Volume XI, Issue 47 ~ November 20-26, 2003

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Bay Decline Part II: Connecting Dots

Many Baysiders worked themselves into a lather last week at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s release of its annual report card showing that the Bay’s health is worsening, not getting better.

We noted in this space, somewhat cynically, that people usually forget about these warnings and go on with their lives. There’s simply too much confusion in the world and too much to do to keep up with problems that get worse and solutions that fail.

In the coming months, we intend to shed light on some of the root causes of the Bay’s decline — and successes where we can find them. We’re not promising to tell you about every polluter, dumb decision or missed opportunity. But we’ll pinpoint a few.

Nor do we intend to engage in name-calling. But we think by helping explain how the system works, we might help just a little to create the political will that too often seems absent in the quest for Bay restoration. So here goes:

Two days after the Bay’s bummer of a report card, Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski offered an amendment on the Senate floor to help communities repair or replace sewage treatment plants leaking Bay-choking nitrogen even though technology exists to fix them.

This is the very point of the Bay pollution problem urged by Chesapeake Bay Foundation as fixable. It’s also the key strategy Gov. Robert Ehrlich has supported to clean up the Bay.

Mikulski wanted to add $3 billion to a $122 billion appropriation bill to help not just Maryland but communities around the country struggling to upgrade sewage and water plants.

Cutting to the chase, the Republican-run Senate slapped down Mikulski’s amendment as if it were a puppy that had missed the paper. Too expensive, they said.

The story doesn’t end here: Two days later, negotiators released details of a new $95 billion “national energy plan,” which consists of massive tax breaks and giveaways to virtually every energy producer. You can read all about it in your daily paper, but here’s a partial breakdown of who gets what: oil and gas — $11 billion; coal — $5.4 billion; nuclear power — $3.9 billion. That’s taxpayer money, not counting loan guarantees.

Here’s another feature that brings this issue full circle: the makers of the water contaminant MTBE received blanket immunity from lawsuits — worth more than $25 billion — to protect them from communities needing to make expensive repairs to their MTBE-poisoned systems.

Yet this Congress couldn’t find extra money to help those communities with water and sewer problems.

We contemplated running a cartoon with hogs at a trough in this space to make the point. But that would be name-calling, wouldn’t it?



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Last updated November 20, 2003 @ 12:58am.