Member Highlight: Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper

Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper is a well-known group to those of us in the Bay watershed. Championing clean water for the Mid-Susquehanna area, they pioneer education programs of many kinds - including the education of their "Little Keeper" sewage sniffing puppy Sussey. We spoke to Carol Parenzan, riverkeeper, to learn more about the organizations work and how her one woman team is changing the Susquehanna.

In one sentence describe your mission as a group:

Middle Susquehanna RIVERKEEPER® is the WATERKEEPER® Alliance-licensed voice advocating for clean water in the headwaters section of the Susquehanna River watershed, defined by the North and West Branches of the Susquehanna River, an approximate 11,000 square-mile area in North-central Pennsylvania.

Tell us a little about your work with Loyalsock Creek and what it took to help make it Pennsylvania’s River of the Year?

The Loyalsock Creek is a 64-mile-long treasure in a sparsely populated mountainous section of the Susquehanna River watershed, flowing southerly to the West Branch Susquehanna River. With the recognition of Pennsylvania’s 2018 River of the Year, this local legend will now receive state-wide focus, drawing visitors to the watershed for recreation while advancing economic development for the residents and businesses in the area.

To receive this honor, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), in partnership with Pennsylvania Organization of Watersheds and Rivers (POWR), solicited nominations from organizations around the state in support of select watersheds. Middle Susquehanna RIVERKEEPER® Association, Inc., in partnership with Loyalsock Creek Watershed Association, submitted an application for Loyalsock Creek.

 Photo courtesy of Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper

Photo courtesy of Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper

From many nominations, five waterways were selected, including Loyalsock Creek. For about four weeks, the public was invited to cast one vote per email address for their favorite waterway (river, stream, creek, lake). At the end of the voting period, Loyalsock Creek surged ahead, surpassing the other nominees from more populated areas of the state, and was formally recognized as the River of the Year.

This popularity contest for River of the Year has not been the creek’s only “challenge.” Logging stripped the mountains of its native natural resources, and its headwaters were impacted by coal-mining activity and now receive treatment for abandoned mine drainage (AMD) issues. The watershed sits in the heart of the Marcellus play and the area is home to active natural gas development including wells, access roads, and pipelines. In October 2016, an extreme weather event contributed to the rupture of a c.1937 gasoline pipeline, releasing an operator estimate of 50,000 gallons into the exceptional value trout stream, and causing wide-spread bank erosion and stabilization issues and road and bridge closures. And, in 2017, a 60,000-gallon flowback spill off an active natural gas well pad found its way into a tributary of the Loyalsock.

But the positives outweigh the negatives, as the Loyalsock Creek is home to the rare hellbender, one of the state’s most popular state parks – Worlds End State Park, the 60-mile Loyalsock Trail (and its breathtaking vistas), premier bird-watching spots, and historic covered bridges. For me as the Middle Susquehanna RIVERKEEPER®, it is that go-to spot when I need to regroup and re-energize. It reminds me of why I do the work I do.

With this 2018 recognition, Middle Susquehanna RIVERKEEPER® will work to create opportunities for community members to connect with the creek. In addition to a paddling adventure, other programs include a music and arts festival, a family science day along the creek, small business spotlights, a floating classroom, a wellness workshop, educational walks and talks, a historic covered bridges tour, an artist residency with elementary school students, a youth fishing day, and even river snorkeling to take a peek beneath the surface.

The overall goal is to then transfer this local recognition and watershed appreciation to the larger geographic region that defines the work of Middle Susquehanna RIVERKEEPER®.  We all deserve swimmable, drinkable, fishable waters in Pennsylvania, on the Loyalsock Creek and throughout the watershed of the Mighty Susquehanna River.

What issue area do you hope to focus on more of in the future?

One of our current focus areas is environmental justice, working with communities that have been historically underserved, such as the coal-mining communities.

First, Shamokin, an economically depressed but once prosperous city in the watershed, is my family’s home – but not where I was born or raised – that was in the “Willy Wonka World” of Hershey (Pennsylvania). My family moved from Shamokin to Hershey before I was born but family took me back to Shamokin on a regular and consistent basis.

 Photo courtesy of Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper

Photo courtesy of Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper

As a child growing up witnessing these two geographic and economic extremes , it was difficult to understand why the Shamokin area creeks ran red, the coal-waste mountains were high and black and supported little life, and my cousins living in Shamokin had vastly different opportunities than I did in Hershey. This realization is what pushed me down the path of environmental engineering. I wanted to build a change.

I believe that everyone deserves to be an active player in creating this change, including our prison population. Last summer we launched our Environmental Steward Prison Pilot Project, where for one week, I was in residency with six inmates in a remote section of the watershed. They were my partners for the week. And although I shared my knowledge with them about water quality, macroinvertebrates, and community leadership in environmental stewardship, they taught me – about the fear of water and the darkness of the woods, about not being heard or recognized, and about the will to be the difference. Two of the six “residents” had never placed their toes in freshwater. The concept was foreign to them. By the end of the week, they were relaxing on boulders in the river, writing in their nature journals, exploring environmental career options upon their imminent release, and preparing to head home to be community leaders and protect their precious water resources. We will be returning in August for another week of partnership. We are also exploring hosting a green jobs fair for all of 500 prisoners at this facility. The world needs them, and they need to be a critical component of our environmental movement. It’s a global second chance.

Our work also focuses on engaging our youth that reside in underserved communities throughout the watershed. We work with them through schools, summer camps, and youth organizations, looking for opportunities to give them experiences, such as kayaking, fishing, and environmental exploration, that they may not have otherwise. Last summer, for example, using the flume lab at Bucknell University, we worked with underserved youth to create a whitewater kayak course and then transferred that experiential knowledge to our own river and witnessed the impact of local bridge construction. Through a scholarship program, we will be taking a contingency of teenagers on our River of the Year paddle. We are looking forward to this day on the water with them.

Now that you have been appointed to the State’s Environmental Justice Advisory Board (EJAB), how will the work you do change? What new role will you be playing in local environmental work?

First, we are not Philadelphia. We are not Pittsburgh. We are an area that includes a significant poor, working white population. We are not the typical face of environmental justice, and that brings about its own set of challenges as our struggles are not always acknowledged. We’re working to change that.

But, my role for the present is that of a student. I have much to learn about the history of the Pennsylvania Environmental Justice movement and the Board’s vision for its future.

The Advisory Board meets in person four times a year. I have now attended two of these meetings and have walked away inspired and energized. My colleagues are my teachers. I welcome their instruction. And I am depending on their guidance.

 Photo of Sussey, the "Little Keeper"

Photo of Sussey, the "Little Keeper"

As a member of EJAB, it is not my role to be the voice of my communities but to assist them in finding their voices. For now, I am uncovering those potential voices and partnering with them to share the message and engage in change.

This appointment also influenced our recent office relocation. We have purposely placed ourselves in the environmental justice community of Sunbury, where approximately 24 percent of the population lives at or below poverty level. Our new digs puts us along the Susquehanna River at the confluence of the West and North Branches. We are marketing it as the “Gateway to the Headwaters of the Mighty Susquehanna.”

