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I know people are worried that opening up the Atlantic coast to offshore drilling would pose a risk of a possible oil spill ("Getting the off-shore shaft," Jan. 28). In fact, it's inevitable that there will be some oil spilled and some environmental damage done. That's not pessimism, that's just the law of probability. Yes, there will indeed be some damage done, somewhere, at some point in time.

However, it seems to me we have a much more pressing issue in chicken manure which is causing major damage right here and right now. So why not use the threat of possible future damage to stop the damage being done right now? Open Maryland's offshore coast to the companies that drill for oil on the condition that they take our excess chicken waste away and put it somewhere it's needed for fertilizer for as long as their offshore lease is in effect. That way the Chesapeake sees immediate benefit in a dramatic reduction in phosphorus pollution, some other place where they don't have chicken farms gets some much-needed phosphorus fertilizer and the citizens of Maryland will have a cleaner bay at no cost to themselves.

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It's really a win-win situation for business, the environment and the citizens of Maryland. Even if a massive oil spill occurs offshore, it won't do as much damage in the long run as chicken manure is doing right now. And the law of averages only says that a spill will occur somewhere, not necessarily here in Maryland. In fact, the risk is proportional to the length of coastline used for drilling and Maryland with its short slice of the coast is statistically unlikely to be affected. It's the citizens of Florida who should be worried.

William Smith, Baltimore

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