Bay Journal, EPA confirms shortfalls in PA, NY Bay cleanup plans
The U.S Environmental Protection Agency confirmed on Thursday that plans produced by Pennsylvania and New York fall far short of meeting Chesapeake Bay cleanup goals.
But the agency did not call for any new actions against the states, although their shortfalls — especially Pennsylvania’s huge gap — means the region would miss its 2025 deadline to put in place all actions needed to achieve the Bay’s clean water goals.
Instead, the agency asked the states to provide more details about the actions they would take during the next two years to get their programs back on track.
Meanwhile, the EPA’s evaluation of other state plans, which were submitted in August, found that they met goals, though the review found that most needed more detail to show how they would achieve the dramatically ramped-up rates of action needed to curb polluted runoff from farms and developed lands. The District of Columbia, though, has met its goals.
The EPA in 2010 established a new cleanup program called the Chesapeake Bay total maximum daily load, or “pollution diet,” which set limits on the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus that each state sends to the Bay. The nutrients spur algae blooms that cloud its water and fuel oxygen-starved “dead zones.”
Public New Service was less favorable, EPA Fails to Hold PA Accountable as Clean Water Plan Falls Short
Pennsylvania's Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan for reducing pollution flowing into Chesapeake Bay can't meet its 2025 goals, but the Environmental Protection Agency is not taking required actions.
Under the Clean Water Act, the EPA is supposed to impose consequences on any Chesapeake Bay watershed state that fails to meet its goals under the Clean Water Blueprint.
According to Harry Campbell, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in Pennsylvania, the Keystone State has a good plan, but it falls short of pollution reduction goals by 25% and is underfunded by more than $300 million a year.
"Without that resource investment in clean water, that plan will not be fully implemented," Campbell points out. "And a plan, no matter how good it is, is only as good as it's implemented."
The EPA has released its evaluation of the plan but did not take action to hold Pennsylvania accountable for its deficiencies.
Ninety percent of the pollution flowing into Chesapeake Bay comes from the watershed states, including Pennsylvania.
Campbell notes that the EPA has a variety of actions it can take when those states' pollution reduction efforts miss the mark.
"Withholding permits that EPA is obligated to review," he explains. "Making more farmers and municipalities and wastewater treatment plants obtain permits. Withholding or redirecting funding."
In 2010 the Chesapeake Bay Foundation sued the EPA for failing to uphold the Clean Water Act and in light of the agency's failure to act may consider doing so again.
But Campbell says ultimately, it's up to state lawmakers to ensure that the funding is there to help farmers control nutrient and sediment pollution and municipalities control storm water runoff that affects water quality in Pennsylvania and downstream,
A quick glance at a map will tell you why the EPA is having trouble getting Pennsylvania and New York to fork out the money for the Bay clean up; neither state has any land on the Chesapeake Bay, so money spent solely on measures to clean the Bay are a dead loss to them. We need a better way to incentivize these states to participate more fully. Unfortunately, I don't know what that would be.
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