Let's talk again about the environment. Along with labor and jsutice, neo-liberals are back to pretending they are environmental.
I talked earlier about contacting all Maryland Environmental groups to get them to shout out about how TPP will end environmental law and as of now, Maryland Sierra Club is the only one I've heard. 350 organization does link to TPP articles. When I ask a young environmental activist at the Sandy Point meeting why he is asking for my signature to protect the environment of a small inlet on the Chesapeake Bay when making the Port of Baltimore a world-wide shipping lane for cargo ships will kill the bay with invasive species....
THE PORT OF BALTIMORE BEING MADE A WORLD CARGO SHIPPING PORT IS THE ONLY ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUE FOR CHESAPEAKE BAY......ACIDIFICATION OF SEAS IS THE NEXT.
Yet, we have oyster restoration projects and blue crab projects all of which will disappear from invasive species/acidity. Sea acidity is already killing the lobsters in the NE and oysters in the NW. So, coal-fired power plants sold to Exelon by O'Malley and the Maryland Assembly rather than shutting them down is the problem for acid rain.
Below you see energy policy that works against environment.....consolidating the energy industry and deregulating it with coal-fired power plants kept open????? Allowing a wind farm that will provide a negligible amount of energy while all this policy is in place does nothing for global warming or environmentalism.
REALLY????? THAT'S A NEO-LIBERAL FOR YOU-----PRETENDING TO BE ENVIRONMENTAL WHEN ALL LAWS AND POLICY HAND POWER TO BIG BUSINESS TO DO WHAT THEY WANT----
Feature Power Failure
Maryland Loses Control of its Energy Future
Smell of Steve Inc. Ralph Brave THE BRANDON SHORES POWER PLANT, once owned by BGE, now the property of Constellation Smell of Steve Inc. A LETTER WRITTEN by Attorney General Joseph Curran to the House Environmental Matters Committee in 1999, forecasting the current dilemma. Open a larger pdf version. By Ralph Brave | Posted 4/5/2006 “This,” declares state Sen. Leo E. Green, standing before the Senate Finance Committee and a capacity audience on the afternoon of March 21. “This is the nuclear approach.”
Before he explains “the nuclear approach,” the stately Democratic senator from Prince George’s County, a former mayor of Bowie, turns his head and glares at the passel of power company and utility executives sitting in the audience. Green is nearly foaming at the mouth—literally: white flecks of spittle form at the corners of his grimace—as he mentions the millions of dollars that executives of Constellation Energy Group, parent company of Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., reportedly made from the recent exercise of their stock options. Industry reports show that Constellation CEO Mayo Shattuck III and three other top executives exercised tens of millions of dollars in stock options and then, on Dec. 21, 2005—just two months before a 72 percent (BGE) electric rate increase was announced— sold Constellation stock worth over $100 million.
Returning to his legislation, Senate Bill 972, Green announces that his nuclear bomb proposes the reregulation of utilities like BGE as the only long-term solution to the rate-hike crisis that has engulfed media and public discourse in Maryland. Not only would his measure overturn deregulation and return rate-setting power to the Maryland Public Service Commission, it would allow electric companies to buy or build power generation facilities and prohibit the passing on to ratepayers “the cost of reacquiring generation assets that the companies sold or transferred to affiliates.” In other words, BGE would somehow grab back the coal and nuclear plants turned over to Constellation, under the 1999 state deregulation law, without any costs to the ratepayers. If Green has his way, deregulation would be blown up, and the good old days of regulated, cost-based electricity from BGE-owned power plants would be back.
The senator has some surprising allies in his bid for reregulation. Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. provided Green with a written opinion that taking back the power plants without compensation by ratepayers “is not unconstitutional.” While not going that far, Patricia A. Smith, the governor-appointed director of the Maryland Office of People’s Counsel, has called for an investigation that includes evaluation of “utility acquisition of existing plants” and “a state power authority.” Baltimore Sun business columnist Jay Hancock has repeatedly called for reregulation. “Desperate times call for desperate measures,” Hancock wrote in his March 8 column; on March 12 he wrote, “Maybe BGE and its long-lost plants could be reunited. What the General Assembly once put asunder, the General Assembly can try to rejoin.”
But with only two co-sponsors, SB 972 seems to have no legs. Apparently, even as the legislature wrangles with BGE and Constellation over the rate hike, Gov. Robert Ehrlich and the legislative leadership so far remain committed to deregulation. In a late-March interview with City Paper, Green admits that while he believed in the long-run public regulation must be the way to go, “in the short term, reregulation doesn’t have a chance in this [legislative] committee.”
With that acknowledgement, the underlying meaning of the state’s electric rate shock comes into full view: Maryland has lost control over its energy future. Whatever deal may finally be struck to cushion the rate increase, whatever the reconfiguration of the Public Service Commission, whatever the outcome of the proposed merger between Constellation and Florida Power and Light, control over the state’s electric supply and its price has been lost, ceded to unstable global energy markets and a now-unregulated local monopoly.
It wasn’t supposed to turn out this way.
During the March 21 Senate Finance Committee hearing, the debate revolved around arcane arguments over regulation vs. deregulation, fixed-price “standard offer of service” and spot markets, opt-in aggregation vs. opt-out aggregation. Such debate makes even the most attentive mind quickly grow bleary. Strictly speaking, Maryland residents and businesses don’t really care about these formal mechanisms; they care that their electric supply is predictably reliable and affordable and, for many, environmentally friendly.
Indeed, the utilities themselves once saw government regulation, first established in Maryland in 1910, as the savior of their industry. The official 1950 history of Baltimore Gas and Electric celebrated an end to “the days of competition” and “the creation of the Maryland Public Service Commission...of a permanent and quasi-judicial control...and a reasonable rate of return.” For the next half-century, BGE, like all other utilities, charged gas and electric rates based on production and distribution costs, plus a reasonable rate of return as determined by the state Public Service Commission. While this meant that utilities were viewed as investment laggards in the go-go stock market, they were stocks of Gibraltar during economic downtimes because their costs and their earnings were guaranteed.
All that changed when Enron and the theology of competition and free markets for electricity came to town in 1998-’99. By separating electric power production from distribution, and the creation of a free trading market for kilowatts, the utility and electric industry promised lower prices for customers due to competition. “Even though I worked for [a] utility and favored deregulation,” says Wayne Harbaugh, BGE senior manager for regulatory affairs, “I recall warning about Enron’s promises back then of 30 to 40 percent reductions in electric rates” resulting from deregulation. But, as Office of the People’s Council director Patricia Smith remembers, “Enron was treated like a demigod.”
During the 1999 session in Annapolis, utility deregulation legislation was sponsored by the legislative leadership in both houses: by Thomas “Mike” Miller and Thomas Bromwell in the Senate, where it passed 34-13, and by Casper Taylor in the House of Delegates, where it passed 95-34. Maryland ratepayers, the legislature determined, were going to move from a regulated system of cost-based electricity prices to an unregulated system of market-based electricity prices.
There were immediate benefits to ratepayers from the deregulation bill. A 6.5 percent rate reduction was imposed, along with a six-year cap on rates—measures that Constellation Energy contends saved ratepayers $1 billion while the rate cap was in effect.
The trade-off was that BGE would no longer control its power production, and the state Public Service Commission was no longer in complete control of electric costs. Instead, BGE was forced to turn its plants over to its parent company. Constellation would now be a free-market power producer, while BGE became entirely a transmission and distribution company, generating not a single kilowatt of electricity. BGE would have to turn to the marketplace to purchase its power, from companies like Constellation. Whatever electric price BGE was charged by the power companies would be passed on to consumers.
