How to Take Long Showers and Still Save the World From Drought

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 3.37.26 PMNASA research says California only has a one year supply left of water in its reservoirs. With mega droughts looming as climate change intensifies, this requires all of us to tune in and be part of the solution. This is an excellent article by Adam J. Rose with spot-on suggestions on how we can help save water for California and us all. Best to kiss those burgers goodbye…

A Voice for Children: Join Me at the Mama Summit in Annapolis, Maryland on March 19, 2015!

Claire lying in snow

I’ve got a daughter who loves the snow with all her heart. When we get a good snowfall, she runs outside and literally immerses herself in the snow, asks to be buried in it the way one gets buried in the sand on the beach. She puts her face directly in the snow, happy as a puppy, and eats it fresh from the sky. When the snow first falls I let her partake of it, though quietly I worry about what is in the snow. I know it’s far from pure because, lovely as it is to watch fall, it carries with it what is in the air.

It turns out Maryland has some of the worst air on the east coast and Baltimore more so.

  • An MIT study ranked Baltimore as having the highest rate of air pollution deaths out of 5,695 cities.*
  • The Baltimore-Washington corridor ranked 8th in the American Lung Association’s list of the most ozone polluted metro areas of the country.*
  • In 2011, Maryland was ranked as the 5th worst in the nation for air pollution emitted from coal and oil burning power plants.*

Of the 7 coal-fired power plants in Maryland, four are operating without modern pollution-cutting technology and two of those are within 15 miles of Baltimore. Sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter have been spewing into the air from these plants for years! As a voice for children I testified at two Maryland Department for the Environment (MDE) meetings to insist these coal plants either acquire modern pollution-cutting technology or shut down.

After a 15-month process that took input from health professionals, the energy sector, environmentalists, people with asthma and concerned citizens, stronger protections against smog forming pollution were adopted and finalized by MDE. Then, Governor Hogan on his first day in office scrapped them, just days before they were to be printed in the Maryland Register!

Every summer without these regulations is another summer where asthmatic kids in Maryland, and more acutely Baltimore, are being exposed to pollution that increases their chances of an attack. And new, unsettling Harvard research links air pollution with autism.

Our legislatures need to hear that clean air is not a bi-partisan issue, but a profound obligation we have to children and future generations. Kids can’t not breathe air, and they can’t choose which air to breathe. The voices of moms, dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles need to be heard by those who are making policy decisions. Speaking from the heart on behalf of children is direly needed in the policy process. We need elected officials to support a clean energy future, to make the protection of our basic natural resources upon which our children’s health and well-being depend the highest priority.

In an age where technological gadgets have infiltrated the playtime of children, it’s more important than ever to make sure kids get outside to play, to exercise, to get some “fresh air.” These kids, voiceless in decision-making, have a deep trust that we will protect them. That is exactly why I am heading down to the Mama Summit in Maryland on March 19.

Come to Annapolis and let your voice be heard! And bring the kids! Nothing gets to the heart of an elected official more than being in the presence of children.

Event registration will begin at 9am. We will meet with our legislators, be recognized on the House floor at the State House, attend a press conference and debrief over a provided lunch at the Ram’s Head Tavern. It will be a fun, meaningful and rewarding day!

For more information on the Maryland Mama Summit and to register, click here. I look forward to seeing you in Annapolis!

These Mama Summits are happening all over the country. If you are not from Maryland, click here to find a Mama Summit near you.

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* From “Energy & Health in Maryland,” a report of the Maryland Environmental Health Network

Dominion’s Cove Point: Maryland Walks the Fracking Plank

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Excellent article below by my friend and colleague Laurel Peltier that presents a brief and accurate summation of why a liquid natural gas export facility in southern Maryland is bad news for all of Maryland.  And beyond.


