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Saving The Bay
April 21, 2014 8:52 AM   Subscribe

Why Are Twenty Far-Away States Trying To Block The Cleanup Of The Chesapeake Bay? After 30 years of attempts, a serious initiative to save the bay exists in the form of an EPA-led plan that limits the amount of agricultural nutrients entering the bay. This pollution causes the "dead zones" in the bay, which are so low in oxygen virtually no animal life can survive. A group of twenty-one Attorneys General, including the AG of Alaska and Wyoming, "argue that the cleanup plan raises serious concerns about states’ rights, and they worry that if the plan is left to stand, the EPA could enact similar pollution limits on watersheds such as the Mississippi." Their actions are in line with the wishes of The American Farm Bureau, a powerful agricultural interest group.

In 2009, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation sued the EPA, saying the agency had “abdicated leadership and weakened regulations that would have reduced pollution.” The lawsuit was settled in 2010, the same year that the EPA released its current bluebprint for restoring the bay. This is the plan now under attack from the twenty-one AGs.
posted by spaltavian (57 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
Judge Rambo also rejected the Farm Bureau’s argument

This article is worth it for the mental image of a shirtless, bandanna-wearing judge machine-gunning a legal brief in the middle of the jungle.
posted by compartment at 9:01 AM on April 21 [25 favorites]


I live on the bay, and the people working to block this are all welcome to kiss my ass.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 9:15 AM on April 21 [35 favorites]


Is there some kind of journalism adage about headline questions with easy, unstated answers? "Why are these far flung states opposing the cleanup?" Because industries that pollute are much more profitable if they don't have to clean up after themselves, and at large scales it becomes cheaper to spend money manipulating state governments.
posted by ceribus peribus at 9:15 AM on April 21 [7 favorites]


Update for Betteridge's law : any headline which begins with "Why" can be answered "because everything's fucked and nobody's going to jail"
posted by fullerine at 9:19 AM on April 21 [66 favorites]


There are radio ads in heavy rotation near me (on the Rappahannock River) asking people to not fertilize their yards in the spring due to the runoff that ends up in the Bay. Not that I needed a reason to neglect yard work, but the moral justification for not making my yard all green and pretty is kind of nice.
posted by COD at 9:20 AM on April 21 [9 favorites]


Because sometimes water can be too clean, amirite.
posted by fullerine at 9:21 AM on April 21 [2 favorites]


I just fear that one day I won't be able to show my grandchildren the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.
posted by vorpal bunny at 9:24 AM on April 21 [6 favorites]


COD: There are radio ads in heavy rotation near me (on the Rappahannock River) asking people to not fertilize their yards in the sprint due to the runoff that ends up in the Bay. Not that I needed a reason to neglect yard work, but the moral justification for not making my yard all green and pretty is kind of nice.

You can have both! More native plans and composting will cut back on the need for artificial fertilizers significantly. Composting sounds like a headache but it can be done on a small scale easily. I live in Baltimore, so I was worried about attracting rats, but they have containers that allow little to no smell to escape, and aren't accessible to critters.

At some point, I'd like to get one of those big rain barrels that collect water coming off your gutters. That cuts down on runoff and saves water for yard use at the same time.
posted by spaltavian at 9:27 AM on April 21 [4 favorites]


"argue that the cleanup plan raises serious concerns about states’ rights, and they worry that if the plan is left to stand, the EPA could enact similar pollution limits on watersheds such as the Mississippi."

Apart from the fact that "state's rights" is and always will be Atwater's Southern Strategy no matter how much they say otherwise, the problem is that "state's rights" has no place in environmental policy anymore, if it ever did. The Chesapeake Bay watershed affects six states directly, and a good number more (as well as eastern Canada) feel ripple effects. The Mississippi River affects the Gulf of Mexico, which shares coastlines with a number of places not the US. The evidence that even local environmental issues can become international is overwhelming, and it's beyond time to tell these "state's rights" know-nothings to fuck off entirely. People are dying because of this stuff, and the pace at which they're doing so is increasing rapidly.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:36 AM on April 21 [66 favorites]


Is there some kind of journalism adage about headline questions with easy, unstated answers? "Why are these far flung states opposing the cleanup?" Because industries that pollute are much more profitable if they don't have to clean up after themselves, and at large scales it becomes cheaper to spend money manipulating state governments.

The shorter, more conservative response: because it would stymie job growth.

