Md., Va., D.C. Set New Bay Clean-Up Goals


Coleman Tribble, 10, of Mechanicsville, Va., holds a sign he helped make at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's rally Thursday across the street from Union Station in Washington. Speakers at the rally called on the EPA to immediately clean up pollution in the bay. (Photo: Anath Hartmann, Capital News Service)
WASHINGTON (Nov. 20, 2008)—The Chesapeake Bay states will form an independent scientific panel to gauge progress on and give advice about cleaning up the waterway, with Maryland taking the lead, Gov. Martin O'Malley said Thursday.

The scientific panel is one of a handful of new initiatives announced by the Chesapeake Executive Council, members of which include outgoing President O'Malley, incoming President and Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine and Washington, D.C., Mayor Adrian Fenty. The council met in Union Station Thursday.

The Chesapeake Bay, plagued by nitrogen and phosphorous dumping resulting in oxygen-depleted "dead" zones, has seen its crab population dwindle by as much as 70 percent over the past 18 years, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

As a result, the bay's once-thriving crabbing industry has suffered, spurring Maryland lawmakers into imposing bushel limits this year.

"We're proud of the things that we've done," O'Malley said of Maryland's bay restoration efforts, which include the release Tuesday by the Commerce Department of $10 million in aid to Maryland watermen hit by the bushel limits.

"At the same time, we recognize that there are more things that need to be done," O'Malley said.

Other council efforts to address growing public concern over the state of the bay include the establishment of clean-up benchmarks in two-year increments, rather than in longer periods, and moving the council's annual meeting from fall to spring.

The council has already announced it won't meet its goal to reduce bay pollution enough by 2010 to get the estuary removed from the federal list of impaired waters.

"Setting goals that are ... a decade out, for example, do not create pressure to produce (results)," Kaine said. "We're going to change the way goals are set."

Earlier in the day, about 100 members of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and residents of Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., gathered at the park across the street from Union Station to demand better pollution controls.

Chanting "EPA, don't delay. Save the bay," most wore black shirts bearing the same message and held signs and banners as speakers talked about the need for progress in pollution reduction.

"If we can spend $10 billion a month in Iraq, we can clean up the Chesapeake Bay," former Maryland Sen. Bernie Fowler, one of several speakers at the rally and a longtime advocate of Chesapeake Bay tributary clean-up, said to cheers and applause. "We want to see that dead zone get smaller and smaller and smaller."

The U.S. Senate made its own anti-pollution announcement Thursday, when the Environment and Public Works Committee said it would submit two bills to the new Congress in January.

The first will be an annual $15 billion grant to reduce greenhouse emissions and the second, a direct cap and trade system with the Environmental Protection Agency, said Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.

The committee was responding to President-elect Barack Obama's call earlier this week to state governors for climate change.

"We're in a horrible economic position today, and the legislation ... will create more jobs here in America, good jobs here in America, and we need that desperately," said Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md. "It's nice to know we're going to be working with an administration to get it done rather than (having to) block the bad things that (the Bush) administration tried to do."

Capital News Service contributed to this report.

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