Baltimore's Experience May Yield Lessons for Senate as It Debates Integrated Planning Bill

by Evan Isaacson | April 13, 2017

The City of Baltimore is wrapping up an $800 million upgrade of its largest sewage treatment plant. At the same time, the city is starting a $160 million project to retrofit a drinking water reservoir; is in the midst of a $400 million project to realign a major section of its sewer system; and is spending several million on projects throughout the city to manage polluted runoff from its streets and other paved surfaces.

And these are just a few of the city's many infrastructure projects to upgrade drinking water and wastewater facilities, improve the systems of pipes that deliver clean water to homes and, separately, sewage to their treatment plants, and begin to deal with the thousands of acres of pavement that channel filthy water into the city's harbor.

Managing our need for water is both expensive and complicated. If you consider the challenge involved in planning and prioritizing these multi-billion dollar projects, you begin to understand why something with a name as dull as the "integrated municipal planning framework" is becoming something of a hot topic in some circles. The challenges of worsening drought and flooding that climate change is forecasted to create for American cities in coming decades have also propelled the emergence of a related, but broader topic of growing importance called "integrated water management" – the coordinated management of societal water needs in an equitable and sustainable way.

These emerging issues are the focus of ...

A Dark Day for the Bay

by Evan Isaacson | March 17, 2017
Last year around this time, I happily deleted this headline, "A Dark Day for the Bay," which I was preparing to use for a blog post in the event that the U.S. Supreme Court decided to hear the appeal of the American Farm Bureau Federation and other plaintiffs in their challenge to the Chesapeake Bay cleanup effort known as the Bay TMDL. Ultimately, the Court denied that appeal, leaving in place the decision of a federal appeals court that upheld ...

Baltimore Sun op-ed: Bay Cleanup Must Factor in Climate Change

by David Flores | February 28, 2017
This op-ed originally ran in the Baltimore Sun. Last summer, when floodwaters nearly wiped out Old Ellicott City, many people looked at the damage as bad luck caused by a 500-year storm. The truth is that such storms are no longer rare events. The Northeast United States has experienced a staggering 70 percent increase in intense rainstorms thanks to climate change. Unfortunately, efforts in the Chesapeake Bay region to adapt policies to address these threats are lagging far behind, and ...

Some Good News: Recent Indicators Show More Progress in the Chesapeake Bay

by Evan Isaacson | February 02, 2017
This week, the Chesapeake Bay Program released its annual Bay Barometer report. Along with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's annual State of the Bay and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science's Chesapeake Bay Report Card, the Bay Program's report closes out the assessments of the Bay for 2016 (for what it's worth, CPR Member Scholar Rena Steinzor and I released our own assessment last year). The Bay Barometer is chock full of charts describing the progress (and lack thereof) ...

Pair of EPA Actions Show Long Road Ahead for Urban Water Quality, Climate Resilience

by Evan Isaacson | December 08, 2016
Over the last couple of months, a pair of actions taken by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) demonstrate the glacial pace of federal stormwater management policy under the Clean Water Act. In October, EPA rejected a series of petitions by a group of environmental organizations to expand regulatory protections for certain urban waterways. Then last month, EPA issued a new national rule clarifying existing urban water quality regulations, but only because it was forced to respond to a federal ...

Long-Term Forecast for Bay Restoration: Cloudy with a Chance of Storms

by Evan Isaacson | November 18, 2016
Last week, the Center for Progressive Reform co-hosted a symposium with the University of Maryland School of Law entitled "Halftime for the Bay TMDL." The symposium was supposed to be about what states, cities, counties, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), industry, and citizens can do to accelerate progress in the second half of the 15-year Chesapeake Bay clean-up effort. However, participants decided that it was equally important to discuss the potentially alarming prospects facing future Bay progress when a ...

Assessment Finds Wide Variety in Quality of County Stormwater Plans in Maryland

by Evan Isaacson | October 17, 2016
Today, the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) is releasing an assessment of the plans and progress of Baltimore City and the nine largest counties in Maryland to comply with their federal stormwater permits, a key component of the ongoing effort to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and restore it to health. The analysis looks carefully at the jurisdictions' past efforts and future plans, revealing a wide range in the apparent commitment and level of restoration activity as they work to ...

Center for Progressive Reform Welcomes New Climate Adaptation Policy Analyst

by Brian Gumm | October 12, 2016
NEWS RELEASE: Center for Progressive Reform Welcomes New Climate Adaptation Policy Analyst Today, the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) announced that David Flores has joined the organization as its new policy analyst. Flores will serve alongside the group's staff and Member Scholars in their efforts to protect public health and the environment, with a particular focus on ways communities and the Chesapeake Bay region can adapt to climate change in a fair, just, inclusive manner.  "I'm excited to welcome David Flores ...

