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Maryland Voters Need To Ask: What Am I Not Being Told?

April 24, 2022 - By Captain Robert Newberry

President John F. Kennedy once said that when he was presented information his first question was always -- What am I NOT being told? That is an excellent question for those following media updates on the ongoing saga about the cargo ship Ever Forward.

The headline for one recent article on this matter said in part "State requests owner create a $100M 'Responsibility Fund'. What readers of the headline are not being told was that only one state official -- Comptroller Peter Franchot and not the state has made that request to Evergreen, the owner of Ever Forward. Those who read the article will learn that litigation over who pays what and how much on this matter is almost guaranteed to take years to be resolved. A request for a $100 million responsibility fund is simply a request -- no more no less.

What is also not being told is that Franchot is a candidate in the Democrat primary for governor. That may be widely known in some circles but is not universally known. Could it be that Peter Franchot is driven more by securing free publicity to advance his campaign for governor than pursuing quantifiable answers to his claims about damages and disruption to a portion of the Bay's ecosystem.

In his letter to Evergreen requesting a $100 million responsibility fund, Franchot wrote “the incident has caused environmental damage to the Chesapeake Bay” and the ship "getting stuck in our waters undoubtedly has resulted in disruptions to the Bay's fragile ecosystem." What we are not told is the research that affirms his claims. Ultimately answers to those questions will be and should be determined by experts, not by politicians running for office.

What we are not being told is if at any time Franchot opposed the dredging to free Ever Forward. We are not being told that he did, so one can assume the answer is no. Franchot did include in his letter to Evergreen his specific concerns that extensive dredging to free Ever Forward could have damaged oyster beds or could have disrupted spawning season for species that are harvested by the seafood industry, which could create an economic challenge. The key words here are “could have” and "could". Further research by experts is critical to determine if the oyster beds have been damaged greatly and the spawning season disrupted greatly; damaged and disrupted to a modest degree; damaged and disrupted to a minor degree; or not damaged or disrupted to any measurable degree.

That leads to another question about what is not being told. We are not being told that Franchot steadfastly opposes a relatively limited amount of dredging for recyclable oyster shells in the upper Chesapeake Bay; a cost-effective project that has been thoroughly reviewed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and several other environmental experts; all of whom have concluded this proposed oyster shell dredging project will not negatively impact the Bay. Ultimately this project will increase the number of oysters in the Bay who will in turn naturally filter and improve the Bay’s overall water quality.

Quite simply, voters are not being told that the Peter Franchot who now professes to care about watermen and waterwomen is the same Peter Franchot who has gone on record advocating eliminating harvesting of fresh seafood from wild fisheries, replacing it with aquaculture and destroying the historic and multigenerational way of life of hard-working watermen and waterwomen. Franchot’s sheer hypocrisy is astounding. Perhaps with regard to his on the record statements about eliminating wild fisheries, Franchot is following the old adage that when a politician protests that they were misquoted, what they are really saying is -- I said it, but now I wish I hadn’t.

In the upcoming primary election and the following general election, Maryland voters need to listen closely to what they are told by candidates for office at all levels. They also need to follow the practice of former President Kennedy and always ask -- what am I NOT being told?

-Captain Robert Newberry, Chairman Delmarva Fisheries Association Inc.

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