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Water Reporters Spur Actions to Protect the Bay

July 26—The Day the Poop Hit the Bay

Out and About with the Casco Baykeeper

On July 26, 1.69 million gallons of partially-treated wastewater overflowed from Portland’s East End Sewage Treatment Facility into Casco Bay. This story made the news and captured our attention. That same day, 9.85 million gallons of combined sewer overflows (CSOs), containing raw sewage and toxic chemicals, also entered the Bay. Not a single news outlet reported that fact.

So while swimmers—especially those preparing for the Peaks to Portland Swim—worried about the impact of the partially-treated discharge from the East End plant (wastewater that had already had solids removed and been chlorinated to kill bacteria), we worried about the close to 10 million gallons of a far more toxic slurry that entered the Bay.

On that day, the combined sewer overflow at Mackworth Street discharged 824,000 gallons of untreated water and the CSO at Dartmouth Street discharged 833,000 gallons into Back Cove. The India Street CSO discharged 415,000 gallons and the Long Wharf CSO released 563,000 gallons of untreated water into Portland Harbor.

Polluted water gushes into Casco Bay from a combined sewer overflow beneath Portland’s busy waterfront.
Photo credit: Dave Laliberte

What is a Combined Sewer Overflow?
Combined sewer systems are relics of the past that we are still using today. In Portland and many cities across the county, these systems were designed to collect—and combine— sewage and stormwater in the same pipes. Most of the time, the pipes transport all the collected wastewater to a sewage treatment plant, where it is treated and then discharged into a body of water. But when we experience heavy rains or snowmelt, the runoff entering the system exceeds the capacity of the pipes. When the pipes fill to certain levels, these antiquated systems are designed to dump a mix of stormwater, untreated waste, toxic materials, and debris directly into the ocean, or into nearby streams and rivers that flow into the Bay.
 
 
 

These periodic discharges are far more concerning to us than a one-time breach at the East End facility. For over 25 years, Friends of Casco Bay has been pushing the City to eliminate these combined sewer overflows. We are very supportive of Portland’s current work to separate combined pipes, build storage tanks, and eliminate CSOs. Over the next two years, as Casco Baykeeper, I will represent Friends of Casco Bay as a member of the stakeholder team that helps shepherd a process called integrated planning, which will enable the City to meet these objectives efficiently and in ways that best improve water quality.

The Environmental Protection Agency created the integrated planning approach to help municipalities such as Portland meet multiple Clean Water Act requirements by identifying efficiencies from separate wastewater and stormwater programs and sequencing investments so that the highest priority projects come first. This approach can also lead to more sustainable and comprehensive solutions, such as green infrastructure, that improve water quality and provide multiple benefits that enhance community vitality.

We will continue to participate, as we have for over 25 years, to help ensure that these combined efforts achieve more effective and timely improvements in water quality in Casco Bay.

 

What you can do to reduce stormwater and sewage pollution

  • Support communities’ efforts to upgrade their wastewater and stormwater systems.
  • Employ “green solutions” to reduce stormwater runoff from our own properties:
    • install permeable pavement on driveways and patios, so water percolates into the soil below
    • reduce the size of the lawn; plant shrubs and ground cover, which hold water better then turf
    • use rain barrels to catch runoff from roofs
    • Boaters should use shoreside bathroom facilities or pumpout services to keep raw sewage out of the Bay.
      Our pumpout boat operates from Memorial Day to Halloween. Contact pumpout [at] cascobay [dot] org.

Water Reporters watch out for Casco Bay all year long

Water Reporter Volunteers are important to our Baykeeping efforts!

Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca acts as the eyes, ears, and voice of the Bay. She is on or along the water almost daily, but she can’t be everywhere. Ivy says, “We rely on volunteers to report conditions around the Bay. The Water Reporter App really helps those efforts because we instantly receive a photo that records the location and time. We can then use the app to respond and let you know what actions we took.”

Volunteers began signing up as Water Reporters in early August. More than 30 volunteers have signed up around the Bay and have posted many observations with us.