The counter-arguement: screw you, you're just reaping more rewards and creating a few jobs (NYTimes link).
posted by filthy light thief at 9:36 AM on April 21 [2 favorites]


fullerine: Because sometimes water can be too clean, amirite.

I'd laugh, except I was recently in a meeting where I think someone said "emissions are now cleaner than the air." I wanted to check if I heard the person right, but I didn't.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:38 AM on April 21 [4 favorites]


Every time I hear about people angry about saving the Chesapeake, I wonder how much they love their Maryland crab soup.

It's on its way to becoming Maryland "crab flavored" soup if they get their way.

Talk about not knowing where your food comes from...especially ironic from farmers.
posted by McSockerson The Great at 9:41 AM on April 21


"emissions are now cleaner than the air."

"...I mean, the air's only so dirty because of our previous emissions, but still."
posted by jason_steakums at 9:42 AM on April 21 [1 favorite]


Is there some kind of journalism adage about headline questions with easy, unstated answers? "Why are these far flung states opposing the cleanup?" Because industries that pollute are much more profitable if they don't have to clean up after themselves, and at large scales it becomes cheaper to spend money manipulating state governments.

I am going to guess you haven't read the article. This isn't really true for large, single point industries. Most of them are actually pretty clean these days as they have come to realize that the stuff causing pollution is really money leaving their site (that is that stuff getting washed off is probably either a result of excess material going to waste or something that could be sold to be used as a feedstock for some other process). where the problem does still exist they are almost always old, failing small scale industrial sites just barely ekeing out a living on worn out equipment, very easy to find and very easy to either shut down (usually via fines and court order) or clean up (rarely done).

This is a problem of non point source pollution. Much harder to stop, but easier to solve and cleanup (since the problem is one that ecosystem can solve themselves and have with wetland areas).

I'd laugh, except I was recently in a meeting where I think someone said "emissions are now cleaner than the air." I wanted to check if I heard the person right, but I didn't.

This can be literally true. In many sewage treatment plants the water leaving the plant can be cleaner than the river it is discharging into (it is quite common for the effluent from these plants to be perfectly safe for drinking but rarely is the river water through the same urban area). Quite often the most limiting pollution for modern plants is the water temperature-not anything most people would consider 'pollution'. Most modern cars also have emissions cleaner than the air during bad air quality days in large metro's like LA and especially places like Beijeng.
posted by bartonlong at 9:43 AM on April 21 [4 favorites]


The idea that this can't be states rights because affects more than one state is interesting.

Possible derail but where can I find out more about that line of reasoning. I'm kinda afraid to google states rights...
posted by McSockerson The Great at 9:44 AM on April 21


Here's a short article on the trouble with letting states decide their own levels of environmental protections and regulations. Here's the key paragraph:
While specially targeted laws would greatly benefit some states, other states would suffer from insufficient rules; no authority would supervise the states to make sure the laws were strict enough in each. Furthermore, many environmental issues travel across state borders. For example, mercury emissions pass over many states. Pollution from a factory in Philadelphia travels easily, infecting nearby states. Additionally, waterways do not end at state lines. Rivers, lakes, and streams flow from state to state, allowing industry-polluted water from the Rio Grande to infect not only Colorado, but also New Mexico and Texas. If one state falters on strong laws, all other states will suffer.
Here's another take in an article from the Sierra Club: Why "States' Rights" is Wrong for America (1997) - one nice line: "But a set of lungs in Alabama is just as susceptible to airborne toxins as one in Alaska."
posted by filthy light thief at 9:52 AM on April 21 [15 favorites]


It's scenarios like these that reinforce the old adage: "None of us are as dumb as all of us."
posted by samsara at 9:58 AM on April 21 [5 favorites]


There's a FRONTLINE video starring the Chesapeake
posted by cman at 10:02 AM on April 21 [2 favorites]


`(since the problem is one that ecosystem can solve themselves and have with wetland areas).

That's a lot of handwaving there - ecosystems can't just solve it themselves anymore, and wetlands require management and oversight in more places than not these days. That oversight and management costs money, and the states along the Chesapeake are the ones having to spend that money because of the pollution dumped by faraway states that don't have to spend the money to revitalize and manage the wetlands and other mitigation techniques.
posted by rtha at 10:02 AM on April 21 [4 favorites]


Weltands would help, if they were a log more of those areas. Development and sprawl have destroyed huge swaths of the wetlands. In the water itself, oysters are natural filters, and historically, could filter the entire volume of the bay in a week. But oysters are down to 1-2% of their historic levels.

