Feb. 28, 2018 by David Flores

If Chesapeake Bay Jurisdictions Are Serious About Restoration, They Must Take Climate Change into Account

At a workshop on Friday, March 2, representatives of the Chesapeake Bay jurisdictions will meet in Baltimore to make important final decisions about how to address pollution – previously accounted for – from the Conowingo Dam and climate change. Decisions these representatives make about how to address pollution loads through the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) agreement will shape how and whether Bay jurisdictions are able to meet their Bay restoration goals during the crucial third and final phase of the restoration compact before its 2025 deadline. 

Recent research by Bay Program scientists suggests that climate change has already increased nutrient pollution in the Chesapeake substantially. Observed increases in rainfall from climate change – along with other factors – could burden the Bay with an additional 9.1 million pounds of nitrogen and 490,000 pounds of phosphorus on an annual basis by 2025. The additional pollution runoff, warming Bay waters, and reduced pollutant removal efficiency of restoration projects will have the effect of pushing restoration of the Bay further out of reach – unless Bay jurisdictions commit to action. 

Unfortunately, in December, Bay jurisdictions not only decided against commitments to address these climate-attributable pollution loads, but they were unable to even reach …

Nov. 16, 2017 by David Flores

Those who take public safeguards seriously are well aware of the potential consequences that arise from the dangerous combination of poorly written pollution permits and lax – even absent – enforcement. From construction sites with failing erosion and sediment controls to ammonia and bacteria-spewing concentrated animal feeding operations, our waterways, their users, and vulnerable populations in the pathway of pollution suffer the consequences. Starting today, we add industrial stormwater to the ignoble list of poorly regulated sources of environmental pollution in Maryland. 

Over the last year, the Center for Progressive Reform and the Environmental Integrity Project have collaborated to investigate Maryland's program for regulation of industrial stormwater, building on earlier work to sue the state to improve its industrial stormwater permit and to bring rigorous enforcement against facilities flouting the permit's most basic requirements

Sadly, our findings confirm our initial suspicions. Permit violations and unacceptable levels of …

Sept. 9, 2017 by David Flores

As Hurricane Irma takes aim at the Florida coast, questions about property and community vulnerabilities abound, including for some of President Donald Trump's properties. A brief analysis by the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) has found that while Trump's properties, including Mar-a-Lago, face significant risk of damage from the hurricane and from the ongoing impacts of climate change, surrounding neighborhoods and communities will have a much more difficult time rebuilding and recovering from the storm. 

Three Trump developments in South Florida rank among the top seven most climate-vulnerable of his properties nationwide – Trump National Doral Miami, Trump National Golf Club, and Mar-a-Lago, all of which are located in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. All are vulnerable to storm surge and flooding with potential inundation of at least part of each property, but should the president (or his not-so-blind trust) choose to repair and rebuild them …

Aug. 30, 2017 by David Flores

As the country bears witness to the impacts of Hurricane Harvey, a storm unlike any other, the Trump administration's policy of rolling back worker, emergency response, and environmental safeguards will all but ensure that victims of future flooding events will be exposed to toxic contamination.

Over just a 36-hour period, an estimated 9 trillion gallons of rainwater deluged Texas, affecting millions and displacing tens of thousands along the Gulf Coast and in Houston. As the rainfall and flooding wear on this week, emergency responders continue rescuing stranded victims from the floodwaters. News outlets have reported that these floodwaters have exposed thousands to sewage overflows, but far less noted is how severe floods also expose residents and emergency responders to toxic industrial contamination. 

Oil and gas refineries – including the nation's second largest – shuttered operations before and during Harvey, confirming years of warnings about the vulnerability of …

July 27, 2017 by David Flores

Late last week, we shared our first take on how the Trump administration's 2017 deregulatory agenda threatens to knock the wheels off of agency efforts to protect workers, consumers, and vulnerable populations – like children and homeless families – from air pollution, flooding, and explosions in the workplace, among other hazards. After some additional research, we have also found that the administration's agenda takes aim at safeguards for victims of disasters, such as communities that face the threat of displacement or relocation caused by climate change, and at programs that enhance community resilience in the rural areas that President Trump counts among his base of support. 

Several federal agencies – including the Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Agriculture, and the Interior, to name a few – play a crucial role in implementing federal climate adaptation policies. Yet, across the board at all of these agencies, their regulatory …

June 14, 2017 by David Flores

On Thursday, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt will appear before a House Appropriations subcommittee to explain how he plans to square the Trump administration's proposed 31-percent cut to EPA's budget with its statutory obligations to protect the environment. Spoiler alert: There's no plan. The proposition – implementing and enforcing safeguards related to water, air, and hazardous materials while cutting a quarter of the agency's workforce – is preposterous. 

Some House members are likely to press Pruitt on a signature issue, his disingenuous climate denialism and transparent effort to maximize profits for coal, oil, and gas producers at the expense of the environment and public health. Minimizing climate change and mitigating its effects won't come cheaply at this point, but it would be far less costly than the potential future costs of climate disaster. Just last week, researchers at Princeton and Rutgers projected …

June 7, 2017 by David Flores

President Trump's historic retreat from the Paris climate accord last week is just the latest installment in the story of how his administration's anti-science and anti-protections policies with respect to climate change could do grave harm to many aspects of American life. His proposed budget is likely to be the next chapter. 

While Trump sees the issue through coal-colored lenses, it's clear to anyone paying attention to actual science that that the impacts of climate change have and will continue to cause serious problems for the nation's agricultural sector. Climate and agricultural scientists are observing and projecting worsening drought, more intense rainfall, more and worsening heatwaves, and shifting populations of invasive species and agricultural pests. The result for farmers will be smaller crop yields and higher operating costs. 

Many of these changes have already been documented. For example, the multi-year California drought was …

May 3, 2017 by David Flores

We've seen a flurry of news coverage in the last several weeks on climate migration, displacement, and relocation. In a new report published today, the Center for Progressive Reform explores these issues and examines tools and resources that communities can use when faced with the challenges of relocating out of harm's way. 

The New York Times Magazine recently profiled one homeowner in Norfolk, Virginia, who purchased a home that had never been flooded, but in the ten years since has flooded twice, causing her flood insurance premiums to skyrocket and the home to lose almost half its value. She ended up leaving her home and the city. 

But climate-based migration and displacement isn't just affecting people on an individual level. Large-scale human movement, driven in part by climate impacts, is already occurring in various places around the globe, as noted in another article in …

Feb. 28, 2017 by David Flores

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 without broad and meaningful action, more property damage, injuries and loss of life are likely. Heavier and more frequent rains, among other impacts of climate change, also pose a threat to the massive effort to clean up the bay.

On Wednesday, Maryland's secretaries of the departments of agriculture, natural resources and environment will have a chance to turn the tide. They will be meeting with federal …

Oct. 18, 2016 by David Flores

To date, climate adaptation and resilience planning efforts on the local, state, and federal levels have largely focused on protecting residential, commercial, and municipal infrastructure from sea level rise and deadly storm surge through such structural practices as shoreline armoring. However, a growing number of advocates are raising concerns about the threat that extreme weather poses to the low-income communities and communities of color that are disproportionately situated near industrial facilities vulnerable to flooding. 

Industrial facilities – oil and gas, manufacturing, chemical, and agricultural – are often sited within floodplains to permit access to water for transport and industrial process and are ill-equipped to prevent hazardous material spills and leaks caused by extreme precipitation, flooding, and storm surge. As a result, neighboring communities are at particular risk of exposure to these dangerous substances during and following extreme weather events. Community members and first responders face not only the immediate …

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