For example, Morrigan shot this image of a gull sitting on a dead harbor sea near Bangs Island. We then promptly shared this information with Marine Mammals of Maine.

In Water Reporter, hashtags are used to categorize images and Morrigan used #wildlife for this image.


In another example, Ivy took photos of an algal bloom in South Portland near Forest City Cemetery, using #algae. These photos add to our understanding of potential sources of excess nutrient loading in the area.


Morrigan provided a close-up of the thick algal mat there.

And we like to get good news, too:

Rick reported new growth of eelgrass beds sprouting along the shoreline of Great Diamond Island.


Mark reported on #wildlife of a great blue heron and egrets taking flight in Maquoit Bay.

The Water Reporter app collects all of our observations in one place in an organized and searchable way. We are so excited about the ability of this tool to record what’s happening around our beautiful but changing Bay—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

We are looking for more observers to share photos of things they are seeing on the Bay all year long. If you are interested, you can join our Water Reporter network here.

Identifying the area of the Bay where you took the photo and categorizing the image with a hashtag, such as #algae, #pollution report, #trash, #wildlife, and #erosion, makes it easier for us to search for similar occurrences around the Bay.

Tending Portland’s public spaces without pesticides

On July 1, Portland’s Pesticide Use Ordinance goes into effect for public properties. (In January, 2019, restrictions on applying synthetic pesticides on private property will go into effect.)

We asked City Arborist Jeff Tarling how the Parks Department may manage the City’s 721 acres of parks, playgrounds, trails, fields, and cemeteries differently. “This ordinance gives our staff opportunities to manage nature respectfully, to preserve and adapt to nature, rather than trying to control it.” Mowing high, replacing lawn with meadow, and planting native shrubs and trees are actions Jeff recommends for public and private properties.


Removing invasive plants mechanically, not chemically, is a hands-on approach Jeff endorses. Jeff showed Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell a long row of native trees and shrubs that students from King Middle School had just planted as a coastal buffer along the Back Cove parking lot. As he talked, he couldn’t resist pulling out invasive bittersweet that was overtaking other vegetation along the path.

Jeff explained that the Parks Department has assembled a “watch list” of invasive plants in their parks, which they plan to remove by hand over time, not by spraying with pesticides.

Cathy was a member of the task force that helped to shape the pesticide ordinance. She says, “As the whole community becomes more aware of the need to reduce the use of pesticides and fertilizers, it will reduce the likelihood that lawn chemicals will move off the landscape and into the Bay.”

Out and About with the Casco Baykeeper

Out and About with the Casco Baykeeper

As always, Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca has been on the move, working across Casco Bay, the state—and the nation—on efforts to protect the environmental health of Casco Bay.

A peek into her appointment calendar shows some of the highlights so far this year, as she continued to track Legislative issues and to comment on proposed wastewater and stormwater discharge permits that the Department of Environmental Protection issues to municipalities.

January

I became coordinator of the Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification Partnership (MOCA) for 2018.

I will help coordinate research and advocacy on ocean acidification with a strong statewide network of policy makers, fishermen, shellfish growers, and scientists. This year-long role supports our work examining coastal acidification and excess nitrogen.

February

I invited Portland’s Water Resources Manager, Nancy Gallinaro, and Portland Water District’s Director of Wastewater Services, Scott Firmin, to travel with me to meet the new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 1 Administrator, Alexandra Dapolito Dunn. We highlighted our joint efforts to reduce nitrogen pollution, combined sewer overflows, and stormwater pollution to Casco Bay. I shared our data showing the impacts of climate change on Casco Bay.

Our Casco Baykeeper meets EPA Administrator Alex Dunn.

 

Administrator Dunn accepted our invitation to come to Maine in June to attend a meeting of the Maine Nutrient Council, a group convened by Casco Bay Estuary Partnership. Afterward, Administrator Dunn will tour the Bay on our Baykeeper boat, a great opportunity for a close-up view of issues that threaten the water quality of Casco Bay.

March

Senator Angus King greets fellow Mainers Bill Mook, Hattie Train, Ivy Frignoca, and Richard Nelson.