At this location, we encourage community members to visit with us. We have created a resource library and we host nature book club gatherings there as another open door. (Our first book was The Riverkeepers by John Cronin and Robert Kennedy Jr., the leader of the Waterkeeper movement.) This location also allows me (and my conservation canine “Little Keeper” Susquehanna, who is being trained to detect sewage leaks in the watershed) to take walks along the river throughout the day and engage in conversations with community residents and business leaders. Wonderful words are exchanged when gazing at the water.

But being in Sunbury in the heart of historically disproportionate opportunity also provides us the entry to engage in conversations about economic development and entrepreneurship. Part of my background includes entrepreneurial consulting and teaching business development skills through a global consortium of over 2,700 colleges and universities. I want to bring this knowledge home to our watershed and work with residents to create businesses that will support growth up and down the river. We also want to extend this entrepreneurial movement to the prisons. We are in the beginning stages of developing an eco-preneurship program for prisoners to offer “green” business planning guidance and mentorship.

We have much work to do.

What do you hope to gain from being a member of the Coalition?

There is nothing stronger than partnership and collaboration. As water warriors, our collective words are more persuasive, our actions more noticeable, and our energy amplified. Together, we give voice to clean water and the Chesapeake Bay.

As an organization of one person, I rely on the strength of many, especially my Coalition colleagues. I could not begin to do this work on my own – from your providing legislative updates and lobbying opportunities, crafting letters of support, partnering for legal guidance, offering ongoing professional education and updates, and more. Did I mention encouragement? Yes, encouragement. Thank you for your encouragement!

I regret that I can’t be more active with the many programs spearheaded by the Coalition. It is difficult at times to be on conference calls (especially when I’m in a mountainous non-cell-service area) or to attend in-person gatherings in the Bay area due to the distance. But I think of you often and read the minutes and reports as they appear in my inbox.

As I grow more comfortable in my role as the Middle Susquehanna RIVERKEEPER® and as a member of the CCWC, I hope to mentor the next new water warrior in the group. We all live both upstream and downstream, and this includes the flow of knowledge.

And I do look forward to my time with all of the CCWC members, and I’ll be welcoming “you-ins” (that’s coal-cracker talk) to Pennsylvania in May for the annual conference. We’ll know if you’re native or not by the way you pronounce Lancaster or how you respond when we ask you to “outen the lights.” Till then, thank you! Safe travels to Pennsylvania.

Mary Katherine Sullivan is an intern at Choose Clean Water.


Top Five Mobile Analytic Apps

The internet as we know it is constantly expanding. For businesses and non-profits, managing social media and websites may seem daunting at times. Some may be curious about their following, user engagement and interactions. Luckily there are many tools and apps that are available, making it easier to find out the information you may be looking for. Analytics apps help to track your organization’s website and social media progress, and will provide insight about what is working and what is not.

In the long run, using an analytics tool it will save you time and most likely will provide you information you didn’t even know was available! This article will explore five amazing apps to help with tracking analytics. There are many tools and apps available and it’s important to find out which tool is the best for you. Here’s our top 5 mobile analytic apps in no particular order:

1. Google Analytics for Mobile


Google Analytics is a well-known analytics tool and is available on two platforms – mobile and desktop. The mobile version is free for both iOS and Android users and the app provides a full dashboard for full performance insights.

This app is able to track various elements and reports are organized into four categories:

  1. Users: New and returning user information, their country and language are provided.
  2. Acquisitions: Provides information about new users. This tracks their location and how many times they have used the app.
  3. Engagement: Event tracking is available to receive reports about website speed, exceptions and crashes.
  4. Outcomes: There is an option to set up goals and see the goal flow.

2. Localytics

Localytics is another popular mobile analytic app. This is available on various platforms including iOS, Androis, Windows Phone and BlackBerry. This is an easy app for new users. This app is free, however there are also options for an unlimited version. Localytics has many customization features to let the user track what they want.

This app provides various analytics including:

  1. App usage and reports: Includes locations, device, carriers and users.

  2. Users and sessions: Provides time periods and new/returning viewers.

  3. Day-Part Analysis: Provides information about the most popular time of day frequent visitors log onto a website

3. Flurry Analytics


Flurry Analytics is another free app that runs on iOS, Android, Windows Phone and Blackberry. Flurry provides very detailed and extensive information and users are able to create up to 10 custom dashboards to track whatever they want. However, some users have explained that this app can be confusing due to the large amount of information to sort through. There are various analytics available on the dashboard including:

  1. Audience: Includes user interest, type of users and demographics.

  2. Events: Shows user paths.

  3. Usage: Provides information about active users, their sessions, average session lengths and frequencies.

  4. Technical: Shows the type of devices used, carriers and errors.

  5. Filters: Provides age, usage and country information

4. Appsee


Appsee is an app focusing on visual insight. Analytics and heat maps are available to see user behavior on the app. This is available on both iOS and Android. There is a free 14 day trial option. Appsee provides various analytics including:

  1. Heatmaps: Provides information on performance, user navigation and preferences. This aspect shows exactly how and where users visit on the site.
  2. Crash reporting and videos: Include in-depth, real time recordings and crash session if there are any issues with the website. This is a huge plus for new websites and apps.
  3. Real-time analytics and alerts: Provides insightful analytics on behavior. Also provides alerts for monitoring crashes and KPI changes.

5. GeckoBoard


Geckoboard is another app that tracks key analytics. This app was designed to help improve major business indicators. Unfortunately, the app is only available for iOS users. There is a free 30-day trial and plans start at $25 per month after this time. Geekboard offers various analytic tools including:

  1. Flexible configuration: Helps to provide easy data integration.
  2. Intuitive drag-and-drop interface, which is customizable.
  3. Integration with Google Analytics to provide tracking information.
  4. Summaries with crucial data for your platform.

As you can see, there are many mobile apps that focus on tracking different app and website information. Whether you are interested in simple analytics, heat maps or customization – there are many options for you!

Lobby Day 2018 Roundup

 Congressman Donald McEachin  (VA-04) met with our dedicated lobbyists.

Congressman Donald McEachin  (VA-04) met with our dedicated lobbyists.

On March 21, more than 100 dedicated Coalition members drove through the snow to attend our 6th Annual Chesapeake Bay Day on Capitol Hill. Despite the federal government being shutdown, our members spoke to legislators from multiple states about the importance of a strong Bay budget. We had the pleasure of hearing from 10 different members of Congress at our luncheon, including Senator Van Hollen (D-MD), Congressman Faso (R-NY), Congressman Ruppersberger (D-MD), Congressman Wittman (R-VA) and others. They spoke about life around the Chesapeake, where to find the best crab cakes, and of the future of clean water. Since some states were not able to make it down due to the inclement weather, separate Lobby Days have been scheduled for a later date to ensure all Coalition members get a chance to speak with their legislators on the Hill. 

 Courtesy of Delaware River Coalition

Courtesy of Delaware River Coalition

This was the first time the Chesapeake and the Delaware Coalitions conducted joint lobby days, and Grant LaRouche, director of conservation partnerships at the National Wildlife Federation, briefed me on the success of the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed event:

"The Coalition scheduled meetings with the entire congressional delegation that represents the watershed. Although the snowstorm disrupted several meetings, the tenor of those that took place was overwhelmingly positive showing strong leadership from congressional members to champion the Delaware on Capitol Hill. The result of Coalition’s two days on the Hill was a clear message to Members: fund the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act and its associated grant program the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program (DRBRP), a non-regulatory approach led by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. On March 23, the program received $5 million in funding as part of the fiscal year 2018 Omnibus spending bill approved by Congress. The Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed worked with Congress on the authorization of the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act in December 2016 that created the DRBRP, and money will finally begin flowing to local conservation projects throughout the region."

