When I was young, my family and I would visit the scenic trails and rivers of Gunpowder Falls State Park. I remember spending countless summers drifting under the sun, fishing pole in one hand and soda in the other. I was reminded of this great state’s natural beauty each time I canoed its waterways and hiked its woods. That’s why as a Maryland resident, I am concerned about pollution’s impact on our beloved Chesapeake Bay.
Coal-fired plants are “the largest source of toxic water pollution in the United States based on toxicity,” according to Closing the Floodgates, a report published by a coalition of environmental groups.
Every year, Maryland’s seven power plants dump millions of pounds of toxins, including arsenic, selenium, and mercury into the Bay’s waterways. However, only five of the plants are required to monitor for toxic heavy metals. The Clean Water Act of 1982, which sought to end all water pollution, is woefully inadequate in hindering the amount of pollutants released into our water. Although the state has reduced emissions from coal-burning plants, the estimated cost of upgrading pollution controls per plant can be up to $200 million.
That’s why it’s important to invest in a cleaner energy source: solar. Programs like Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SREC) and Clean Energy Grants already provide homeowners with incentives to harness the power of our large yellow nuclear reactor. Solar panels would offset tons of CO2 emissions and toxic waste from power plants, as well as provide a renewable energy resource for our state. We need our legislators to pass a bill that will double Maryland’s clean energy output from sources like wind and solar.
Our recently elected Governor, Larry Hogan, has not shown that he prioritizes environmental issues, as one of his first actions in office was to curb regulations on nitrogen and smog-forming air pollution. Jerry Brown, the Governor of California, has already promised that 50 percent of his state’s energy output will be from renewable sources by 2030.
Maine has pledged to meet a Renewables Portfolio Standard of 40 percent by 2017. Why can’t Maryland, with our precious natural habitats, also be a leader in promoting clean energy? We need Governor Hogan and our State Legislators to pass the Maryland Clean Energy Advancement Act, which would double Maryland’s renewable energy to 40 percent by 2025. It’s up to us to encourage proactive change by making phone calls, writing to our politicians, and voting to protect our environment.
A few weeks ago, I revisited Gunpowder Falls Park with my younger brother. There’s nothing a four year old loves more than splashing in a shallow creek and cooing at white-tailed deer. It would be a shame to lose such wonders of nature to irresponsible and preventable choices. Renewable energy resources will secure our economic and environmental future.
If nothing is done to curb our addiction to fossil fuels, I may not be able to bring my own children to the same, beautiful Bay I enjoyed not too long ago.
Niccolo Dosto, from Pikesville, Maryland, is studying Biology and Spanish at Johns Hopkins University. He interns at Environment Maryland, a citizen-based environmental advocacy group that seeks to protect the Chesapeake Bay and repower Maryland with renewable energy.