be happy with," Trump told a crowd in El Paso. "It would shut down a little thing called air travel. They want to take away your car, reduce the value of your home, and put millions of Americans out of work."On the other side of the aisle, Democrats defended the move away from coal and oil as a lofty goal – similar to President Kennedy's proposal of putting a man on the Moon.

"Green" Energy Price Gaps Raise Questions About Transparency

Twenty years ago, following a trend of Republican-style free-market deregulation across the country, the Democratic-led Maryland General Assembly passed a law called the Electric Customer Choice and Competition Act of 1999.The whole point of the law was to make electricity cheaper for average folks. The idea was to give people the freedom to choose whether to keep buying from old-fashioned, regulated public utilities like BGE or PEPCO, or sign contracts with a whole galaxy of new, unregulated electric providers.Utility executives who pushed the scheme made millions.But customers did not make out so well. Two decades after the deregulation law passed, a pair of authoritative reports — by the Maryland Office of People's Counsel and the Abell Foundation — have concluded that Maryland rate payers were ripped off and are now paying more, not less, as promised.

Exploring Earth's Geological History to Show Impact of Greenhouse Gases

Climate change is one of the most important public policy issues facing the world. But many elected officials, and even news organizations, still portray global warming as a controversial and disputed scientific theory, with arguments on both sides.For example, here's the President of the United States. "Obama was talking about all of this global warming. And a lot of that is a hoax, it's a hoax," President Trump said at a rally. "I mean, it's a money-making industry, okay? It's a hoax."But climate change is not a hoax, or even something that scientists with supercomputers have predicted for the future. The geological record of the Earth's history shows that, whenever carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere have gone up, temperatures have also risen – often with catastrophic consequences.

Exploring Earth's Geological History to Show Impact of Greenhouse Gases

EPA Chief's History of Lobbying for Polluting Industries Dismissed by GOP

forced out by capitol police.Andrew Wheeler is a controversial choice to run the Environmental Protection Agency because he formerly worked as an attorney and lobbyist for a coal mining company, Murray Energy. He also represented several other polluters regulated by EPA – including a uranium mining company, Energy Fuels Resources; a liquid natural gas export firm, Bear Head LNG Corporation; a chemical manufacturer, the Celanese Corporation, and several others.

EPA Chief's History of Lobbying for Polluting Industries Dismissed by GOP

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.

Pipeline Denials Protect Potomac River and "Speak for the Trees"

With hydraulic facturing revolutionizing the oil and gas industry, and the Trump Administration pushing an "energy dominance" doctrine, pipeline construction is booming across the U.S., with nearly 15,000 miles laid last year. That was nearly double the amount the year before.But two major gas pipeline projects in the Mid-Atlantic region recently slammed into unexpected roadblocks.In December, a U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond denied permits for the proposed Atlantic Coast natural pipeline that would run 600 miles from West Virginia to North Carolina. The $7 billion project would have ripped through the George Washington and Monongahela national forests in Virginia, and crossed the scenic Appalachian Trail.In a ruling that drew on language from Dr. Seuss' classic book "The Lorax," the three judge panel said that the Trump Administration's U.S. Forest Service had betrayed its core mission of advocating for nature by rubber-stamping approvals for the pipeline.

Interbreeding of Ravens Echoes Human Genetic History (Encore)

Common ravens, or Corvus Corax, are – of course – beloved in Baltimore, with their ties to Edgar Allan Poe and our NFL team. But historically, around the world, ravens have been seen either as harbingers of death – because of their habit of eating dead animals and people – or, alternatively, as godlike tricksters, because of their intelligence, dexterity, and bizarre vocalizations.

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

Popular Herbicide Triggers Rash of Cancer Lawsuits

Biologists have long raised concerns about the ecological impact of the world's most popular weed killer, RoundUp.RoundUp's active ingredient, glyphosate, kills milkweed plants in and around farm fields and on roadsides, depriving monarch butterfly caterpillars of their sole source of food. This has contributed to a 90 percent decline in monarch butterflies over the two decades RoundUp has been widely sprayed on genetically-modified corn and soybean crops. But the herbicide has also unleashed a second trend: a rash of lawsuits. People suffering from a form of cancer allegedly linked to RoundUp have filed more than 9,000 lawsuits against the weed-killer's manufacturer, Monsanto, and its German parent company, Bayer pharmaceuticals.Environmental attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr. represented a California man dying of lymphoma who in August won a $289 million jury verdict against Monsanto and Bayer.

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.