 Congressman Bobby Scott (VA-03) braved the snow to speak to us at lunch. 

Congressman Bobby Scott (VA-03) braved the snow to speak to us at lunch. 

The result of everyone's collaboration and hard work was the rejection by Congress of Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget proposal, which aimed to zero out the Chesapeake Bay Program. The spending bill that passed includes a fully funded Bay budget of $73 million. We owe a huge thank you to all of the members of Congress who voted in support of protecting our Chesapeake Bay.  Without their support we would not be able to continue our great work. The fight for a strong fiscal year 2019 budget still continues – so stay #BayStrong everyone.

Mary Katherine Sullivan is an intern with the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

Virginia Groundwater Needs Protection From Pipelines

Sourced from NRDC

March 07, 2018

by Amy Mall 

In 2016, the Virginia Office of Environmental Health and Safety recommended a thorough survey of all private water wells and springs, as well as septic systems, within 1,000 feet of a pipeline—at a minimum—before construction starts. Water found beneath the surface is known as groundwater, or aquifers, and such a survey is essential to protect the aquifers that feed these wells and springs, and the people who depend on them for drinking, bathing, cooking, and farming.

This hasn't happened. Governor Northam can and should change that, and make sure the threats to groundwater from the proposed Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines are carefully examined.

The Army Corps of Engineers conducted a Clean Water Act permit review, but that doesn't consider potential harm to groundwater. They only looked at surface waters, like streams and rivers.

The state of Virginia issued water quality certifications for upland activities associated with MVP and ACP. While the state required a survey of drinking water wells and springs within 1,000 feet of the pipelines, it only did so for “areas known to have karst topography.” This requirement only applies to a small portion of the pipeline routes in Virginia: about 10 percent of the ACP route and 31 percent of the MVP route.

 Courtesy of NRDC

Courtesy of NRDC

 Anywhere outside of karst terrain, for the vast majority of the pipeline routes in Virginia, the FERC certificates approving these pipelines only require identification of private water wells and springs within 150 feet of the pipeline workspace.

This places the sources of drinking water for hundreds of families across Virginia at risk. For example, the Four Corners Farm in Rocky Mount is a multi-generational farm that raises pigs, chickens, turkey and cattle. The farm has a water well approximately 800 feet from the proposed MVP route that would not be surveyed or tested.


To read more, visit the NRDC website for the full article.

Why is $73 million for the Chesapeake important?

Since 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency's Chesapeake Bay Program has received $73 million in funding for the restoration effort. It is often said that this funding goes to "on the ground restoration efforts around the Chesapeake Bay watershed that are improving local communities." This is true, as the Bay Budget not only supports those who are managing the restoration effort, but projects that are having a positive impact on the Chesapeake Bay's rivers and streams.

But what exactly does spending the Chesapeake Bay Budget look like?

Our chart below lists the seven jurisdictions of the Bay region and how much each jurisdiction was granted through the Bay Budget in 2017.


When breaking down the Chesapeake Bay Budget from FY2017, we are able to see that most money goes directly to the states on the ground restoration projects.

As you can see, more than a third of the $72 million in funding given to the Chesapeake Bay Program is then put back into the Bay states. This helps support local nonprofits and businesses, and improves communities. This is one of the reasons why ensuring continued funding for the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort receives so much support from members of Congress - people understand the benefits and can see the results in person.

  • In 2017, Maryland received more than $13 million in funding for projects that include installing buffers and restoring wetlands to reduce non-point source runoff and improving oyster restoration locations.
  • In 2017, Pennsylvania received $11 million in funding, going towards projects like the protection of critical habitat and manure management.
  • Virginia used its $11.5 million last year to fund oyster restoration in the Lafayette River, stream restoration design in Shenandoah County, and installation of stormwater best management practices.
  • D.C received just over $3 million, all of which went towards projects like Fort DuPont watershed restoration and stormwater management systems in the Anacostia River watershed.
  • Last year, Delaware received $2.8 million that was used to fund projects on accelerating wetland restoration and reducing phosphorus with thermochemical conversion.
  • In 2017, West Virginia used its $2.9 million to work on projects including building a conservation hub in the Potomac River headwaters, restoring trout habitat, and monitoring the Appalachian watershed. 
  • New York was granted $3.3 million and put that amount towards funding projects including low-cost methods for forested buffer plantings and reconnecting floodplains through streamside berm removal.

Potential Offshore Drilling Threatens the Bay

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the commercial seafood industry in Maryland and Virginia contributes $3.39 billion to the local economy per year. However, the Secretary of the Department of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, believes that this is not significant enough to exclude these states from offshore drilling. The proposal regarding offshore drilling presents an insurmountable threat to the east coast and especially the Chesapeake Bay. Blue crabs and striped bass are just two of many species that could be heavily impacted by offshore drilling – especially if there were a spill.

In the past, offshore drilling caused major complications for blue crabs. Three years after the disastrous 2010 Louisiana oil spill, the crabs living in the Gulf were still severely altered. Many fishermen reported that they were pulling up empty crab nets day after day. Even worse, the small amount of crabs caught commonly had no claws, points were burned off, and some had severe shell deformities. Dispersant, a chemical used to break down oil droplets, brought its own challenges for crabs after the oil spill. These toxic components were found in crab shells and many were killed as a result. Could you imagine this happening to our blue crabs?

 Photo courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Program

Photo courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Program

But how would offshore drilling in the Atlantic impact our Chesapeake critters?

In the beginning of their lifecycle, blue crabs hatch into larvae where they are transported into the ocean. They grow, feed and molt in this area and the mouth of the bay from June to September. Another iconic bay species, striped bass, live throughout the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, but part of their life cycle also includes returning to the ocean after they spawn. If an oil spill occurred in the ocean during these critical points, a year class of these species could be compromised.

Blue crabs and striped bass are not only ecologically important but they have a huge economic value. Every year, Chesapeake Bay watermen provide approximately a third of the nation’s crabs and striped bass bring in approximately $500 million from activities related to fishing. Clearly, offshore drilling’s threats would be devastating and widespread.

 Photo courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Program

Photo courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Program

Offshore drilling brings extreme threats to the Chesapeake Bay and everyone connected to it. Not only is it important for us to safeguard the bay for everyone now, but for future generations too. We can’t jeopardize the Chesapeake Bay, its wildlife, jobs, tourism, economic benefits and beauty on something that is so dangerous. This is why the Choose Clean Water Coalition submitted a sign-on letter to express our concerns to Secretary Zinke. Over 50 organizations signed this letter to show support in opposition to offshore drilling and our members plan to discuss this issue further with our members of Congress during our Chesapeake Bay Day on Capitol Hill.