On July 1, 2000, Constellation took control of the Calvert Cliffs nuclear plant in Calvert County, the Brandon Shores and Wagner coal plants in Anne Arundel County, the C.P. Crane coal plant in Baltimore County, and all other power plants formerly owned by BGE. In addition, BGE ratepayers began paying a monthly “commodity transfer charge” of $4.40 to cover the “stranded costs” of these plants, meaning their presumed decline in value once they began operating in the free market. When that charge is removed from BGE bills on July 1, along with removal of the rate caps, BGE customers will have paid $528 million to Constellation for this “stranded costs” charge. As it turned out, these plants not only did not suffer any decline in value, but by all estimates have increased in value immensely.
The theory behind deregulation was that during the six years of transition after 1999 electric competition would develop, particularly from low-cost natural gas generators, thereby creating downward pressures on electric prices. “Electricity: You use it. Now, choose it” became—and remains—the slogan of the Public Service Commission’s “Electric Choice” program.
But something happened that many of the opponents of deregulation had predicted. Electric competition didn’t appear. There was no electric choice for residents.
Indeed, no BGE, Constellation, or industry executive contacted by City Paper would directly answer when competition could be expected to appear. Pressed by the media during the final days of March, Constellation CEO Shattuck claimed, “We’ve always said, it’s [lower prices from competition] a 20- to 30-year process. Over a long period, it will result in lower prices for consumers.”
A review of the 1999 legislative files shows that opponents of deregulation attempted to modify the deregulation bills in a variety of ways. They opposed the payment of “stranded costs,” introduced policies ensuring affordable electric service for low-income residents, called for stipulations mandating energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. But the files reveal only one statement of direct opposition to the fundamental deregulation scheme in the legislation, and that came in a February 25, 1999, letter from Attorney General Curran.
“[T]hrowing the doors open to competition will not alone ensure that the post-deregulation structure of the electricity generation and supply market will be competitive,” Curran asserted. “As we have seen in the cable industry, deregulation without competition can result in higher not lower prices.
“Because of the risks of overly generous stranded cost recovery and the possibility that sufficient competition will not materialize, it is [best] to maintain regulation until we are assured that the transition to a competitive market has been completed,” Curran urged legislators. “Only when a truly competitive market has been achieved should regulatory and legislative protections be removed.”
But Curran’s warnings were not heeded. Recalling his 1999 concerns about deregulation in an interview with City Paper, Curran says, “We felt that while there might be a benefit from deregulation to a large industrial user, that might not be the case for the hundreds of thousands of residential users, who would have to figure out what’s best and how to shop for it.
“Our attitude was that if you’re going to deregulate, make sure first that there’s competition for the residential customer,” he continues. “Don’t uncouple the power plants from the delivery system until you’re sure that there are other power generators that will compete and provide energy for residents. Theory is one thing. Reality is another.”
The reality In the six years following the passage of the deregulation law has been that natural gas prices escalated rapidly, due to mounting global demand, instability in the Middle East, and the dramatic effects of hurricanes Katrina and Rita on U.S. natural gas production.
While all of this would inevitably have had some effect on BGE prices under the old regulatory system, most analysts agree that it would not have resulted in a 72 percent rate increase. More than three-quarters of the electric production from the plants BGE turned over to Constellation comes from coal and nuclear facilities, which, environmental concerns aside, produce power relatively cheaply. Under the new, deregulated system, the price of the electricity those coal and nuclear plants produce is no longer based on their own relatively low production costs. Instead it is more or less pegged to the market price of electricity, usually determined by prices from plants burning gas or oil.
By comparison to Maryland, state Sen. Green cites what happened in Michigan, as detailed by Hancock in his March 12 Sun column. Michigan has phased in a deregulation plan since 1999 under which the utility held on to its coal and nuclear plants. Michigan ratepayers faced only a rate increase of 9 percent when similar rate caps expired Jan. 1. “We made a mistake when we gave away our plants, the most valuable asset we had,” Green says with evident anger. “As of now, we’re at the point where the most important thing is to have leverage over the merger.”
The merger he refers to is the proposed $11 billion buyout of Constellation, including BGE, by Florida Power and Light. State legislators have passed bills through the House and Senate that would give them unprecedented power to oversee and approve or disapprove a utility merger such as the one involving Constellation, functions generally carried out by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Whether the legislators are serious about trying to shape or block the merger, or are merely looking for a bargaining chip in negotiations over the 72 percent rate increase, the legislation highlights that it is not BGE, but Constellation, that is now in control.
When representatives of the 800,000-strong United Seniors of Maryland testified on the impact of the rate hike before the Senate Finance Committee, they raised the specters of death and dislocation. They testified to the plight of frail seniors on fixed incomes who would be unable to afford air conditioning during summer peak heat. State Sen. Lisa Gladden (D-Baltimore City) also worries about a potential grisly parallel with the number of deaths that occur each winter from fire caused by families cut off from their utility power at current rates who resort to candles and indoor fires for light and heat. On March 12, The Washington Post highlighted 77-year-old Don Dunn of Howard County, for whom the rate increase, combined with property tax increases due to rising home values, meant that he might have to sell his home. On March 11, The Sun profiled 63-year-old Velma Moseley, a disabled individual in West Baltimore who depends on electrically charging her wheelchair.
“We understand that it’s painful,” Constellation CEO Shattuck told The Sun on March 10, referring to the transition to high-cost market electric rates. But addressing such pain can only be an afterthought, a charitable contribution, for a company whose sights are set on growth into a domineering global energy corporation.
Constellation’s primary business is “merchant energy”—the production of electric power and the wholesale of it to utilities like BGE, or directly to large commercial and industrial customers. While BGE’s total 2004 revenues were $2.7 billion, Constellation’s merchant energy business reaped revenues of over $12.5 billion by selling its power in deregulated markets all over the country. Constellation is now a Fortune 200 company, the largest of its kind in the nation.
Constellation’s 2004 Form 10-K, a detailed analysis of the company filed annually with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, answers an important question about the company and its subsidiary BGE’s rate increase: Despite the six-year rate caps on BGE electric prices, BGE has been consistently and increasingly profitable. Constellation and BGE claim that during these past six years of rate caps BGE has been unable to recover all of its costs in delivering electricity to its customers. While that may be true, this has not prevented BGE from netting profits of $99 million in 2002, $107 million in 2003, and $131 million in 2004. In other words, any additional cost recovery would have been more profit on top of those profits.
Constellation’s 2004 Form 10-K also shows that, even before the Maryland rate-hike debacle, the company was aware of and warning its investors of a backlash against deregulation throughout the nation. “While many states continue their support for retail competition and industry restructuring,” the company 10-K report advises, “other states that were considering deregulation have slowed their plans or postponed consideration. In addition, other states are reconsidering deregulation.” Although couched in matter-of-fact language, this is a strong cautionary statement from a power company whose growth depends almost entirely upon deregulated electric markets.
But Constellation, like any business, does not leave things to chance when it comes to dealing with state government authorities. It plays to win.
Constellation, and the rest of the power industry, is the most “wired” interest group in Annapolis, says Brad Heavner, director of the pro-consumer Maryland Public Interest Group. “I have been literally surrounded by utility and power company lobbyists in Annapolis,” he says, “either blocking my access to a legislator or interfering with my conversation with a legislator.”