Sheer Madness: FERC Approves Dominion Cove Point LNG Export Facility

No Cove Point

Right before bed last night, I got word that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the construction of the proposed Dominion Cove Point liquid natural gas export facility in southern Maryland. For those of us who have been fighting for a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to be conducted before any approval is given, we knew we would likely see the authorization of the export facility without an EIS.  We don’t call FERC the Federal Energy Rubber-stamp Commission for nothing.  Still, the news is like a knife to the heart.

I woke up sad and furious, my head screaming at Governor O’Malley for starters. How can he stay silent on Dominion Cove Point when the health and safety of citizens from Lusby to Myersville to western Maryland are at serious risk? When the health of the Chesapeake Bay and the economy that depends on it are at serious risk?  What about all the pipeline and LNG facility explosions that have occurred in the past year?  How can they be overlooked?  It’s mind boggling.

When there was interest in building an LNG facility at Sparrows Point in 2007, O’Malley kicked it to the curb. “Foremost among our concerns is safety of our citizens and the families who live in the community as well as those employed by area businesses,” he said. “We cannot dismiss the negative impacts this project will have on the Chesapeake Bay, as a treasured natural and recreational resource and significant economic engine.”  He halted the project, opting instead for a renewable energy legacy essential to the protection of our water and air, our children and their future.

How can he in good conscience not do the same for Dominion Cove Point?  There are 2,365 homes within a two-mile radius of the LNG facility!

It’s sheer madness to put fracked gas exports before the health and safety of citizens, natural resources and ecosystems. Sheer madness not to thoroughly analyze the amount of climate pollution LNG exports will generate.  400,000 people just marched in New York because we are at a precipice when it comes to the amount of greenhouse gases trapped in the atmosphere.  We don’t have the luxury of setting in motion 20 years of exporting natural gas.  We can’t handle the methane what will end up in the atmosphere as a result of this next wave of extreme fossil fuel extraction.  And FERC is about to drive us right off the cliff.

This morning, sitting at the breakfast table reading a press release from Waterkeepers Chesapeake denouncing the approval of Dominion Cove Point, my ten-year-old daughter Claire asked me a question about something school-related. I tried to answer, but my throat was locked and the tears flowed from my eyes. I told her about the approval of Cove Point and how sad and angry I was about it.  She began to comfort me, first letting me know she knows how that feels, to have both emotions running at the same time. Then she said, “someday they will learn they made a terrible mistake.”

This coming from a child who is inheriting a future being destroyed by fossil fuels.  My beautiful girl comforting me when I am striving to protect her.


There are so many reasons why exporting fracked gas in southern Maryland – and in this country – is an absolutely foolish, irresponsible, short-sighted, and, yes, criminal act. I have written about the specifics again and again. But, for today, I mourn the news of approval, and I strengthen my resolve to stop the extreme fossil fuel madness.  I do so for the children and future generations, who deserve to inherit a future that they can thrive in, not just survive in.  I will not allow the proponents of Dominion Cove Point to “learn they have made a terrible mistake.”  There is no more room for learning curves when it comes to endangering life on earth.


Click here to help stop Cove Point!

Josh Fox on Terry Greenwood

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Terry Greenwood is a humble hero.  Josh Fox, the director of the oscar-nominated documentary Gasland, knew Terry well.  Terry died a couple of weeks ago of brain cancer.  He knew that fracking poisoned and killed his cows, yet elected officials, the PA Department of Environmental Protection and the EPA wouldn’t listen to him.

Josh’s words and video honoring Terry Greenwood capture him so eloquently, I wanted to pass them along.  I hope you can find time to read the post and watch the video – a few poignant outtakes from Gasland.  Terry was an example of wisdom, light and integrity in the face of greed, lies and profound adversity.

Thank you, Terry.  RIP.

Here’s Josh’s post:

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Horton Hears the Whos of Calvert County and Dominion’s LNG Lies

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Most of us know the story of Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Suess. The beloved elephant Horton, with his great big ears, hears the cries for help from the Whos on Who-ville, a planet the size of a dust speck that rests precariously on a clover. Horton, with his big heart, commits to saving them because “a person’s a person no matter how small.” Yet, sadly, he can’t get others to hear their cries and acknowledge their lives.