It is important to remember the ocean and the bay are connected as a vital system, which provides a habitat for blue crabs and striped bass. Anything that happens in the ocean will eventually impact the bay and vice versa. We must say ‘no’ to offshore drilling to make sure no species are harmed during critical times in their lifecycle.

Taylor Stark is an intern with the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

Member Highlight: Clean Fairfax

Today we are happy to highlight our newest member group, Clean Fairfax, an organization out of Virginia that is changing what 'green' means to the area. We spoke to Sam Raasch, program coordinator, to learn more about this group and what makes them unique. With an active Facebook group to connect with the community, programs in multiple fields, and plenty of volunteer opportunities, this organization has much to share with its neighborhood. 

Tell us about your organization and your mission.

 Image courtesy of Clean Fairfax

Image courtesy of Clean Fairfax

The mission of Clean Fairfax is to encourage environmental stewardship and urban sustainability in Fairfax County, Virginia, through education, programming, and community involvement. Clean Fairfax seeks to reduce littering and to encourage recycling, reusing and reducing consumption, promote community action by supporting clean-ups and adopt-a-spots, and serve as a clearinghouse for environmental information in Fairfax County. We also coordinate Springfest, Fairfax County’s official Earth and Arbor Day event.

What is one of your current projects you are the most excited about?

Clean Fairfax’s Clean Streams Initiative is our favorite excuse to get outside. The Initiative, which is a partnership with Fairfax County’s Department of Public Works and Environmental Services, is a program that engages with the local environmental community to quantify litter pollution in local streams. It’s our hope that years of monitoring litter pollution (and cleaning it up) will help the community develop creative and sustainable ways to reduce the amount of litter in Fairfax’s streams through outreach and education to the public.

What issue area do you hope to focus on more of in the future?

 Image courtesy of Clean Fairfax

Image courtesy of Clean Fairfax

In the future, we hope to focus on consumption reduction. Conservation starts at home, in the supermarket, at school and at work. We want to help people make daily decisions within the framework of sustainability. Do I need to put these bananas in a plastic bag? Do I need to buy this 48 pack of disposable water bottles when the tap water at home is much cheaper and just as safe? Should I order the steak, the fish or the salad? Should I wash these dishes by hand? This bread has passed its sell-by date…should I automatically throw it out? Can I recycle this wrapper? These are the everyday decisions that quickly add up to a sustainable or unsustainable lifestyle.

What do you hope to gain from being a member of the Coalition?

Clean Fairfax is an advocate for clean water, so being part of a coalition of like-minded organizations is an obvious benefit. We hope to use our time in the Coalition to learn more about the issues that impact our community, as well as how to address said issues.

For more information on Clean Fairfax, contact Sam Raasch, program coordinator.

Member Highlight: Baltimore Tree Trust

This week we are pleased to highlight Baltimore Tree Trust - an urban forestry group located in one of the most metropolitan parts of Maryland. We spoke to Sheila McMenamin, director of programs at Baltimore Tree Trust, to learn more about what their goals are and how they intend to make Baltimore a greener city. 

Tell us about your organization and your mission:

The Baltimore Tree Trust (BTT) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 2009 to make Baltimore a greener and healthier place to live. Our mission is to restore Baltimore’s urban forest through increased tree planting, community engagement, and advocacy. Since our inception, BTT has planted over 4,000 trees on private property and in disadvantaged neighborhoods throughout Baltimore City.

 Photo courtesy of Baltimore Tree Trust

Photo courtesy of Baltimore Tree Trust

The Tree Trust spearheads efforts to achieve Baltimore’s 40 percent urban tree canopy goal by methodically planting up neighborhoods that have few existing trees, while engaging community leaders and stakeholders in the planting and sustainable maintenance of trees.

What is one of your current projects you are the most excited about?

We are really excited to be kicking off our pilot workforce development program in the fall of 2018, called the Urban Roots Apprenticeship. This full-time, 6-week program will focus on developing our city’s green workforce--individuals who plant and maintain Baltimore’s tree canopy. The tree care industry is a growing workforce, and there are ample companies looking for skilled workers. We are excited to train individuals in a way that properly prepares them for a career in this industry.

 Photo courtesy of Baltimore Tree Trust

Photo courtesy of Baltimore Tree Trust

What issue area do you hope to focus on more of in the future?

We are interested in getting more involved with local policy and urban planning, and seeing where we can be stronger advocates for tree planting and maintenance. If we can incorporate tree planting into early-stage planning for urban development projects, we can ensure that all neighborhoods have access to the countless benefits of a tree canopy.

What do you hope to gain from being a member of the Coalition?

We are eager to be involved with a network of organizations and individuals who are passionate about our environment, but more so, how to bring that passion to all. There are so many potential ways in which we can intersect and support each other’s work, and we are excited to see what those possibilities are.

Mary Katherine Sullivan is an intern at Choose Clean Water.

2018 Young Professionals of Color Mentorship Program

Young Professionals of Color Mentorship Program

Are you looking to improve your communication and personal skills? Are you interested in developing leadership and management qualities? How about increasing your confidence and reinforcing your own and knowledge? If so, then the Young Professionals of Color Mentorship would be a great fit for you!

The Choose Clean Water Coalition values our members, but more importantly the interpersonal relationships that are built when working together. Established in 2016, the Young Professionals of Color Mentorship Program is a united effort to support individuals working in the environmental sector. Our program is intended to provide mentorship to individuals seeking to excel in their careers and strengthen a mentors leadership abilities. Participating in this unique partnership will foster better relationships among clean water partners and will help build a pipeline of diverse leaders interesting in advancing our watershed goals throughout the Chesapeake Bay region.

When and where?

The program will kick off at the Choose Clean Water Coalition’s Annual Conference on May 23, 2018, at the Lancaster Marriot at Penn Square in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. During a breakfast program, potential mentors will be paired with young professionals to begin a journey towards fulfilling a supportive professional relationship.

What you can do to get involved:

  • Nominate a young person of color who might want to participate so we can make sure they receive an invitation to our kick-off event OR nominate yourself!
  • Agree to be mentor or a mentee, today! Responsibilities include:

o   Attend kick-off event on May 23 from 8AM-9AM in Lancaster, Pennsylvania

o   Commitment to one year of engagement

o  Monthly conversations with your mentee

o  Minimum of three in-person meetings with your mentee

o   Ability to be a thoughtful, effective, and insightful listener and communicator

o   Desire to build and strengthen the environmental community

This is a short term commitment to foster a diverse and long-lasting community.

Sign up today by emailing Mariah Davis at

Please note that this program is open to all of our members- regardless of class, race, ethnicity, age, and gender.

Meet Mary Katherine

Some people don’t know what they want to be when they grow up. Some people have always known exactly what they want to be. Some people want to be, well, everything. I’m the latter. Constantly overestimating how much I can fit in to my 100 year time card, I’m stuffed to the brim with far too many passions and expectations for myself – especially as someone who can barely reach the top pantry shelf. My college career began as a political science student, but by the end of my freshman year I was a sculpting major. I juggled all kinds of hobbies with my education and eventually realized it was necessary for my own sanity – as well as my parents’ - to go ahead and narrow down exactly what my role in life would be.


