Today, at the close of the Maryland legislative session, the Maryland Senate and Assembly failed to move the Community Healthy Air Act. This critically important piece of legislation would have required the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to monitor air emissions from industrial factory farms in Maryland and to assess their impacts on public health.
The MDE currently does not monitor air emissions at factory farms, even when communities living in parts of the state with highest concentration of these farms have some of the highest rates of asthma, lung disease, and certain types of cancer.
“It's unacceptable that communities in rural Maryland breathe dirty air from nearby factory farms, and even more outrageous that our elected officials are ignoring them,” said Michele Merkel, co-director of Food & Water Justice. “Since the General Assembly decided to protect factory farms and industry profits instead of rural residents, we call upon Governor Hogan to direct MDE to conduct an air monitoring study consistent with the proposed legislation.”
This common sense public health study was demanded by the communities living on the Eastern Shore who are concerned about the health impacts they’re experiencing with no care or attention from their legislators.
“When I learned this bill would not move for the second year in a row, it was not without sadness as I was dealing with the reality that my two close friends on the Lower Shore, who are non-smokers and live healthy fit lives, have been diagnosed with advanced cancers,” said Kathy Phillips, Assateague COASTKEEPER. “I cannot understand why our elected leaders are so reluctant to pass a common sense healthy air study so my friends, and thousands of other people living on the Lower Shore, can finally know what is in the air we are breathing and why so many healthy people get sick.”
These factory farms are typically concentrated near communities of color on the Shore, who suffer severe health impacts. This bill would have helped these communities, and therefore was a priority for the Maryland State Chapter of NAACP.
“We have fought for over two years for the right to know if the air in our communities is healthy or not,” said Mary Ashanti, president of Wicomico County NAACP Branch 7028. “Our effort to pass the Community Healthy Air Act would not have caused harm to any industry or person. It would have made it possible to have scientific data to verify if there are factors in the environment that contribute to the high cases of respiratory ailments on the Eastern Shore. We are disappointed that CHAA did not pass, but we will be ready to address it every year until it does.”
“When we cast our votes, we expect our elected officials to serve the constituency that placed them in office,” said Monica Brooks, co-founder of Concerned Citizens Against Industrial CAFOs, whose daughter also suffers from asthma in their Wicomico County home. “For them not to support this bill definitely calls into question their priorities.”
The groups still urge the Governor require the MDE to conduct an air quality study on the Eastern Shore. Marylanders deserve to know why they are getting sick. It’s time for Governor Hogan to finally take action and respond to the overwhelming and increasing support for a public health study on the Eastern Shore. It’s time for Marylanders to know what is in the air they breathe.