In addition to the more than $400,000 Constellation has spent on political campaign contributions in Maryland during the past seven years, and hundreds of thousands of dollars more on lobbyists, the company’s influence reaches into the most powerful sectors of Maryland life. Constellation executives and managers sitting on the boards of nearly 300 organizations. UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski III sits on Constellation’s board of directors. The chairman of the University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents, David Nevins, serves as its public relations executive. Constellation is also a major sponsor of the Baltimore Ravens. When the March 8 Sun carried the front-page banner headline “BGE Bill to Increase $743,” Sun Maryland section columnist Laura Vozzella devoted most of her space to a smiling Molly Shattuck—39-year-old wife of Constellation’s CEO— who had once again made the Ravens cheerleading squad, “an inspiration to aging cheerleaders.”
Former energy industry managers and operatives are also well positioned within the “business-friendly” Ehrlich administration. Buried deep within the state’s executive branch is the Maryland Energy Administration, an independent agency whose origins go back to the oil embargo crisis of 1973-’74. Charged by law with the responsibility to be a driving force in state energy policy, including “to develop strategic plans and implement policies relating to energy supply management,” the Maryland Energy Administration has been largely out of sight during the electric rate debates. Frederick Davis, who assumed the helm of the administration in January, was a 22-year government affairs lobbyist with the Edison Electric Institute, the national trade organization for electric utilities. Indeed, Davis says that his position was secured “not so much by my relation with the governor, who I only knew slightly when he was a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee in the House of Representatives, but mainly through my connections with BGE.”
But it is the Maryland Public Service Commission where the influence of the power industry and the utilities has brought the greatest scrutiny from the legislature and the media. While Ehrlich-appointed PSC Chairman Kenneth Schisler claims that the 1999 deregulation law constrains him from doing more about the rate increase than assuring that the process is lawfully implemented, even Republican Sen. E.J. Pipkin found the PSC at fault for raising 50,000 BGE customers’ bills in advance of the official July 1 rate increase date. The upper Eastern Shore senator gave that as his reason for being the only Republican in the Senate to vote for a bill essentially firing the current PSC members and reassigning the power to appoint PSC commissioners largely to the legislature.
In this crucible of media scrutiny, Schisler has shown his partisan as well as his pro-industry stripes. On March 20, in the midst of revelations in the media of e-mails showing that Schisler had a close, self-serving relationship with the power companies and their lobbyists, the PSC chair made himself available for a series of interviews with area television media in his offices on the 21st floor of the William Donald Schaefer Tower. This seemingly was the moment for Schisler to demonstrate that he is the nonpartisan, public-serving expert manager prescribed for a PSC commissioner. The main text of Schisler’s carefully scripted message was that, while he understood the need for a scapegoat in this situation, he was simply carrying out the duties of his office as prescribed by the state legislature’s 1999 deregulation law.
But as he neared the end of his statement, Schisler wanted it to be known that it was Max Curran, a former Public Service commissioner, Attorney General Curran’s son, and Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley’s brother-in-law, who unsuccessfully voted in 2003 to include some portion of utility taxes in electric rates. And Schisler, with shaking hands, was handing out the documents to prove it.
Schisler was, in fact, echoing a charge first made five days before by the Maryland Republican Party. “It’s time for O’Malley to tell Marylanders the truth about his party and his own brother-in-law’s role in setting the stage for massive 72 percent utility rate hikes,” Republican Party spokeswoman Audra Miller said in a press release distributed March 15. Asked by City Paper whether she was serious about her statement, Miller said yes, that “Martin O’Malley’s party and family are responsible for the pain Marylanders will be experiencing.”
The governor’s race, and the rest of the 2006 election cycle, is inevitably driving much of the rhetoric around the rate-hike issue. While attending the March 23 hearing of the Senate Finance Committee, O’Malley’s Democratic gubernatorial primary opponent, Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan, was asked whether or not he agrees with the Republican Party critique. “Well,” Duncan said, “his brother-in-law did serve on the commission. And his running mate [Prince George’s County Del. Anthony Brown] voted for the deregulation bill.”
How much of a role the rate-hike crisis and deregulation will play in voters’ decisions come the September primary and the November general election is impossible to predict. But politicians in contested races seem to be taking no chances. State Sen. Paula Hollinger, D-Baltimore County, thought that her run for the 3rd District congressional seat being vacated by Ben Cardin would be paved by her successful fight for stem-cell research funding. But as the legislative session drew to a close, Hollinger, who voted for the 1999 deregulation measure, introduced bills to impose a 50 percent windfall-profits tax on utilities, terminate the existing PSC members, shift the power to appoint a majority of members of the Public Service Commission away from the governor, and relocate the Office of the People’s Counsel within the Attorney General’s Office.
While The rate-hike crisis may recast more than the rhetoric of the 2006 election, how it actually alters governance of the state’s deregulated electric system remains to be seen. Most analysts believe that, one way or another, BGE and Constellation will come to terms with the Maryland political establishment. The outlines of a deal have been obvious for some time. The utility and the power company will put up some money to write down the cost of the increase to ratepayers. Constellation’s initial offer was $150 million—the equivalent of one year’s BGE profit and an amount, Constellation says, that can be covered by savings it will achieve from the merger with Florida Power and Light. Toward the end of March, Constellation increased that offer to $358 million—an amount that legislative leaders still expressed dissatisfaction with.
Whatever the ultimate Constellation contribution, the remaining amount of the rate increase is expected to be phased in over a period of time. But such a scenario still leaves legislators like Lisa Gladden wondering about the future. “Everyone will declare victory and satisfaction with the result,” she says. “But what comes next? We need an energy plan.”
Any energy plan that would interfere with deregulation and the hoped-for development of competitive markets is the opposite of what some people want. In early March, Harry Warren, president of Washington Gas Energy Services (WGES), announced an offer to Baltimore consumers of electric rates 6 percent lower than BGE’s post-rate hike charges. “[In] this current high price environment, we will see a substantial number of companies move to offer competitive electric supply,” Warren says. “We’re hoping the legislature does not make major changes to the 1999 [deregulation] law.”
WGES, which does not own any power plants and depends on wholesale electric suppliers just like BGE, currently serves 25,000 to 30,000 residents with electricity, most of them in Maryland’s D.C. suburbs covered by the PEPCO utility. The company secured the electric business of those customers one by one, Warren says.
But some energy experts worry that marketing to individual electric customers will simply prove too expensive and onerous for both suppliers and consumers to make it work. There is a move afoot—and a bill proposed by Sen. Green in the legislature—to create the ability for large groups of Maryland residents to enter the electric market together as a means of securing lower prices. Under this kind of plan, known as “aggregation,” a city or county or other locality could bypass its utility and go out to bid for electric supplies. Montgomery County Executive Duncan said during a March 28 press conference that cities and government agencies in his part of the state have already successfully done so. But there remains opposition to this from the utilities, including BGE, which would lose customers, and doubters, such as Pipkin, about whether local governments can do any better in the energy markets than a utility.
Environmentalists, who have by and large stayed out of the rate-hike controversy, see some potential positive developments arising from the higher cost of electricity. Energy efficiency measures and renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, become that much more cost effective with every additional penny that a kilowatt hour costs. “This will send a price signal to consumers that investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy pays off,” says Peter Lowenthal, executive director of the Maryland-D.C.-Virginia Solar Energy Industries Association.