The last semester of my sophomore year, I was required to take an environmental science class as the final step in my general education credits. I had no idea initially that this really would be the first step in my environmental career. This class showed me that I could study the natural world and make a difference; I could help be part of something bigger and preserve what I considered the most important part of life. With the guidance of a very involved teacher, I decided I wanted to improve communication in the environmental sector. It seemed to be a struggling part of the nonprofit world: how do we make something as everyday as a tree seem sexy and interesting?

 With little more than an associate’s degree and a part time restaurant job, I looked around for new opportunities that would put me down the right path. When I saw the intern opportunity for Choose Clean Water, I applied immediately. After some email tag and an interview, I had my first professional job. Choose Clean Water has taught me so much about the major and minor aspects of nonprofit work, communicating internally and externally, as well as how to convince people that they should care. I spend most of my time here formulating social media posts that are lively and interactive, as well as writing blogs on all of our organization topics.

 When I’m not working I can be found spending time with my pets, doing some sort of art, or traveling - though if I’m not working, there is a good chance I don't want to be found. I enjoy exploring the woods and Bay I grew up around, and that I now work hard to protect. The next few months of my internship will be important to becoming the influential person I hope to be one day, and I am beyond grateful that Kristin and the Coalition were able to give me this opportunity.

Mary Katherine Sullivan is an intern with Choose Clean Water

Cardin paves a path to better Bay funding

The Coalition would like to give a shout out to our senior Senator from Maryland – “Way to go Senator Cardin!” Most people are well aware of Senator Cardin’s leadership on environmental issues- fighting to increase funding and protections for Chesapeake Bay, and over the past year fighting to protect the funding and the gains we have made.

What many people do not know, however, are all of the significant things that Senator Cardin does for the Bay, and for the community of people who have spent their lives, or part of them, working to restore our national treasure. A few weeks after the election in 2016, Senator Cardin organized a gathering of a large group of environmental professionals in Annapolis to have an open discussion about what the results of that election would mean for the Bay. The one clear message from that meeting was that Senator Cardin would be there for all of us to fight for the Bay and for the bedrock laws and institutions that have been responsible for our environmental progress over the decades.

 Photo courtesy of The Washington Times

Photo courtesy of The Washington Times

Senator Cardin has kept his word, and he has been there for our community.  From continuing level funding for Bay restoration to his most recent action to ensure that the cooperative federal-state partnership that has led and coordinated the 35 year old Chesapeake Bay restoration program was not dismantled. Most people have been totally unaware that there was a very serious effort to move the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program Office complex from Annapolis to be behind the security gates at Ft. Meade. Other members of the Bay delegation, including Senator Chris Van Hollen, also helped with this effort.

The simple move itself seems benign, until you realize that over the decades, numerous Federal agencies have been moving offices and personnel to be near the Chesapeake Bay Program in order to coordinate and collaborate on programs, projects and actions. All of this occurs within the Chesapeake Bay Program that has regular meetings open to the public – from universities to environmental groups to industry and to the general public. Those open public meetings would have been a thing of the past, with the high level of security required to even step onto Ft. Meade.

Just this week EPA announced that the Chesapeake Bay Program would be staying together in Annapolis, and would remain an open and inclusive program for the public and all stakeholders. Most people did not even know there was a problem that was solved, so we would like to thank Senator Cardin for his leadership and effort on this critical matter. Thank you, Senator!

Peter Marx is the federal affairs contractor at the Choose Clean Water Coalition. 

Differentiated Identity: Creating a Successful Image for your Nonprofit

The importance of a unique identity – branding your cause – goes beyond appearances. The identity of an organization lies in its sense of self, understanding your audience, and a consistent look. Even for a nonprofit, creating an image plays a huge role in spreading a message successfully. If anything, this communication skill is even more important for nonprofits, who may have less gilded marketing tools at their leisure.

                     Here's "who we are"!

                    Here's "who we are"!

The first question to ask yourself is “who are we as an organization?” - what makes your nonprofit a distinct group? It is important to think of the groups you work with or that you would consider similar to yours, and then asses why you are different in either your mission or your actions. After understanding your group’s unique trait or traits, identifying the target demographic and audience is vital. Without an understanding of who you are talking to you cannot decide how to talk to them, which is something to be addressed later. So, whose attention do you want? What do you want them to do for or with you?

Did you know that organizations have personalities? It’s true. Every successful company and nonprofit alike have a distinct feel to them that makes them distinguishable and likeable. This personality makes a group memorable, and if time is taken to form the right personality for your goals, it can be a huge push forward. That being said, forming your group personality needs to make sense. A healthcare company wouldn’t want to form a chummy and colorful personality, as this would conflict with their line of work which is more no-nonsense. Being too relatable and friendly would actually harm their work when what they really need to present is an image of strength and professionalism. On the other hand, a bakery with a cold and serious personality could lose customers.

An example from our Choose Clean Water StyleGuide 

Along with creating a specific attitude, you need a cohesive look. In the communications world we create the visual consistency of an organization by using what is called a style guide. A style guide is a document or booklet containing lists of logos, a color scheme, and a stylistic pattern for content. The creator of a style guide will lay out exactly what colors are used where – perhaps yellow is consistently used as a header color and blue is always the body font color. They will also have listed what fonts and logos are used on specific platforms as well. The stylistic rules of the style guide are to be shared to all the members so that the consistency can be spread thoroughly across the group.


Does your nonprofit have a mission statement? Having a well worded mission statement keeps you on track, and lets others know what you are about. To formulate this statement there are two components needed: your “vision” and “action”. By vision we mean your overarching goal - what are you hoping to accomplish? The action part of your phrase indicates how you achieve this vision. An example of a mission statement for a nonprofit could be: “Organizing local grassroots groups to advocate for clean air though fundraisers, lobbying, and hand on work”.

 Here we show our mission statement (in the blue box) under the "Who We Are" section of our website. As you can see, it includes both the overarching goal and the actions we plan to take.

Here we show our mission statement (in the blue box) under the "Who We Are" section of our website. As you can see, it includes both the overarching goal and the actions we plan to take.

By combining these elements: a mission statement, an appropriate personality, a cohesive look, and sense of self, any organization can become more successful. An audience wants to understand the source of a message before they feel comfortable participating.


Mary Katherine Sullivan is an intern with the Choose Clean Water Coalition


Meet Taylor

A week in Phoenix, Arizona changed my life and made me realize my true passion. When I was a junior in high school, I was required to complete a science fair project for my honors biology course. I remember telling my teacher that I didn’t really like science fair projects but I was willing to work on a project if it involved water. Growing up I spent my summers on the Chesapeake Bay swimming, crabbing and getting stung by jellyfish, so I’ve always had a love for water. After a few weeks, my biology teacher helped me craft ideas about possible research topics. He mentioned something about a project involving Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Finally, I narrowed my project to “Impervious Surfaces Effect on Overall Stream Health” with the use of GIS. Quite frankly, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. After hours and hours of data collection and mapping, I finally completed my project in time for the county science fair. My hope was to not get last place. 

To my surprise, I was awarded the grand prize and was sent to the Intel International Science Fair (ISEF) in Arizona for a week. At first, I told my mom that I didn’t want to go. I told her I already knew I wanted to become a doctor and I didn’t see the point of going. Little did I know this would end up being the trip of a lifetime and changed everything I planned to do in the future. At ISEF, I met brilliant people from all over the world. There was never a dull moment and I was constantly running between the pin exchange, speakers, tours and ceremonies. I was even able to explore Sedona. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Although I didn’t win an award what I gained was priceless – finding my true passion. Once I arrived home from Arizona, I felt inspired to continue my research and have a career involving the Chesapeake Bay in some way.


