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Chesapeake Bay News

Archives: August 2008


New Report Outlines Potential of Cellulosic Biofuels in Bay Region

The Chesapeake Bay Commission and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have released a new report that explains how the Chesapeake region can become a national leader in the shift to home-grown, environmentally beneficial biofuels.

“Next-Generation Biofuels: Taking the Policy Lead for the Nation,” outlined at the day-long Chesapeake Bay Biofuels Summit in Harrisburg, Pa., on Sept. 4, is the result of a year-long effort to explore the feasibility of cellulosic biofuels from sources including switchgrass, fast-growing timber and municipal wastes.

At the 2007 Executive Council meeting, Pennsylvania and the Chesapeake Bay Commission agreed to “champion” the biofuels issue and position the Chesapeake region at the forefront of the evolution from corn-based ethanol to advanced biofuels. Commercial-scale development of cellulosic ethanol offers the Bay region environmental protection, economic opportunities and energy security.

The Chesapeake region is well-situated to become a leader in cellulosic biofuels over the next five to 10 years because it is:

  • A very temperate region able to grow cellulosic crops, including switchgrass and fast-growing timber like willow and poplar.
  • Well-situated near Philadelphia, which has gasoline blending facilities to create cellulosic ethanol.
  • The only major corn-growing region in the U.S. that has not invested in corn-based ethanol.
  • A thriving biotechnology region with many scientific and entrepreneurial institutions that can help develop the technology needed to implement a commercial cellulosic biofuels industry.
  • Close to major population centers, including Boston, New York, Pittsburgh, Richmond and Washington, D.C.

The report offers 20 recommendations for the Chesapeake region and each state in the watershed to capitalize on the transition from conventional biofuels to next-generation alternatives.

At the regional level, recommendations include:

  • Coordinating state efforts to secure federal support for next-generation biofuels.
  • Discouraging the use of invasive species as cellulosic sources.
  • Encouraging local and on-farm use of biomass products.
  • Establishing regional frameworks and priorities for research and development.

Recommendations for the individual states include:

  • Establishing requirements and incentives for purchasing biofuels.
  • Using best management practices for growing and harvesting feedstocks (such as woody material, perennial grasses and corn leaves and scraps).
  • Providing incentives for creating and implementing forest management plans.
  • Supporting the sustainable production of next-generation feedstocks on abandoned or underused lands.

Read the full “Next Generation Biofuels” report or view the announcement of the recommendations from the Chesapeake Bay Biofuels Summit.


Environmental Education Initiatives Gain Momentum in Bay Region

The state of Maryland has launched a new commitment to help children throughout the state re-connect with Maryland’s mountains, forests and waterways.

The Maryland Partnership for Children in Nature will promote structured and unstructured play activities for children in the outdoors through a 21-member panel made up of representatives from public, private and non-profit organizations from across the state.

The Partnership for Children in Nature will help the state’s youths improve their environmental literacy and increase their time spent outdoors by:

  • Creating trails between schools and communities to encourage walking and biking.
  • Increasing support for schoolyard habitat programs.
  • Providing at-risk youth with opportunities to serve in conservation crews in state parks and public lands.
  • Developing a state environmental literacy plan that will identify model outdoor learning experiences that can be integrated into regular school curricula.

The Partnership for Children in Nature complements the federal No Child Left Inside initiative, which also promotes environmental education. Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) is the lead sponsor of the No Child Left Inside bill, which will likely head to a vote in the House of Representatives next month.

According to the No Child Left Inside Coalition, which supports the bill, incorporating environmental education into core curricula has a measurably positive impact on student success in science, reading, math and social studies. Increased time outdoors has been shown to benefit children’s cognitive functioning, self-discipline and emotional well-being.

The No Child Left Inside Coalition currently has more than 640 member groups from across the United States, ranging from environmental and education advocates to businesses and public health experts. In the Chesapeake Bay region, member organizations include the Anacostia Watershed Society, the Chesapeake Bay Trust, Friends of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and the Virginia Living Museum.

Keywords: schools, education

New Ballast Water Initiative May Help Stop Spread of Invasive Species

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, the Maryland Port Administration and several other Maryland agencies have joined together to launch the Maritime Environmental Resource Center (MERC), a new research and testing project that aims to help prevent the spread of harmful aquatic invasive species via ship ballast water.

Ballast water is taken up by ships to stabilize weight while underway and later emptied when a ship needs to change its stability or unload its cargo. Along with water, ships can pick up small aquatic species in their ballast. When a ship picks up ballast from one body of water and empties it into another, it can inadvertently release those aquatic species, which may become invasive in their new environment.