The bay isn't just being polluted; it's systems to ameliorate pollution have been reduced as well. This is how an ecological system collapses, it's attacked from both sides.
posted by spaltavian at 10:09 AM on April 21 [16 favorites]


I'd love to see the states surrounding a polluted region block off the waterflow coming in with pollutants from other states, like how Lake Michigan is being cut off of the Mississippi to stop Zebra Mussles
posted by rebent at 10:09 AM on April 21


Is there a list of the 21 agroserf states?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:14 AM on April 21


This isn't really true for large, single point industries. Most of them are actually pretty clean these days as they have come to realize that the stuff causing pollution is really money leaving their site (that is that stuff getting washed off is probably either a result of excess material going to waste or something that could be sold to be used as a feedstock for some other process).

Fertilizer is one of those commodified waste products, though. It's made from animal shit, especially from chickens and pigs.

The states in question whose AG's signed onto this are (sorry for the all-caps, I'm just gonna cut and paste from the brief): KANSAS, INDIANA, MISSOURI, ALABAMA, ALASKA, ARKANSAS, FLORIDA, GEORGIA, KENTUCKY, LOUISIANA, MICHIGAN, MONTANA, NEBRASKA, NORTH DAKOTA, OKLAHOMA, SOUTH CAROLINA, SOUTH DAKOTA, TEXAS, UTAH, WEST VIRGINIA, AND WYOMING.

In bold are states listed by the National Chicken Council as "Top Broiler Producing States" and/or states listed by the National Pork Council as "Top Pork Producing States."

Except for Montana, all the states not in bold are in the top 10 oil-producing states.

I'm sure this is all purely coincidental.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:16 AM on April 21 [14 favorites]


I am going to guess you haven't read the article. This isn't really true for large, single point industries. Most of them are actually pretty clean these days as they have come to realize that the stuff causing pollution is really money leaving their site

No, it's because of the Clean Air/Water Act see: air quality in Beijing.

The chicken factories on the eastern shore are examples of the total failure of the food-politics behind Michael Pollan's "Omnivore's Dilemma." Rich foodies want expensive artisanal chickens from backyards, not safer chickens from cleaner, responsible factories that everyone can eat. Repeat for the hog factories in the midwest which are one bad flood away from a industrial chemical disaster.

This needs to be done if you want the Chesapeake as a functioning ecosystem. But, the USDA should be doing this, not the EPA. This case shows a complete failure of the politics behinds these policies.
posted by ennui.bz at 10:17 AM on April 21 [2 favorites]


ceribus peribus: "Is there some kind of journalism adage about headline questions with easy, unstated answers? "Why are these far flung states opposing the cleanup?" Because industries that pollute are much more profitable if they don't have to clean up after themselves, and at large scales it becomes cheaper to spend money manipulating state governments."

So, what you're saying is politicians are really really really fucking stupid and that if they really wanted to, they could push up their rates to be bought, since clearly they're below market pricing vs the alternative (which is different than the competition).
posted by symbioid at 10:25 AM on April 21 [1 favorite]


Re-Elect No-One 2016
(fixed that for you)
posted by Fupped Duck at 10:27 AM on April 21


The chicken factories on the eastern shore are examples of the total failure of the food-politics behind Michael Pollan's "Omnivore's Dilemma." Rich foodies want expensive artisanal chickens from backyards, not safer chickens from cleaner, responsible factories that everyone can eat.

Yes, those safe, clean, responsible chicken factories.
posted by entropicamericana at 10:33 AM on April 21 [4 favorites]


I was at a debate last week among candidates for an open Congress seat in Pennsylvania. Asked if they believed in climate change, the two Rs both said, "Yes. The climate is always changing, and it always will be." One of them happens to own a swimming pool company, and he joshed that he's a fan of global warming because it's good for business. The crowd gasped while he chuckled nervously, but I was glad to get such a pithy summary of many, many Americans' feelings regarding the environment.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:38 AM on April 21 [1 favorite]


Every time I hear about people angry about saving the Chesapeake, I wonder how much they love their Maryland crab soup.

Since the last decade at least, if you're eating steamed crabs they're usually from Louisiana or Florida, and the lump crabmeat in your crabcake is from even further away. The only thing local is the Old Bay.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:42 AM on April 21 [3 favorites]


Because industries that pollute are much more profitable if they don't have to clean up after themselves pay for their social costs...

