Category Archives: Conservation Blog

Is the Fairfax City Council Bored with Fighting Climate Change?

NEWS ALERT

 IS THE FAIRFAX CITY COUNCIL BORED WITH NEED
TO COMBAT CLIMATE CHANGE, PROTECT STREAMS, AND CLEANER AIR?

More environmental groups voice opposition to Northfax West’s destruction of creek and forest

For Immediate Release – July 7, 2020

For more information, contact caroline.brewer@anshome.org, or 240-899-9019, or Renee Grebe, renee.grebe@anshome.org, 703-261-4668; or lglisagoodnight@gmail.com, or 301-523-5394

FAIRFAX, VA – Environmental groups throughout the region are joining forces with the Audubon Naturalist Society (ANS) and dozens of residents who have spoken out against the destruction of a portion of the Accotink Creek and forest in a proposed development in Fairfax City.

The Fairfax City Council is to decide at a hearing on July 14 if it will move forward with the Northfax West development plan, which calls for removing nearly five acres of protected riparian habitat, while permanently burying the North Fork of the Accotink Creek, home to fish, salamanders, and frogs. The plot of land and stream might seem small, but it represents a precious natural space that needs to be protected to enhance human health and well-being, provided by the existence of wildlife.

The Audubon Naturalist Society has made a key ask of the mayor and council: Deny or postponed a decision on this application to ensure alternatives are sought which preserve the healthier, “A1” section of the stream. Doing so better matches the city’s Northfax Small Area Plan vision to help the city reach its land use and environmental goals.

In June, ANS submitted an 18-page letter in opposition to the plan which would bury the creek and destroy the forest. It testified at two nights of public hearings related to that plan and is submitting a new three-page letter to the Fairfax City Council this week outlining strong opposition to a significant waiver of stream protections put in place in 1990. If granted, that waiver would set a terrible precedent that could imperil streams and their forested buffers throughout the state. Sixteen environmental groups have signed on.

“Once a building burns, you can never get back the original or its contents. And once we bury streams and destroy forests, it’s nearly impossible to get them back, to get back all the wildlife they supported, to get back the cleaner, breathable air that they provide,” said ANS Northern Virginia Advocate Renee Grebe. “A decision by the Fairfax City Council in favor of this project as proposed would set a terrible precedent for protecting streams and forested buffers. In the face of overwhelming evidence of climate change and the need to preserve natural spaces for our own mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Is the Council saying to the people of this region that it doesn’t care?”

Renee Grebe, Northern Virginia Conservation Advocate
Audubon Naturalist Society
Audubon Society of Northern Virginia
Chesapeake Legal Alliance
Clean Fairfax
Clean Water Action
Climate Reality Project, NOVA Chapter
Earth Rise Indivisible
EcoAction Arlington
EcoLogics Design and Consulting, LLC
Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions
Friends of Accotink Creek
Green Muslims
Natural Resources Defense Council
Potomac Riverkeeper Network
The Rappahannock League for Environmental Protection
Waterkeepers Chesapeake

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Follow ANS at: www.Facebook.com/AudubonNaturalistSociety,  www.Twitter.com/ANStweet 
and @ANSNature on Instagram.

 About ANS: Throughout its history, ANS has championed nature for all by playing a pivotal role in conserving our region's iconic natural places from development including the C&O Canal, Dyke Marsh and, most recently, Ten Mile Creek. Past ANS member and board president, Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, is credited with launching the now global environmental movement. ANS's nature experts provide hundreds of opportunities each year for children and adults to enjoy, learn about, and protect the environment.

TAKE ACTION: Review and comment on the Montgomery County Climate Action Plan

Picture Available from: Montgomery County Climate Action Plan and One Montgomery Green.

In the fall/ winter of 2019, the Montgomery County Executive formed six community climate workgroups to work on recommendations for the County’s Climate Action Plan, a stategic plan to reach our climate and greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals. The workgroups covered the following climate areas: Transportation, Buildings, Carbon Sequestration, Clean Energy, Climate Adaptation, and Public Engagement & Education (ANS participated in the Transportation Workgroup). These recommendations along with the technical consultant groups will help craft and create the guidelines, recommendations and pathways to reach the county’s 2017 Climate Emergency Resolution GHG reduction goals which are:

  1. reduce 80% of GHG emissions by the year 2027 and
  2. reduce 100% of GHG emissions by the year 2035.

 

[one_third padding="0 5px 0 0"]Currently, we are in phase II and phase III of the Climate Action Plan (See the diagram to the right). Now that the workgroups have finalized phase II, the county residents can now read, comment and fill out a survey on the recommendations presented by the six workgroups. Read: Recommendations website, Summary of recommendations, Consolidated list of all 850 recommendations.  The County Executive's staff estimates that the draft Climate Action Plan will come to the County Council by this fall and might be implemented early next year.[/one_third]

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Graph from Climate Workgroup Recommendations Overview Presentation. Available from: https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/green/climate/climate-workgroup-recommendations.htm

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TAKE ACTION: Give feedback on any or all of the 850 workgroup recommendations: https://www.opentownhall.com/portals/409/Issue_8239

TAKE ACTION: Survey on all workgroup recommendations: https://www.opentownhall.com/portals/409/Issue_8290 

TAKE ACTION: Register to Vote Now!