And so it is with the citizens of Lusby, Maryland who live precariously close to a dormant liquid natural gas (LNG) import facility that Dominion Resources of Virginia is planning to turn into an LNG export facility as soon as they can get away with it.

In their permit application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Dominion conveniently omitted the population of Lusby and grossly misrepresented other nearby populations, leaving out 39,732 Calvert County citizens whose health, safety and economic well being would be at the mercy of this LNG export facility. Then, this May, FERC came out with a draft Environmental Assessment of Dominion’s proposed expansion. Nowhere in the Environmental Assessment does FERC mention the population of Lusby and surrounding towns except when discussing property values.

Of 377 residential structures within 1 mile of the DCP facility (as of 2011), 323 were built after the [import] facility commenced operations in 1978 (PPRP, 2014). This suggests that housing demand has not been significantly affected by proximity to DCP. Because the nearest residences to the [export] Liquefaction Facilities are already near to an in-use industrial facility, and DCP would implement various measures to shield the new facilities from adjacent areas, we conclude the proposed Liquefaction Facilities would not result in a significant impact on nearby property values.

Do my elephant ears deceive me? Is THE sole federal agency responsible for allowing this facility to be built equating an LNG import facility with an LNG export facility? That’s ludicrous! They are like night and day.  Through pipelines and compressor stations that will run through Maryland, Dominion plans, on a daily basis, to bring in four times the amount of fracked natural gas that all of Maryland uses in one day. This fracked gas will then be put through a volatile, energy-intensive liquefaction process before being shipped off to Asia.

The proposed export facility’s proximity to a dense population is unprecedented. An LNG export facility has NEVER been built so close to homes! The Society of International Gas Tankers and Terminal Operators, of which Dominion Cove Point is a member, states that no civilians should exist within at least 2.2 miles from the facility. Yet 2,365 “residential structures” do, along with two school, 19 daycare centers, two shopping centers, and Cove Point State Park, which is filled with 7 sports fields, tennis and basketball courts, playgrounds, a swimming pool, picnic tables and, therefore, lots of children and their families.

Dominion and FERC, however, think there is no reason for concern. This, despite the fact that the LNG export facility will spew 20.4 tons of air pollutants per year that local citizens will have no choice but to breathe. There are carcinogens in these airborne chemicals, as well as chemicals that can have a significant negative impact on the cardiovascular and respiratory systems, the liver and kidneys and so much more. The list is like a bad Dr. Suess poem.

Ammonia, butane, sulfuric acid
Benzene, toluene, hydrogen sulfide
Formaldehyde, hexane, ethylbenzene
And nitrogen oxide out the wazoo
But not to worry
It won’t harm you.

Then there’s the fact that LNG facilities have the proven potential for explosions. Dominion Cove Point will be cramming liquefaction equipment and storage tanks into an unusually small area, increasing the risk for catastrophic accidents. Stockpiles of highly toxic, potentially explosive chemicals could trigger a massive vapor cloud if leaked out.  A large cloud of combustible material is very dangerous and almost impossible to control, despite any safety systems installed to prevent ignition. Very recent explosions at other LNG facilities caused a 2-mile radius evacuation of 1000 residents and workers in Plymouth WA and 95 residents within a 5-mile radius in Opal, WY.

Did I mention that the export facility would also be within three miles of Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant?

FERC mentions “DCP would implement various measures to shield the new facilities from adjacent areas.”  One principal measure involves building an untested 6-story high, 3/4-mile wide wall which would supposedly contain a vapor cloud and subsequent “fireball.” Not exactly a comforting safety measure if you are living within a couple of miles of the facility, especially given that Dominion is only referring to this wall as a sound wall intended to mitigate sound pollution that will befall the town of Lusby’s ears for decades to come.  If Dominion admitted the wall was there to prevent a possible vapor cloud from affecting residents, they would be admitting that there are inherent dangers involved in an LNG export facility.  They certainly don’t want to do that.

