One of the biggest lobbies for the Chesapeake Bay, and a huge environmental non-profit in Maryland has great appeal. This article investigates that non-profit, called the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) that says they are “saving the bay through education,
advocacy, litigation, and restoration” in great detail.
There is one easy place to start with the CBF. My one and only article on Indypendent Reader specifically about why the Red & Purple Lines, which are supported by the political elite, the ‘light rail lobby’ and the business community, are bad for Marylanders, proposing a moderate solution, notes that the CBF backs the Purple Line. To quote the article, the Purple Line,
“the Purple Line which goes through Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties…the Light Rail Lobby says that the Purple Line will encourage economic development in Washington Metropolitan area, promote job creation, cut time for transit riders, encourage thousands to ride transit, reduce pollution, promote a cleaner environment, reduce traffic congestion…[but in reality] the construction of the Purple Line will…increas[e]…air pollution in the Beltway’s inner loop, water pollution into the Chesapeake Bay, and noise pollution for nearby residents…eighty percent of those that are expected to ride the new Purple Line will come from existing mass transit, taxpayers will pay added costs for construction of the light rail and it will unsafe as a 50 MPH train is whizzing past educational environments…”
The support for the business-friendly and horrid Purple Line is only the beginning. Consider the “diverse and unique” companies that support “much of the good work [of]…CBF…support…CBF’s Bay-saving work…[and] are committed to clean water and our communities” in the eyes of the CBF. Here’s a picture I made about the companies that CBF partners with which include:
- Bank of America which has a ‘coal policy’ saying they “recognize that at the present time, fossil fuels, and coal in particular, will continue to supply a significant amount of the energy needed to power our society…Bank of America plays a significant role as a leading financial services company in promoting the responsible use of coal…[while supporting] advanced technologies such as carbon capture and storage…While we acknowledge that surface mining is economically efficient and creates jobs, it can be conducted in a way that minimizes environmental impacts in certain geographies.” This is part of the reason the Rainforest Action Network calls them the ‘Bank of Coal’ as it has higher investment in coal energy than UBS, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup and PNC. This is also noted on an article on Bloomberg News. Wanna learn more? Look up ‘bank of america and coal energy’ on Startpage. Yeah. They care about clean water and communities? That’s a joke.
- BB&T‘s page about Capital Markets, says that the bank’s ‘Energy Team’ supposedly has has “specific expertise to effectively navigate the commodity price volatility, technological transformations and evolving corporate strategies of the oil and gas industry…[providing] significant credit capacity through direct and syndicated lending to the upstream and midstream energy sectors in the lower 48 states…[and] is well positioned to provide a broad range of financial solutions to independent oil and gas companies and gathering and processing companies.” Also see this page on how they assist other dirty energy sectors. It also seems they care about global coal prices as well. So much for ‘caring’ about clean water or communities.
- Capital One seems to be all nice, to some, but is not. A short article seeming like a press release on Bloomberg News notes that Capital One is “a lender that gets more than half its revenue from credit cards, hired two bankers with experience advising firms in the oil and gas industries as it expands its securities business [including] former Barclays Plc (BARC) banker Russ Johnson and Bob Mertensotto, who worked for JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) will fill newly created positions…Johnson and Mertensotto will be in charge of Capital One’s energy-banking office in Houston and report to Jim McBride, head of the energy-banking group within capital markets.” Then there is this revealing page on a Capital One website: “for more than 30 years, Capital One has served the energy industry with experienced oil and gas lenders, on-staff petroleum engineers, marine lenders, and corporate finance and Treasury Management specialists. We understand the unique financial needs of these industries and offer the products and services critical for success. We maintain banking relationships with more than 90 exploration and production, midstream, and other energy companies…With more than $3.5 billion in energy-banking loan commitments, our Energy Banking team is invested in the future of energy…Energy is your business. We’ve got the energy and commitment it takes to help your business succeed.” Clearly, these people don’t care about communities, and definitely don’t care about clean water.
- Choice Hotels International. Ashwin Patel “is the founder and president of Southwest Hospitality Management…[which has] ownership interests in hotels that are affiliated with a variety of national chains, such as…Choice Hotels International” & is a Managing Member of Patel Oil, an indirect connection. Evans Broohm was a sales agent for Choice Hotels & now according to his LinkedIn he is working as an oil & gas consultant. Sadly I could find any connection to this or this. On second looking into this it does seem that Choice Hotels is catering to workers in North Dakota & Montana as part of the supposed “boom” in oil production. After all, they are supposedly increasing their workforce in the state.
