On January 27, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation announced it is preparing to file a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over the lack of enforcement action over the progress Pennsylvania is making in reducing nitrogen pollution.In the good old days of "sue and settle" I would be pretty confident that the fix was in, and EPA would settle, and then sue PA for noncompliance. These days, under the Trump administration, I'm not so sure.
“The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is preparing a Notice of Intent to Sue EPA for failing to enforce the Clean Water Act," said CBF Vice President for Litigation Jon Mueller. "We are currently in discussion with a range of potential partners concerning the legal strategies we can use to force EPA to comply with the law.
‘For CBF, litigation is a last resort. However, with Bay restoration and clean water for future generations at risk, we have no alternative due to EPA’s failure to act. We must hold EPA accountable now if we are going to save the Bay,” Mueller added.
"That EPA is abdicating its responsibility under the Clean Water Act is a tragedy. Failing to hold Pennsylvania accountable undermines the success we have seen in recent years. It is snatching defeat from the jaws of victory," said William Baker, CBF President. "Agriculture is the largest source of pollution from Pennsylvania.
"While farmers and Conservation Districts have demonstrated their willingness to install practices that reduce pollution, the Commonwealth’s elected officials have failed to provide sufficient cost-share funding to achieve the goals that Pennsylvania has repeatedly promised to reach by 2025," explained Baker.
"If EPA does not fulfill its responsibilities to the region’s residents and the American public by holding the Commonwealth accountable, Pennsylvania’s local waters and the Bay downstream will never be saved,” Baker said.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has been concerned about the lack of progress in reducing nitrogen pollution in Pennsylvania. That concern was heightened when Pennsylvania released its plan for reducing pollution between now and the 2025 deadline.
The plan has a funding shortfall of more than $300 million annually. And even if the money were allocated, the plan falls 25 percent short of the nitrogen goal.
In 2009, CBF and partners sued the federal Environmental Protection Agency for its lack of enforcement of the Clean Water Act in the Chesapeake Bay region. A year-long negotiation between CBF and EPA ensued.
It culminated with the Obama Administration’s EPA developing a Bay watershed-wide Total Maximum Daily Load, a limit on the pollution the Bay can withstand and remain healthy.
CBF agreed to drop the suit and the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint was launched, with a goal of having the programs and practices in place by 2025 that will lead to a restored Bay.
I still say Maryland and Virginia have to find more incentives for Pennsylvania to clean up the waters that drain into the Bay. Pennsylvania stands to pay a hefty price and reap very little of the benefit. Unfortunately, I don't know what those would be.