Monday, March 22, 2021

The Bay Gets a New Boss

EPA Chesapeake Bay Program director to step down

Dana Aunkst, who has served as director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay Office since December 2018, announced that he is stepping down from that role to take another position within the agency.

The director position will be filled on an interim basis by Michelle Price-Fay, who heads the clean water branch of the EPA Mid-Atlantic Region, which oversees the Bay Program.

He must have been OK; I hardly remember hearing his name. It sounds like he is being putsched out as part of a clearance of Trump era figures, although as far as I know the Bay Program director is not directly appointed by the President.

Aunkst, a longtime official within the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, was named to the Bay Program director post in December 2018. He will step down effective March 28.
. . . 
His tenure came at a time when the state-federal Bay Program partnership was continually threatened with major budget cuts — or outright elimination — by the Trump administration.

Which is pretty routine practice during Republican administrations; they propose to eliminate CPB, or at least merge it back into EPA region 3, and the Congress routinely restores it. Everybody gets good press with their base, and nothing changes. 

Aunkst was at the center of a controversy in January 2020 when, responding to a question at a Chesapeake Bay Commission meeting, he described the region’s 2025 cleanup deadline as “aspirational” and said that the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load — which established numeric nutrient reduction goals for each state — is “not an enforceable document.”

While a TMDL is not strictly enforceable itself, regulatory actions — such as all discharge permits — are required to be consistent with a TMDL. Environmental groups saw the statement as a signal that the EPA was stepping way from its Bay commitments, and it drew sharp criticism from lawmakers.

In other words, he told the truth. Myself? I expect a whole lot of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth when the  Bay Diet goals remain largely unmet in 2025 (which is coming right up), but not a lot of new ideas as to how to bridge the gap.

Price-Fay has played a role in regulatory activities that support the Bay Program in the past and has overseen the region’s water discharge permit program. She has also overseen grant programs that assist states with water quality improvement projects, promote green infrastructure and control runoff pollution. She’s also been involved in the National Estuary Program and implementation of the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act.

Bill Jenkins, who has been acting deputy director of the Bay Program office since the beginning of 2021, will continue in that role.

A new Bay Program director will not be named until after the Biden Administration selects a new administrator for the EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region.

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