Monday, June 5, 2017

EPA Threatens Pennsylvania Over Bay Diet Cheating

Pennsylvania needs a realistic plan showing how it will provide enough funding and staff to dramatically ramp up its Bay-related pollution control efforts, or it could face a variety of potentially costly federal actions within the next two years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warned state officials in a recent letter.

Pennsylvania was the only state to get such a warning, and it illustrates mounting concern that if the Keystone state cannot get its nutrient control program on track, it will prevent much of the Chesapeake Bay from attaining its clean water goals. Pennsylvania delivers more nitrogen to the Bay than any other state.

While most other states are generally on track to meet their required pollution reductions, Pennsylvania faces “serious deficits,” the EPA letter said, especially when it comes to controlling nitrogen from farm fields and stormwater from developed areas.

Federal and state officials now generally acknowledge that Pennsylvania never had a viable plan to reach its goals, as plans written in 2010 and 2011 hinged on unrealistic assumptions, such as taking huge swaths of agricultural land out of production.

All of the states in the watershed have to complete new plans next year to show how they expect to have all of the measures in place needed to restore a healthy Bay — such as planting forest buffers, building stormwater controls and upgrading wastewater treatment plants — by 2025.

In its letter, though, the EPA spells out in greater detail what agency officials want to see in the state’s next plan: local nutrient reduction goals; increased efforts to engage local officials; and identifying high-priority pollution control actions which are targeted to areas with high amounts runoff.

The letter also said the EPA wanted the state to outline needed policy, legislative and regulatory changes, such as identifying high-priority watersheds for targeted cleanup, and restricting the wintertime application of manure on farm fields.

And, critically, the agency wants to see how the state will pay for cleanup actions.
The Problem with Pennsylvania in the bay clean up scheme, is that although Pennsylvania has a huge fraction of the Bay watershed within its borders, it has no shoreline along the bay. It gains nothing itself from cleaning up the Bay.
 If the state doesn’t show enough progress, the EPA letter said that “no later than 2019,” the agency will consider taking further actions. Those could include forcing wastewater treatment plants to install costly additional nutrient controls beyond what’s already required, or setting nutrient limits for stormwater discharges and concentrated animal feeding operations. And, it could specify how federal grants are spent to address Bay issues.
So, if Pennsylvania doesn't achieve the old limits, the EPA is going to set new ones that are even tougher? Does anyone else see the problem with that?

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