There are more than 150 known invasive species in the Chesapeake, most of which are believed to have been introduced through ballast water.

The primary focus of MERC will be to test the effectiveness of systems designed to safely treat ballast water before it is discharged into the Bay and other local waterways. In the future, MERC may also focus on other maritime environmental issues, such as hull fouling, air emissions and gray and oily water treatments.

Testing will be performed aboard a working cargo ship donated by the U.S. Maritime Administration. With this mobile testing platform, MERC will be able to review the effects of temperature and salinity changes on various treatment systems.

Visit the MERC website for more information about the program.

Keywords: invasive species

Congressional Hearing Focuses on Chesapeake Bay Restoration Efforts

Testimony provided at a congressional hearing this week acknowledged the Chesapeake Bay Program’s progress in improving restoration efforts and focused on the continuing challenges to restoring water quality throughout the watershed.

The U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, held the hearing to gather testimony on recommendations for protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay from a variety of interested parties, including the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Chesapeake Bay Commission and other stakeholder organizations.

The hearing specifically focused on the Chesapeake Bay Program, with members of Congress and witnesses offering strong support for the value of the Bay Program and its full range of partners throughout the watershed.

Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) said the Chesapeake Bay Program is “absolutely essential to those efforts” to restore the Bay.

Several participants commented that the Bay Program is a model of the science and collaboration needed for such a massive restoration effort.

“The Bay Program is the best of its kind in the nation and the world,” said Ann Swanson, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Commission. “…you must invest in the best.”

The Chesapeake Bay Program’s recent report to Congress, titled Strengthening the Management, Coordination and Accountability of the Chesapeake Bay Program, was also highlighted during the hearing. Outlined in the report is the Chesapeake Action Plan (CAP), which features tools that can strengthen and expand partnerships in the watershed, enhance coordination of restoration activities and increase the collective accountability for protecting the Bay.

The CAP responds to 2005 recommendations of the GAO and also addresses report language accompanying the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2008 that directed the Bay Program to create a Chesapeake Bay action plan for the remaining years of the Chesapeake 2000 agreement.

"We are listening and we believe we and our partners are responding to concerns and criticisms," said Benjamin Grumbles, EPA assistant administrator for water.

Testimony on the CAP submitted by the Government Accountability Office stated “The Bay Program has made important progress, and we believe that these initial steps will enable better management of the restoration effort. However, additional actions are needed to ensure the restoration effort is moving forward in the most cost-effective manner.”

During the hearing, witnesses outlined the tremendous challenges in the Bay watershed that hamper restoration progress. These include the impacts of continued population growth and development, from 130,000 new watershed residents each year to the loss of 100 acres of forest every day. Many witnesses also spoke of the difficulty in controlling pollution from agricultural sources, but added that the $188 million in new funding from the 2008 Farm Bill should allow for progress toward meeting goals.

Because restoration of the Chesapeake Bay is such an enormous and complex task, participants in the hearing questioned if the Bay Program and its partners had the necessary authorities, resources and tools, including the ability to engage local governments in restoration work.

Wade Najjum, of the EPA Inspector General’s Office, said “Given its limited financial resources and regulatory authority, EPA’s greatest role will be in facilitating and motivating states and local governments and watershed groups to address the challenges and consider the sacrifices that will be required.”

Other witnesses also testified that actions by all levels of government are critical to restoring the Bay.

“While we at the EPA have a critically important role ... so much of the implementation will need to occur at the local level and the state level,” Grumbles said.

With knowledge of the watershed’s problems and solutions, the Chesapeake Bay Program and its partners have made implementation of restoration activities the top priority.

“There is frankly little more we need to know about the Bay to know what actions to take,” said Bill Matuszeski, former director of the Bay Program.

Also at the hearing, Rep. Robert Wittman (R-Va.) announced that he is introducing a bill that would set requirements for budget coordination and adaptive management for Bay restoration.

View video of the hearing.

Read the testimony of witnesses:

    Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.)
    Rep. Robert Wittman (R-Va.)
    Benjamin H. Grumbles, EPA Assistant Administrator for Water
    Anu K. Mittal, Government Accountability Office
    Wade Najjum, EPA Inspector General’s Office
    Don F. Boesch, Ph.D, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
    J. Charles Fox, Pew Foundation
    Roy Hoagland, Chesapeake Bay Foundation
    William Matuszeski, retired director, Chesapeake Bay Program
    W. Tayloe Murphy, Jr., former Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources and state senator
    Ann Swanson, Chesapeake Bay Commission

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