I traveled to Washington, DC, at the invitation of Ocean Conservancy, to meet with our Congressional delegation and ask for full funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the EPA. The measures we pressed for passed in the omnibus budget!

Back in Maine, I submitted comments opposing offshore drilling and then attended a meeting hosted by the Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management, to voice Friends of Casco Bay’s opposition to offshore drilling. I supported a resolve that was passed unanimously by our state legislature expressing its opposition to offshore drilling.

April

I testified at a public hearing as we worked to swiftly defeat a bill that would have practically eliminated the ability of municipalities to pass pesticide ordinances. If you contacted legislators after receiving our email alert about this issue, thank you! The bill was defeated!

I traveled to New Hampshire to attend a meeting of experts concerned about the rise in harmful algal blooms throughout the region, so we could learn more about new species appearing in Casco Bay.

May

I attended a meeting in West Bath, which drew together people who live and work along the New Meadows River, to discuss how expanding efforts in aquaculture may figure into the many uses of the estuary.

Research Associate Mike Doan gave Kate Simpson and Kayla McMurray, staffers for Senator Susan Collins, a ride to our Continuous Monitoring Station in Yarmouth. I met them at our “Cage of Science” as we demonstrated how we use technology to monitor the Bay hourly, 365 days a year. We explained that though we do not receive funding directly from the EPA, the Agency has a vital role in advising state regulators on strategies to reduce pollution, funding other research, and enforcing the Clean Water Act. This work helps us all protect the environmental health of Casco Bay.

June

The Portland Water District (PWD) hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of the massive, $12 million project that upgraded the aeration system at the East End Wastewater Treatment Facility. This improvement could ultimately reduce nitrogen in the treated sewage released into the Bay by up to 1000 lbs. a day! PWD’s General Manager Carrie Lewis recognized our contribution “to understanding the issues affecting Casco Bay and make positive contributions towards collaborative solutions.”

The Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification Partnership (MOCA) is a volunteer partnership that seeks to coordinate the work of governmental agencies and private organizations and citizens who are studying and implementing means to reduce the impacts of or help adapt to ocean and coastal acidification.

The Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification Partnership (MOCA) is a volunteer partnership that seeks to coordinate the work of governmental agencies and private organizations and citizens who are studying and implementing means to reduce the impacts of or help adapt to ocean and coastal acidification.

With my colleagues in the MOCA Partnership, I hosted a workshop for nearly 60 scientists, harvesters, policy makers, and advocates on What We Know about Ocean Acidification and Maine’s Lobsters. The event at Bowdoin College featured current research on the effects of climate change on lobsters and emphasized the need for ecosystem-level, long-term studies.

As the year progresses, I look forward to continuing to keep you updated on the biggest issues affecting the health of the waters we all love.

Friends of Casco Bay Testimony in Opposition to LD 1853: An Act To Ensure the Safe and Consistent Regulation of Pesticides throughout the State by Providing Exemptions to Municipal Ordinances That Regulate Pesticides

March 21, 2018

Senator Paul Davis
Representative Danny Martin
State and Local Government Committee
c/o Legislative Information Office 100 State House Station Augusta, ME 04333

Re: Friends of Casco Bay Testimony in Opposition to LD 1853: An Act To Ensure the Safe and Consistent Regulation of Pesticides throughout the State by Providing Exemptions to Municipal Ordinances That Regulate Pesticides

Dear Senator Davis, Representative Martin, and Distinguished Members of the State and Local Government Committee:

Please accept this letter as the testimony of Friends of Casco Bay in opposition to LD 1853: An Act To Ensure the Safe and Consistent Regulation of Pesticides throughout the State by Providing Exemptions to Municipal Ordinances That Regulate Pesticides. Friends of Casco Bay is a marine stewardship organization formed over a quarter century ago to improve and protect the environmental health of Casco Bay. Our work involves education, advocacy, water quality monitoring, and collaborative partnerships.