Once Thought Nearly Extinct, Sturgeon Found Reproducing in James River

Atlantic sturgeon are dinosaur-era fish with bony plates and sandpaper hide that were once the kings of the Chesapeake Bay and other waterways along the East Coast.These giants with long snouts, whiskers and soft mouths were once so common that during their spring spawning runs up rivers, their bodies – sometimes 15 feet long and 800 pounds – would crowd streams like living logjams.Sturgeon were a mainstay in the diet of many Native Americans, who speared the fish from canoes and used every part of the animals. English colonists, however, regarded sturgeon mostly as nuisance and a trash fish.That was until the 1870's, when a vast industry developed to slaughter sturgeon for their eggs, also known as caviar. By 1900, virtually all sturgeon in North America were wiped out – the passive creatures speared by the millions as they traveled up streams, their bodies left to rot. And then the caviar industry moved on to Russia. For decades, biologists in the Chesapeake Bay region assumed Atlantic Sturgeon were virtually extinct, harmed also by pollution and dams. A few old adult sturgeon were found at the far southern end of the Bay – in the James River – but there were no young anywhere, foreboding ill for the survival of the species.But then... something miraculous happened.

Once Thought Nearly Extinct, Sturgeon Found Reproducing in James River

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.

Exploring Maryland's Natural Wonders with a Smartphone App

It was a crisp, fall Sunday afternoon, with the sun dazzlingly bright after a summer of relentless rain. I wanted to go off on an adventure to a place I'd never seen.So I did what I normally do on such occasions: I turned to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. The wildlife agency has an app that you can download onto your smartphone that features an interactive online map showing the exact location of every public access boat launch site in Maryland – almost 500 of them, along with maps of hiking trails, state parks, public fishing piers, and other places you can enjoy the outdoors.I highly recommend the AccessDNR app. I've made it a personal mission to use the app to try kayak at all the public boat launch sites in the state. On this Sunday, I looked at the map – and noticed a red dot that I had not yet visited. It was at the Prettyboy Reservoir in Gunpowder Falls State Park, about 40 minutes north of my home in Baltimore.So I drove up there, and after dragging my kayak down to the water's edge, set off paddling across the glassy waters in the late afternoon sun.

Tuesday's U.S. House Elections Could Shine Spotlight on Trump's Environmental Rollbacks

There's a lot at stake in the elections on Tuesday, including which party controls the U.S. House and whether Congress will begin hearings and oversight of the Trump Administration's rollback of environmental regulations.The Republican-led U.S. House has passed 36 different anti-environmental bills and amendments the last two years, according to the National League of Conservation Voters. This includes legislation that would undermine the Chesapeake Bay cleanup by stripping EPA of its authority to penalize states that fail to meet pollution reduction targets.The House's majority also voted in favor of legislation that would – among other things – reduce protections for wetlands and streams; allow more methane pollution from oil and gas drilling sites; and override local bans on the use of pesticides in lawn care, such as have been adopted by Howard and Montgomery counties in Maryland.Congressman John Sarbanes, a Maryland Democrat, voted against all these bills and is running for re-election in a district that includes parts of the Baltimore area. "The House has been on a crusade to overturn regulations that protect our environment," Sarbanes said.

Tuesday's U.S. House Elections Could Shine Spotlight on Trump's Environmental Rollbacks

Republicans in U.S. House Vote for a Ban on Bans of Pesticides

Back in 2015, Montgomery County, Maryland, became one of a growing number of local governments across the country to restrict the use of pesticides in lawn care. The weed killer RoundUp and other pesticides have been linked to health risks in humans and sharp declines in populations of Monarch butterflies, bees, and other pollinators around the world.George Leventhal, a Montgomery County Councilman, was the lead sponsor of the lawn pesticide ban. He remembers the arguments made by local parents."We had mothers of asthmatic children who were having asthma attacks when their neighbors were applying pesticide spray," Leventhal said. "The spray would carry in the wind, and would trigger asthma, chemical allergy, multiple chemical sensitivity — and there is no need to use these toxic chemicals on your lawn."The county's prohibition in October of that year came seven months after the World Health Organization, in March of 2015, labelled RoundUp's active ingredient, glyphosate, a probable human carcinogen.But the pesticide manufacturing industry sued the county. And a judge in August of 2017 sided with the industry, striking down a portion of the county ban that applied to private lawns – although not to public property, such as playgrounds and county parks.

Investigation Finds 75 Percent of Large Slaughterhouses Violate Water Pollution Limits

People don't always think about the environmental impact of the food they eat — and specifically, the water pollution created by the meat processing industry.More than 8 billion chickens are slaughtered every year in the U.S., along with 100 million hogs, and 30 million beef cattle. These animals are processed in more than 5,000 meat processing plants, large and small.

