Thursday 22 February 2018

Press Statements (61)

LTE: Conowingo Dam Needs Better Fish Ladder

According to its mission statement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service exists to "conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people." I am grateful to this federal agency for pushing Exelon Corporation to make significant improvements to the Conowingo Dam to facilitate fish-passage. ("Conowingo Dam fish-lift overhaul urged to restore Susquehanna's shad, eels," Aug. 12). The dam has been blocking fish and eels from reaching the upper Susquehanna River since its construction in 1928. Today, 87 years later, we have a much better understanding of how important shad, river herring and eels are to our natural environment. Exelon makes a healthy profit from operating Conowingo and is seeking a new license to continue doing so. Now is the time to insist that Exelon bring its dam up to modern environmental standards and help restore the fisheries that its dam has harmed. Even as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seeks badly-needed improvements to Conowingo's failing fish passage system, the hydropower industry is working in Congress to strip the agency's authority. The so-called Hydropower Improvement Act of 2015 would give the final say to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, an energy-permitting agency that often undermines agencies' attempts to improve fish passage, water quality and other environmental protections at hydropower dams. As the industry lobbies Congress for a free pass on fish passage, could Exelon be trying to delay its own fish passage obligations until a time when they are no…
After five years, finally a win in the courts! The Court of Special Appeals upheld a lower court's finding that the stormwater cleanup requirements issued by state regulators to Montgomery County five years ago weren't specific enough, and didn't have any meaningful deadlines or ways to measure the county's compliance. In a unanimous ruling, the three-judge court ordered the Maryland Department of the Environment to revise the stormwater discharge permit (known as a MS4 permit) to correct the defects. This ruling will have implications for our challenges to stormwater permits in other counties. Attorney Jennifer Chavez at Earthjustice represented Waterkeepers Chesapeake, Potomac Riverkeeper, Anacostia Riverkeeper and others. Highlights from her blog post: After the state refused to define specific pollution caps and deadlines for meeting them in the permit, instead ordering the county to engage in a protracted planning process and allowing the county to continue relying on outdated and unproven pollution control practices, we brought this legal case. This latest decision upholds a December 2013 ruling by the Montgomery County Circuit Court that also sided with the advocates, saying that the permit’s requirements were “simply too general.” The decision confirms that the Maryland Department of Environment has wasted millions of Maryland taxpayer dollars on ineffective and unenforceable permits that fail to protect our beloved waterways and the nationally treasured Chesapeake Bay. It is time for the state to meet its legal duty to establish the pollution limits so desperately needed to protect the waters in which we swim, fish,…
Maryland Senate Passes Weakened Fracking Moratorium Bill Cuts Moratorium Length to Two Years and Mandates Regulations   (Annapolis, MD - April 7, 2015) The Maryland Senate passed an amended version of a fracking moratorium in last night’s legislative session. The amended bill, known as SB409, requires Governor Hogan’s Administration to adopt regulations by October 1, 2016, to provide for hydraulic fracturing in Maryland, but prohibits any permits for the exploration or production of gas to be issued before October 1, 2017.   Waterkeepers Chesapeake, a coalition of 18 independent nonprofit Waterkeeper organizations, expressed disappointment with the current language in the bill, which would put Maryland on a path to begin fracking in two years. The legislation now heads to the House of Delegates.   “We are very concerned that the General Assembly ignored calls for a long-term moratorium despite the growing body of scientific evidence documenting significant health and environmental harms caused by fracking,” said Betsy Nicholas, executive director of Waterkeepers Chesapeake. “With the current technology, no amount of regulations can make the risks of fracking acceptable. If this bill becomes law, we call on the General Assembly to move quickly in the next two years to establish a more rigorous long-term moratorium to protect our health and communities from irreversible harm.”   The original proposed legislation imposed an eight-year moratorium on the issuing of permits to frack in Maryland. In addition, it set up an expert panel to review additional health and environmental studies on the cumulative and long-term…