Monday, June 17, 2013

Pollution and Payroll (Monday Links)

Timothy B. Wheeler with The Baltimore Sun wrote over the weekend that Governor O'Malley is lobbying the EPA to grant Carnival Cruise Lines a waiver related to shoreline air-quality regulations that force "large, ocean-going ships" to use cleaner fuel in coastal waters.  As noted in the piece, since cruise ships spend most of their time within 200 miles of the shore (the application of the regulation) this regulation hits them harder than it may hit an international shipping company or transatlantic ships.  Carnival has threatened to leave Baltimore if a waiver is not granted, prompting rightful skepticism from environmental groups, who note that this regulation will apply across the Country and not just Maryland.  Port officials respond that with the Baltimore port being up the Chesapeake bay, that adds "hundreds of nautical miles" to every trip, heightening the burden for the more expensive, cleaner fuels.

Bottom Line: Baltimore's location is relevant to a requirement for cleaner fuels since ships leaving from this port spend more time a sea, burning fuel, than those in Florida or Alaska.

I found this issue remarkable mostly because it cuts right to the core of our policies relating to pollution and the Country's slow address of climate change - Are we interested in decreasing our carbon load so long as it is not hard?

I think the Governor's position is slightly more nuanced (i.e., grant the waiver and make the conversion to clear fuels gradual, with benchmarks over the next 10 years), but for a pol that has made the environment, and environmental advocacy groups, a core constituency, it is odd to see him take this position.  Wheeler also notes a (somewhat increduluous) explanation from the Governor's office about pending technology...that he should probably ask Carnival about:

Asked how O'Malley's appeal on behalf of Carnival squared with his oft-stated advocacy for clean air and water, Winfield said the governor had been told that there was alternate technology for reducing air pollution from cruise ships, obviating the need for the EPA requirement to burn more costly ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel. She said she believed that information came from Carnival.

Here are some scary numbers - in 2013, global carbon emissions increased 1.4%, despite this issue having the greatest acceptance and interest in any of our lifetimes.  In 2009, the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere was 387 parts per million (ppm).  In May 2013, carbon concentration was measured over 400 ppm.  Many climate scientists have suggested that there is a tipping point of 600 ppm, at which time sea levels are expected to rise 3 feet, and climate change may become irreversible. 

Why do I say all of this?  Well Carnival, Governor O'Malley, and the State of Maryland are staring down here-and-now decisions of 220 people losing their job and $90 million pumped into our local economy.  Our entire policy framework (and political system) is framed to honor the immediate over the future.  Think of our unfunded pensions, our deteriorating roads, our crumbling (and overcrowded) schools, etc., etc.  This small dispute between Carnival and the EPA encapsulates everything having to do with our efforts to address a problem for which some say we are already too late.

One can imagine that if we woke up every morning and the Bay was six inches higher, lapping over the brick walkway in front of the Cheesecake Factory, 200 jobs at Carnival would be dismissed without second thought.  We would be thinking of the hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout Downtown Baltimore that would be lost or relocated further inland if we didn't address the rising waters.  The only problem is, in that circumstance, it would already be too late, and all that would be left to do is watch.


I smiled when I saw this article by Sara Toth about Tony Foreman and Cindy Wolf setting up shop along the Lakefront.  This was one of WB's last scoops, but, Dennis being Dennis, he couldn't keep it to himself.  He had to make sure you knew he knew (and that it was a secret).  I had told some of folks that I would be sad when Dennis's last secret was no longer a secret, but I'm really not.  It was a friendly reminder of how much fun he had with things like this and the pride he took in "knowing".

Last Thursday, Delegate Guy Guzzone announced he will be running for State Senate in D13.  As noted in the piece by Blair Ames, all indications were that Guy was actively lobbied by Senate President Mike Miller to take on the Senate job, which would mean good things for our new Senator once he gets to Annapolis.  But there's still a race to run and we will see who fills the ballot on the right (which has been awfully quiet recently).  Although not covered, with Guy's announcement for Senate, Board of Education member Janet Siddiqui held an event over the weekend announcing that she will be running for the vacancy in Delegate D13, which (if successful) would make one of the first tasks of our newly minted County Executive to appoint someone to the Board of Education.

Featured Blog Post of the Day: Claire attends the Baltimore Pride Festival and "couldn't have been prouder to be a part of it."  With all those pictures and commentary about an event the rest of us may have taken for granted, she sure reminds me of someone...

That's all for today.  Have a great Monday doing what you love.  Rock on.