Greater Baltimore Groups Environmental Challenges
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by Chris Yoder |
Heres whats happening in the Greater Baltimore area, from air quality to zoning.
By Chris Yoder—Here’s what’s happening in the Greater Baltimore area, from air quality to zoning.
Twenty-eight “Modern-Day Muirs” received national awards from the Sierra Club at an August 4th ceremony in San Francisco. Nicole Veltre-Luton of Shadyside, Maryland, chair of the Club’s Baltimore Inner City Outings program (BICO), was presented with the Madelyn Pyeatt Award in recognition of her work with youth. BICO will receive $500 in recognition of this award. BICO offers a rewarding opportunity for volunteers to make a difference in the lives of Baltimore children by expanding their horizons into our natural world. Contact BICO at firstname.lastname@example.org or 410-357-6242 to see how you can help out. Check out the website at http://ico.sierraclub.org/baltimore/ .
Waste to Energy Incinerator
A corporation named “Energy Answers” is threatening residents of Baltimore’s Curtis Bay and the integrity of Maryland’s Renewable Energy Portfolio. The company has proposed to burn 4,000 tons a day of mixed industrial waste at a location very near to residential housing and less than a mile from an elementary school and a middle school. People living in the area already pay a heavy environmental price from impacts of current and past industrial activities, traffic-related air pollution, and other sources.
The proposed incinerator would burn automobile scrap, tires, wood scrap, garbage, and other wastes and would be one of the largest waste incinerators in the United States. The Maryland legislature paved the way for Energy Answers when they responded to the company’s lobbying and enacted SB 690, which allows the company to seek Renewable Energy Credits for electricity it generates. Those credits were, of course, originally intended to encourage clean renewable sources of energy like wind and solar.
On short notice, the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) scheduled a public hearing on August 30. The Sierra Club joined other advocates in asking the PSC to delay the hearing so as to allow the public more opportunity to understand the issues raised by the proposal. In any event, Greater Baltimore Group volunteers will go to bat for Curtis Bay residents and the environment upon which they depend.
BG&E’s C.J. Crane coal-fired generating station is one of Maryland’s oldest and most polluting sources of electricity. Volunteers organized by Maryland Chapter summer interns, supervised by staff member Chris Hill, raised the visibility of the plant’s pollution with a “canoe in” on August 11. Our goal is a simple one: close this polluting dinosaur and replace its generating capacity with clean renewable energy (and that does not mean energy from polluting waste-to-energy plants—see above). See page 14 for a story and pictures of this wonderful event.
Natural Gas Pipeline
The Columbia Gas Company proposes doubling the capacity of the natural gas pipeline running through northern Baltimore County into Harford County by constructing a parallel pipeline. The company claims the project will not increase its capacity to transport gas but is needed only to ensure reliability in the event there a problem in the existing pipeline. Greater Baltimore Group volunteers testified at a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Hearing, asking the FERC to cast a skeptical eye on the stated justification for the $100 million project. It is not believable that the company would spend that much money to buy what would be in essence only a “spare tire” in the event the existing pipeline develops a flat. Perhaps the real goal is to create capacity to transport fracked gas from Pennsylvania to an export terminal? Group volunteers asked the FERC to demand a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) evaluating the project’s total impact including fracking and increased gas production, not just the (real and significant) local impacts of pipeline construction.
Baltimore County Zoning
Baltimore County is in the midst of its quadrennial revision of the County Comprehensive Zoning and Mapping Plan. This is the time when developers come out of the woodwork asking for sprawl-facilitating zoning changes. Group volunteers, led by Janet Schollenberger, are hard at work urging the County Council to stick by the existing plan and, most importantly, to protect the integrity of the County’s half century old Urban-Rural Demarkation Line (URDL), the Baltimore area’s most important protection against sprawl.
The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) released weak nutrient management regulations on June 29. Greater Baltimore Group volunteers testified at a July 10 regional hearing in Bel Air and urged MDA to strengthen those regulations.
Accounting for Growth
Group volunteers testified at a July 31 MDA, Maryland Department of Planning, and Maryland Department of the Environment joint forum on “Accounting for Growth,” about meeting future water quality standards in the light of projected population growth and development.
Group volunteers continue to work for non-motorized transportation options through the citizens advisory committee of the Baltimore Regional Transportation Board (BRTB).
The leadership of the Greater Baltimore Group consists of an elected executive committee. ExCom service offers you an opportunity to help set the tone for environmental leadership in the Baltimore area. We invite you to seek a place on the election ballot by sending a brief statement of your background and goals for the Group to the Group Chair, Chris Yoder at 5701 Rusk Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21215.
Chris Yoder chairs the Greater Baltimore Group.
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