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 and Supreme Air, Heating, Air Conditioning, and Geothermal Specialists.

Full Archive of Environment in Focus



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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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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