It's March Madness For Environmental Health In Maryland!
With significant threats to environmental health looming at the federal and state level, health advocates are more valuable than ever before. Now is the time to get in the game on climate and health! Build your bracket with the latest news, tools, tips, and information.
For starters, the Maryland Senate passed the Fracking ban 35-10 in a resounding move to prioritize public health in perpetuity. State legislators also took it to the house and overrode the Governor's Veto of the Clean Energy Jobs Act. Read on for all the action in public health and environment.
We did it! In early February, the Maryland legislature voted to override the Governor’s veto of the Clean Energy Jobs Act. We’re on our way to a cleaner energy future! Call your legislator today to thank them for this vote! MdEHN will next focus on the current Renewable Portfolio Standard and codification of the EmPOWER program, with the goal of improving clean energy access to low-income customers and overburdened communities.
Environmental Justice for Marylanders
On March 1, 2017, we hosted a luncheon with the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland. At the luncheon, we focused on strategies to address the existence of food deserts in the state. More than 100 people attended, and showed their support for access to healthy and healthful food choice for all. We look forward to working with diverse leadership in Annapolis to address environmental injustices with comprehensive legislative solutions. (Pictured Above: Food Deserts & EJ Lunch, Tamara Toles O'Laughlin (Executive Director), Robin Lewis (advocate), Robbyn Lewis (legislator))
During the luncheon we were asked, why are food deserts an environmental issue? Simply put, environmental justice demands that people, affected by official or sanctioned policy, or regulatory decisions, fully participate in decision making processes that concern them. That means that affected communities should routinely be tasked to consider, provide input, and engage in open and transparent discussions that have the power to start, stop, and alter permitting, planning, and citing decisions, from inception to completion.
Food deserts are not a natural consequence of city, state, or local planning. In fact, they are a direct result of action or inaction by state and local planners, business entities and others, who are at work where people live developing plans for roads, schools, and other resources at the block, lot, and neighborhood level. Just as communities should be meaningfully engaged in advance of decisions made about development of public and private space to achieve equity, they should participate early and often in actions that can reduce disparities and create space for fresh and healthy food choice.
For us this is pretty straightforward; everyone deserves the opportunity to enjoy the harvest of fresh, fair, food across Maryland. - Tamara Toles O'Laughlin, Executive Director
By Maggie Cherney, MdEHN Intern - I started an internship with the Maryland Environmental Health Network at the beginning of the year as support to Rebecca Rehr, advocate and lobbyist. My internship covers the 90-day Maryland Legislative Session, in Annapolis. I was drawn to this opportunity because of its dual footing in public health and environmental policy.
Most recently, I was given the opportunity to provide oral testimony on an atrazine study bill (HB1204/SB932)...
Pictured Above: Rebecca Rehr working on Food Desert Legislation, Allison Rich testifying on Green Cleaning in Child Care Sites, MdEHN presents Public Health Night in Annapolis, and MdEHN partners with Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland for Environmental Justice lunch)
Annapolis Dispatch: Science as a Foundation for Strong Policy
By Rebecca Rehr, Public Health Advocacy Coordinator
Greetings from the throes of another ambitious legislative session in Annapolis. As an advocate for the Maryland Environmental Health Network, I have testified on several important bills including: the Styrofoam ban, the Forest Conservation Act, and bills addressing food deserts, preventing the overuse of antibiotics in agriculture, and the fracking ban.
To prepare our testimony, I examine the weight of the evidence and the public health consequences of an action. I am honored to ensure the accurate representation of public health research because it is essential to sound protections. Unfortunately, this session has often focused on defending the science on these issues and more generally, the scientific method. Lawmakers can be confused or misled when science is oversimplified or misrepresented. Marylanders trust lawmakers to protect them through sound policies and lawmakers violate the democratic process when they make decisions based on misinformation.
As an example, let’s consider the debate around fracking in Maryland...