Poultry power seen saving bay: Gansler's
call for manure-burning electric plant among proposed
Nov 2, 2007 - McClatchy-Tribune
Business News - Tom Pelton - The Baltimore Sun
Maryland Attorney General Douglas F.
Gansler called yesterday for higher fines for agricultural
polluters and a manure-burning plant to transform
chicken litter into electricity.
"I would like to take 500,000 pounds
of chicken manure a year and turn it into power,"
said Gansler, a Democrat. "That would really help
make a huge, herculean and dramatic improvement to
Gansler spoke to about 200 people at
the Eastern Shore Poultry Summit at the Wicomico Civic
Center, a meeting of environmentalists and farmers
organized by the Waterkeepers Alliance, an environmental
Tempers flared between activists and
poultry growers at the daylong event, which sought
to find solutions for a major source of runoff pollution
that causes algae blooms and low-oxygen "dead zones"
in the Chesapeake Bay.
The Sun reported that the poultry industry
on the Eastern Shore produces about a billion pounds
of manure a year, but Maryland has been slower than
Pennsylvania and at least 11 other states in requiring
factory-style pollution-control permits for large
poultry feeding businesses.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., chairman of the
Waterkeepers Alliance, said that Maryland should start
holding large poultry companies such as Perdue Farms
responsible for the manure produced by the farmers
who have contracts to raise Perdue's chickens.
"You have to shift the burdens to the
guy who is really at fault, which are the powerful
people, the Tysons, the Perdues ... who have engineered
the system to make themselves rich by making everybody
else in the state poor," Kennedy said.
Kennedy, son of the late senator and
presidential candidate, accused Perdue Farms, which
is based in Salisbury, of stealing the Chesapeake
Bay from the public by polluting it, and having "indentured
servants" in the Maryland state government who allow
them to foul the waters to make a profit.
"Perdue ... has privatized the fish
and waterways of the Chesapeake Bay. It has stolen
them from the public," Kennedy said. "And that is
not an act of democracy. That is a milestone of tyranny,
and we have to recognize that."
Julie DeYoung, spokeswoman for Perdue
farms, said Kennedy doesn't understand the poultry
"I will give him the benefit of the
doubt and assume that he was resorting to hyperbole,"
said DeYoung. "His comments are patently ridiculous.
Perdue has a strong environmental record."
Bill Satterfield, executive director
of Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc., a trade organization,
gave a PowerPoint presentation with statistics showing
that farms produce less runoff pollution than development.
Satterfield said that farmers have been doing better
in reducing fertilizer pollution, but that these gains
have been overwhelmed by a growing human population,
especially in suburban areas.
"The poultry industry on the Delmarva
Peninsula is leading and doing its part to reduce
... pollution in the bay," Satterfield said. "The
chicken industry is not public enemy No. 1 in the
effort to restore the bay."
Gansler said Maryland should start requiring
the factory-style permits for large poultry operations.
Gov. Martin O'Malley's administration has said it
will draft these water-pollution-control permits --
which require state inspections and a list of waste-management
rules -- by the end of the year. Many farmers object,
calling the permits excessive regulation for family
And Gansler said state lawmakers should
change a 2004 law that requires the state's power
companies to buy about 10 percent of their electricity
from alternative sources to include poultry litter
as an alternative, along with solar and wind power.
Gansler said including poultry manure
in that quota would provide a financial incentive
for a private company to spend millions building a
waste-to-energy plant that would take half of the
state's chicken litter. A similar plant burns turkey
litter to create electricity in Minnesota.
Gansler is also urging the legislature
to introduce a bill that would raise fines to at least
"four figures" from the maximum of $350 today for
farmers who do not have nutrient management plans,
which aim to minimize the application of fertilizer.
In addition, Gansler endorsed the position
of the Waterkeepers Alliance, which argues that Maryland
should stop making nutrient management plans secret,
so that the public and environmental groups can't
Roger L. Richardson, the state's secretary
of agriculture, said his agency will seek higher fines
for violators. But he questioned whether there would
be enough extra manure to fuel an electricity plant,
and said his agency would oppose opening up the state
records on the numbers of animals and how manure is
handled on farms.
"Would you want the public to see your
income tax forms?" Richardson said. "The farmers are
very conservative people." .