Not that I disagree with your statement, I just think this is the more productive way to frame it. It points out that they are basically stealing which just about anyone can get behind whether they care about the environment or not.
posted by VTX at 10:43 AM on April 21 [3 favorites]


"Why Are Twenty Far-Away States Trying To Block The Cleanup Of The Chesapeake Bay?"

For the same reason that trees are tall. There's value in that resource, and they are willing to do incredibly inefficient, destructive things to control that resource, rather than sharing it responsibly.

The answer is to increase their costs of trying to take more than their share to an amount that's more expensive than them doing otherwise.
posted by markkraft at 10:44 AM on April 21


ennui.bz: "But, the USDA should be doing this, not the EPA."

Isn't the USDA the agency that doesn't even actually have the authority to issue a recall but must "request" one due to be so entrenched with lobbyists?
No thanks, I'll take the agency actually tasked with dealing with environmental risk rather than the one approving how many rat turds can be in your hotdogs.
posted by Big_B at 10:49 AM on April 21 [4 favorites]


You seem to have totally misunderstood ennui.bz's comment, entropicamericana.
posted by kenko at 10:50 AM on April 21


I'd laugh, except I was recently in a meeting where I think someone said "emissions are now cleaner than the air." I wanted to check if I heard the person right, but I didn't.

Similar to what bartonlong mentions, the dean of my architecture school loved telling the story of some factory he did in Switzerland (might not have been Switzerland, but it was a European country where they were really vigilant about their water quality) where the wastewater from the factory was cleaner than the river it flowed into. It's a jarring thing to hear for the first time, but it happens.
posted by LionIndex at 10:53 AM on April 21


You seem to have totally misunderstood ennui.bz's comment, entropicamericana.

It's pretty easy to misread how it was written. I (think) the comment was trying to say that rich foodies care about gaining personal access to expensive, artisinal, "ethical" meat, and therefore expend no resources to make factory farming more responsible, cleaner, etc.
posted by jsturgill at 10:58 AM on April 21 [2 favorites]


I live on the bay, and the people working to block this are all welcome to kiss my ass.

I live in New Orleans, and the people who are working to block it because the possibility of the Mississippi watershed getting similar protection can kiss my ass.
posted by localroger at 11:17 AM on April 21 [8 favorites]


I live in my own dreamworld, in which I kiss all kinds of ass. You're welcome.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 11:28 AM on April 21


Fertilizer is one of those commodified waste products, though. It's made from animal shit, especially from chickens and pigs.

Some fertilizer is made from animal waste. Much more of it is made from fossil fuels: one third of agricultural consumption of fossil fuels is in the form of inorganic fertilizers. Inorganic fertilizer is synthesized from atmospheric nitrogen and natural gas, and is much faster acting on crops. It is also cheaper to produce and transport than animal waste fertilizer. Because it is so cheap, it is used with abandon and allowed to runoff into waterways. Animal fertilizers cause pollution as well, but inorganic fertilizers do not need to be broken down before becoming available to photosyntheisizing organisms, which makes things like algae blooms where immense amounts of organisms live and die and decompose happen in a more devastatingly quick timeframe. A slower release of inputs means systems can adapt more easily.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:44 AM on April 21 [5 favorites]


At some point the peak phosphorus problem may force the issue with regards to the massive use of fertilizers required by industrial agriculture.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 11:51 AM on April 21 [2 favorites]


More native plans and composting will cut back on the need for artificial fertilizers significantly.

And water... here in California you might have heard we're having a little water problem. Looking around it's baffling to me how much water is wasted on maintaining big green lawns and flower beds when we have so many beautiful plants that grow here without needing any extra water. I have succulents in my yard that I literally haven't watered for 10 years, and they have flowers and everything.
posted by Huck500 at 12:16 PM on April 21 [3 favorites]


You can also plant clover. I did it based on some ask.me response and it's been fantastic. It took some searching to find someplace that would sell me just a small bag of clover seeds but the seeds are tiny and it's a one-time thing.

Clover is synergistic with grass. The broad leaves shade the soil so you lose less water to evaporation and chokes out most weeds while leaving plenty of room for the grass to poke through, makes the yard look and feel really green, thick, and lush, and the clover take nitrogen from the air and adds it to the soil (which is a lot of what a commercial fertilizer does).

