The Environment in Focus

Wednesday at 9:35 am and 5:45 pm

The Environment in Focus is a weekly perspective on the issues and people changing Maryland's natural world.  There's a story behind every bend of the Chesapeake Bay's 11,684 miles of shoreline, in every abandoned coal mine in the Appalachian Mountains, in every exotic beetle menacing our forests and in every loophole snuck into pollution control laws in Annapolis.  Tom Pelton gives you a tour of this landscape every Wednesday at 9:35 a.m. and 5:45 p.m.

The Environment in Focus is sponsored by The Environmental Integrity Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to holding polluters and governments accountable to protect public health.


Full Archive of Environment in Focus


The Environment In Focus
3:57 pm
Tue November 18, 2014

As a Departing Gift to the Bay, Governor O'Malley Proposes Poultry Manure Regulations

As one of his last acts as governor, Martin O’Malley kept a promise to reduce pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.  On Friday, he proposed regulations that would prohibit the spreading of any more poultry manure as fertilizer on many Eastern Shore farm fields.

Decades of over-application of manure from the poultry industry has meant the soil is over-saturated with phosphorus on some farms. The crops can't absorb all the nutrients. So the phosphorus runs off to pollute streams and cause and fish-killing “dead zones” in the Chesapeake Bay.

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The Environment In Focus
2:58 pm
Tue November 11, 2014

New Governor May Open Western Maryland to Fracking

In the Big Savage River in Western Maryland, two men stand in the stream beneath a forested cliff.   As a light snow falls, they cast their fly rods in a whip-like motion, their long lines tracing the shapes of S’s that hover and grow in mid- air before lashing forward to float on the clear water.

This is a special place in Maryland, and one that we cannot afford to lose," said Nick Weber, an avid fly fisherman who volunteers with a clean water advocacy group called Trout Unlimited.

Trout Unlimited recently issued a report warning that allowing drilling and hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in the Western Maryland's Savage River watershed -- or in Maryland's state forests -- could rip up the state’s largest wooded area, industrialize a landscape that is valued for nature tourism, and pollute the region’s best trout fishery.

The likelihood of fracking in Western Maryland rose last week when voters elected Larry Hogan, a Republican who said on the campaign trail that he wants to open the state to drilling.

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The Environment In Focus
7:02 pm
Tue November 4, 2014

Tumbling Cost of Solar Panels Sparks Boom in Clean Energy

Every minute, more solar energy falls on Earth than the seven billion residents of this planet can consume in an entire year.

 The attractions of solar power have long been obvious.  But the solar industry has had its fits and starts since the 1970s. And if you listened to the Fox News coverage of the Solyndra bankruptcy a few years back, you would think that  solar energy is a failed government boondoggle.

 Well, don't listen to Fox.  Listen to Vadim Polikov, a Baltimore entrepreneur and co-founder of Astrum Solar.

 “Solar as an industry has grown faster than almost any other industry in the country," said Polikov, CEO of the Howard County-based firm. "There are more people working for solar than working within the coal industry. And it is a huge job creator.” 

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The Environment In Focus
2:45 pm
Tue October 28, 2014

The Escalating Chemical War on Weeds

Last month, listeners to this program heard about a weed-killer called RoundUp that is sprayed on genetically modified corn and soybean crops across the U.S. 

Over the last 15 years, scientists say, this herbicide has contributed to a  90 percent decline in the monarch butterfly population by poisoning the milkweed plants that are the only food for monarch caterpillars.

After that radio program aired, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on October 15 approved a new herbicide to replace Roundup in farm fields.  The new chemical, Enlist Duo, is an even more powerful weed-killer, because it combines RoundUp’s main ingredient--  glyphosate --with a second herbicide, called 2, 4 D.

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The Environment In Focus
2:22 pm
Tue October 21, 2014

Global Warming Speeds Movement of Invasive Species

This is the sound of walruses in the Arctic.

What are they talking about?  I have no idea.  But I doubt they are debating the existence of climate change.  Rapidly melting sea ice in the Arctic left a pod of 35,000 walruses stranded on a rocky beach in Alaska earlier this month.

The mass stranding -- photographed by scientists (in the picture above) and distributed by the media around the world -- was highly unusual, and a stressful development for walruses, which need sea ice to rest on.

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The Environment In Focus
2:58 pm
Tue October 14, 2014

Advocates Decry "Pay to Play" for Public Information

In 1970, the Maryland General Assembly passed a law that requires government agencies to open most of their records to journalists or anyone from the public who wants to know what their government is up to.

The point of the Maryland Public Information Act is to make information freely available to all voters  and taxpayers – not only those with money or connections.

But increasingly, advocates of open government complain that state agencies have adopted a “pay to play” policy that has turned public information into a private commodity – or a political weapon. 

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The Environment In Focus
1:38 pm
Tue October 7, 2014

Seahorses Threatened by Trawling and Pollution

Seahorse populations in several parts of the world, including in the Chesapeake Bay, are threatened in part because of the destruction of underwater grasses that seahorses need as shelter.

Amanda Vincent, a zoologist and seahorse expert at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, argues that governments around the world can help save seahorses by ending bottom trawling for shrimp (which rips up seagrasses) and reducing water pollution (which blocks light that grasses need to grow).

(Photo from National Aquarium in Baltimore.)

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The Environment In Focus
2:25 pm
Tue September 30, 2014

Sewage Overflows Feed a Garden of Troubles

On a road in Baltimore, from a gap in the pavement near a manhole cover, grows a tomato plant. Green roma tomatoes dangle like Christmas tree bulbs strangely out of place beside a steel guard rail.  Nearby, just west of Falls Road near the Baltimore Streetcar Museum, several more unruly tomatoes and a squash plant rise and twist amid sewage smells beside an eroded section of the Jones Falls bike trail.  David Flores, the Baltimore Harborkeeper, has a theory about the origin of this well-fertilized garden flourishing on the banks of the Jones Falls.  It grows out of sewage.

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The Environment In Focus
1:34 pm
Tue September 23, 2014

The Canary in the Corn Field

In the late 1990s, farmers across the U.S. began planting a different kind of crop.  About 90 percent of farmers started raising corn and soybeans that were genetically modified to tolerate an herbicide called glyphosate or Roundup. That was bad news for monarch butterflies, the iconic symbols of summer, whose populations have plummeted by 90 percent since then.

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The Environment In Focus
3:30 pm
Tue September 16, 2014

Government Surveillance of Environmental Activists

Over the last year, the news has been full of stories about U.S. government surveillance of its own civilians.  Among those worried about the government’s increased power to track and record the communications of people in the iPhone age are some environmental activists who in the past have been wrongly labeled "ecoterrorists" in government databases.

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