Investigation Finds 75 Percent of Large Slaughterhouses Violate Water Pollution Limits

18 Authors Discuss "Chesapeake Requiem" and the Sinking of Tangier Island

Chesapeake Requiem is a new book about the culturally rich and historically unique community of watermen on Tangier Island in the southern Chesapeake Bay and how sea-level rise may soon wash it all away. That would make Tangiermen some of America's first climate change refugees.The author, Earl Swift, produced a complex and beautifully written book by spending 14 months living among the watermen on the tiny, isolated crabbing town just south of the Maryland/Virginia state line. But it's not just a book about Chesapeake culture. It also raises profound and troubling questions about America: about climate change denialism from the crab shacks on Tangier Island to the White House; and what our country should do about the inundation of a growing number of waterfront communities caused by sea-level rise.Earl Swift, a former reporter for the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, joined famed Chesapeake Bay author Tom Horton and myself in a panel discussion of the Chesapeake and climate change at the Baltimore Book Festival on Sunday.

18 Authors Discuss "Chesapeake Requiem" and the Sinking of Tangier Island

Maryland Considers Air Pollution Restrictions for Trash Incinerators

With the smokestack of Maryland's largest trash-burning incinerator in the background, dozens of protesters held a rally on Friday in south Baltimore's Carroll Park to demand either a shutdown or stronger pollution controls on the BRESCO waste-to-energy plant.The activists gave speeches and waved signs beneath a banner that read, "Burning Trash is Not Clean Energy." That's a reference to a 2011 state law that gives the 33-year-old incinerator, operated by the New Hampshire-based Wheelabrator company on contract for the city, millions of dollars in tax breaks as a source of allegedly "green" energy, like solar or wind.

Democrat Ben Jealous Calls for 100 Percent Renewable Energy in MD

Last week on this program, we examined the environmental record of Maryland's Republican Governor Larry Hogan as he runs for re-election on November 6.This week, we'll look at the environmental platform and history of his Democratic challenger, Ben Jealous. Jealous has never held an elected office. But he's a former Rhodes Scholar, newspaper reporter and former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.At the NAACP, Jealous started the organization's climate justice program, which emphasizes that minorities and lower income people are often hit hardest by flooding, extreme weather, air pollution, and other impacts of burning fossil fuels.As candidate for Governor, at the top of Jealous' list of environmental priorities is to have Maryland join California and Hawaii as states that plan to stop using coal and natural gas to generate electricity and switch to 100 percent solar, wind and other clean fuels.

Examining MD Gov. Hogan's Record on the Environment

With Republican Maryland Governor Larry Hogan running for re-election in a majority Democratic state on Nov. 6th, he's emphasizing his record on the environment as an area to claim a moderate legacy, and to differentiate himself from Republican President Trump, who is highly unpopular in the state.Hogan's environmental secretary, Ben Grumbles, highlights Governor Hogan's efforts to reduce pollution into the Chesapeake Bay, including the tons of sediment pouring over the Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River."I would say, number one, would be the strong, bipartisan support for Chesapeake Bay restoration," said Grumbles, asked to list the governor's top environmental accomplishments. "And I have to fold into that not only the governor's record funding for the Chesapeake Bay restoration, from Program Open Space, to the 2010 Trust Fund, to full and robust support for the Bay Restoration Fund and the other funding programs. But it's also about being a strong supporter of the Chesapeake Bay TMDL."The Bay TMDL – or Total Maximum Daily Load – is the set of EPA pollution limits that the Obama Administration imposed for Chesapeake region states in 2010. And this is where Hogan's claims of success become as murky as the bay itself has been this summer, with the record-breaking rainfall and large amounts of runoff pollution.

"Delmarva Potholes" and Other Threatened Wetlands and Streams 09-05-18

I'm on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, near Denton, standing in a forested wetlands surrounded by miles of corn and soybean fields. Here, in this little island of biodiversity, sweetgum trees and bald cypresses rise up from coffee-colored water.A gentle wind sways the branches, leading spots of light and shadow in a dance over the surface of the water, illuminating tufts of grasses and rotting logs that are home to salamanders and frogs.This place is what is called a "Delmarva Pothole" or "Delmarva Bay." They are small, isolated, fresh water wetlands that are connected only beneath the ground to nearby streams and rivers.Although few outsiders have ever heard of them, biologists say these potholes – which locals call "whale wallows" — provide invaluable ecological services for the Chesapeake Bay by filtering runoff pollution being washed by rain off of farm fields.

"Delmarva Potholes" and Other Threatened Wetlands and Streams 09-05-18

Globalization and Invasive Species Take Toll on America's Trees

A white ash tree stands beside my front porch in Baltimore — its trunk nearly as thick as I am tall, and its branches stretching at least three times the height of my three-story house, shading one side of my roof to the other.It's about 200 years old, and it started growing back when this section of the city was still farmland beside a stream, decades before the Civil War.