- Comcast. Hey, lets not forget that the fourth-largest producer of coal in Pennsylvania is using Comcast services intensively. Additionally, Comcast owns part of MSNBC as well which shows pro-oil propaganda as part of the capitalist crap they peddle on that network which is why some call Comcast the 21st century version of Standard Oil. The best example of Comcast working on behalf of big oil is the time that the company pulled an ad critical of ExxonMobil (this is also noted here as well).
- CSX had an even more direct connection to dirty energy. One CSX page said that “CSX is in the best position to serve the major East Coast refineries and terminals…Our team also helps schedule your crude oil trains in advance, reducing concern over delays at destination…CSX’s recently announced capacity expansion will support crude oil growth to the Northeast…CSX offers various crude by rail solutions to meet your needs in the dynamic marketplace.” Additionally let us not forget that trains are hauling more oil across the US, among other factors.
- Google has some connections to dirty energy as well. One page notes that Google Earth is being used by the energy industry. There is also some sources saying iCloud depends on dirty energy as well which is connected to the fact that its data center is one of the most dirtest as noted by Mother Jones.
The environmental degradation of these companies among their other corporate partners is among the many reasons it should be called the Corporatist Bay Foundation. But, there is something deeper. Here’s what their page on advocacy says in part.
“We work at local, state, and federal levels for effective laws and regulations that will reduce pollution, restore vital natural systems like oyster reefs, forests, and wetlands, and encourage smart growth in our communities. CBF acts as a watchdog to elevate good practices for healing our waterways, while being vigilant in opposing projects or proposals that would degrade water quality. Our scientists submit comments to governing bodies regarding fisheries management, wetlands mitigation, stormwater issues, construction and development projects and more…We also helped to convince lawmakers to pass legislation that reduces nitrogen pollution from lawn fertilizers and ensures water quality is protected when nutrient credit trading is used as an efficient way to pay for water-quality improvements…CBF teamed up with Surry County residents to help defeat (at least for now) the largest coal-fired power plant ever proposed for Virginia…We worked to convince the Maryland General Assembly to approve a doubling of the state’s “flush fee” funding to pay for sewage treatment plant upgrades, as well as landmark stormwater fee legislation, and a law that discourages subdivisions with septic tanks in rural areas. We partnered with activists in Charles County to defeat a sprawl-inducing highway that would have polluted Mattawoman Creek, a fragile fish-breeding ground…CBF was one of four environmental groups appointed to the Governor’s Marcellus Shale Commission, an advisory panel that made recommendations on how to better control pollution from the Marcellus Shale drilling boom.”
While this sounds great, it sounds very moderate and conservative in their views. They seem to just accept dirty energy as a permanent state of mind, which is something that should be a concern to everyone. While they don’t sit on the business-friendly Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Advisory Commission, part of the Maryland Department of the Environment, they do sit on that awful Marcellus Shale Commission created by Pennsylvania Governor Corbett. In a report titled Fracking and the Revolving Door in Pennsylvania, the Public Accountability Initiative wrote that:
“The pro-gas industry bias in the Commission’s findings and recommendations is unsurprising given the panel’s makeup. Thirteen of the Commission’s 29 members have direct ties to the gas industry, including some that were not disclosed by the commonwealth and one who was on the panel representing environmental interests…The Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission had its precedent in the Energy & Environment Committee…Of the 29 people on Corbett’s Energy & Environment Committee, 16 have ties, either by direct employment or through the companies they work for, to the energy industry.”
It seems awfully strange that the CBF would sit on such a commission, does it not? First consider the 12 issues the CBF says they are concerned about:
- Agriculture (how it factors into pollution)
- Air pollution
- Chemical contamination
- Climate change itself
- Cost of clean water
- Dead zones in the bay
- Why fisheries are vital
- Habitat loss
- Land use
- Natural gas drilling
- Polluted runoff
- Sewage & septic systems
While these are valid concerns, but consider their full position on natural gas drilling which is a bit disconcerting [parts are bolded for emphasis]:
CBF has not taken a position against natural gas development, nor have we called for a permanent ban on gas development in the region. Instead, we have embraced the precautionary principle. Our over-arching goal is to ensure that future energy development in the Chesapeake Bay region takes place in as safe and environmentally responsible a manner as possible. We have joined others in calling for a federal study of cumulative impacts of Marcellus shale development in the region and active participation in state policy initiatives (particularly in Pennsylvania).
