CLA Makes a Splash at 2023 Choose Clean Water Conference
On May 23rd, CLA Staff and Summer Clerks made their way to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to attend and speak at this year’s Choose Clean Water Conference, a meeting of Choose Clean Water Coalition members consisting of over 275 nonprofit organizations, where attendees have the opportunity to share tools, resources, and experiences, and cultivate new relationships that accelerate our work for clean water.
On the first day of the conference, three members of CLA Staff presented to conference attendees. Senior Attorney and Director of CLA’s Legal Education Center, Molly Brown, and Senior Attorney and Director of CLA’s Environmental Action Center, Angela Haren, hosted a workshop on interest-based communication in conservation. This workshop introduced participants to the principles of interest-based communication – a tool that allows people to create and collaborate around issues that traditionally cause disagreement and conflict. By developing a better understanding of the interests involved in a situation, participants learned to build value out of disagreement and find solutions through communication, collaboration, and creativity.
Also presenting on the first day of the conference was Staff Attorney and CLA’s Outreach and Engagement Coordinator, Will Halnon. Will, alongside Kyle Hart of the National Parks Conservation Association, and Julie Bolthouse of the Piedmont Environmental Council, discussed the direct consequences that data centers, one of the fastest-growing industries in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, have on local water quality, as well as strategies to regulate them locally and regionally. In October, Will will return to Pennsylvania to present on the life cycle of nonprofit organizations at the Pennsylvania Statewide Watershed Conference in Altoona.
On day two, Angela Haren, presented on a panel alongside Renee Reber of the National Parks Conservation Association, Ted Evgeniadis of the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association, Lia Mastropolo of American Rivers, and Tom Pelton of the Environmental Integrity Project. The panel discussion focused on the aging and outdated infrastructure of older cities and towns like Harrisburg and Baltimore, that pollute waterways with sewage during “combined sewer overflow” (CSO) or “sanitary sewer overflow” (SSO) events when these systems experience flows beyond their capacity and discharge untreated sewage directly into waterways. The panel discussion featured case studies, including what’s being done to address CSOs and SSOs, what the hurdles are, and how affordability and access to funding play a role.
Finally, during the last session of the conference, CLA’s Executive Director, David Reed, presented on Animal Feeding Operations across the Chesapeake Bay watershed, how these operations constitute a point source under the Clean Water Act, and how they are integrated into an agricultural system of point and nonpoint source pollution that is regularly the largest contributor of nutrient pollution in a given watershed. Specifically, David reviewed the permitting scheme for Maryland and discussed CLA’s related landmark victory with Assateague Coastkeeper and how it may implicate other jurisdictions and watersheds. He then further explored some similarities and differences with other Chesapeake Bay states and offered an interactive audience discussion of how these pollution streams may be addressed in other watersheds.
It wasn’t all work for the CLA team, however. After workshops came to an end on day one, CLA Staff had the opportunity to get some fresh air and paddle the mighty Susquehanna, taking in gorgeous views of Harrisburg and the Capitol, while our Summer Clerks enjoyed a behind-the-scenes tour of the Pennsylvania Capitol building. Conference attendees then joined the Coalition at Historic King Mansion for an evening networking reception where CLA Staff showed off our flashy new team threads. Overall, the 2023 Choose Clean Water Conference proved to be highly successful for the Coalition and CLA’s Legal Education Center.