Last week on this program, we examined the environmental record of Maryland’s Republican Governor Larry Hogan as he runs for re-election on November 6.
This week, we’ll look at the environmental platform and history of his Democratic challenger, Ben Jealous. Jealous has never held an elected office. But he’s a former Rhodes Scholar, newspaper reporter and former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
At the NAACP, Jealous started the organization’s climate justice program, which emphasizes that minorities and lower income people are often hit hardest by flooding, extreme weather, air pollution, and other impacts of burning fossil fuels.
As candidate for Governor, at the top of Jealous’ list of environmental priorities is to have Maryland join California and Hawaii as states that plan to stop using coal and natural gas to generate electricity and switch to 100 percent solar, wind and other clean fuels.
Here’s Jealous, in a phone interview between campaign stops this week:
“The best thing any of us can do in these times is to make sure that our jurisdiction – our county, city our state – is doing everything it can to stop climate change,” Jealous said. “As governor of Maryland, I’ll make sure we get to 100 reliance on clean and renewable energy as quickly as possible. We have the will to do it as a state.”
Jealous has picked up the endorsements of – among others – the Maryland League of Conservation Voters and environmental writer and activist Bill McKibben, author of “The End of Nature.”
McKibben said Jealous’ roots in the environmental movement go back decades.
“My guess is that the moment it really crystalized for him when as a young journalist, when he was in Jackson Mississippi covering the poisoning of a community after the explosion of a chemical plant,” said McKibben. “That’s where those links between poverty and race and pollution I think really became clear to him.”
Jealous’ campaign website urges a return to “smart growth” policies to curb suburban sprawl. But – curiously – it makes no mention of what many Marylanders view as the state’s number one environmental issue: Cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay.
When I asked Jealous about this, he criticized Governor Hogan’s record on the bay – but did so in terms that were not entirely accurate.
“This governor, on his first day in office, made it easier for Mountaire and other corporate chicken farmers to dump chicken feces straight into the bay,” Jealous said. “I found it outrageous – especially outrageous because he had taken $250,000 from Mountaire to help fund his campaign.”
While it’s true that the Mountaire poultry company donated $250,000 to the Republican Governors’ Association – not directly to Hogan’s campaign – neither Mountaire or any other poultry companies dump feces straight into the bay. Their contract farmers for decades have been over-applying manure as fertilizer to Eastern Shore farm fields. Rain then washes it into bay tributaries.
Hogan, once elected, did revoke regulations that former Governor O’Malley had prosed – after many years of delay -- to curb this over-application of manure. But then, a month and a half later, Governor Hogan introduced his own manure regulations that -- once critiqued by Democratic lawmakers and tightened up – were praised by environmentalists as a step forward in cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay.
My takeaway is that while Jealous is very strong on climate and environmental justice issues, on the Chesapeake Bay he’s less informed -- and so far, is not offering anything specific or new.