“The energy companies used to claim that fossil fuels like natural gas were best because of the relative certainty of low prices,” says Gary Skulnick, executive director of Montgomery County-based Clean Energy Partnership, a “green chamber of commerce” composed of businesses seeking to increase energy efficiency and renewable energy in the commercial sector. “But now fossil fuel prices are more volatile than ever before, while renewable energy offers real price stability. Once you put a solar panel on or a wind turbine up, that’s the total cost. The fuel, whether it’s sun or wind, is free.”
But some of the nation’s leading energy-efficiency advocates worry that the deregulated market still leaves efficiency measures out in the cold. “Deregulation by itself results in people shopping for the lowest-price electricity rather than the lowest cost, which comes from efficiency,” says Joel Swisher, managing director of research and development at the Colorado-based Rocky Mountain Institute, an energy think tank run by respected energy guru Amory Lovins. Swisher says that what’s lacking in most cases is a proactive program to secure this lowest-cost energy efficiency.
In another way, the newly deregulated system has already established tremendous benefits for the environmental cause. When the Healthy Air Act, which forces power plants in Maryland to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on pollution control equipment, came up before the state Senate on March 20, Sen. Thomas Middleton (D-Charles County) questioned whether this would add to the ratepayers’ economic burden. But the act’s lead author, Sen. Paul Pinsky (D-Prince George’s), explained that under deregulation, Constellation or other power plant owners would not be able to pass these costs on to ratepayers—they would have to come out of their own bottom lines, as they can only charge utilities the market price of electricity.
But in the short term, whatever the results of this legislative session’s negotiations with Constellation and BGE, Maryland will continue to be a state with a deregulated electric monopoly. Having lost control of the state’s power supply and electric costs with their 1999 deregulation law, state legislators this year have attempted to regain some influence only over the immediate 72 percent rate hike. So far, though, the economic and political cost of that decision back in 1999 finally coming due has not proved high enough to shift the commitment to deregulation itself.
That is an unacceptable result to Tyson Slocum, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Public Citizen Energy Project, a national public interest lobbying group with a longstanding opposition to deregulation. “Deregulation is a dismal policy failure,” Slocum says. He cites the 2001 deregulation disaster in California, which ultimately resulted in the 2003 recall of the governor there, and adds that several states have repealed deregulation. “There should be an immediate transfer of the electric generating plants back to BGE,” Slocum says. “That should be ordered by the state, and if Constellation doesn’t comply, go in there with the National Guard and seize them.”
Slocum is not merely an inside-the-Beltway public interest bystander. Along with Baltimore Association for Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), the Maryland Public Interest Research Group, a couple of union locals, and the Florida Consumer Action Network, Slocum and Public Citizen are official intervenors before the Public Service Commission in an attempt to block the Constellation/Florida Power merger. “The merger will mean that Constellation will no longer be incorporated under the laws of Maryland but under the laws of Florida. When that happens,” Slocum says, “then there’s nothing the state can do.
“Some people think I sound radical,” Slocum acknowledges. “What is really radical is what Constellation and BGE did in 1999 with deregulation. They’re the radicals. We’re calling for a restoration.”
Certainly restoration of Marylanders’ sense of control over their energy and its cost (and their larger economic futures, which are affected by both) seems to be what people want. When 19-year-old Rushonna Watkins, a supermarket clerk at Eddie’s of Roland Park on North Charles Street, is asked what she thinks should be done about the BGE rate hike, her mouth turns down and her shoulders sag. “What can you do?” she asks, as she turns back to work. “They’re a monopoly.”
O'Malley and the Maryland Assembly pushed for globalizing the Port of Baltimore marketing to global cargo shipping all under jobs, jobs, jobs. This in HigStar and Johns Hopkins privatizing the Port of Baltimore and these corporate pols are simply doing what they are told.....THAT'S TPP FOR YOU!!!!!
NO MATTER THAT IT WILL KILL THE CHESAPEAKE BAY. NO AMOUNT OF RADIATION THERAPY ON THESE SHIPS WILL STOP INVASIVE SPECIES FROM KILLING LOCAL SEA LIFE AND HABITAT.
Global highways of invasive marine species calculated Date: May 5, 2013 Source: University of Bristol Summary: New research has mapped the most detailed forecast to date for importing potentially harmful invasive species with the ballast water of cargo ships.
The risk of marine bio-invasion caused by global shipping around the world. The brighter colour and thicker line indicates a higher bio-invasion risk. Credit: Image by Dr Michael Gastner [Click to enlarge image] Globalisation, with its ever increasing demand for cargo transport, has inadvertently opened the flood gates for a new, silent invasion. New research has mapped the most detailed forecast to date for importing potentially harmful invasive species with the ballast water of cargo ships.
Scientists from the Universities of Bristol, UK, and Oldenburg, Germany, have examined ship traffic data and biological records to assess the risk of future invasions. Their research is published in the latest issue of Ecology Letters.
Animals and plants can hitch a ride on cargo ships, hiding as stowaways in the ballast tanks or clinging to the ship's hull. Upon arrival in a new port, alien species can then wreak havoc in formerly pristine waters. These so-called invasive species can drive native species to extinction, modify whole ecosystems and impact human economy.
Some regions, such as the San Francisco Bay or Chesapeake Bay, have even reported several new exotic species per year. The knock-on effects to fishermen, farmers, tourism and industry create billions of US dollars in damage every year. Conservationists and ship engineers are now trying to prevent the next big invasion. But without knowing when and where it may occur, their possibilities remain limited.
As part of the research project, funded by the Volkswagen Foundation, the team obtained detailed logs of nearly three million ship voyages in 2007 and 2008. Depending on the particular route travelled by each ship, the researchers estimated the probability that a species survives the journey and establishes a population in subsequent ports of call. Although this probability is tiny for any single voyage, the numbers quickly add up because modern cargo traffic volumes are enormous.
Professor Bernd Blasius from the University of Oldenburg and one of the researchers involved in the study, said: "Our model combines information such as shipping routes, ship sizes, temperatures and biogeography to come up with local forecasts of invasion probabilities."
The final tally reveals the hotspots of bioinvasion. Large Asian ports such as Singapore and Hong Kong but also US ports like New York and Long Beach are among the sites of highest invasion probability. These waterways are notoriously busy, but, traffic is not the only important factor.
The North Sea, for example, does not rank among the top endangered regions despite intense shipping. Temperatures here are lower, making it more difficult for alien species to survive. However, arrivals from the other side of the Atlantic pose a serious threat to the North Sea. Most invaders are predicted to originate from the North American east coast.
Hanno Seebens from the University of Oldenburg said: "We also compared our model results to field data. And, indeed, most of the alien species actually do originate from there."
As severe as the risk of future invasions may be, the study also contains a hopeful message. If ship engineers could prevent at least some potential invaders from getting on board, the total invasion risk could be substantially mitigated.
By successfully removing a species from 25 per cent of the ballast tanks arriving at each port (eg with filters, chemicals or radiation), the overall invasion probability decreases by 56 per cent. The reduction is so disproportionately large because the effect of ballast water treatment multiplies at successive stopovers.
Bioinvasion is, as the researchers admit, a complex process, and records of past invasions are far from comprehensive. Facing these uncertainties, they simulated various different scenarios. Interestingly, the key results are comparable for different models, predicting the same hotspots and global highways of bioinvasion. The traffic on the main shipping routes plays the greatest role for the calculation.