Since my trip, I’ve become an avid kayaker and hiker. One of my favorite places to kayak is at Mallow’s Bay in Southern Maryland where the largest shipwreck in the Western Hemisphere can be seen. It’s an incredible place and soon will hopefully become designated as a National Marine Sanctuary. When I’m not outdoors, I’m usually at Crossfit or studying for one of my classes. Double majoring takes up a lot of time!

Finally, I ditched the idea of becoming a doctor and decided to double major in GIS and Communication at the University of Maryland, College Park. Although I wasn’t sure where this would lead, I’m very thankful for all of the opportunities I’ve had as a result of my decision. I’m in Sigma Kappa sorority and I’m on the executive board of the Maryland Public Relations Student Society of America chapter. Before my internship at the Choose Clean Water Coalition, I interned at the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and Mattawoman Watershed Society. Currently, I’m also working on a semester-long research project with a NASA scientist. I’m beyond excited to spend my last college semester in Annapolis at the Coalition!

Taylor Stark is an intern with the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

Member Highlight: Civil War Trust

One of the joys of being a coalition of over 230 members is the opportunity to see how our collective mission can be shared among a diverse set of organizations.  One may not immediately guess that the Civil War Trust would be a member of the Coalition, but their work towards land preservation and safeguarding green spaces makes them a perfect fit. We spoke to Paul Coussan of the D.C. organization to get a better idea of how The Civil War Trust and the Choose Clean Water Coalition may have more in common than one might think. 

  Photo courtesy  of the Civil War Trust.

Photo courtesy of the Civil War Trust.

Tell us about your organization and your mission:

The Civil War Trust is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization devoted to the preservation of America’s hallowed battlegrounds.  Although primarily focused on the protection of Civil War battlefields, the Trust also seeks to save the battlefields connected to the Revolutionary War and War of 1812.  Through educational programs and heritage tourism initiatives, the Trust seeks to inform the public about the vital role these battlefields played in determining the course of our nation’s history. To date, the Trust has saved more than 47,000 acres of core battlefield in 25 states, including thousands of acres within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed – at Gettysburg, Fredericksburg, Malvern Hill, Appomattox, Antietam, Monocacy, Cold Harbor and Manassas to name just a few.

What is one of your current projects you are the most excited about?

The Trust has long been at the forefront of creating online educational resources for the study of Civil War, Revolutionary War and War of 1812 battlefields. We are constantly rolling out new resources – animated battle maps, battle apps for smart phones, videos and web content – to aid heritage tourists, educators and students about these wars. We also continue to preserve key battlefields from the first century of our nation’s history, at Revolutionary War sites throughout the Southern Campaign, at War of 1812 battlefields in New York, and in Civil War Battlefields throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed, from Manassas, to Monocacy. Additionally, the Trust is working with the Culpepper, Virginia, community and the Commonwealth’s General Assembly to create a Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain State Park. In addition to interpretive trails and other outdoor activities, we hope to include kayaking along the Rappahannock River as a key recreational component of the park.

What issue area do you hope to focus on more of in the future?

While the Trust remains laser focused on our mission to preserve Civil War, War of 1812 and Revolutionary War Battlefields, we focus a great deal of our efforts on education and interpretation. We are constantly creating new platforms to educate about these wars and how they shaped and continue to shape the nation we are today. Through our new Generations programs, the Trust encourages families to visit battlefields together, and for adults to bring their children and grandchildren to explore a battlefield together.  The Trust is also exploring new ways to market these battlefields to encourage visitors young and old to explore these sites. America’s battlefields - when properly preserved, interpreted, and promoted — provide unparalleled opportunities to inspire new generations of American citizens. We are engaged in finding new ways to inspire more Americans to connect with, learn from, and experience firsthand the authentic places where history happened.

What do you hope to gain from being a member of the Coalition?

The Trust has a long history of working with partner groups across the spectrum, from historic preservation groups like the National Trust for Historic Preservation, to land groups like the Trust for Public Lands, to clean water groups like the Choose Clean Water Coalition. Through these partnerships, the Trust is able to help identify ways in which these organizations can work together to achieve similar goals – preserving our history, safeguarding our green spaces, protecting our environment. In its efforts to preserve historic open space for use as outdoor classrooms, the Trust seeks to build partnerships across the spectrum to preserve the open spaces where Americans fought and died to make the nation we are today, while ensuring these sites are accessible and open to the public to give everyone an opportunity to explore these outdoor classrooms.

For more information about the Civil War Trust, contact Paul Coussan

Member Highlight: ShoreRivers

In 2017, three groups from Maryland came together to form ShoreRivers -the Chester River Association (CRA), Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy (MRC), and Sassafras River Association (SRA). ShoreRivers protects and restores Eastern Shore waterways through community education, advocacy, and restoration of wetlands. Merging organizations can be tricky – however, these three have done an exceptional job of it. United, they are able to harness the collective power of their organizations and bring together more than 3,500 supporters who are passionate about improving their local rivers and streams. We spoke to Tim Junkins, communications director of ShoreRivers, to learn more about this newly formed organization.

So Tim, what brought your three specific groups together? What was the common ground?

All three groups come out of the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and focus on agricultural pollution which is a huge issue in the area. We all concentrated in on rural areas as our hubs of work. This merger was actually a long time coming, when some of our major funders began to dry up, it was suggested that the time might be right to explore coming together in a more serious way.

Why are nonprofit mergers important to completing larger goals?

Smaller organizations coming together, pooling their resources, really creates a greater presence for these groups in the community – we especially wanted to have more standing in Annapolis. By becoming a larger group we are able to move from regional funding to national funding, opening up many more opportunities. Larger funding equals larger projects and the sum of all of us is greater than the individual parts.



What has been the most difficult part of a merger and what has been the most rewarding part?

Well, people/groups are emotionally invested in particular constituents, as well as have pride in their organizations as individuals. These groups are often, reasonably so, worried about losing their distinct connections with the river communities. It’s challenging to bring together everyone in a way that highlights separate strengths. There is tremendous excitement building over the merger, the new name, and new logo – really makes ShoreRivers feel more complete. We also are focusing in on keeping our connections to local watersheds, fostering those relationships, as well as keeping River-keepers in each area.

If there was one piece of advice or a lesson learned on mergers from this experience, what would it be?

It’s very important to involve each group and treat everyone as an equal part – no matter how small or large the group is coming in. For example, Midshore Riverkeeper was significantly larger than Chester or Sassafras - however, as a part of ShoreRivers, we have to make sure to share in influence equally. This creates a healthy partnership, and likely a longer lasting one as well. Also taking things at a good pace, taking your time. This merger took 6-7 months to really get going. Create confidence, create trust between everyone.

Are there any events you all have coming up or extra facts that the community should know about?