A year ago we submitted testimony similar to today’s testimony, opposing LD 1505: An Act To Create Consistency in the Regulation of Pesticides[1], a bill that would have eliminated municipal Home Rule to pass or implement pesticide-related ordinances. Although LD 1853 differs from LD 1505 by not explicitly referring to Home Rule, it implicitly guts it. LD 1853 provides that municipal pesticide ordinances cannot apply: (1) to commercial applicators and spray contracting firms or (2) to private applicators when the private applicators are producing agricultural or horticultural commodities. Horticulture means “the science and art of growing fruits, vegetables, flowers, or ornamental plants.”[2] Horticulture is: “[t]hat branch of agriculture concerned with growing plants that are used by people for food, for medicinal purposes, and for aesthetic gratification.”[3]

LD 1853 in essence removes the right of municipalities to pass pesticide ordinances for virtually any purpose. No ordinance can apply to commercial applicators. Nor can an ordinance apply to home applicators for basically any conceivable purpose, including weed-free lawns maintained for “aesthetic gratification.” For this reason, we respectfully request that this Committee unanimously recommend that LD 1853 ought not to pass, the same recommendation that it made for LD 1505.

PESTICIDES IN CASCO BAY

Our previous testimony, attached as Exhibit A, details the sampling Friends of Casco Bay conducted to detect the presence or absence of pesticides in stormwater that flows into Casco Bay. In summary, over 8 years, our research identified 10 different pesticides at 14 locations around the Bay. None of the pesticides are listed as safe for use in marine environments. For example, these six toxic pesticides were detected:

2, 4-D: banned in five countries, this herbicide is toxic to aquatic invertebrates and may be linked to non-Hodgkins lymphoma in humans.

Clopyralid: this herbicide has been linked to birth defects in animals.

Diazinon: banned from being sold to U.S. consumers but still legal for use, this insecticide has a high aquatic toxicity and is linked to reproductive problems.

Dicamba: found in groundwater throughout the U.S., this herbicide is toxic to fish and zooplankton.

MCPP: along with 2, 4-D, this herbicide is in the same family of chemicals as Agent Orange and is highly toxic to bay shrimp.

Propiconazole: this fungicide is a possible carcinogen.

Consistent with our mission to improve and protect the environmental health of Casco Bay, we strongly believe these substances should not be discharged into our marine waters.

MAINE MUNCIPAL PESTICIDES ORDINANCES

The Maine Constitution grants Home Rule to municipalities.[4] Home Rule allows municipalities to exercise any power or function that the Legislature confers upon them, and that is not denied expressly or by clear implication.[5] With respect to pesticide ordinances, the Legislature requires a municipality to notify the Maine Board of Pesticide Control (BPC) when it intends to adopt an ordinance. In turn, the BPC must maintain a list of all municipal ordinances that specifically apply to pesticide storage, distribution or use.[6] Municipalities adopt ordinances through considerable public process.[7] For example, Friends of Casco Bay’s Executive Director, Cathy Ramsdell, served for nearly a year on a task force that helped Portland shape its recently enacted pesticide ordinance.[8]

As a result of this very thoughtful process, 29 of Maine’s nearly 500 municipalities have enacted ordinances that narrowly restrict pesticide use to meet local needs.[9] It should be noted that none of these municipal ordinances out-right ban the use of pesticides. Here are some examples relevant to Casco Bay:

Brunswick prohibits use or storage of most pesticides other than for households and agriculture within the aquifer protection zone. The town also prohibits aerial applications other than public health applications performed under the auspices of the Town or State.  Exceptions may be approved by Codes Enforcement Officer.

Harpswell prohibits the use of the insect growth regulators (IGRs) diflubenzuron and tebufenozide and the aerial application of all IGRs and any insecticide whose product label indicates that it is harmful to aquatic invertebrates. The town also restricts the use of neonicotinoid insecticides.

New Gloucester requires application to be consistent with DCAF standards.

Portland’s recently enacted ordinance will restrict the use of synthetic pesticides for all public and private turf, landscape, and outdoor pest management activities. The ordinance takes effect for City property on July 1, 2018 and for private property on January 1, 2019. There are provisions for emergency exemptions.