Dr Michael Gastner, Lecturer in Engineering Mathematics at the University of Bristol, added: "Ship movements in the past few years are well documented, but there are many unknowns about future trade routes."
For example, the future of the world economy remains uncertain, and Arctic passages may become navigable as a consequence of global warming. Future simulations will also have to take into account which engineering solutions for ballast water treatment will eventually be adopted by port authorities.
MARYLAND IS THE MOST ENVIRONMENTALLY CHALLENGED STATE BECAUSE THERE IS NO ENFORCEMENT OF LAWS ALREADY ON THE BOOKS.
ALL CANDIDATES FOR MARYLAND GOVERNOR ARE GLOBAL CORPORATE POLS THAT ARE PASSING LAWS AND HAVE EMBRACED TPP----HOW CAN A CANDIDATE SHOUT AGAINST COVE POINT AND NATURAL GAS EXPORTING AND NOT SHOUT OUT ABOUT HOW TPP WILL NOT ALLOW CITIZENS TO STOP OR HINDER EXPORTING?
TPP will indeed open the door to the US looking just like China environmentally and as we watch all of the environmental disasters across America all with the EPA silent and in fact aiding in protecting corporate accountability in Obama's terms just as in Bush.....this is neo-liberal/neo-con pretending TPP is already the law of the land.
BILL AND HILLARY CLINTON ARE THE LEAST ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY POLS AS IS OBAMA BECAUSE THEY ARE NEO-LIBERALS.
Say no to corporate power grabs - reject the Trans-Pacific Partnership To: Governments of Brunei Darussalam, Chile, New Zealand, Singapore, Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, the USA and Vietnam
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will massively boost corporate power at the expense of our climate and environment, human and workers’ rights, sovereignty and democracy. We strongly urge you to publish the text of the TPP as it stands now, reject proposals that would undermine your regulatory power and oppose this corporate power-grab
Why is this important? The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a highly secretive and expansive free trade agreement between the United States and twelve Pacific Rim countries, including Canada, Mexico, New Zealand and Australia. Leaked text reveals that the TPP would empower corporations to directly sue governments in private and non-transparent trade tribunals over laws and policies that corporations allege reduce their profits. Legislation designed to address climate change, curb fossil fuel expansion and reduce air pollution could all be subject to attack by corporations as a result of TPP. Additionally, the deal could criminalize internet use, undermine workers’ and human rights, manipulate copyright laws, restrict government regulation of food labeling and adversely impact subsidized healthcare. The movement we are building locally, nationally and globally to move beyond fossil fuels and create a safe climate future is growing by the day and the fossil fuel industry is getting scared of the uncertainty ahead. The TPP is a symptom of this fear – a massive bid to overthrow any restrictions we might throw at them. But we can stop this. The might of our movement is greater than their money or manipulation. Sign this petition to show our governments that we won’t stand for foreign corporations disabling our sovereignty, democratic processes or the right to a safe future.
Public service announcement: you might not want to go surfing off the coast of Santa Barbara. Yes, you did read that right: the oil industry is legally allowed to dump more than 9 billion gallons of toxic fracking wastewater off the coast of California each year. Read more here: http://bit.ly/1hDdysB
SHARE if you think that's unacceptable. And if you're in California, take to the streets with us on March 15th to end fracking in the state: http://act.350.org/signup/DFCA/
Environmentalists Petition EPA to Ban Fracking Wastewater Dumping Off California Coast
Friday, 28 February 2014 11:45 By Mike Ludwig, Truthout | Report
Environmentalists are asking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ban the dumping of fracking fluids from oil platforms in federal waters off the California coast.
The Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition with the EPA this week asking the agency to revoke or modify a newly revised permit that allows oil producers off the coast of California to dump an estimated 9 billion gallons of wastewater into the ocean annually, including chemical-laced waste fluids from hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking" operations.
"It’s disgusting that oil companies dump wastewater into California’s ocean," said Miyoko Sakashita, the group's oceans director. "You can see the rigs from shore, but the contaminated waters are hidden from view. Our goal is to make sure toxic fracking chemicals don't poison wildlife or end up in the food chain."
In response to growing public concern over offshore fracking, the EPA issued a new rule in January requiring oil platforms in federally regulated waters off the coast of California to report the volume and chemical content of any fracking fluids and wastewater they dump into the ocean.
The EPA reserved the right to modify the pollution permit if the data reported by the industry indicates that fracking waste harms the marine environment.
The permit currently allows oil producers to dump unlimited amounts of fracking fluids mixed with other wastewater into federal waters where the EPA has jurisdiction, according to the Center for Biological Diversity's petition.
Environmentalists see the EPA's new reporting requirement as a small step in the right direction but argue that fracking fluids should not be dumped in the ocean at all.
Federal regulators have said that offshore fracking operations in the Pacific Ocean, which typically involve the forcing of water and chemicals into old oil wells to break up rock and release additional reserves, are rare and smaller in scale than the onshore operations that have sparked a nationwide controversy. Offshore fracking could become more widespread as oil firms seek to exploit the Monterey Shale, an oil-rich formation under much of California and the outer continental shelf.
At least 13 of the 23 oil platforms regulated by the EPA in Southern California dump wastewater off the coast. About half of the platforms in the Santa Barbara Channel, where a sensitive marine wildlife sanctuary provides habitat for endangered blue whales and sea turtles, dump some or all of their wastewater into the ocean, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.
A review by the center found that at least one-third of the chemicals used in 12 offshore frack jobs in state waters were suspected ecological hazards and one-third of those chemicals are suspected of affecting human developmental and nervous systems.
The group drew on data voluntarily reported by oil companies operating in state waters within three miles of the coast, where fracking has been more common and wastewater dumping is prohibited.
Little is currently known about the fracking fluids dumped in federally regulated waters, but the new EPA reporting rule could shed some light on the chemical cocktails used to produce oil offshore.
In a meeting earlier this month, staffers for the powerful California Coastal Commission said the EPA's reporting requirement is an "important first step" but not adequate to ensure consistency with the California Coastal Act, which gives the commission authority to protect the coastline. Staffers recommended that the commission seek to review fracking wastewater dumping on a case-by-case basis.
The public - and even some federal regulators charged with overseeing offshore oil production - knew little about offshore fracking until last summer, when a Truthout investigation revealed that offshore oil producers had employed fracking technology in federal waters off the California coast at least 12 times in recent years. Truthout then confirmed that federal regulators green-lighted four more frack jobs in 2013 as environmental groups vowed to challenge the practice. The Associated Press published similar reports after Truthout broke the news.
The revelations alarmed state lawmakers and sparked investigations by environmental groups and the California Coastal Commission as the public demanded to know more about offshore fracking.
The citizens of West Virginia can understand this Baltimore community's concerns as in the chemical spill that contaminated West Virginia river serving as public access water was deemed SAFE even as people knew the chemical was present.
THE EPA SIGNED OFF ON SELLING GULF SEAFOOD BEFORE ANY PROOF OF SAFETY, IT ALLOWED FRACKING CHEMICALS TO BE DEEMED NOT HARMFUL, AND IN BALTIMORE, THE EPA JUST APPROVED A TOXIC SITE DEVELOPMENT THAT RESIDENT'S KNOW WILL BE HARMFUL IN THE FUTURE.
O'Malley and Maryland Assembly not only support this development, state and local tax money is being spent to boost this toxic development right on the water's edge of Port of Baltimore. All of which is not environmentally-friendly. They do it because global corporations will get their way with neo-liberals over any environmental issue!