Most of our big events just passed actually, we had a merger press release this past season! We do have a film festival going on this coming February, and then our next major event will be in April, after the holidays/winter. I also wanted to highlight that ShoreRivers will have 17 full time staff members and a new board of leaders combined from all of the groups – 15 people including 5 local farmers. Our new main office will be in Easton, with smaller offices in Chester and Sassafras.

For any more questions about ShoreRivers, feel free to explore their website or contact Tim Junkins.



The Forest Conservation Act of Maryland

Forests do not often get the credit they deserve when it comes to restoring the Chesapeake Bay, but here at the Choose Clean Water Coalition we want to put a spotlight on this important part of the ecosystem. Forests work like giant sponges, absorbing rain water and pulling it into the soil. This absorption of water keeps the soil moist and able to grow vegetation, which creates the forests that provide food, shelter, nesting sites, and safe migration paths for critters in the water and on land.  Forest buffers also help to stabilize stream banks and improve water quality. Their large root systems keep the soil in place, keeping sediment from eroding into water ways and act as large filters to clean rainwater runoff. This is a hugely important part of keeping our Bay clean from stormwater and agriculture pollution. Forests are also economically valuable, as they supply wood and paper products, generate jobs and income, provide the state with a recreational income from parks, and increasing property value. 

When settlers arrived in the Chesapeake Bay region, their impression of the land was that there was “too much wood” and said the view of the untapped America was “an undulating surface of impenetrable forest”. These ancient trees were about 40 percent taller than the young new trees that grow here now. Between 1982 and 1997, the Bay watershed lost more than 750,000 acres of forestland. Today, there are about 24 million acres of forest and the watershed is losing about 70 acres each day. So how do we continue to benefit from the economic value of our forests without losing everything? Sustainable forestry is a broad term for management techniques that respect the environmental, social, and economic values of the forest – while still allowing for harvesting.

 Photo courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Photo courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation

The Bay jurisdictions have worked to mitigate this issue. In 1991, the Forest Conservation Act (FCA) of Maryland was passed to protect our forest habitats from over-foresting. The act is primarily implemented on a local level, through the Department of Natural Resources. The FCA covers private and public forested areas 40,000 square feet or larger – with a few exceptions including highway construction. Thanks to the FCA, before construction is started applicants must submit a Forest Stand Delineation and Forest Conservation Plan. These are used to determine the best areas for construction, review information on the soil and trees present at the site, as well as a schedule, a reforestation plan, and a plan demonstrating minimal ecological disturbance. These mitigation requirements vary by plot size and essentially require replanting of trees to compensate for what is lost.

 Photo courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Photo courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Maryland has not altered its FCA since 2013, and now it is up for review this coming legislative session. About half of the Bay watershed is in Maryland, so, it is extremely vital that the decisions made in the 2018 Conservation Act positively impact the watershed. As for changes to the current FCA, some conservationists believe that the replacement ratio for trees should be 1:1 throughout all of Maryland, and done directly by those building on the land. Previously, builders have been able to pay a fee to the county instead of replanting, but it is difficult to track how those fees are used. The consensus from environmentalists is that without stricter rules on how replanting is done, "no net loss" is not truly fulfilled. It is imperative that we remember why the Forest Conservation Act was implemented to begin with – and to carefully weigh the benefits and risk of modern construction on our beloved wilderness.

 Mary Katherine Sullivan is an intern with the Clean Water Coalition.

Member Highlight: Lancaster County Conservancy

Our most recent member highlight goes to Lancaster County Conservancy (LCC), a Pennsylvania based group working towards cleaner water in the Lancaster region. With over 2,600 members, they work hard to ensure and secure a healthier future for the environment of Pennsylvania.The Conservancy is governed by an 18 person board of directors who have responsibility for the direction of the LCC, all chosen by the community. We spoke to Fritz Schroeder about what makes this organization so important and why they need your support. 


Tell us about your organization and your mission:

The Lancaster County Conservancy’s mission is Saving Nature – Providing wild and forested lands and clean waterways for our community. The Conservancy was founded as a land trust in 1969 by local hunters and fisherman who were concerned about the loss of natural lands. Today the Conservancy owns over 5,000 acres, 40+ miles of trails, and 35+ miles of streams. In addition to land protection we have three departments that focus on: stewardship to ensure ecological function, management and care of the 5,000+ acres, education to instill a passion for nature that ensures the ongoing care of our wild lands for generations to come and Urban Greening, which focuses specifically on clean water infrastructure issues urban and suburban areas of Lancaster County.

What is one of your current projects you are the most excited about?

Lancaster Water Week presented by the Lancaster Conservancy is entering its 2nd year, June 1 – 9, 2018. This event focuses in on the way water connects us all - celebrating the unique waterways of Lancaster County, educating the public about the challenges we face and opportunities we can create, and activating people to get involved in their watershed community. We also have First Friday in Downtown Lancaster, which is the official kick off to Lancaster Water Week. This event celebrates art in the community, connecting local culture with local environmental issues.

What issue area do you hope to focus on more of in the future?

We hope to continue our preservation of protected areas, while strengthening community involvement. Our Urban Greening Program and Best Management Practice education require continuous effort and growth to make a difference, and we look forward to expanding this into a greener Lancaster. The Lancaster County Conservancy is also expanding its outreach in 2018 to target a family and millennial audience.

What do you hope to gain from being a member of the Coalition?

The conference has been invaluable in growing our knowledge about Bay wide issues and we’ve met many wonderful professionals. We are more than excited to be hosting the conference once again here in the City of Lancaster in 2018 and can’t wait to share our community with new and old friends. 

For more info, contact Fritz Schroeder, director of urban greening.

Nutrient Trading in Maryland: December 2017 Update

On December 8, the Maryland Department of the Environment published in the Maryland Register proposed regulations to establish a water quality trading program for nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment. A public hearing was held on December 18 and written comments must be submitted by January 8. The regulations were developed together with Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) and a broadly representative Water Quality Trading Advisory Committee (WQTAC).

What is nutrient trading?

“Trading“ allows an entity that can reduce one or more pollutants more cheaply than another to install pollution control measures that provide a greater reduction than required by law, and sell the excess reduction, or “credit“, to the other discharger for whom the cost of pollution reduction is greater. The result is that the credit generator makes money for the sale of credits, and the buyer saves money by using the credits to meet its discharge limitations less expensively, achieving the same overall reduction at a lower cost. In a time when funding is tight, this can result in a bigger bang for the buck in meeting the Bay TMDL goals.


                                Courtesy of Chesapeake Quarterly   

                               Courtesy of Chesapeake Quarterly   

How can trading work properly?

To work properly, the program must ensure that a trade does not cause or contribute to a violation of any water quality standard or TMDL. A trade should also result in overall net pollution reduction - a feature known as “additionality.“  When this happens, we not only get lower cost compliance, but an overall reduction in pollution.

Before a discharger can generate a credit, it must comply with all pollution reductions required by law, referred to as its “baseline.“ Reductions beyond this generate the “credits.“ Credits can also be purchased to “offset“ a knew or increased discharge, which is required for any new or increased discharge to a water body which is not meeting water quality standards.