The only reason it gets labeled as a weed is because some herbicides target broad leaf plants only some of which are actually bad for the lawn.

No more herbicides, no more fertilizing, a lot less watering, and a thicker, greener lawn. There are flowers once a year that might attract more bees which you might see as a downside and it tends to stain clothes a little easier than grass.

Everyone with a grass lawn should plant clover.
posted by VTX at 1:22 PM on April 21 [11 favorites]


Thanks, VTX. I'm going to look into it clover. I recently removed an above-ground pool left from my house's previous owner. I would like that area to be grassy as the rest of my yard isn't. I've got some grass going there now, but I could use more coverage.
posted by spaltavian at 1:43 PM on April 21


It's not just the bay-fringing wetlands it's all the wetland and floodplain loss along the waterways. In an unaltered system the river floods overbank and deposits fine sediment and organic material in low lying areas and a lot of it never reaches the bay. The loss of all that capacity makes it near impossible for an estuary to absorb all the increased inputs into the system. So it changes systems, generally to a warmish green sludge based system. Yum.

Ecological change is like the titrations you did in high school chemistry. The system buffers inputs till it can't anymore, then it changes to a new system. Generally quite rapidly.
posted by fshgrl at 2:22 PM on April 21 [7 favorites]


Because #Obummer EPA job killing Bengahzi?
posted by T.D. Strange at 2:40 PM on April 21


Ask MetaFilter: a warmish green sludge based system.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:54 PM on April 21 [3 favorites]


Re-Elect No-One 2016

I think I saw that on a sticker on a package of Sparkle Paper Towels (from Georgia-Pacific, a Koch Company)
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:56 PM on April 21


Accepting the proposition that this wasn't in the domain of Congress' powers under the commerce clause would basically end the United States.
posted by humanfont at 4:08 PM on April 21 [1 favorite]


Holy Christmas, I just googled Sparkle Paper Towels. That website. You can't unsee things like that.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 4:45 PM on April 21


Louisiana is against its own fishermen (10 Billion a year revenue rec and commercial, tens of thousands of jobs) on this issue, presumably because our state also harbors he largest chemical plants that would suffer some profitability from lowering the nation s dependence on fossil fuel based fertilization
posted by eustatic at 5:55 PM on April 21 [2 favorites]


Yep eustatic those chemical plants that depend on being able to dump their effluent into the river are responsible for HUNDREDS of jobs, maybe even a couple of THOUSAND. Can't have the interests of a few fisherfolk interfering with those job creators.
posted by localroger at 6:10 PM on April 21 [2 favorites]


filthy light thief: “fullerine: Because sometimes water can be too clean, amirite.

I'd laugh, except I was recently in a meeting where I think someone said "emissions are now cleaner than the air." I wanted to check if I heard the person right, but I didn't.”
I worked with a water authority that had to erect miles of fences downriver from the treatment plant to keep fishermen away. The water they put back into the river was cleaner than the river itself and the fish loved it.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:53 PM on April 21


Also, between things like this, Years of Living Dangerously, etc. it's a wonder I don't have a drinking problem.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:55 PM on April 21


filthy light thief: "I'd laugh, except I was recently in a meeting where I think someone said "emissions are now cleaner than the air." I wanted to check if I heard the person right, but I didn't."

There were a few places in California where the exhaust NOx levels in catalyst equipped cars were sometimes lower than ambient around the time cats were first being installed.
posted by Mitheral at 9:24 PM on April 21


I worked with a water authority that had to erect miles of fences downriver from the treatment plant to keep fishermen away. The water they put back into the river was cleaner than the river itself and the fish loved it.

Why did they have to keep fishermen away?
posted by ryanrs at 10:28 PM on April 21


The air kept melting the flesh off their bones.
posted by wilberforce at 11:19 PM on April 21


ryanrs: “Why did they have to keep fishermen away?”
Liability and — especially after 9/11 — security. The authority was in charge of the riverbank downstream of the plant. They didn't want people pulling off the highway and parking to traipse down to the river and fish. Boaters, as long as they stayed far enough away from the plant, could fish all day and not be bothered.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:49 AM on April 22


This article is worth it for the mental image of a shirtless, bandanna-wearing judge machine-gunning a legal brief

I always picture Scalia that way.
posted by homunculus at 7:24 PM on April 22 [1 favorite]


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