South Portland curtails the use of pesticides for turf, landscape and outdoor pest management.[10]

Research revealed no legal challenges to these ordinances. They stand as a proper application of Home Rule and as excellent examples of municipalities crafting more protective regulation than federal and state law to protect the health of local residents, natural resources, and environmental concerns. LD 1853 should not be allowed to eviscerate this proper and necessary exercise of Home Rule.

For the reasons set forth above and in our prior testimony, we reiterate our request that this Committee unanimously recommend that LD 1853 ought not to pass.

Respectfully,

Ivy L. Frignoca
Casco Baykeeper
Friends of Casco Bay

CC: Jennifer Hall, Clerk

 

[1] See Friends of Casco Bay Testimony Oppose LD 1505, https://www.cascobay.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/05012017-FOCB-Testimony-Oppose-LD-1505-Final.pdf

[2] Merriam Webster Dictionary, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/horticulture.

[3] https://nifa.usda.gov/sites/default/files/resources/definition_of_specialty_crops.pdf.

[4] Maine Constitution, Art. VIII, pt. 2, § 1.

[5] CMP v. Town of Lebanon, 571 A.2d 1189, 1192 (ME 1990); 30-A MRSA § 3001.

[6] 22 MRSA § 1471-U.

[7] See e.g. 30-A MRSA §§ 3001 et seq.

[8] https://www.cascobay.org/2018/02/06/protecting-bay-pesticides/.

[9] http://www.maine.gov/dacf/php/pesticides/public/municipal_ordinances.shtml.

[10] Id.

Ivy Frignoca, Casco Baykeeper

Opposing the 2019-2024 Draft Proposed National Oil and Gas Leasing Program

Ms. Kelly Hammerle, Chief
National Oil and Gas Leasing Program Development and Coordination Branch
Leasing Division, Office of Strategic Resources,
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM)
45600 Woodland Road
Sterling, VA 20166-9216

February 26, 2018

Re: Docket ID: BOEM-2017-0074: Comments opposing the 2019-2024 Draft Proposed National Oil and Gas Leasing Program

Dear Ms. Hammerle,

Friends of Casco Bay respectfully submits these comments in opposition to any opening of the Gulf of Maine and New England coastal waters to offshore drilling.

Friends of Casco Bay is a nonprofit organization with several thousand members and volunteers who live, work, and recreate on Casco Bay, Maine. Our mission is to improve and protect the environmental health of the Bay. For over 25 years, we have monitored the water quality of Casco Bay and worked with business owners and regulators to find solutions to problems threatening the health of our coastal waters. Of particular relevance to the Draft Proposed National Oil and Gas Leasing Program (DPP), our Casco Baykeeper® sits on the Maine and New Hampshire Area Committee[1] where she works closely with government officials to prevent oil spills and to respond in the event of a spill. This work is relevant because Portland Harbor is a busy port situated in Casco Bay, which receives oil tankers at several terminals and at an oil pipeline. Our harbor has had oil spills in the past and works hard to prevent future spills.

We understand that our country remains dependent, in part, on fossil fuels for the short term, until such time as we can reduce energy consumption and expand use of renewable, cleaner energy sources. Nonetheless, we strongly oppose any opening of the Gulf of Maine to offshore drilling for the reasons set forth below.

Introduction

As the Northeast Ocean Plan opens:

New England was born of the ocean. The region’s identity and its vitality are inextricably intertwined with the sea. As with its past, New England’s future is equally bound to the fate of the great waters that roll ceaselessly from the northern reaches of the Gulf of Maine to Long Island Sound and the New York Bight far to the south. Sound management of these public resources, and of the regional economy that depends on them, is of paramount importance.” [2]

From its bold rocky outcroppings, sandy beaches, and verdant salt marshes, to its offshore kelp forests, canyons and deep basins, New England’s waters teem with thousands of animal and plant species, comprising one of the most spectacular and productive ecosystems in the world. The region includes many geologically diverse but intricately interdependent areas, including the Gulf of Maine.[3] Because of this significance, New England’s waters have been protected from offshore drilling.