Chromium taints groundwater beyond Harbor PointOfficials say there's no health risk, but scientists urge closer scrutiny
Some experts have expressed concern about the pollution — especially in light of a developer's plan to disturb the protective cap over land that once held a chromium processing plant. They're also worried that uncontrolled chromium in groundwater beyond Harbor Point could seep into the harbor or pose risks for development of neighboring properties.
Beatty Development Group plans to temporarily expose contaminated soil while driving pilings for a 22-story office tower to be occupied by Exelon Corp. — the beginnings of a billion-dollar waterfront development between Harbor East and Fells Point.
But groundbreaking has been delayed as the developer, area residents and government officials wait to meet to discuss environmental safeguards.
Edward C. Bouwer, professor and chair of environmental engineering at the Johns Hopkins University, considers recent chromium levels alarming in some off-site monitoring wells, including one at the Living Classrooms Foundation campus just north of Harbor Point. Those levels raise questions about whether measures meant to contain the pollution are working, said Bouwer, an expert on groundwater contamination.
"If those levels were found in the harbor, we'd be shutting it down," he said.
Other records indicate that chromium particles are in the air downtown. Levels detected at Harbor Point and as far away as the Inner Harbor are generally minute, though some are high enough to trigger regulatory action because they would slightly increase a long-term resident's chances of getting lung cancer. State officials say that Harbor Point is not a likely source of the airborne chromium but further investigation is needed to determine its origins.
City Councilman James B. Kraft, whose Southeast Baltimore district includes Harbor Point, said more information is needed about the chromium. He said he wants answers, including details about the history of contaminated groundwater beneath the Living Classrooms campus, before he'll be comfortable with developing the Exelon building.
"We need to know where the levels have increased, why they're increasing. Even if the increase is minuscule, we need to know why," Kraft said. The contamination outside the containment area might have no impact on Harbor Point's development, he said, but "we need to ... have that answer before we start development."
State and federal regulators defend their oversight of contamination beneath Harbor Point and surrounding land, saying there is no evidence that the public or the environment is at risk.
The officials say the tainted groundwater — detailed in reports to regulators that were posted online after The Baltimore Sun requested to review them — is not coming from Harbor Point. They describe it as "historic" contamination that spread before the site of the former Allied Signal chromium plant was capped, and say it is no threat to public health because no one drinks from wells in Baltimore.
Contamination left behind by the factory, which ceased operations in 1985, has been contained, the officials say, by a 5-foot-thick covering of clean soil, plastic and gravel, and by an underground wall around the peninsula. They note that sampling over the years has not picked up evidence of chromium leaking into the Northwest Branch of the Patapsco River.
Edward M. Dexter, an administrator with the Maryland Department of the Environment, said he thinks regulators decades ago were focused on capturing the worst contamination at the plant site and saw no need to remove "every single molecule of chromium."
"The fact there's some chromium in the groundwater there doesn't imply some threat," he added.
Groundwater readings are sent to the MDE and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Officials at both agencies say they have been monitoring the readings and see no cause for concern. They have given preliminary approval to Beatty's plan for constructing the building, which could include apartments as well as offices.
Still, state and federal regulators say the remediation of the factory site occurred so long ago that they're not sure what their predecessors knew about the contamination beneath the Living Classrooms campus. Neither have they offered any explanation for why chromium levels in groundwater 30 feet below the surface there have been trending upward.
Living Classrooms President James Piper Bond, whose nonprofit foundation leases the property from the city and until this fall has operated charter middle school on its Caroline Street campus, said he is confident that regulators will ensure that the public is not exposed to chromium. But he expressed concern about how the public might react to reports of contamination beyond Harbor Point.
Just to be very clear: this is a huge deal. Hundreds of youth are getting ready to sit-in at the White House tomorrow, the largest act of civil disobedience for climate justice of our generation.
It's all up to us to spread the word on social media. Please SHARE this news to make this moment even more EPIC.
See you tomorrow, President Obama! http://xldissent.org/ - XL Dissent.
Thursday, 27 February 2014 06:24
Why Should Taxpayers Pay for Toxic Cleanups?
JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
If an oil or coal firm releases toxic chemicals that poisons every living thing it touches (Freedom Industries) and sends thousands of residents to the hospital from lethal exposure, (read Truthout's Editor William Rivers Pitt's recent pieces Diary of a Dying Country and The Poisoner's Reckoning), U.S. government officials not only will pat the oil-coal thugs on the back, they'll hand over a check worth millions of tax dollars for cleanup fees. And if that isn't insulting enough for you, the insurance companies will also allegedly pay the dirty energy oligarchs again for the same amount.
No criminal charges, no one goes to jail, and to add insult to injury, they're actually paid twice for contaminating our drinking water, for putting thousands of Americans in the hospital from toxic poisoning, and for turning communities into real estate nightmares.
The insurance settlements represent a drop in the bucket to oil companies that receive close to a trillion dollars a year combined in profits, but those extra millions that the oil firms pocket can make a significant difference for cash-strapped states. It's like stealing a tiny piece of candy from a baby when your store is spilling over with tons of sweets.
Why are we, the taxpayers, paying for the oil oligarchs' hazardous toxic messes in the first place?
By and large, the fossil fuel industry owns the U.S. government. You will never see oil-coal executives arrested for the environmental crimes they've committed even when Americans have died from their toxic explosions and disasters. That's why when President Obama boasts about how he increased drilling, fracking, and the construction of oil pipelines beyond George W. Bush's wildest dreams, which means more disasters are bound to happen, it makes you question Obama's motives, especially when we're heading full speed ahead to mass extinction from carbon emissions produced from oil and coal.
Federal regulations for sale: Why disasters keep happening
When Republicans rage about federal environmental protection regulations, think about how we're rapidly heading towards mass extinction. Instead of increasing regulations, Republicans want to gut the Endangered Species Act, and they're determined to blow up the Environmental Protection Agency so that big polluters can continue to rapidly push us beyond our ability to survive.
Buzzflash and Truthout don’t take corporate funding - that means we’re accountable to our readers, not big business or billionaire sponsors. Please support our work by making a tax-deductible donation today - just click here to donate.
As they're shredding the last of the public safety regulations, think of the perpetual oil, fracking and coal disasters, and you'll get the picture of what "deregulation" looks like. Americans pay the consequences for a government that's been paid to look the other way.
Federal oversight of eroding equipment is not taken seriously. The feds rarely inspect the fossil fuel industry's equipment whether it be fuel storage tanks, drilling rigs, pipelines, and most importantly, aging equipment at refineries.
For all the brouhaha the President and elected officials make about protecting the public, the fact that oil-chemical disasters continue to happen demonstrate that they could care less about protecting the general public's welfare. The oil industry is notorious for putting workers at risk. Should petroleum engineers, manual laborers, or if an honest federal inspector complains, they're threatened and told by the industry's supervisors that they'll lose their jobs.
A friend that formerly worked for a major oil company spoke about the federal inspection process, and if what he says is generally true, it explains why these disasters continue to happen: "The federal inspectors are easily bribed, boxes are checked off based on the word of the oil management team, and then permits are stamped for approval." In short, U.S. federal inspections of antiquated equipment for the protection of workers, the public, and the environment are a joke.
You would think that the petroleum executives would want to maintain and upgrade their equipment to prevent potential disasters. But thanks to our oil-soaked elected officials, oil execs don't have to worry about the disasters they create from gross negligence. We, the taxpayers, pick up the tab—while the petro-thugs get paid twice for the cleanup and make off with the profits. Oh and speaking of taxes, Big Oil hardly pays any U.S. taxes, if at all.