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A poster nailed to a telephone pole. The poster reads, "VOTE" with an American flag in the upper left corner and a large blue arrow pointing to the left.

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons

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We are in the middle of the 2020 election season, and it's as important now as ever to make sure that you are registered to vote. Voting for people who represent your values and will take action to protect the environment is one of the most powerful ways you can fight climate change. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many elections in the region have been postponed. Make sure you know when your state’s elections are and what the deadline to register to vote is:[/one_half_last]

Maryland:

  • The presidential and congressional primary elections have been postponed to June 2nd, 2020. The deadline to register to vote is May 12th, 2020. Early voting runs from May 21st-28th. Mail-in voting is available. Same-day registration on June 2nd is also available. Check your registration status here and register to vote here.
  • There is a special general election for Maryland’s 7th Congressional District, which will be held on April 28th, 2020. The registration deadline for this election is April 7th.

Virginia:

Washington, D.C.:

  • The presidential, congressional, and D.C. Council primary elections will be held on June 2nd, 2020. The deadline to register to vote is May 12th, 2020. Early voting at the D.C. Board of Elections runs from May 16th-29th. Ward-specific early voting runs from May 21st-29th. Mail-in voting is available. Same-day registration on June 2nd is also available.
  • A special election for Ward 2 Councilmember will be held on June 16th, 2020.
  • Check your registration status here and register to vote here.

Voting by mail is crucial in making sure that elections still happen during this pandemic, but it isn't allowed in many states.

TAKE ACTION: Sign this petition to demand that vote by mail must be available to voters all over the country!

 

MD General Assembly 2020 Wrap Up

MD Senate Offices. Photo Credit: ANS (2020).

Dear ANS Friends,

The 2020 Maryland General Assembly session adjourned early on March 18th, 2020 due to Covid-19. Originally, the Assembly would have ended on April 6th. There is a possibility that the Assembly will reconvene in late May. Many of the bills we were supporting were making great progress this session but unfortunately at the end just ran out of time to make it through to final vote. I wanted to personally thank you all for supporting ANS and  our partnering organizations this year’s General Assembly. Thank you for fighting for a healthier and more sustainable Maryland by supporting bills in areas such as transit, climate change, education, and  protection of our Bay. Thank you for coming to rallies, testifying, writing comment letters, and keeping up to date with General Assembly updates via our Action Alerts and Blog Posts. The fight is not over, we will be back better and stronger!

Here is a summary of the bills ANS supported and their final status.

Thank you all,

Denisse

 

Win

Win (HB911SB808) -  Oyster Recovery 

Our Chesapeake Bay's oyster sanctuaries will be restored and protected!

 

Win (HB229SB300) - Pesticides – Use of Chlorpyrifos – Prohibition

At last the harmful Chloropyrifos are finally banned in MD!

 

Loss

Loss (HB368SB424) - The Transit and Investment Act / MTA Funding Bill 

This bill would have provided an increases funding of $123 million for MTA to run and operate its transportation system for the next 6 years. Currently, MTA is facing a $2 billion budget shortfall for the next decade as revealed in the agency’s 2019 Capital Needs Inventory.  ANS  provided testimony to both house and senate hearings  and attend rallies. This bill passed the house but not the senate.

 

Loss (HB1465SB955) - Federal Clean Water Act - Authority of State

This bill would have prevented Maryland from waiving a Water Quality Certification for the Conowingo Dam 50-year federal license. ANS signed on to Waterkeepers Chesapeake support letter on SB955. This bill did not pass committee.

 

Loss (HB1543SB912) - Environment- Climate Crisis and Education Act (CCEA) 

This bill would have placed a fee on fossil fuels entering the state to fund climate education via the Kirwan Fund  as well as fund green infrastructure projects to mitigate the effects of climate change. CCEA would have created a fund to help for low income households transition into a green economy. ANS provided written testimony to both house and senate hearings. The bill only had house and senate hearings but did not pass committees.

 

Loss (HB292, SB229) - Toll Roads, Highways and Bridges – County Government Consent Requirement Expansion

The county consent bill would have prohibited any toll, highway or bridge project to continue without the consent of the majority of Maryland eastern-shore counties (but which could be extended to other counties in MD). ANS as part of MAST Collation submitted testimony in support of County Consent Bill. This bill did not pass committee.

 

Loss (HB1424) - Public- Private- Partnerships- Process and Oversight

The bill would have provided oversight on P3 contracts by assuring the Board of Public Works would wait on the release of the environmental impact statement before moving forward with soliciting contractors. The bill passed the house but not the senate (Same as in 2019 - Read our 2019 General Assembly Blog Post).