The DPP proposes to repeal that protection and offer 9 leases in the Atlantic, as close as 3 miles offshore. This proposal is meeting with resounding opposition. Regionally, New England’s Senators swiftly and collectively introduced bi-partisan legislation to bar oil and gas drilling off the region’s coast.[4] Congressman Cicilline (D-RI), supported by Congressman Poliquin (R-ME) and Congresswoman Pingree (D-ME),  introduced similar legislation in the House.[5]

“I am opposed to oil drilling off the coast of our state of Maine,” said Republican Congressman Poliquin. “So much of our state’s economy and tens of thousands of Maine jobs along our coast depend on our marine and tourism industries. I am committed to protecting Maine’s unique natural resources.”[6] Congresswoman Pingree vowed to fight the president’s policy: “President Trump’s offshore drilling plan is unprecedented and will face major opposition from Mainers.”[7] Senators Collins and King issued a joint statement: “The waters off Maine’s coast provide a healthy ecosystem for our state’s fisheries and support a vigorous tourism industry, both of which support thousands of jobs and generate billions of dollars in revenue for Maine each year.  With our environment so closely tied to the vitality of Maine’s economy, we cannot risk the health of our ocean on a shortsighted proposal that could impact Maine people for generations. We are proud to join our colleagues from New England to underscore the need to protect our waters from offshore drilling.”[8]

At a more local level, Maine’s legislature has taken up an emergency resolve opposing the DPP, and the state’s largest port city, Portland, has passed a resolution opposing the DPP.

Friends of Casco Bay joins the resounding opposition to oil drilling off the Maine coast. In addition to agreeing with the eloquent language from the New England Ocean Plan and the impassioned words of our Congressional delegation, we find the reasoning behind the DPP to be flawed and incomplete. First, the DPP’s stated purpose—to reduce our dependence on imported fuel—is belied by information from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), which shows that on-shore oil and gas production has greatly reduced our dependence on foreign fuel and led to an increase in US exports of oil and gas. Second, the DPP contains no analysis or consideration of the impacts of climate change. Third, the DPP ignores the Northeast Ocean Plan and the considerable analysis in the 2017–2022 Program, which removed the Atlantic from offshore leasing. Finally, the DPP ignores the tenuous legal underpinning of opening any potential lease sites in locations that President Obama withdrew from consideration pursuant to his authority under Section 12(a) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), 43 U.S.C. § 1341(a).

The DPP’s stated purpose- to reduce our dependence on imported fuel- is belied by information from the EIA

Existing data from the EIA which informed consideration of our nation’s energy needs under the 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program (the 2017-2022 Program) undercuts the stated purpose for the DPP—the need to open almost all of our coast to drilling to secure energy independence.

According to EIA data, over the past decade, the significant increase in oil and natural gas production from shale and tight formations has resulted in a significant decline in U.S. dependence on imported petroleum (EIA 2016a).[9] As a result, both net and gross imports of crude oil have been declining[10] and, beginning in 2011, U.S. exports of refined petroleum products exceeded imports.[11] Moreover, EIA analysis reveals that the actual amount of oil needed to meet the United States’ energy needs will continue to grow only until 2020, and will then stabilize and eventually decline.[12]

Based on this EIA analysis, there is no justification for opening the coast of New England to offshore drilling over the next 50 years. There is simply no need for the oil or gas that could potentially be extracted. The 2017-2022 Program more appropriately contemplates our nation’s energy needs by limiting the amount and location of potential lease sites.

The DPP fails to consider climate change, environmental threats, and social costs

As the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is fully aware, the Gulf of Maine is changing faster than almost any other marine area as a result of carbon emissions. It is warming faster and experiencing ocean acidification, changes in species, more harmful algal blooms, and a myriad of other problems associated with climate change.

