Friday, March 31, 2017

Smoke on the Water

While states in the southwest dicker over who gets the last slurps of the Colorado River, here in Maryland we are at odds with other states in our region over the spillovers from their industries on our air and water. The paralysis at the EPA over budget cuts and policy changes leaves us hanging.

The water pollution in question is that affecting the Chesapeake Bay which is almost wholly located in Maryland and Virginia, though polluted water may enter the bay from the four other states in the watershed. Farming is often assigned culpability, but urbanization is more and more to blame. It has taken decades to get the six states and D.C. to agree on strict pollution reduction measures. Without the EPA to manage this agreement, it will be difficult to ensure that all parties abide by it.

Photo by aka Tman
The air pollution comes from several more states, mainly to the west of Maryland. The EPA has been less instrumental in helping Maryland and the bay with this problem. The problem stems from power plant emissions that settle on the Chesapeake Bay watershed causing nitrogen pollution and lingering in Maryland's air where the oxides are transformed into ozone which causes smog and endangers health. Maryland's remaining coal-fired power plants are relatively clean when compared to those outside the state that do not measure up to Maryland standards.

Ever since President Blowhard was voted in, the EPA has hunkered down to see what survives of their agency. Consequently, Maryland's petition asking them to enforce the Clean Air Act (not the Clean Power Plan, which recently became defunct by Presidential decree) has mouldered in an EPA inbox rather than elicit a response by the 60-day deadline. In particular, Maryland is requesting that clean operation of power plants be based on more frequent smokestack readings because the averaging of readings allows much more pollution than the figures might show. The other states involved have not been willing to adopt these requirements when requested by Maryland.

Resource sharing and cross-border pollution are two conflict areas that, if the federal government doesn't help to resolve, could drive states farther apart, making continuation of the union all the more difficult as we negotiate the climax of our secular crisis.

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