If a catastrophic event were to occur, residents from more than 265 homes southeast and adjacent to Dominion Cove Point are at risk of not being able to evacuate, as the two-lane road that runs by Dominion Cove Point would be the only exit route. In an explosion, these residents would need to drive toward and pass within 300 feet of the LNG facility to escape. Yet, emergency response plans have yet to be presented to the community.   FERC concluded that Dominion will provide help, so not to worry.

Dominion is poised to begin construction as soon as FERC gives the go-ahead, which appears to be FERC’s plan.

This is where Horton comes in.  There are, in fact, a lot of Hortons in our region and across the country who are listening, and we are not going to let this happen. We will not let it happen because profits for the gas industry do not trump the health and safety of children and their families, the ones who live in “residential structures.” Despite the jobs and tax revenue that Dominion keeps touting they will bring to the community,  they come at at too high a price and are not worth the risks the export facility will pose to the community.

And Calvert County residents aren’t the only Whos not being heard. Dominion and FERC are turning a deaf ear to the people of Myersville, Maryland who are fighting one of the compressor stations Dominion is set to build in their small town to move the gas from Appalachia through Maryland to Cove Point – a potentially explosive compressor station that will emit 23.5 tons of nitrogen oxide into the air and is located less than a mile from the elementary school. Dominion is also turning a deaf ear to the people who are being poisoned by fracking in states like Pennsylvania and West Virginia – states that will suffer profoundly with increased fracking should the export facility be approved.

The safety and health of citizens should come before all else. Health professionals, environmentalists, students, faith leaders and concerned citizens join them in demanding that FERC conduct a proper Environmental Impact Statement and Quantitative Risk Assessment to thoroughly analyze all potential risks that an LNG export facility will pose to Maryland residents.  They deserve nothing less.

“Should I put this speck down?”
Horton thought with alarm.
“If I do, these small persons may come to great harm.
I can’t put it down. And I won’t! After all
A person’s a person. No matter how small.”

Will you join us?  We can use all the Hortons we can get.


Demand that FERC conduct a proper, thorough Environmental Impact Statement!

Learn more about actions you can take to stop the rubber stamping of Dominion Cove Point.

Learn more about the dangers of Dominion’s Cove Point LNG export facility.


Whose Security Is at Stake? My Unexpected Hassle with Dominion Cove Point


On Saturday I went to my stepson’s graduation from St. Mary’s College in southern Maryland.  It was a beautiful day, and attending family were filled with love and pride as we took in this milestone.  We snapped lots of pictures when the ceremony was over, with big smiles on our faces, attuned to both the impressive accomplishments achieved and the opportunities on the road ahead.

Speaking of the road ahead, it turns out Dominion’s Cove Point was on the way home, very close to the college.  My husband Gregg and I decided to drive by the dormant liquid natural gas (LNG) import facility that Dominion Resources of Virginia hopes to turn into an export facility as soon as possible.  I wanted to see for myself how close the facility is to family residences.  I had heard they were just across a two-lane road and, lo and behold, they are!


Notice the LNG storage tank just beyond the gate!

I got out of the car to take a few photos, and as soon as I got back in, security pulled up behind us, lights flashing.  They asked what I was doing there.  I explained that I had heard about Dominion Cove Point and wanted to see for myself how close the LNG facility was to the community.  He asked for my ID and then went around and took down Gregg’s license plate.  He was on his walkie-talkie the entire time and continued to detain us there, as if we were a threat of some sort.  After a few minutes, Gregg said we had been detained long enough, and we parted ways.

Really?  Was it necessary to detain us for taking a couple of photographs outside of the facility?  Who’s the real threat to security?  A concerned citizen or a proposed LNG export facility that has the proven potential to explode right beside a residential neighborhood?  The answer should be a no brainer. Apparently it’s not.

