Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh was the keynote speaker at the University of Baltimore Law Review’s Oct. 17 symposium, “Can the Law Save the Chesapeake Bay?”
Evan Thalenberg, J.D. ’86, the founder and president of Chesapeake BaySavers, spoke after introductory comments by Dean Ronald Weich.
Thalenberg, who maintains a law practice in Baltimore, said he became interested in the state of the bay 10 years ago, when his daughter was pregnant.
“She went to an OB who said, ‘Just don’t swim in the Chesapeake Bay; you could lose your baby,’” he said. “I was shocked.”
Frosh opened with a discussion of climate change and the devastating July 30 rainstorm and flood in Ellicott City.
“The havoc that was caused was extraordinary,” he said. “Unfortunately, it’s not the last time we’ll experience this.”
Frosh described the consequences of population growth in the Chesapeake basin, including more impervious surfaces – which do not absorb rainfall – and more automobile pollution.
“Climate change and the increase in human population pose great problems today,” he said.
Asked about solutions, Frosh replied: “Mass transit is incredibly important. Automobiles cause a lot of the problems we now struggle with.”
In addition to cutting carbon emissions, Frosh said it was necessary to reduce nutrient pollution, or nitrogen and phosphorus emissions from agricultural runoff, which cause toxic algae blooms in the bay, among other problems.
Frosh also spoke of budget cuts that have significantly reduced the number of state Department of Natural Resources inspectors, who police the Chesapeake Bay as well as state parks and forests.
Seven or eight years ago the department had 450 inspectors; today it has 250, he said.
“We’re told we have to do more with less,” he said. “Well, that’s crap. We’re going to do less with less.”
Nevertheless, Frosh said, Maryland has made “heroic” efforts to clean up the Chesapeake, mandating upgrades to sewage-treatment plants and improving stormwater management.
“We have to retain that sense of urgency,” he said. “We have to redouble our efforts.”