News

    Obama Executive Order Opens Window of Opportunity to Save Chesapeake Bay

    After 25 years of watered-down policies, proposed law would hold states accountable for polluting the Bay

    EPA collected 19,000 postcards petitioning the government for tougher laws to restore the Chesapeake Bay
    EPA collected 19,000 postcards petitioning the government for tougher laws to restore the Chesapeake Bay

    Multimedia

    Rosanne Skirble

    On a warm evening in August, St. Philips Episcopal Church in Annapolis, Maryland, opened its doors to a crowd of angry citizens. They were there to talk about the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

    Community activist Vernice Miller-Travis raises concerns over development issues in the Chesapeake Bay watershed at a crowded town hall meeting in Annapolis, Maryland
    Community activist Vernice Miller-Travis raises concerns over development issues in the Chesapeake Bay watershed at a crowded town hall meeting in Annapolis, Maryland

    Among them was Vernice Miller-Travis, an official with the Maryland Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities, who was frustrated by local zoning decisions that promote development. "We are not all on the same page, we are not about to get on the same page until we grapple with issue," she says.

    Patchwork of laws have merely slowed Bay's decline

    Miller-Travis directs her remarks to Chuck Fox, a senior Environmental Protection Agency advisor, who says getting everyone with a stake in the Bay's future to agree may require tougher regulations. "Only 40 percent of all sources of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay are actually regulated by the federal or state government. I don't think we get to a clean Bay if that number stays at only 40 percent," Fox says.

    Outside his office in Annapolis, Environmental Protection Agency official Chuck Fox accepts 19,000 postcard petitions from citizens who call for stronger federal action in Bay restoration
    Outside his office in Annapolis, Environmental Protection Agency official Chuck Fox accepts 19,000 postcard petitions from citizens who call for stronger federal action in Bay restoration

    A few weeks later, outside the Chesapeake Bay Program
    office in Annapolis, Fox is handed 19,000 postcards from citizens demanding strong federal action.  The top government advisor on the Chesapeake Bay, who is a former activist, understands the problems. "It is a sad state that the Chesapeake Bay today is not a whole lot better than it was 25 years ago and that is unacceptable and that has to change."

    Restoration has been coordinated by the Chesapeake Bay Program  a federal-state partnership established in 1983; its recovery efforts thwarted by a population boom, an uneven patchwork of voluntary measures and pollution regulations and lax enforcement of rules.

    Dissention within activist ranks stalls progress

    In his book Fight for the Bay, U.S. Naval Academy political scientist Howard Ernst says failed policies, "have allowed pollution to go on unabated in a way that the Bay can't handle.  Whether it's agriculture, whether it's steel mills, whether it's air pollution, if you leave these industries to themselves, [it is in their own] economic best interests to dispose of their waste in public spaces like the Bay."

    In Fight for the Bay U.S. Naval Academy political scientist Howard Ernst argues that an environmental awakening is needed to save the Chesapeake Bay
    In Fight for the Bay U.S. Naval Academy political scientist Howard Ernst argues that an environmental awakening is needed to save the Chesapeake Bay

    Ernst argues those policies stem from two conflicted environmental camps that split loyalties among Chesapeake activists. On one side, are the so-called 'dark greens,' those who see environmental protection as a basic human right. "That you have a right to clean air, clean water and vibrant natural resources in your public spaces, and people that violate that right have to be stopped. You pass a law, you enforce it, and you make the polluters pay for cleaning up their mess," Ernst explains. 

    On the other side, are the 'light greens,' who believe, Ernst says, "that with really good science and with a consensus based approach you can overcome this contentious politics of the 'dark greens' and people will voluntarily do the things that are necessary to restore the Bay."

    Ernst contends that Bay restoration has largely been a 'light green' effort with what he calls "watered down, feel-good policies that slow the decline of the Bay, but never seem capable of actually reversing the downward trend."  And now after 25 years, he says, "we can say with a fair degree of certainty that asking nicely and showing science is not enough to change people's behavior."

    New hard-line regulations could hold states accountable

    Howard Ernst is guardedly optimistic that with a Democrat in the White House, a Democratic majority in Congress and with governors supporting Bay restoration, that Bay politics of the last 25 years can be reversed
    Howard Ernst is guardedly optimistic that with a Democrat in the White House, a Democratic majority in Congress and with governors supporting Bay restoration, that Bay politics of the last 25 years can be reversed

    Ernst says restoration requires laws, regulations and enforcement policies, a renewed 'dark green' approach.  Lisa P. Jackson, administrator at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, says the presidential executive order to restore the Bay issued in May could be a game changer.  A response to the executive order released in September would hold states accountable for the pollution they create.

    Jackson says EPA could withhold federal funding or stop permits on new projects should states fail to meet pollution reduction targets. "I believe [in] what the President wanted when he issued the executive order. He called for bold, dramatic action. If we respond with anything less than I think that skepticism is warranted," she says.

    The plan will be issued in 2010 after a period of public review.  At the same time Chesapeake Bay legislation is making its way through the U.S. Congress.  The new law would give the federal government more regulatory enforcement power, initiate a pollution trading system and provide more than 1.5 billion dollars in grants for water management projects. Jackson says there is, "reason to be optimistic, hopeful that we'll see a different result from this effort."

    But advocates fear that that the 2010 mid-term Congressional elections will put into office lawmakers opposed to strong federal regulations and enforcement and slow progress on the newly energized cleanup. In the end, the policies that can save the Chesapeake Bay have always hinged on the changing winds of American politics

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora