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

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The Environment In Focus
3:22 pm
Tue January 27, 2015

New MD Governor Stops Pollution Control Regulations

When Bob Ehrlich became governor in 2003, one of his first acts -- as Maryland’s first Republican chief executive in more than three decades -- was to abandon new state regulations that would have held the state’s large poultry industry responsible for reducing its manure runoff pollution into the Chesapeake Bay.

Ehrlich’s former appointments secretary, Larry Hogan, a Republican real estate developer, was sworn in as Maryland's new governor last week.  On his first day in office, Hogan beat his former boss in anti-environmental showmanship by killing not only new poultry waste regulations important for the health of the Bay, but also clean air rules designed to reduce smog in the Baltimore area.


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The Environment In Focus
2:21 pm
Tue January 20, 2015

Discovering the Monster Crabs of the Old Chesapeake

Blue crabs are an important part of the Chesapeake region’s culture, diet, and economy. But crab remains are rare in archeological sites around the Bay. This has led some scientists to believe that Native Americans did not eat the beautiful swimmers that today we find so delicious.

 “What we know about Native Americans ate is based on some historic records, but also on looking at the trash piles that Indians left, mostly on the shoreline of Chesapeake Bay,” said Tuck Hines, Director of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. “And the majority of those trash piles are made up of oyster shells. But not much in the way of blue crab remains are generally found in those trash piles or ‘middens.’”

 


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The Environment In Focus
3:07 pm
Tue January 13, 2015

The Impact of Falling Gas and Oil Prices

As the Maryland General Assembly session opens today in Annapolis, one of the hot topics will be whether Governor-Elect Larry Hogan will try to loosen up restrictions on hydraulic fracturing to allow drilling companies to frack in Western Maryland for the first time.

But the state forests may be protected from drilling, at least in the short term not by politics, but by economics.   Industry analysts say that plunging natural gas and oil prices – caused by a glut of fuel produced by fracking -- are causing oil and gas companies across the country to shut down rigs, lay off workers, and avoid new development in places like Maryland.


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The Environment In Focus
2:30 pm
Tue January 6, 2015

Life on the Wing

Children are so sensitive to the natural world, sometimes all it takes is a single moment to alter the course of their lives.

Lincoln Brower is now 83 years old.  But he still remembers with perfect clarity a time one day when he was six and growing up in Northwest New Jersey.  He was lying on his stomach in the grass, near where his parents were playing tennis.

 “In those days, the lawns were full of an array of weeds and wild plants and caterpillars galore,” Brower recalls at his home in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.  “And this little copper butterfly appeared on a clover blossom, sipping nectar.  And I got really interested in that butterfly, probably because I was lying down really close to it. And I could see this gorgeous pattern on the wings.”


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The Environment In Focus
2:42 pm
Thu January 1, 2015

The Singing Crab Pickers: A Chorus of Hope

The women of the island town of Tylerton in the Chesapeake Bay sing gospel hymns as they pick the crabs caught by their husbands and sons.  Their music sounds timeless, and visitors might imagine pickers in the fishing community singing work songs like this since the English landed here in 1638.


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The Environment In Focus
4:02 pm
Tue December 23, 2014

Orchids: The Smartest Plants in the World

Orchids are sometimes called "the smartest plants in the world" because of their ingenious ability to trick insects and people into helping with their pollination and transport. But many of the 25,000 known species of orchids are threatened or endangered, and Dennis Whigham and colleagues at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center are investigating why. The scientists are also trying to bring these dinosaur-era plants back. 


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The Environment In Focus
2:43 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

The Bedbug Boom and Unnatural Selection

After disappearing from the U.S., bedbugs have made a dramatic comeback in the last decade.  Some conservatives have blamed environmentalists for the return of the bloodsucking pests – and in particular, Rachel Carson, author of “Silent Spring.”

A website called “Rachel Was Wrong,” for example, argues that the pesticide DDT was effective in eliminating bedbugs from the United States in the 1950's.  But then the Environmental Protection Agency banned DDT in 1972, inspired in part by Carson's book and the environmental movement she sparked.  Bedbugs came roaring back, the argument goes, because we had chemically disarmed ourselves.


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The Environment In Focus
2:53 pm
Tue December 9, 2014

MD Governor Elect Hogan Promises to Fight Clean Water Regulations

On Monday, Maryland Governor-Elect Larry Hogan announced that his first fight when he takes office next month will be to overturn new poultry manure regulations meant to reduce phosphorus runoff pollution into the Chesapeake Bay.

“The first fight [when I take office] will be against these politically motivated, midnight-hour phosphorus management tool regulations that the outgoing administration is trying to force upon you in these closing days,” Mr. Hogan, a Republican, said in a speech to the Maryland Farm Bureau Convention in Ocean City, according to The Washington Times. “We won’t allow them to put you out of business, destroy your way of life or decimate your entire industry.”

His statement – combined with support for the pollution control rules among some Democratic lawmakers – suggests that a battle over the future of the Chesapeake Bay is brewing in the upcoming Maryland General Assembly session. Agriculture is the single largest source of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, with 53 percent of the phosphorus pollution from Maryland coming from farms.


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The Environment In Focus
3:04 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

The Booming Rent-a-Goat Industry vs. Invasive Species

A growing number of businesses are renting herds of goats to gobble up invasive species and other weeds as an environmentally-friendly alternative to spraying herbicides. 

Shown in this picture is Veronica Cassilly, owner of the Harmony Herd in Harford County.  Towson University recently hired her and 17 of her goats as a weed whacking crew.  Their mission: to devour an invasive species of plant -- English Ivy – that was smothering a forested stream valley beside a dorm on their campus just north of Baltimore.


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The Environment In Focus
3:08 pm
Tue November 25, 2014

Is President Obama's Climate Agreement with China Fair to the U.S.?

President Obama announced a major climate change agreement with China during a meeting in Beijing earlier this month.

“As the world’s two largest economies, energy consumers and emitters of greenhouse gases, we have a special responsibility to lead the global effort against climate change," Obama said on November 12, standing side by side with the  Chinese President.

"That is why today I am proud we can announce an historic agreement.  I commend President Xi, his team and the Chinese government for the commitment they are making to slow, peak, and then reverse the course of China’s carbon emissions." Obama said. "Today I can also say the United States has set a new goal of reducing our net greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels  by the year 2025.”

But how historic was the Bejing climate agreement, really, when you look at the fine print? 


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