The 2017-2022 Program acknowledges that we must consider the impacts of climate change when committing ourselves to continued reliance on fossil fuels. In fact, BOEM found it to be in “the public interest to disclose the potential climate impacts of Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) leasing decisions as part of its planning processes.”[13] The Bureau therefore prepared a report which estimates the social and environmental costs associated with greenhouse gas emissions from the Proposed Program and No Sale Option, as well as impacts from current and prior leasing programs. [14] BOEM felt that by completing this analysis, it was taking an important step toward a more complete disclosure to the public of the contribution of BOEM‐permitted OCS oil and gas exploration, development and production activities to national greenhouse gas emissions.[15]

The DPP, despite the overwhelming scientific certainty of climate change, completely fails to contemplate the impacts of climate change. If these factors are taken into consideration, BOEM would have to acknowledge that no drilling should occur in the Gulf of Maine.

The DPP ignores the Northeast Ocean Plan and the Overwhelming Evidence that Excluded the Atlantic from leasing under the 2017-2022 Program

BOEM should refer to the detailed Northeast Ocean Plan and the record of evidence that so recently led it to exclude New England from offshore drilling in the 2017-2022 Plan. On that evidence, BOEM should reverse its decision to consider lease sites off the coast of New England.

The DPP, in part, ignores the tenuous legal underpinning of opening any potential lease sites in locations that President Obama withdrew from consideration

President Obama withdrew 31 major Atlantic canyons that were not already protected by the National Monument from oil and gas leasing, exploration, and development. The canyons run along the Atlantic continental shelf break, from offshore New England to offshore Chesapeake Bay.[16] President Obama made these withdrawals pursuant to his authority under Section 12(a) of the OCSLA. Section 12(a) provides that a President, may, from time to time, withdraw from disposition any of the unleased lands of the outer Continental Shelf. Neither OCSLA nor any other provision of law authorizes a subsequent President to undo such a withdrawal. Therefore, President Trump’s Executive Order, to the extent it seeks to open these areas to drilling, is unlawful. BOEM must remove the Atlantic canyons from consideration.

Conclusion

For all of the above reasons, Friends of Casco Bay respectfully requests that BOEM remove the Gulf of Maine and the coast of New England from its offshore oil and gas leasing program.

Sincerely,

Ivy L. Frignoca
Casco Baykeeper
Friends of Casco Bay

 

[1] http://www.maine.gov/dep/spills/emergspillresp/areacommittee.html.

[2] https://neoceanplanning.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Northeast-Ocean-Plan-Chapter-1.pdf at 7.

[3] Id. at 8.

[4] https://www.whitehouse.senate.gov/news/release/-senators-introduce-bipartisan-new-england-offshore-drilling-ban.

[5] https://bangordailynews.com/2018/01/11/politics/pingree-poliquin-join-push-to-prevent-drilling-off-new-england-coast/.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] https://www.whitehouse.senate.gov/news/release/-senators-introduce-bipartisan-new-england-offshore-drilling-ban.

[9]   2017-2022 Program at 6-1.

[10] 2017-2022 Program at 6-2.

[11] 2017-2022 Program at 6-3.

[12] 2017-2022 Program at 6-5.

[13] 2017-2022 Program at 5-23-24.

[14] OCS Oil and Natural Gas: Potential Lifecycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions USDOI 2017–2022 OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Proposed Final Program BOEM Valuation of Program Areas 5-24 November 2016 and Social Cost of Carbon (BOEM 2016c).

[15] 2017-2022 Program at 5-24.

[16] Fact Sheet: Unique Atlantic Canyons Protected from Oil and Gas Activity

Cathy Ramsdell Interview

Protecting the Bay from Pesticides

Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell served for nearly a year on a task force to help the city develop the ordinance.

We are delighted to share that in January 2018, the City of Portland passed one of the strongest ordinances in the state to restrict pesticide use.

Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell served for nearly a year on a task force to help the city develop the ordinance. She often found herself a fulcrum of the group, reminding everyone of their common purpose to protect Casco Bay. The ordinance is similar to one that South Portland passed in 2016, also thanks in part to Friends of Casco Bay’s advocacy. While state and federal authorities have been slow to protect our waters from these toxic chemicals, we are heartened to see local communities take action.