New EPA Assessment Shines a Light on a Cause of Chesapeake Bay Woes

by Evan Isaacson | September 20, 2016
The Chesapeake Bay watershed and its restoration framework under the Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) are so large and complex that it can be a real challenge to study, much less write about, the problem and the ongoing restoration efforts. This is why the recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assessment of the tiny Beck Creek watershed in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania is so valuable. The same activities that have fouled Beck Creek and the restoration practices that are working ...

Let's Celebrate Some Progress on Infrastructure Investment

by Evan Isaacson | July 05, 2016
For decades, politicians, advocates, and the press have lamented America's aging, deteriorating, or even failing infrastructure and called for change – usually to little avail. Perhaps another strategy should be to celebrate success wherever we see it and spotlight achievements to demonstrate that we can change the situation if we choose key public investments over apathy and short-sighted budget cuts. Just a few weeks ago, residents and advocates in the Chesapeake Bay region heard one such infrastructure success story. In ...

EPA Releases 2016 Assessments for Chesapeake Bay States

by Evan Isaacson | June 17, 2016
This morning, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its annual assessments of progress made by the seven jurisdictions in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The bottom line: nothing has really changed in terms of the content or tone from the previous annual assessments, and they do not appear to reflect a shift in strategy by EPA toward greater enforcement against lagging states under the "accountability framework" of the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (Bay TMDL). First, a quick summary ...

Lessons from Annual Bay Conference

by Evan Isaacson | June 08, 2016
Late last month, almost 250 water quality advocates and officials convened in Annapolis for what is likely one of the largest gatherings of Chesapeake Bay experts. The 2016 Choose Clean Water Coalition conference brought together experts from each of the seven Bay jurisdictions and the federal government to share their experiences and ideas and to hear from some of the officials in charge of the Bay restoration process. They included Maryland's Secretary of the Environment, the Director of the Chesapeake ...

Join CPR as Our Climate Adaptation Policy Analyst

by Matt Shudtz | May 25, 2016
Are you interested in ensuring that communities impacted by climate change can effectively adapt to changing conditions and that vulnerable populations will be protected and treated fairly in the process? Do you have a background in the legal and policy issues related to both clean water and climate change adaptation? If so, you should consider applying for the new climate change adaptation policy analyst position at the Center for Progressive Reform!  The focus of this position is climate change adaptation, ...

Trading Away the Benefits of Green Infrastructure

by Evan Isaacson | May 10, 2016
In the world of watershed restoration, there are multiple tools and tactics that government agencies, private landowners, and industry can use to reduce pollution and clean up our waterways. In Maryland, two of those approaches seem destined to collide. On the first track is nutrient trading, a least-cost pollution control concept predicated on the idea that if some distant entity can reduce the same amount of pollution at a lower cost than a facility with a water pollution control permit, ...

Chesapeake Bay Program Releases 2015 Watershed Model Estimates

by Evan Isaacson | April 19, 2016
Yesterday, the Chesapeake Bay Program released its latest estimate of nutrient and sediment pollution in the Bay watershed. The annual model run of the program's Watershed Model shows that the estimated nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment loads decreased by three percent, three percent, and four percent, respectively, compared to 2014 levels. These are important improvements, but much work lies ahead to improve water quality in the Bay and boost the fisheries, wildlife, and recreational activities it supports. The estimated decrease in ...

Ensuring Accountability and Public Participation in Stormwater Permitting

by Katrina Miller | March 25, 2016
As spring rains approach, the need for more stringent stormwater controls comes into sharper focus. Rain is a life-giver, of course, but in our ever more paved environment, it’s also a conveyance for water pollution. Stormwater runoff in urban areas travels across rooftops, roads, sidewalks and eventually into a municipal storm sewer system, all the while accumulating a cocktail of various pollutants that includes oil residue from roads, pesticides and excess fertilizer from lawns and farms, and more. These pollutants ...

Trading, Manure, and the Free Market

by Evan Isaacson | March 18, 2016
Recently, I have been noticing a number of connections between the environmental policies or issues that I’ve been studying and modern economic doctrine. I’m not sure if the number or strength of these connections are enough to claim that we’re seeing a rise in “laissez faire environmentalism” in the Chesapeake Bay region, but the implications are interesting to consider nevertheless. Nutrient trading is the best example. There is little question that the notion of pollution trading stems directly from economic ...

State Court Deals Major Setback to Effort to Reform and Modernize Maryland Stormwater Permits

by Evan Isaacson | March 17, 2016
Maryland’s high court ruled last week in favor of the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) in a challenge by several advocacy groups against five municipal stormwater (“MS4”) permits issued by MDE. While reading the lengthy opinion on my computer, I felt at times like a raving sports fan yelling at the TV in frustration. My frustration was borne not of the court’s specific arguments, or even of concerns over any far-reaching legal implications of the decision. Rather, to understand ...

Chesapeake Bay

The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in North America, home to more than 3,600 species of plants and animals. The Chesapeake Bay watershed—the land that drains into the Bay—encompasses parts of six states and Washington, D.C. This national treasure has been deteriorating since the 1930s. The Obama Administration made important progress, however, pressing states to reduce pollution flowing into the Bay.. 

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