This position is similar to that held by Gang Green or Big Green(s), which filmmaker Josh Fox said would mean the organizations are favoring the companies themselves:
Despite this similarity with the Gang Green (which I’ve written about in detail), this policy has not been criticized in any serious way, even though it’s position means it is standing against the people. They also strongly support this proposal called the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint which comprises “the pollution targets and the states’ plans comprise a Clean Water Blueprint for the Chesapeake and its rivers and streams” and supposedly ensures that “everyone shares in the responsibility for cleaning up our waterways…sets two-year, incremental pollution-reduction goals—known as milestones—to keep progress on track; and…imposes consequences for failure, ensuring states and localities will meet their responsibilities.” They treat it as the final solution, and rightly criticize agribusiness as well. But, this blueprint is not even something that the CBF came up with, but rather it is an EPA plan, and is not seemingly one comprehensive document. The only place that gives some inkling about the specifics is noted here. Maybe its a good plan, make up your mind about it. I can say it was threatened by vested interests and a federal court said the EPA still had the authority to impose limits. Let us also not forget that two people currently within the ranks of the Gang Green organization EDF used to work for the CBF as noted here and here. The same is the case with the Wilderness Society as noted here.
From here, I looked through the sites of Gang Green and the Baltimore Sun with the search term “chesapeake bay foundation” and found some interesting results:
- The CBF was one of the signatories, along with Gang Green outlets WWF, Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Audubon Society, and a number of other green groups, of a 218 page document titled ‘Green Budget: Fiscal Year 2011‘ which supported the stimulus bill (Recovery Act), Obama’s “strong leadership,” certain Department of Energy programs, regulatory measures put forward by the EPA, supporting ‘balanced’ development on public lands but not outright standing against oil & gas drilling, saying that US should continue the imaginary “path to national energy independence” a.k.a. exploiting natural resources like crazy in the US, while specifically going through a number of different departments to outline the funding they say is needed. By the end, it just seemed like they were taking Obama’s position and not deviating much from it other than not overtly saying for more drilling (in fact they are saying it should be limited).
- The CBF was a signatory of a letter to the Senate which stated that “On behalf of our organizations and the millions of individuals from across the country we represent,
we urge you to work with your colleagues to ensure the Senate passes comprehensive climate and energy legislation that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and dedicates 5% of the total allowance value for natural resources adaptation in order to safeguard fish and wildlife, and the natural resources on which we all rely…As the Senate develops comprehensive climate and energy legislation, your leadership is needed to get the whole job done this year. Please ensure climate legislation both reduces the greenhouse gas emissions triggering climate change and safeguards natural resources, wildlife and our own communities threaten ed by the changes already set in motion. Specifically, any Senate bill should: establish a national policy framework to begin addressing theimpacts of climate change on our natural resources; provide increased scientific capacity, coordination and information sharing; and dedicate 5% of the total allowance value to federal, state and tribal agencies to implement identified actions needed to conserve natural resources in a warming world.” What was this comprehensive climate change legislation? Well, similar wording popped up on another site calling for a ‘cap and trade’ proposal. The White House website, noted that “Passing comprehensive energy and climate legislation is a top priority for the Administration and significant progress has been made. In June, The U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act.” What was this law? It was a cap-and-trade (or cap and giveaway proposal), as Annie Leonard explains [here's the annotated transcipt]:
- The CBF was one of many groups which signed a letter calling for “funding for habitat conservation and associated green infrastructure within the economic recovery package” (a.k.a. the bailout bill) which would create supposedly “over 160,000 jobs”
- “The Environmental Defense Fund, The Nature Conservancy, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and other regional and national conservation organizations have advocated for taking science-based blue crab management to the next level in three ways: developing annual catch limits based on population abundance, allocating that catch among the jurisdictions that regulate commercial crabbing in the bay region, and stringently and comprehensively monitoring all harvesting”- a Baltimore Sun article describing how the CBF isn’t against destructive crab fishing
- This quote from a Baltimore Sun article is a bit disconcerting: “The Senate’s green score slipped from 63 percent in 2012 to 55 percent this year. The House’s overall score also dipped – though not as much – to 64 percent from 69 percent the year before. One reason for the slippage was the Assembly’s approval of an “agricultural certainty” bill, which gives Maryland farmers who qualify a 10-year reprieve from any new pollution regulations. Though the Chesapeake Bay Foundation supported the law’s passage, it was opposed by 23 other environmental groups.”