 

Loss (HB192SB299) - Maryland Sustainable Buildings Act of 2020

Last year’s legislative session passed the Energy-efficient and Bird-safe Building Standards bill but had amendments that weren’t reconciled in time to go into effect.  This year the new reconciled bill was seeking support for passage. This bill passed the house but not the senate.

 

Loss (HB209SB313)- Plastics and Packaging Reduction Act 

This bill would have placed a statewide ban on all plastic bags. This bill passed the house but not the senate.

 

Loss (HB1526) - Transportation Carbon Reduction Fund Act  

The TCI Bill seeks to implement an equitable and inclusive, transit orientated mechanism to closely monitor and prepare the funds distribution of fund received for by MD from the Regional Transportation Climate Initiative.This bill did not pass committee.

 

Loss (HB438SB560) - Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard – Eligible Sources 

This bill would have removed incinerators from receiving subsidies as clean energy sources. This bill did not pass committee.

 

Past posts about this year's MD General Assembly:

2020 Maryland General Assembly Legislative Priorities Blog Post.

ANS submits testimony on MD Transit Safety & Investment Act (MTA Bill)

ANS submits testimony on Climate Crisis and Education Act (CCEA) 

ANS as part of MAST Collation submits testimony in support of County Consent Bill

ANS signed on to Waterkeepers Chesapeake support letter on SB955

ANS Action Alert to support Transit and Environmental Bills in 2020 General Assembly

ANS Goes to Capitol Hill!

An image of the U.S. Capitol Building from the bottom of its steps. The sky behind the building's dome is clear and blue.

The U.S. Capitol Building. Home of the Senate and House of Representatives chambers.

On March 4th, ANS joined more than 100 other environmental advocates for the Choose Clean Water Coalition’s 8th annual Chesapeake Bay Day on Capitol Hill. Lisa Alexander, ANS’s Executive Director, is co-chair of the steering committee for the Coalition, which has members from more than 250 organizations throughout the Chesapeake Bay Watershed’s 6 states plus D.C. Every year, this day is a chance for us to talk with our elected officials and ask that the health of the Chesapeake Bay remain a priority for the region.

ANS’s Conservation Team met with the offices of 12 different members of Congress from Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia:

  • Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D-DC)
  • Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton (D-VA)
  • Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA)
  • Senator Mark Warner (D-VA)
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA)
  • Congressman Anthony Brown (D-MD)
  • Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD)
  • Congressman David Trone (D-MD)
  • Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD)
  • Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-MD)
  • Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
  • Congresswoman Elaine Luria (D-VA)

This year, we had 5 specific asks of Congress. Each of these asks directly impacts ANS and the people we serve throughout the DMV:

  1. Funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program: This regional program, a collaboration between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, other federal agencies, states, academic institutions, local governments, and environmental organizations, has been extremely successful in restoring the health of the Chesapeake Bay. We asked for support in increasing funding for the program from $85 million in fiscal year 2020 to $90.5 million in fiscal year 2021. A grant through the Chesapeake Bay Program helped ANS access technical assistance to plan for Woodend Sanctuary’s stream restoration!                                                                                                                                                                  
  2. Funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund: This loan program, run through the EPA, helps fund high-priority water infrastructure projects throughout the country such as wastewater treatment plants or green infrastructure installation. Over 1,700 Chesapeake Bay Watershed local governments rely on this funding for infrastructure projects that help them meet their mandates under the Clean Water Act. We asked for support in doubling the Fund from $1.68 billion in fiscal year 2020 to $3.4 billion in fiscal year 2021. Millions of dollars from the Fund go to Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia each year.
  3. Funding for the Farm Bill: This overarching piece of agriculture and food policy in the U.S. is reconsidered for authorization every 5 years, with the most recent version passed in 2018. It includes funding for many conservation and environmental programs including the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, and Conservation Technical Assistance, while also funding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps). We highlighted this program’s ongoing value and asked that each of these programs benefiting the Chesapeake Bay Watershed be fully funded for each fiscal year that the Farm Bill authorizes.
  4. Passage of America’s Conservation Enhancement (ACE) Act: We asked members of Congress to help pass this bipartisan legislative package that contains reauthorization and funding for crucial conservation programs. These include reauthorization of the Chesapeake Bay Program, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Trails Program, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the Chesapeake Watershed Investments for Landscape Defense (WILD) Act.
  5. Reauthorization of NOAA’s Chesapeake Bay Office: This office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration conducts habitat science, oyster restorations, environmental literacy programs, climate resiliency, and sustainable fisheries work. We asked members of the House of Representatives to reauthorize this office and increase its funding. ANS has received grants from this office’s Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) Program to offer Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences (MWEE) to the youth we work with.

Everyone we met with has been a supporter of all these programs for many years. Lobby day is a chance for us to ask for continued support and to thank them for their work to protect the environment for future generations of people and wildlife. We’ll keep you updated on these legislative priorities and their progress in Congress!