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Volume 15, Issue 6 ~ February 8 - February 14, 2007

Way Downstream

In Annapolis, newly installed Attorney General Doug Gansler is starting to live up to his environmental promises. He named Erin Fitzsimmons, who was Chesapeake regional director for the advocacy group Waterkeeper Alliance, as Maryland’s top attorney on environmental matters. Fitzsimmons has been on the faculty at Salisbury University and was an Ocean City council member …

Also in Annapolis, Gonzales Research and Marketing has some clues about how Marylanders view Barack Obama, the Illinois Democrat who is announcing his presidential candidacy this weekend. He had a 35 percent favorable rating and just a 12 percent unfavorable rating, the lowest negatives of any major presidential contender. But 39 percent said they had a neutral view — suggesting that Obama has a lot of work ahead to win people over in his race against Sen. Hillary Clinton, ex-Sen. John Edwards and others …

In Laurel, January gas prices bottomed out for a few lucky flex-fuel drivers. The Chevron station at 3240 Ft. Meade Road offered free E85 fuel to promote using alternative fuels to curb pollution. Marylanders drive 70,331 flex-fuel vehicles — part of the six-million-car flex-fuel fleet in the U.S. — but can fill up with E85 at only five stations statewide. The bad news? General Motors, the Maryland Energy Administration and the Maryland Grain Producers didn’t publicize its give-away until 1pm on January 24 …

In Washington, the EPA says this is what they’re going to spend on Chesapeake Bay: “An additional $2 million, for a total of $28.8 million, to build on the continuing efforts of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, increase the pace of restoration, and implement the most cost-effective nutrient and sediment controls and key habitat restoration strategies.”

It’s not the big money we need, but in this war-ravaged budget, it’s not terrible — and the Bay-state members of Congress promise to try to fatten it up …

In the Midwest, the emerald ash borer — which Maryland is fighting in Prince George’s County — is heading for another state.

Foresters in Wisconsin are bracing for the pest’s arrival after the wood-boring beetle was found in northern Illinois, only 40 miles from the state line.

On the forested, lakeside Madison campus of the University of Wisconsin, 160 stressed and damaged trees — trees the borer will target — will be felled to prevent or at least to slow the attack. Wisconsin is also banning firewood from out of state.

The emerald ash borer could devastate ash trees in woods, along city streets and on college campuses on a scale comparable to the Dutch elm disease epidemic of the 1960s.

Maryland already has a fight on its hands, joining Michigan — where 20 million trees have been attacked — Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Ontario as states and provinces engaging the invader …

Our Creature Feature comes from Hollywood, Calif, where a man dressed as Chewbacca — Han Solo’s 200-year-old monkey-faced Wookiee copilot from Star Wars — was arrested last week for head-butting a tour guide in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

From the reports we saw, the altercation occurred after the tour guide complained that the 6'4" Chewbacca harassed his customers. A police spokesman’s comment made us wish all cops were this witty: “The lesson here is you can have the force with you,” said Lt. Paul Vernon. “You just can’t use illegal force.”

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