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Cleaning Up the Cape's Algae Problem
Rotten eggs and black mayonnaise—sights and smells that, to the dread of many, are becoming increasingly common across Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Over the past 30 years, increased development and insufficient wastewater treatment systems have degraded the quality of Cape Cod’s waters. Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), in association with Buzzards Bay Coalition, are working to clean up the Cape—work that was recently covered by David Abel in The Boston Globe.
The eggs and mayonnaise (a description Abel used to open his piece) are but two signs of a growing body of evidence, both visible and disturbing, of degraded water quality. While visitors and residents depend upon Cape Cod’s pristine waterways—suitable for swimming and conducive to ocean life—instead they find ponds and bays that, in warm months, can be covered in a film of algae, while the water itself turns an opaque copper color.
This degradation is the consequence of too much nitrogen, the result of improperly treated wastewater, primarily from the Cape’s preponderance of septic tanks. In the Cape’s loose, sandy soils, wastewater moves quickly through the ground and is carried into the bays and estuaries before it can be adequately filtered. The region’s economy, ecology, recreation and beauty have all suffered as a consequence, and will suffer more if stakeholders continue to delay action on a clean-up plan.
In September, the staff at CLF, together with Buzzards Bay Coalition, filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Our claim— that the EPA failed to fulfill its responsibilities to oversee a regional water quality plan as required by the Clean Water Act. This lawsuit was CLF’s second showing EPA’s failure to address the Cape’s nitrogen pollution problem. The first, concerning point sources, was filed in August 2010, and can be found here.
Why is this so important? The regional plan under question has not been updated since 1978, despite predictions at the time about the environmental risks of unchecked nitrogen pollution. Today, the consequences of decades of inaction are clear—badly degraded waterways with mounting costs for solutions and little time left to ponder them while the region’s ecology and economy hang in the balance..
The answer, CLF argues, is a legally enforceable, coordinated blueprint to clean up the Cape. “It’s our firm belief that a coordinated regional approach is necessary—not individual towns trying to solve the problems on their own,” says Christopher Kilian, a senior attorney at the Conservation Law Foundation, as quoted in The Boston Globe article.
The approach EPA will ultimately take is the subject of ongoing negotiations between CLF and the Buzzards Bay Coalition, EPA and Barnstable County officials. A report to the court is due Dec. 6. Stay tuned.
For more on CLF’s efforts on cleaning up the Cape, read the release on our recent lawsuit, filed with the Buzzards Bay Coalition.
For more information, click here.
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By Johnny Wood
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By Jake Johnson
As a growing number of states move to pass laws that would criminalize pipeline protests and hit demonstrators with years in prison, an audio recording obtained by The Intercept showed a representative of a powerful oil and gas lobbying group bragging about the industry's success in crafting anti-protest legislation behind closed doors.
Speaking during a conference in Washington, DC in June, Derrick Morgan, senior vice president for federal and regulatory affairs at the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), touted "model legislation" that states across the nation have passed in recent months.
AFPM represents a number of major fossil fuel giants, including Chevron, Koch Industries and ExxonMobil.
"We've seen a lot of success at the state level, particularly starting with Oklahoma in 2017," said Morgan, citing Dakota Access Pipeline protests as the motivation behind the aggressive lobbying effort. "We're up to nine states that have passed laws that are substantially close to the model policy that you have in your packet."
Big Oil is now using its political power to try and criminalize protests of oil & gas infrastructure.— Friends of the Earth (@foe_us) August 19, 2019
"This legislation has potential to punish public participation and mischaracterize advocacy protected by the First Amendment."https://t.co/bmiHjONEhy
The audio recording comes just months after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law legislation that would punish anti-pipeline demonstrators with up to 10 years in prison, a move environmentalists condemned as a flagrant attack on free expression.
"Big Oil is hijacking our legislative system," Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said after the Texas Senate passed the bill in May.
As The Intercept's Lee Fang reported Monday, the model legislation Morgan cited in his remarks "has been introduced in various forms in 22 states and passed in ... Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota."
"The AFPM lobbyist also boasted that the template legislation has enjoyed bipartisan support," according to Fang. "In Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the version of the bill there, which is being challenged by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Even in Illinois, Morgan noted, 'We almost got that across the finish line in a very Democratic-dominated legislature.' The bill did not pass as it got pushed aside over time constraints at the end of the legislative session."
Many of the state bills restricting the right to protest have been "drafted by companies and passed through groups like ALEC, the secretive group of corporate lobbyists trying to rewrite state laws to benefit corporations over people." @greenpeaceusa https://t.co/ZxpTjWdrwT— Stand Up To ALEC (@StandUpToALEC) May 6, 2019
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.