Friday, July 15, 2016

House Votes to Restrict EPA Bay Authority

House votes to restrict EPA oversight power in Bay cleanup
The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved legislation that would strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its authority to take action against states that fall short of meeting their Chesapeake Bay cleanup goals.

The Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill includes an amendment offered by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-VA, which would block the agency from imposing any “backstop” actions on states that are significantly off-pace for meeting their nutrient or sediment reduction obligations under the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load.

The amendment was approved by a 231–197 vote earlier in the day. Twenty lawmakers from the Bay watershed voted for the amendment while 18 opposed it.

The $32.1 spending billion bill funds the EPA and the U.S. Department of Interior in the 2017 fiscal year that starts Oct. 1, but has little chance of becoming law as written. The Senate has not passed its own version of the bill, and the White House said the measure would face a veto because of its objections to numerous policy provisions.
So what about these "backstop" provisions? This is the first time I've heard of the term.
To maintain progress toward meeting Bay TMDL goals, the EPA annually reviews each state’s nutrient and sediment reduction efforts. States with programs that fall significantly short of their goals, and which lack adequate programs to get back on track, can face backstop actions from the agency.

Backstops can include a range of consequences such as withholding or redirecting grant money, requiring discharge permits for small animal feeding operations, forcing greater nutrient reductions from wastewater treatment plants, and other actions.

Right now, the only state programs in the backstop category are Pennsylvania’s agriculture and stormwater programs. Last year, the EPA withheld nearly $3 million in grant money from the state, but restored it after officials submitted a new cleanup strategy. In a recent review, though, the agency warned that it may take additional actions if Pennsylvania does not ramp up efforts to get back on track.
How about making a "backstop" provision that federal workers in the state are personally required to dispose of their own waste products in an environmentally friendly way, and to accept reductions in their personal travel and energy use, for the good of the Bay, of course. With more than 1.4 million Federal workers nationwide, that should produce a good result.

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