To commemorate Women’s History Month, we’re interviewing women at the Center for Progressive Reform about how they’re building a more just America, whether by pursuing a just transition to clean energy, protections for food workers, or legal support for Native Americans.
This week, we spoke with Board Member Laurie Ristino, a policy and law expert on food security, climate change, ecosystem services, and land stewardship. Her work concerns developing new policy and civil society innovations to address climate change and social injustice while improving environmental and economic sustainability.
CPR: What motivated you to become an expert in food security policy and a voice for equal justice in America? Is there historical context to this or a moment in history that stood out to you as motivation or inspiration?
LR: I don’t consider myself a food security expert as much as I consider myself a policy expert working at the nexus of environment, food systems, and social-economic equity. Since I was a teenager, I’ve been interested in social justice and advocacy. Being gay, I have experienced discrimination and fear — and also the potential of law and policy to make great change. But, I’m also painfully …
This op-ed originally ran in the Baltimore Sun and was co-authored with Maryland Del. Vaughn Stewart (D-Montgomery County).
If you’re one of roughly 2 million Marylanders whose drinking water comes from a private well, you or your property owner is responsible for maintaining the well and ensuring its water is safe — no exceptions. That’s because federal clean water laws don’t cover private wells or small water systems, and state-level protections vary dramatically. In Maryland, those protections are few and far between.
In a recent Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) report on state-level efforts to protect private well owners, Maryland ranked among the five states with the fewest protections. Unlike other states, Maryland doesn’t offer well owners free or low-cost water testing kits or require water quality test results be disclosed during property sales. While the state does require new wells to meet certain …
Last week, I joined Maryland Del. Vaughn Stewart (D-Montgomery County) and State Sen. Katie Fry Hester (D-Carroll and Howard counties) to discuss pollution threats to the state’s drinking water and legislation that, if enacted, would create a private well safety program in Maryland.
The quality of drinking water holds personal significance for both legislators. Stewart grew up in a small Alabama town where a Monsanto chemical factory knowingly dumped toxic polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) chemicals in the local water supply. He has since developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma — a cancer associated with PCB exposure — twice.
Hester has also confronted this issue. When she moved to Ellicott City a few years ago, she discovered that hazardous levels of radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas associated with lung cancer, were leaching into her home’s well water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency does not regulate radon, so homeowners like …