Two states and the District of Columbia say they plan to sue the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to enforce a court-ordered agreement to dramatically lower pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, the nation’s largest estuary.But the MD, VA and DC actually have shorelines on Chesapeake Bay, and stand to benefit from their own clean up. Pennsylvania and New York have nothing to gain except for our gratitude. And we know what that's worth. If we expect them to contribute to our well being we should expect to give them something in return.
In a notice of intent to sue, the attorneys general of Maryland, Virginia and the District claimed Monday that EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler stood by as New York and Pennsylvania allowed levels of pollution that violated the plan into rivers that feed into the Chesapeake. Under an agreement signed by six states in the bay watershed — also including West Virginia and Delaware — the federal agency is tasked with policing the cleanup.
Before the agreement was signed in 2009, each jurisdiction committed to individual plans to limit nutrient pollution runoff from wastewater treatment facilities and farms into the watershed. Nutrient pollution from human and animal waste contributes to massive algal blooms that lower the level of oxygen in the bay and block sunlight from underwater grasses that serve as a sanctuary for marine life.
The EPA pledged to review each state plan and require the states to meet their goals, depriving them of permits that allow pollution to run from construction sites, livestock farms and other operations if necessary.
Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) said his state has invested hundreds of millions in upgrading wastewater facilities and monitoring farms since the cleanup started in December 2010, only to have states upstream repeatedly submit inadequate pollution reduction goals and violate them.
“The state of Maryland made major sacrifices,” Frosh said. “This is a fight we cannot win without our neighbors and the commitment of the EPA. The EPA has flat out walked away from its responsibility."
So, was the timing of the announcement designed to cover up something? It sure looks like it.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Maryland Watermen’s Association, Anne Arundel County and others also issued letters of intent to sue the federal government under the same claim.The Bay cleanup has been fairly successful so far, but the hard and expensive half has yet to happen.
“From what we can tell, the claim has no merit,” Wheeler said of the intent to sue. He was on a call with reporters Monday to announce that the EPA will commit $6 million to reduce agricultural runoff in the six bay states.
Wheeler questioned the timing of the announcement, saying the Chesapeake Bay Foundation was notified Friday that the EPA intended to announce the additional funding on Monday.
“I don’t think that was a coincidence,” Wheeler said. “I think it shows they would much rather litigate and make news sound bites than they would work on and solve the problems with the bay.”
The agency has 60 days to respond before the attorneys general and their partners can file claims in federal court.