How much cost is too much cost when ensuring public health and safety in the air that we breath? Is it more important to protect an unsustainable industry than to ensure and sustain the health and wellness of communities and citizens within in the State? These are the questions we should be asking and finding answers to.
Maryland Senate Bill 773, The Community Healthy Air Act, is a call upon the State of Maryland to direct the Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) to assess the Departments compliance of State and Federal laws and regulations of air quality. It also requires MDE to assess whether certain Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation’s (CAFO) are complying with same said laws and regulations.
The environmental assessment requires that MDE identify all air pollutants emitted from CAFO operations within the State, collecting data from CAFO operations in accordance with an air monitoring program implemented by MDE, identify all State and Federal laws and regulations related to air pollutant emissions that apply, identify any specific exemptions or exceptions to State or Federal laws and regulations related to air pollutant emissions from CAFO operations within the State, and requires MDE to report to the General Assembly of Maryland on or before October 1, 2018. The report shall include emissions of air pollutants from CAFO’s and MDE’s compliance and the compliance of CAFO’s in the State, with State and Federal air quality laws and regulations including the findings of the environmental assessment required.
In other words, folks, MDE will assess the Departments compliance of State and Federal laws regulations related to air pollutant emissions from CAFO’s within the State. The Department will assess air pollutant emissions from CAFO’s within the State and compliance with the same laws and regulations and will monitor and identify air pollutant emissions from CAFO’s within the State.
Maryland SB 773 is straight forward in directing MDE to conduct a public health assessment, or impact, study, if you will, related to emissions of air pollutants from CAFO’s.
Opposition to the legislation is coming from the chicken industry. The industry trade union, Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc. (DPI), is leading the charge with a news release using the same old tired tactics of opposition that are put forth in a suggestive and argumentative manner.
“This could impact our chicken growers if MDE tries to force its way onto farms to set up monitoring stations. It could lead to more state regulation for how growers operate their chicken houses”, says DPI. DPI doesn’t own any chicken growers or farms. It’s amazing how the trade union is the face that shows up in the State Capitol telling legislators it represents farmers. Fomenting fear and unrest within the farming community is one of the same old and tired tactics I’m speaking of. The government is going to force its way onto your farm and take over. It will direct you how to run your farm. This is what DPI is essentially saying to farmers.
Spouting the argument of “gathering scientifically valid and accurate data” is another old and tired tactic put forth by DPI. In the past, the trade union has gone as far as calling peer reviewed scientific research conducted by researchers with doctorate degrees, “BUNK”. DPI should be thankful for SB 773 as it will ensure that valid and accurate data will be collected by the State. Unless, of course, DPI doesn’t want the public to know what air pollutant emissions are spewing from those CAFO’s the industry desperately needs.
On the Eastern Shore of Maryland, particularly in the lower counties, a building explosion of CAFO’s the size of warehouses with as many as 24 on one piece of land, can be found dotting the landscape. Communities have raised concerns about the “in your face” location of the warehouses, some can be as close as 50 feet from a neighbor’s property line. DPI tells county legislators that it has a “Good Neighbor Policy” for farmers to follow and that is good enough for the local “powers that be” allowing for slack County building and zoning regulations despite the fact that the DPI “Good Neighbor Policy” is an unenforceable document that is useless. The document is something that was made up by an industry trade union that isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.
Further argument against SB 773 coming from the “industry denier,” DPI, is that “this bill is being pushed by a handful of persons in Wicomico County who do not want chicken houses built and operated in an be agricultural areas of the county. They are working with professional advocates not friendly toward the chicken industry. This could be part of their efforts to close down the chicken industry. Interestingly, the legislative sponsors are from Montgomery and Prince George’s County and Baltimore City.”
More of the same old tired tactics is to first minimize those in the communities and infer that outsiders are running the show with a hidden agenda of closing down the industry. With the Chesapeake Bay separating the Eastern Shore of Maryland from the main land, locals call those people as being from “across the bay”. What is interesting about the SB 773 legislative sponsors being from “across the bay”, is the question of why the legislators from the Eastern Shore of Maryland have historically not sponsored, and have opposed, any legislation concerning the chicken industry unless, of course, it’s legislation giving away taxpayer dollars to sustain the industry. Corporate welfare is on the agenda for Eastern Shore legislators.
Personally, I’ve never seen Eastern Shore legislators take a stand for citizens within the community and they’ve ignored the inalienable rights of citizens to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. There aren’t many citizens out there celebrating with happiness when those huge fans in the chicken warehouses come on, emitting lord knows what, and permeating the air in communities with the stench and particulate matter. Industry claims the “right to farm” however if I’m not mistaken, every American citizen was granted “inalienable rights” on July 4th, 1776 with the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.
Something is very wrong with this picture. Somewhere along the line, the communities of the Eastern Shore of Maryland have become less than chickens. Tomorrow, February 28th, 2017, a Maryland Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee hearing will take place in Annapolis at 1:00 PM. We will see how important the public health and welfare of our communities are to the State of Maryland. Chickens don’t pay taxes or vote!