Dogs Don’t Eat Dogs



Our friends at the Center for Progressive Reform recently released an important report, Fairness in the Bay:  Nutrient Trading and Environmental Justice,  about the negative impacts of nutrient trading on low-income and disadvantaged communities.  Nutrient trading is a market-based approach to pollution reduction that creates an exchange enabling polluters to purchase credits from someone who reduces pollution from a different source in a different place.  For example, under nutrient trading, a wastewater treatment plant needing to reduce its pollution could purchase credits from a farmer.  Nutrient trading has been incorporated into Maryland’s pollution reduction efforts under the Chesapeake Bay TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) as a way to deal with additional pollution anticipated to result from future growth and development.   The scheme has been understandably highly controversial within the environmental community –some feel that trading will compromise the integrity and effectiveness of the whole TMDL effort, while others are certain that the market-based tool is only way to reduce costs while achieving pollution reduction.


CPR’s report rightfully points out that market-based nutrient trading could have a particularly deleterious impact on communities lacking a voice and power in water quality decisions.  The report cites specific concern about the potential for pollution hotspots resulting from trading.   If you look at where our biggest pollution sources are located –too often in areas already suffering from poverty and a host of other environmental risks – allowing more pollution in already compromised communities is not an equitable solution.


Maryland Department of the Environment has been hosting stakeholder meetings around the state, listening to comments, concerns, and suggestions about their “Accounting for Growth” policy, which provides a framework for how to keep pollution in keeping with the Chesapeake Bay TMDL when future development and growth takes place.  The policy relies heavily on nutrient trading to keep pollution loads resulting from growth in check.  As we understand it, the nutrient trading framework is still under development at Maryland Department of Agriculture and no official regulations have been issued for public review or comment.


As government entities and communities around the Chesapeake Bay watershed are planning and implementing pollution reduction actions, the question of how these investments impact low-income and minority communities deserves serious attention.   We have before us a ripe opportunity to ensure that the deep investment of resources needed to reduce pollution will raise the tide for all boats.


Tomorrow marks the 5th annual Chesapeake Film Festival!  The CFF team has worked hard to create a great weekend filled with thought provoking films, discussions, and fun.  

Town Creek is sponsoring four environmental films which will be shown on Saturday, September 22nd.  We also have coordinated two panels to accompany our films on environmental advocacy and alternative economic metrics. 

If you have time this weekend the Chesapeake Film Festival is a must!



An Eye on the Glass Half Full: Part III

Last month I was privileged to meet Rich Maranto and Will Morrow from Friends of Frederick County, a nonprofit organization in Frederick County focused on sustainable communities and land use issues.    They have partnered with Chesapeake Commons to develop a smart phone app that allows volunteers to upload on-site water quality data of local streams.

If you are interested in learning more or getting involved click here!

Town Creek Foundation Summer 2012 Grants

On Monday August 20th the Town Creek Foundation Board of Trustees approved 28 grants totaling $2,482,100, bringing our year-to-date total grant making to 65 grants totaling $4,915,100. All of our 2012 grants can be found here.

A number of key tactical and strategic themes are reflected in our Summer 2012 docket:

The Bay advocacy community achieved several significant clean water victories in the 2012 Maryland legislative session. These policies constitute important underpinning for the Watershed Implementation Plan process, and some of our Summer grants (e.g. 1000 Friends of MarylandNational Wildlife Federation, Chester River Association, Dorchester Citizens for Planned GrowthMaryland Chapter of the Sierra Club, Nanticoke Watershed Alliance,  and the Wicomico Environmental Trust)  are intended to insure that effective implementation will translate those policy victories into real pollution reductions.

Those victories were achieved, in part, through the work of important new Bay advocacy leadership, and the inclusion of new voices in statewide Bay restoration efforts. Several of our Summer grants (e.g.  Blue Water Baltimore, Waterkeepers Chesapeake, West Rhode Riverkeeper, South River Federation) are intended to help support and strengthen these new leaders, and to solidify the inclusion of these new voices.

The last few months have demonstrated significant weakness in Maryland’s clean energy and climate movement. Maryland has a legitimate reputation for climate and energy leadership. Despite this, the continued failure to secure offshore wind policy, combined with evidence of very significant leaks and loopholes in the state’s greenhouse gas reduction strategies, suggest the need for an even more robust and consistent clean energy advocacy force in the state. Most of our Summer Climate and Clean Energy grants are intended to help move Maryland climate advocates into a more permanent movement-building posture than they have currently adopted. These include grants to support sustained policy advocacy (Clean Energy Works for Maryland and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network); communications (Maryland Climate Change Communications Consortium; Climate Central, and the National Environmental Education Foundation); and community outreach (Community Power Network). We are also providing support through the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences to help insure effective finalization and communication of a robust greenhouse gas emissions plan.

There are a number of broader themes that are informing our thinking and our work, and are therefore also animating this docket. As we have passed the midpoint of Martin O’Malley’s second and final term as Maryland’s Governor, we believe that it is important for the Bay and climate advocacy communities to begin preparing for ‘life after Martin’. There is no denying the leadership that Governor O’Malley has brought to efforts to restore the Bay and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is certainly possible that his successor will prioritize this work in the way that he has.  There is no guarantee of this however, and we believe that the prudent approach is to prepare for tougher sledding ahead.

With our own end also drawing nearer, we are sensitive to the need to accelerate movement along our own learning curves. With less time available for course corrections, we must place more emphasis on structured third party feedback and analysis to help insure that our investments are as efficiently well targeted as possible. Several of our Summer 2012 grants – to the Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environmentthe George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communications, and the Food Shed Initiative project at Future Harvest – are intended (at least in part) to generate information that will help us to sharpen our strategies and better target our grantmaking.

Finally, and again, in view of our sunsetting, we are especially attentive to  how we can help to close the gap between environmental pragmatism and ecological realism in Maryland. This is the gap between advocacy paths that are carefully calibrated to accommodate existing political constraints and the advocacy paths that would be shaped by what science and observation tell us is necessary. The leaks and loopholes in the state’s greenhouse gas reduction strategies demonstrate this gap, as does the politics associated with nutrient trading as a Bay restoration strategy. In both instances the problem stems from the perception that our politics will not allow us to forthrightly face and frame the problem of the relationship between our current economy and true sustainability.

Our Summer sustainability grants are focused on trying to help close this gap –  by revealing it and encouraging leaders to address it (Worldwatch Institute, and the  New Economics Institute), and by highlighting practices and strategies that begin to do so (Institute for Policy Studies, Future Harvest, and Real Food Generation).

We are very pleased to be partnering with all of these groups in their important work.