To be sure that trading is carried out in compliance with the Clean Water Act (CWA), EPA issued series of Technical Memoranda (TMs) setting forth its “expectations“ for key elements which any trading program in the Chesapeake Bay watershed must incorporate. These key elements include determining “baseline“, protecting local water quality, duration of credits, credit calculation, accounting for uncertainty of the water quality benefits delivered by a best management practice (BMP) installed by a non-point source discharger, representative sampling, and credit certification and verification. They also call for establishment of a publicly available “credit registry“ on which each credit can be registered and tracked, and an opportunity for notice and comment at meaningful times in the process. MDE’s regulations must be evaluated under these criteria to determine how they will fare when reviewed by EPA for compliance with the CWA.

The proposed regulations cover baseline determinations plus calculation, certification and use of credits, and trading procedures. When a discharger buys a credit, the credit is incorporated into its NPDES permit. The buyer/user is liable for ensuring permit compliance, even if the BMP on which the credit is based fails. Any performance failure by the credit-generating practices should be addressed in a contract between the seller and buyer.

Tell me more about the online trading registry...

The regulations provide for an online registry under which each credit, when certified by the agency, gets a number, and it will be tracked through its lifetime. Credits are expressed in terms of pounds of a pollutant. Procedures are established for inspection and “verification“ that the credit practices are performing properly.  The regulations also provide enforcement measures, including corrective action orders, suspension from the program, and other sanctions, as well as an appeal process.

 Photo courtesy of Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Photo courtesy of Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Credits generated by farming operations are reviewed and certified by MDA under regulations that it issued in 2016, COMAR 15.20.12. Those regulations are designed to work together with the regulations recently proposed by MDE, on which both agencies collaborated.

While the credit registry will be publicly available, the only opportunity for public comment under the proposed regulations is when a credit buyer proposes to use a credit in its NPDES permit, not at the time of credit certification. Because credit certification is when the agency determines whether baseline has been met and whether the credits have been properly calculated using approved methods, some contend that the public should be allowed to comment at this earlier stage in order to effectively address key issues in the credit generation and calculation process.

What are some issues with the Maryland Nutrient Trading Program?

As the regulations were being developed in consultation with the WQTAC, not surprisingly, there were disagreements over some of the provisions. Those disagreements provide a key to issues likely to be raised by commenters. They will likely include adequacy of protection for local water quality, clarity of the baseline requirements, adequacy of the uncertainty ratio, certification and verification procedures, and public participation. For example, on local water quality, the proposed regulations, to their credit, provide that when the water body where the credit will be used is “within any impaired waters“ (does not meet water quality standards), the credit must be generated in the same subwatershed. While the proposed regulation also appears to require that the credit should be generated upstream of the user, that is not clear in the text. Furthermore, outside of those circumstances, trades are allowed to take place within any of three broadly defined regions: the Potomac River basin, the Patuxent River basin, and the Eastern Shore and Western Shore river basins, including the Maryland portion of the Susquehanna River. While in theory a credit generated on the Eastern Shore and used on the Western Shore might result in no net adverse effects in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, the credit will not protect the water quality in the place of use on the Western Shore.

Regarding the uncertainty ratio, EPA’s applicable TM provides that this should be presumptively 2:1 when a credit is generated by a non-point source, to account for the uncertainty in the pounds of pollutant reduction which a particular BMP will actually produce. MDE’s regulations prescribe this ratio where credits generated by a non-point source are used by a wastewater treatment plant, but fail to do so where the user is a stormwater point source discharger. The reason for this distinction is unclear.

MDE proposes creating a “reserve pool“ by imposing a 5% reduction (a “reserve ratio“) in the number of credits generated in any transaction to be set aside for use in situations such as replacement of credits that underperform or a lack of available credits. If not used for these purposes any part of the “reserve pool“ can be permanently retired so as to result in an improvement in water quality, but there is no obligation to do this. A “retirement ratio“, by contrast, would require the entire amount to be retired, thereby ensuring that each trade results in a net improvement in water quality (the “additionally” referred to above). The regulations do not include this.

EPA has been promoting trading for over 20 years, but only eleven other states in the country, including Pennsylvania and Virginia, have trading programs. They are still evolving and their effectiveness has yet to be determined. While the principles can be articulated, effective implementation has proven challenging. MDE’s proposed regulations will stimulate lively discussions of the issues facing any trading program, especially when the credits will be generated mostly if not entirely by nonpoint sources.

 Photo courtesy of Chesapeake Bay Foundation 

Photo courtesy of Chesapeake Bay Foundation 

MDE leaders believe that, if a truly effective trading program can be put in place, the benefits will outweigh the risks that are inherent in a program where the water quality benefits of various BMPs may not be known until years after they are installed.

If you have any questions, please contact Ridge Hall, board member for the Chesapeake Legal Alliance.

Virginia Takes Big Step in Environmental Justice

Recognizing that environmental impacts often disproportionately harm low-income and minority populations, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has created the state’s first Environmental Justice Advisory Council.

The council is charged with advising the executive branch on policies to limit harm to disadvantaged communities and those most vulnerable to pollution and other climate change effects, and it comes at just the right time for Virginia, which has big problems facing its citizens.

 Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe signs Executive Order 73 creating the Environmental Justice Advisory Council (photo: NRDC)

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe signs Executive Order 73 creating the Environmental Justice Advisory Council (photo: NRDC)

The Vulnerability of Hampton Roads

The 1.7 million people of Hampton Roads, Virginia constitute one of the most vulnerable populations to sea level rise and storm surge in the country. They were spared in the last spate of hurricanes that ravaged the Gulf Coast and Atlantic regions, but they are no less susceptible to severe storms in the future—as are millions of other Virginians. The state’s mayors have been pleading for help at the state level for years, with the  former mayor of Norfolk declaring,  “It’s a threat we can no longer afford to ignore.”

The Asthma Capital of the Nation

Richmond recently claimed the dubious distinction of being named the “asthma capital” of America by the Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America, topping the list of U.S. cities that are “the most challenging places to live with asthma.” In urban areas, traffic congestion and power plant emissions have been identified as the main sources of air pollution, triggering elevated incidents of asthma symptoms while also fueling stronger and more frequent storms.

Black children are four times more likely to be admitted to the hospital for asthma than white children, and Latino children are 40% more likely to die from asthma than their white counterparts, highlighting just one of the effects of pollution that disproportionately hurts minority and low-income children.

Nationally, seventy-one percent of blacks live in counties that were in violation of air pollution standards, compared to 58 percent of whites. Similarly, Hispanics are 165% more likely than whites to live in counties with unhealthy levels of particulate matter.

The placement of pollution sources near communities of color and the displacement of communities of color to highly contaminated areas, in fact, is a central concern for the environmental justice movement.

To state it simply, we do not all breathe the same air.

The Energy Burden Facing Minority Families

While the Commonwealth is making progress on clean energy solutions that will help limit the health and climate impacts of air pollution (see Virginia’s uptick from 33rd to 29thnationally in ACEEE’s most-recent state policy rankings), too often these solutions aren’t reaching communities that need it most.

In Richmond, one-third of black households and more than half of all low-income households have more than twice the energy burden of the average household in the city. The numbers are similar for the Commonwealth’s largest city—Virginia Beach. High energy burdens, which refers to the percentage of household income spent on energy bills, is a justice issue at its core because of its regressive impact on minority and low-income communities.

To read the full article, visit NRDC's website here!