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Finding Rachel Carson


I feel as if this is a confession and an embarrassing one at that.  I say this because, as a passionate “environmentalist,” I should have already known intimately the work of Rachel Carson.  But, in all honesty, I only knew about four sentences worth of who she was, a true hero that brought scientific light to the blind irresponsibility and profoundly toxic effects of spraying the chemical DDT on the living Earth.  With the publishing of her monumental book Silent Spring in 1962, Carson set in motion the first laws in this country to safeguard the environment.

Yet it is only now that I have found her words, and I am grateful beyond measure. It is like opening up a treasure chest and finding pure gold.  Nothing beats an insightful, poetic biologist.  At the same time, her words are deeply disturbing to hear because, 50 years later, we are still irresponsibly contaminating our world and ourselves with toxic chemicals at an alarming rate.  We are still ignoring science.

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Natural Gas is Not Clean (Even If Ads Say It Is)

Cove Point Rally in downtown Baltimore, February 20, 2014

Cove Point rally in downtown Baltimore, February 20, 2014

I have been quiet for a while on the writing front.  I’ve been more of an activist of late, compelled by the urgency to change where we source our energy before we poison ourselves right out of existence.  I’ve been going to press events and rallies for such things as the proposed Dominion Cove Point liquid natural gas (LNG) export facility in southern Maryland.  I’ve been making video shorts of some of the moving speeches given at these rallies. I’ve been speaking in places of faith about fracking. And I’ve been going to Annapolis, Maryland to learn how my state government works, how to meet with elected officials and educate them on what I know and why it matters.

In all these events and actions, I carry in my heart the people I have met over these past months and years who have been directly affected by the ramifications of high-volume, slick water hydraulic fracturing – more commonly known as fracking.  They are sick. Their children are sick.  Their drinking water and air have been contaminated by the fracking process with incredibly toxic chemicals that should never touch humans.  They have lost the value of their homes and peace in their lives.

Now, Dominion Resources of Virginia wants to turn its dormant liquid natural gas import facility in residential Lusby, Maryland into an export facility, with a massive contract already in place to export the gas to India and Japan for the next 20 years.  It will be the first LNG export facility on the east coast.

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Fukushima and the Role of Catastrophe in Human Evolution

Officials in protective gear check for signs of radiation on children who are from the evacuation area near the Fukushima Daini nuclear plant  Photo: REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Officials in protective gear check for signs of radiation on children who are from the evacuation area near the Fukushima Daini nuclear plant
Photo: REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Sometimes there are impending disasters that are so extreme, I have to tune them out for fear that they will have too great an impact on my capacity to function in daily life.  Such had been the case with the nuclear catastrophe in Fukushima, Japan.  Since the initial accident in March of 2011, there has been little in media covering the ongoing leakage of radioactive waste into the air and Pacific Ocean; little on how a yet-to-be-quelled damaged reactor remains a serious threat to us all.  It was easy enough to tune it out.  Until my daughter Claire decided she loved to eat dried seaweed.

In my Internet meanderings, I had come across an article on Japanese seaweed showing high levels of radiation.  I remember quietly mourning the loss of sushi, knowing I was now much less likely to eat it, not knowing where the seaweed – or the fish for that matter – came from.  Still, I do eat sushi on rare occasion, quietly pushing away thoughts of radiation, telling myself that a little radiation here or there is probably tolerable.

But not when it comes to Claire.  So I looked at the packet of dried seaweed she loves and saw that it was from Korea.  I investigated further and learned that Korea was on the back end of the nuclear meltdown, and Korean seaweed and fish were showing no sign of radiation.  I was relieved, knowing Claire was in the clear.  Time to tune Fukushima out again and move on.

Except that I couldn’t.  I was already knee-deep.  I had learned that radioactive waste from Fukushima has been pouring into the Pacific Ocean for the past 2.5 years and is heading toward the West Coast.  It was deeply disturbing news to bear, yet almost paled in comparison to what is currently happening with Fukushima Diiachi Unit 4, the nuclear reactor that still has the potential to cause the most powerful, widespread nuclear accident in human history.

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