Why restricting pesticide use is important for the health of the Bay: We have long been concerned about the possible impacts of lawn chemicals—pesticides and fertilizers—on the environmental health of Casco Bay. Our monitoring efforts revealed that the lawn chemicals we are putting on yards can end up in the Bay. Between 2001 and 2009, we collected rain water flowing into the Bay and analyzed the samples for a suite of pesticides. Lab results identified 9 different pesticides in 14 locations all around the Bay. Pesticides do not belong in the Bay, as they have the potential to harm lobsters, fish, and vital habitat.

 

Your eyes on the Bay–new directions in citizen science

Casco Bay, like ocean waters around the world, is changing and changing quickly. We are evolving our water quality monitoring to stay on top of the science of how the Bay may be changing.

At our Volunteer Appreciation Celebration this week [click here for photos!], we announced that we are launching two pilot projects that will enable our volunteer citizen scientists to use new technologies to increase our knowledge of the changing conditions around Casco Bay.

We rely on people all around the Bay to relay to us changes they are observing. Our new initiatives are designed to engage more volunteer citizen scientists in collecting data and sharing their observations of a changing Casco Bay.

Initiative #1: Measuring the Color and Clarity of Casco Bay

We are launching a pilot program to enlist citizen scientists to help us measure the color and clarity of our waters.

For more than a century, marine scientists have used the Forel-Ule color scale to document the color of oceans and lakes. People often consider blue water to indicate healthy oceans and dirty-brown water to indicate polluted water. In fact, scientists attest to color being an excellent indicator of what is happening in our oceans.

We are putting a modern spin on an old way of assessing water quality. We will train volunteers to use a specific smartphone app, as well as a Secchi disk. On tide-specific days and times, we will ask volunteers all around the Bay to use the app to take a photo of the water against the Secchi disk. Each volunteer will then compare the color of the water to an electronic version of the Forel-Ule scale built into the app. The protocols for this data collection are easy to follow, and the data helps address a question we often hear: “How is the Bay changing?”

We are launching this initiative because our colleagues at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences tell us that the waters of the Gulf of Maine have become increasingly yellow over the last century. We have seen heavy rains stain the surface waters of Casco Bay the color of tea. There is a lot of data on color and clarity for the Gulf of Maine, but not much has been collected in our nearshore areas.

Initiative #2: ON Casco Bay: Observing Network for Casco Bay

In 2016 and 2017, we saw a concerning increase in the number and extent of nuisance and harmful algal blooms in Casco Bay. Large mats of algae covered tidal flats, smothering animals underneath the mats, preventing juvenile clams from settling, and increasing the acidity of the sediment.

This year, we want to be on the lookout for green slime outbreaks, and Casco Bay needs more eyes looking out for its health! Friends of Casco Bay staff cannot be everywhere.

Photograph by Kevin Morris

We will enlist volunteers to help us observe and keep track of nuisance outbreaks. To do that, volunteers simply need a smartphone and a commitment to keep their eyes focused on our changing Bay.

We will train volunteers to use an innovative smartphone app that will enable them to document, catalogue, organize, and share their observations of the Bay. This information will be useful in our collaborations with other scientists, in expanding our community engagement by sharing observations on social media, and in our advocacy, to illustrate to regulators, legislators, and other policy makers changes happening around the Bay .

As this initiative evolves, we may ask volunteers to report any exciting, interesting or odd observations — from whales, osprey nests, or seals, to declines in eelgrass or mussel beds, clam die offs, jellyfish sightings, fish kills, invasive species outbreaks — you get the idea.

Stay Tuned

Be on the lookout for announcements regarding our training sessions on these pilot projects. We know that our longtime water quality monitors are eager to embark on a new adventure with us. We expect many new volunteers, who did not have the time to commit to our earlier water quality monitoring program, will jump aboard on one or both of these new efforts.

More eyes on the water and more advocates for its health are exactly what Casco Bay needs! In our experience, our volunteers are some of the most outspoken and well-spoken members of our community. We look forward to engaging more of you than ever. The commitment of volunteers will send ripple effects throughout towns around the Bay.