These recurring disasters are far from being "leaks" and "spills": those are Big Oil euphemisms that are used by the media and politicians in the attempt to deceive the public. Think of BP's Gulf catastrophe. There is no clear evidence of a recovery. On the contrary, it's been over three years after the explosion and enormous dead zones are spreading throughout the Gulf. As Truthout reporter Dahr Jamail noted, thousands of Gulf residents have been suffering from the toxic exposure. Nevertheless, President Obama still refers to BP's worst oil disaster in history as a "leak".
Who's to blame?
Every other week you read about another oil catastrophe: trains exploding from the fuel they're transporting, toxic water contamination, offshore rig explosions, pipeline ruptures and refinery explosions, on and on it goes, there's no end to it—many of which could have been prevented if federal inspectors were doing their jobs and if the oil firms were diligent about maintaining safety equipment.
These disasters are systemic cases of gross negligence that threaten the public's health. While our elected officials are being wined and dined by Big Oil criminals, they see the American people as merely "collateral damage" when disasters happen, and then proceed with business as usual.
Who's to blame? The oily legislators have passed laws with the fossil fuel lobbyists that benefit the oil industry at the expense of our environment: our drinking water, our oceans, our forests, our farms and ranches—all sacrificed in exchange for campaign funding and happy-go-lucky party money. I've asked this before and I'll ask it again: Can we eat and drink oil?
Executive decisions lead to ongoing disasters
If President Obama is sincere about preventing another BP Gulf disaster, as he often claims, then why did he give Shell approval to drill in Alaska's dangerously turbulent Chukchi Sea—home to more than half the nation's polar bears? Moreover: Shell is working with Transocean: BP's collaborator that contributed to the unprecedented 2010 Gulf of Mexico catastrophe due to Transocean's faulty equipment which was never properly inspected by the federal government.
President Obama is fully aware of Shell's critical malfunctions of transporting their rig at sea, which was shoved to the shore like a bobbing toy from Alaska's turbulent winds. To allow Shell to proceed is unconscionable when this near disaster signaled an alarming siren of warning to the White House. There's a perfect example of why disasters keep happening.
New Laws: the American public v the U.S. federal government
Our legislators are perpetually occupied at passing new laws that benefit the fossil fuel industry at our expense.
Well maybe it's time for us to pass a few laws against our legislators:
New Laws: The fossil fuel industry from now on must pay for cleaning up their deadly toxic disasters that they create, not the taxpayers and not the insurance companies. If the federal government fails to inspect faulty and aging equipment, then the President, and members of the legislature that receive dirty energy money, must pay for the cleanup expenses when disasters occur as a result, and they must establish a multibillion dollar fund for families and animals that are harmed, injured, killed or poisoned from the toxic chemical disasters from their dirty energy campaign money. If they (fossil fuel firms and legislators) do not pay for the cleanup expenses, and for all those who have been affected and harmed immediately after it happens, they will be held to a mandatory prison sentence of ten years in federal prison without bail or parole.
If this were to happen, oil and chemical disasters would be reduced to rare exceptions if at all.
Exporting raw materials is a third world economy. If we are to be energy independent as was the call for all this drilling....we need to conserve these resources....not export them. This is only about profit for a few!
Do you hear main stream media telling you of the massive protests against all kinds of environmental disasters happening in the US? How about your politicians? Heather Mizeur is supposed to be the environmental candidate in Maryland Governor's race and she has not shouted out against any of these but fracking....and as we know.....fracking will go wild with TPP. It is regulation, accountability, and enforcement that saves the environment...none of which exists in Maryland.
Right now outside of the White House. #XLDissent — with Martha Camacho-Rodriguez.
Tar sands are toxic from start to finish. In Detroit, tar sands refining is making people massively sick, as they continue to heat the planet.
This is the dirty truth of the tar sands industry. Click SHARE to make sure it's heard.
Protesters target Duke Energy’s coal ash
By Bruce Henderson
firstname.lastname@example.org Posted: Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014 Full Slideshow
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Sara Behnke (white shirt, center) of the Friends of Mountain Island Lake speaks to protesters gathered outside the Duke Energy Tower on Tuesday to present present petitions against Duke Energy's coal ash. On Tuesday, February 25 at 12:00 PM, clean water and environmental advocates will present Duke Energy with more than 9,000 petitions signed by North Carolina citizens over the last few weeks demanding the nation's largest utility company take full responsibility for the costs of the Dan River coal ash spill. Representatives from organizations working to protect North Carolina's people, water and environment will deliver the petitions; Duke Energy has been invited to send a representative. Sponsoring organizations include Action NC, Appalachian Voices, Charlotte Environmental Action, Democracy NC, Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and We Love Mountain Island Lake.
Dozens of protesters chanting “Shame!” outside the Duke Energy Center on Tuesday afternoon demanded that Duke remove the ash stored at its coal-fired power plants.
Leaders of several environmental groups attempted to deliver anti-ash petitions they said were signed by 9,000 people. The petitions asked that Duke pay cleanup costs of its Feb. 2 ash spill into the Dan River without billing customers.
Security guards initially blocked entrances to the building, the groups said, but a Duke representative eventually accepted the petitions.
Duke CEO Lynn Good said last week that customers won’t pay for the cleanup. The company has apologized for the spill of up to 39,000 tons of ash from its retired Dan River power plant in Eden.
“The drinking water has remained safe. The pipe has been permanently plugged. We take responsibility for this event and also are taking another look at the management of our ash basins,” Duke said in a statement.
Amy Adams of Boone-based Appalachian Voices told protesters that’s not enough.
“Duke Energy has defiled the Dan River, and there is no apology that will fix that,” she said. The spill, she added, “was very preventable. It put corporate profit over human health.”
Ash has flowed 70 miles down the Dan River, federal officials say, and is nearly 5 feet deep at the spill site.
A federal grand jury has launched a criminal investigation of the spill, aiming subpoenas at both Duke and its regulator, the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Gov. Pat McCrory on Tuesday warned Duke that the “state will not stand by” as ash ponds threaten drinking-water supplies.
Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/02/25/4723030/protesters-target-duke-energys.html#storylink=cpy
Right now, Baltimore Development Corporation is placing all of current development right on top of Port of Baltimore and we all know that sea level rises of over 12 inches in just 20 years will have those areas needing sea walls for protection. The citizens did not want the development this close to the bay and now these corporate pols will use taxpayer money to build protections from sea rise! RUN AND VOTE FOR LABOR AND JUSTICE IN ALL PRIMARIES
If you look at development at National Harbor and Maryland's Eastern Shore beaches, all of the development is right on water's edge and despite this article below saying these rises will be seen in 2050.......all the data I see says 20 years.....2035. So, why are we building out into a flood plain? Well, look at the Federal government's decision to stop paying flood insurance for flood-zone housing and you will see what will happen to the public.....developers across the country were allowed to build in flood plains with the Federal government paying the flood insurance and now it is those homeowners paying the bills they cannot afford and losing their homes. In the cases in Maryland, it will be the taxpayers paying for all kinds of sea walls and flood-abatement for these billion dollar corporate developments.
DEMOCRATS DO NOT DO THIS.....NEO-LIBERALS DO THIS AS THEY WORK FOR WEALTH AND PROFIT!