- “Representatives of several regional and national organizations today called on Baltimore’s county, city, and state officials to modify the draft 2020 Baltimore Regional Transportation Plan. They charged the 20-year $16.4 billion plan will exacerbate traffic congestion and sprawl, harming the Chesapeake Bay, public health, and existing communities…according to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Citizens Planning and Housing Association (CPHA), and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF).” as noted on the EDF’s website
- The CBF, the EDF and a number of other organizations and others joined with the Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Agriculture, for a manure program
- “The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) today joined with local chambers of commerce, civic groups, Maryland Senator Ida Ruben, and Delegate Paul Carlson to urge passage of the Maryland Commuter Choice Tax Credit Bill that would provide a state income tax credit for employers who help pay employee transit costs,” a bill which was endorsed by the big business groups and the CBF among others as noted here which was similar to another law mentioned in 2000 when Maryland expanded commuter benefits making the Light Rail Lobby happy.
- The mysterious Chesapeake Carbon Fund is in a partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation according to the Baltimore Sun
- Shockingly, the head of the CBF agreed with most of what Pipkin wrote [here's the original piece] criticizing the CBF itself, writing “…perhaps Senator Pipkin would be willing to use your significant influence to arrange a meeting between the two of us and Pennsylvania’s Gov. Tom Corbett…Finally, we hope and trust that Senator Pipkin realizes that Maryland must continue to use good science to further address locally generated pollution from all sources to improve water quality for our citizens who want to enjoy the many rivers and streams which are currently impaired….Senator Pipkin, let’s work together, not try to pick polarizing fights that only serve to slow bay restoration progress.” As a reminder, Pipkin received all sorts of financing from the business community as noted by Influence Explorer
- The Sierra Club and the CBF seem to have extensive dealings with each other which could be a problem. Also, the CBF has an environmental center named after the rich guy Philip Merrill, who according to wikipedia, “was president and CEO of Capital-Gazette Communications, Inc…[and] served as counselor to the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy from 1981 to 1983; as a member of the Defense Policy Board from 1983 to 1990 and again from 2001 to 2003; and as Assistant Secretary General for Defence Support at NATO Headquarters in Brussels from 1990 to 1992 under President George H. W. Bush. He was appointed to chairman of the Export-Import Bank of the United States by George W. Bush, serving from 2002 to 2005.”
- The CBF is listed as a ‘supporter’ of the WWF. This is deeply troubling considering the problems with WWF-US itself.
- This Baltimore Sun article is enlightening: “Environmental groups are appealing a federal judge’s ruling that the owners of the Sparrows Point steel mill need only do a limited search for offshore pollution from the plant. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation and its legal partners, including the Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper, have filed notice with the U.S. District Court in Baltimore of their intention to appeal a decision by Judge J. Frederick Motz accepting a plan by the steel plant’s current owner, RG Steel, to test for contamination no more than 50 feet into the Patapsco River and Bear Creek.
Though federal and state regulators endorsed that plan, the Annapolis-based environmental group contends a more comprehensive investigation is needed. Recent tests found bottom-dwelling aquatic creatures died when exposed to sediment pulled from the creek 1,000 feet offshore, the foundation said.”
- The CBF supports ‘pollution trading’ to help reduce pollution in the Bay (a ‘cap and trade’ system), to which a Baltimore Sun article notes that “others are skeptical about privatizing what has to date been an almost completely publicly funded and directed cleanup effort.”
With all of these positions, would you say that you support the CBF? I certainly don’t… Anyway, I looked at one final area. The Board of Trustees, specifically the officers. The chair of the board is a lawyer who is a”nationally recognized expert in the land conservation field, he also provides advice to landowners and government agencies in connection with complex conservation real estate transactions.” Another person is a retired Vice Chairman of the Bank of New York, while the others are supposedly activists or otherwise involved in the organization. The President and CEO of the CBF also, according to the website’s bio, “is also Vice Chairman of Johns Hopkins Medicine (Hospital and Medical School), a Board Member of the Baltimore Community Foundation, a Director of the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance, and an Honorary Board Member of the Garden Club of America. He serves as a Director of the Brown Advisory & Trust Company, and The Greater Washington Board of Trade Green Committee.” This makes him immensely powerful. Still, I couldn’t find anything on the CBF website that says who gives money to them, but I found these charts on page 14 of their most recent annual report, which shows they are a rich organization in terms of money they are bringing in:
In the end, I repeat what I wrote at the bottom of a handout I gave out during a talk I gave last week: remember to support grassroots organizations like Earth First!, Rising Tide North America and Radical Action for Mountain Peoples Survival (RAMPS). Always check to see if an organization has corporate backers and partnerships before supporting it.