Federal regulators will continue stepped-up inspections of Pennsylvania farms after determining the state’s latest Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan is inadequate.
“Our policy of tough love will continue,” Adam Ortiz, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Mid-Atlantic regional administrator, said Monday.
If fully implemented, Pennsylvania’s plan would nearly achieve its goals for reducing phosphorus and sediment, but would reach only 72% of the nitrogen standard, the EPA said.
After finding fault with a previous version of Pennsylvania’s strategy, Ortiz announced in April that the agency would increase visits to livestock operations that might or do require pollution discharge permits, and would expand check-ups for stormwater systems and other nonfarm pollution sources.
Those visits began in June. Ortiz did not have an immediate update on the outcomes of the inspections conducted so far.
“What we have found across the board is willingness from all sectors to do what needs to be done,” Ortiz said. “Historically, the issue has been policy and investment to help them out.”
Pennsylvania established its plan for the last phase of the Chesapeake cleanup program in 2019, but resubmitted it last December and again this summer in an attempt to address EPA recommendations.
The EPA does not approve or disapprove the state plans, but it provides feedback and can increase enforcement if it determines the plan doesn’t achieve enough.
Pennsylvania’s latest plan falls short of its nitrogen goal by 9.3 million pounds, only a modest improvement from the 9.8 million pounds from the 2019 plan, according to EPA.
Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection did not immediately respond to a request for comment on EPA’s findings.
If it chose, Pennsylvania or any bay state could update its cleanup plan at any time, or it could provide new details in its two-year milestone reports, said Suzanne Trevena, the Chesapeake Bay regulatory manager for the EPA Mid-Atlantic region.
The EPA will maintain its heightened enforcement in Pennsylvania “for the foreseeable future,” Ortiz said.
One sticking point is that Pennsylvania is trying to get credit for environmental site work that is rather old.
So if it helped, but you did it before the EPA wanted it, or expected it, it doesn't count? That doesn't seem fair.