National Geographic's map of rising seas paints a terrifying picture.
Scientists Unveil New Projections for Sea Level Rise in Maryland
June 26, 2013
State Should Consider Longevity of Structures Built Near Water, Report Says Maryland residents should plan for the state’s coastal waters to rise by 2.1 feet by the year 2050 and by 3.7 feet or more by the century’s end, according to a new analysis by scientific experts prepared for Gov. Martin O’Malley. The panel reviewed recent evidence about sea level rise in Maryland and globally. Watch a Maryland Sea Grant video about sea level rise:
The new estimates of sea level rise in Maryland offer a scientific basis for officials, businesses, and residents around the state to plan and prepare for rising waters in the Chesapeake Bay and along Maryland’s ocean coast. The new report does not recommend particular responses, but state officials may use these findings for planning future public structures like roads, bridges, and buildings.
Sea level rise poses a significant risk in Maryland because many homes, commercial buildings, and port facilities sit along the shoreline of the Chesapeake Bay in areas that are especially vulnerable to flooding. Maryland’s Eastern Shore is home to low-lying towns, farms, and marshes. Any rise in sea level would be amplified during storms, exposing those areas to increased risk of flood damage.
That risk is especially significant in Maryland and the Mid-Atlantic region because sea level here has risen three times faster than the worldwide average increase during the past two decades, the scientific panel said in a report released today. The increase is especially rapid because natural forces in the Mid-Atlantic region are magnifying the effect of a worldwide increase in sea level. These factors include the gradual sinking of Maryland’s coastal plain and, scientists suspect, the recent slowing of the offshore Gulf Stream.
The estimate of sea level rise was released by the Scientific and Technical Working Group of the Maryland Commission on Climate Change in a report, "Updating Maryland’s Sea Level Rise Projections." The group was chaired by Donald F. Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.
Advances in Knowledge Gov. O’Malley asked the working group in December 2012 for a fresh projection because scientists have refined their understanding about the topic since 2008, when the same panel (with a different membership) last issued a report about sea level rise. The new findings are based on measurements and computer models of global climate change that are more detailed and precise than the tools available when the 2008 report was written. Scientists have also completed new analyses of sea level rise along the Mid-Atlantic coast.
For the latest report, the governor asked the working group to present a forecast that would be practical and actionable. In response, the working group based its new recommendations on projections in 2012 by the National Research Council (NRC) of the average increase in global sea level and its effects on the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington state. The NRC’s projections extrapolated from a variety of existing environmental data.
The Maryland group relied on those projections because they are recent and use a widely accepted and potentially useful methodology. The projections describe a range of possible increases from low to high, and within that range, the most likely span of increases.
The working group increased the figures in the NRC projections to reflect Maryland-specific factors, including sinking land, that are expected to increase sea level here by more than the global average.
Here are more of the group’s reasoning and major conclusions about how much sea level in Maryland is likely to increase and why:
The projection for 2050: The report calls it "prudent" for Maryland decision makers to plan for sea level rise of 2.1 feet by 2050. That estimate is at the high end of the working group’s projected range (0.9 to 2.1 feet); it is "very unlikely" that the increase would be greater.
The projections for 2100 and making choices: The forecast of a 3.7-foot increase by 2100 represents the working group’s best estimate; it is in the middle of the projected range (2.1 to 5.7 feet.) A separate analysis has found that an increase of 3.7 feet could inundate large parts of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
The working group’s report leaves it up to decision makers to decide how much risk to tolerate when planning construction projects in areas that might be flooded by rising sea level. "[That] depends both on the longevity of the investments at risk and the acceptance of risk," the report says. For public structures not intended to last beyond 2100, "or which could tolerate very occasional inundation," planning for an increase of 3.7 feet might suffice. But if a structure must be useful into the 22nd century, or plays a critical role that flooding might disrupt (like a hospital), designers might want to plan for the high-end estimate of 5.7 feet.
The minimum likely increase: "There is no justification based on current scientific understanding" that average global sea level will rise by less than 1.6 feet by 2100, the report says.
The effect of storm surge: The working group pointed out that flooding from a storm surge could rise above those levels, and decision makers should consider this when planning structures built in low-lying areas. The size of possible future storm surges in Maryland has not been estimated for the Chesapeake Bay but deserves study, the report says.
Greenhouse-gas emissions and the difficulty of projecting to 2100: All projections of sea level rise and climate change are based on a set of assumptions, and the working group’s report acknowledges that some of theirs involve uncertainties -- two big factors that could affect how much the sea rises by 2100 are difficult to predict with precision. One is the rate of increase of greenhouse gas emissions, like carbon dioxide, that are contributing to the warming of the earth’s temperatures. This warming in turn causes the water in the world’s oceans to expand, a process called "steric" expansion. The increase in volume is one of the primary causes of sea level rise worldwide.
The uncertainty about melting ice: A second big question mark about the working group’s projection is the rate at which polar continental ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are melting due to warming global temperatures. The melting adds water to the oceans and so further raises sea level. Scientists are working to improve forecasts of melting rates, but the range of estimates remains broad because the observed responses of the ice sheets to increasing temperatures are complex.
Revisiting the projections: The working group encouraged Maryland decision makers to continue to revisit the sea level projections as new information emerges about the rates of greenhouse-gas emissions and land-ice melting. The report offers the sobering thought that the levels of emissions during the next 30 years will largely determine the magnitude of sea level rise for centuries. That means that any reductions in emissions after 2043 may come too late to slow significantly the subsequent increase of sea level.
Consistency with other projections: The working group’s projections for sea level rise in Maryland are within the ranges of global sea-level rise estimated by two other recent national studies completed since 2011. One was by the National Climate Assessment, the other by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
A slowing Gulf Stream: The working group described several other factors that explain why Maryland can expect its coastal sea level to rise by more than the global average. One is a slowing in the flow of the Gulf Stream current, which travels north from Florida along the East Coast and then east across the Atlantic Ocean. Scientists have collected evidence that indicates a decline in the current’s speed since 2004. Because of how water moves in the Gulf Stream, scientists say a decline in speed could generate sea level rise along the Mid-Atlantic coast, including in Maryland. The working group projected that sea level at Washington, D.C., could increase by nearly 7 inches by 2100 for this reason alone.
The region of the Mid-Atlantic coast where above-average rates of sea level rise have been observed stretches from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, to north of Boston.
Higher tides in the Chesapeake Bay: A rise in sea level is also likely to cause higher tides in the Bay, the report says, for reasons related to the Bay’s shape and length. An increase of about 3 feet in sea level could lead to an increase of 8 inches in the tidal range in the upper Bay and at the heads of some of its tidal rivers. Tidal range is the vertical distance between high and low tides.
Land movement in Maryland: The report also examines the land sinking or "subsidence" that is intensifying the effect of sea level rise here. During the last ice age, the Wisconsin glacier stopped north of Maryland, weighing down land areas underneath it, and pushing up land to the south, land that now includes Maryland's coastal plain areas. With the retreat of the glaciers, the northern lands began to rebound upwards, but land to the south, including much of Maryland, began to subside, sinking downwards like the opposite end of a seesaw. This downward movement is difficult to measure consistently. But the latest estimates for Maryland, used by the working group, put it at 1.5 millimeters per year.
Watch the video above produced by Maryland Sea Grant that explores further the reasons for sea level rise in Maryland and describes the conclusions of the working group’s report. Download a pdf of the report here.
Maryland Sea Grant is administered by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.