A Transportation Setback

The governor's veto of SB 281, which would have created a commission to study Southern Maryland's transportation needs, is a roadblock in our fight to reduce congestion, improve our transportation network and sustain our economy. Implementing a regional transportation plan is necessary now.

Last year, I was pleased to win support from the administration to continue funding efforts for a future bypass. I also worked with many of my colleagues for years to see construction begin on the Hughesville Bypass. But we must move forward on major regional projects.

Every year that passes without a comprehensive solution means we fall further behind in dealing with growing congestion. Every year that passes represents a loss in the ability to preserve valuable rights of way for transportation improvements, disappearing because of rapid growth.

The legislation that I co-sponsored with Sens. Roy P. Dyson (D-St. Mary's) and Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) would have created a commission of state and local leaders to review previous studies and plans and come up with a comprehensive strategy to move forward with highway and transit improvements. Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) vetoed it, contending it duplicates previous efforts. This misses the point. This task force would dust off the plans sitting on the shelves at the Maryland Department of Transportation and put them into action.

The veto is especially frustrating because we need leadership on the state and regional level for such things as the light rail and a Waldorf bypass. It is vital to bring together leaders from all three Southern Maryland counties and Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties. It is particularly important that we work with Prince George's because thousands of our residents commute through there to jobs in the District and Northern Virginia. For years, the state has declined to move forward with light rail, even when Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D) secured federal funding, citing concerns in Prince George's County. Our region has been successful when it has worked together, in partnership with the state.

I don't want to see our counties spin our wheels individually while the governor pours billions of dollars into a highway in Montgomery County -- the intercounty connector, the governor's top transportation priority. Southern Maryland has many needs, too, fueled by growth. Major regional arteries clog every rush hour. U.S. 301 sees gridlock even on weekends. We need regional solutions and not vetoes creating roadblocks.

Thomas "Mac" Middleton

State senator

(D-Charles County)

Waldorf

Dodging Full Emission Cuts

I strongly object to the recent proposal of Mirant Mid-Atlantic LLC to build a barge dock and coal off-loader at its Morgantown power plant in Charles County.

As I understand it, the purpose of the program is twofold: to import low-sulfur coal from South America and to buy pollution credits in order to avoid installation of best available technology (BAT) pollution control equipment at the Morgantown plant and probably also at the Chalk Point plant.

Both are among the largest sources of mercury emissions in Maryland and major contributors of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. Mirant's proposed program will:

* Reduce sulfur dioxide perhaps by only 50 percent, compared with 95 percent possible with BAT.

* Avoid significant reduction of mercury emissions.

* Increase carbon dioxide emissions from the plants because the South American coal contains higher levels of carbon.

This proposal is not in the best interests of Maryland residents or of the Chesapeake Bay. It also will have adverse effects on other regions because mercury and carbon dioxide are widely distributed to other regions by wind and weather. Acid rain in the vicinity of the Morgantown and Chalk Point plants is a significant environmental and public health problem, and the Mirant proposal will achieve much less than BAT in reducing acidity.

Mercury from these power plants accumulates in our waters and is deposited in the fish we eat. Mercury is linked to an increase in autism spectrum disorders in children. Pregnant women who are exposed to mercury are also at increased risk of giving birth to an autistic child. Shouldn't we be reducing, not increasing, the amount of mercury emitted by our power plants? Or do we only care about protecting embryos and not our children, who are living and breathing human beings?

All of these impacts are in addition to asthma and lung cancer that power plant pollution plays a role in causing.

Norma J. Powers

Dowell

Project Graduation Thanks

Thank you to the many volunteers who made this year's Project Graduation a success. This alcohol-free and drug-free event held on graduation night for graduating seniors has been a part of Calvert County since 1987.

To the bus contractors, bus drivers and bus chaperones who donated their time and resources, we couldn't have done it without you. Each year these people volunteer without hesitation to make certain the graduates and their guests have a safe ride to and from Project Graduation events. Law enforcement officers are a welcomed addition to the events as they provide added security and safety. Thanks to Calvert County Sheriff Mike Evans and Maryland State Police Lt. Homer Rich for helping us again by having their officers on hand.

You can't have a Project Graduation without the involvement and support of the Optimists. Thanks go out to the Optimists of Calvert for providing breakfast for Calvert and Huntingtown high schools and for the monetary support provided by the Optimists of Solomons. Thanks to the many chaperones, teachers, staff members and parents who helped make the four Project Graduation events a success. Their time and effort in assisting with the events are appreciated so much.

Last, but not least, thank you to the Project Graduation coordinators -- Laura Tizol of Calvert High School, Sharon Kenny of Huntingtown High School, Larry Barker of Northern High School and Chris Hodge of Patuxent High School -- for the time and effort they put into coordinating the schools' events. This year's task was a little more daunting considering that they needed to raise additional funds. Unfortunately, donations to the Calvert Alliance Against Substance Abuse for Project Graduation fell by almost $7,000, leaving us short on funds. The schools rose to the challenge and raised funds to help close the gap.

CAASA will continue fundraising to support Project Graduation. We hope the community will help us. Mark your calendar for CAASA's basket bingo at noon Aug. 7 at the Calvert County Fairgrounds. All proceeds benefit Project Graduation 2006.

Let's make Project Graduation the community's graduation gift to our students for a job well done. This year 1,015 students participated. Donations to CAASA for Project Graduation are tax-deductible and are accepted year-round. For more information, contact the CAASA office at 410-535-3733 or PO Box 2104, Prince Frederick, Md. 20678.

Candice D'Agostino

Coordinator, Calvert Alliance Against Substance Abuse Inc.

Prince Frederick