The Environmental Protection Agency has reached a tentative settlement in a lawsuit over the agency’s failure to make Pennsylvania abide by the same clean water requirements as other states in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
The 2020 lawsuit demanded the agency enforce the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, a multistate compact which sets limits on the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment flowing into the bay from watershed states.
The suit contended the agency did not do enough to compel Pennsylvania to create and implement a plan to meet pollution goals.
Harry Campbell, science policy director for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, predicted the proposed settlement will bring new attention from the agency to address problems.
“It will help direct and concentrate the energies and authorities under the Environmental Protection Agency to help pinpoint those locations that are significant sources of pollution at the local level,” Campbell outlined. “Then deliver the resources and mechanisms to help solve those pollution sources.”
He pointed out the majority of the pollution is farm runoff. The suit was filed in 2020 by the states of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia, Anne Arundel County, Maryland along with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and other environmental groups.
The Clean Water Blueprint set a total maximum daily load for pollutants in the watershed, in order to rehabilitate waters in the bay and tidal rivers. Campbell noted Pennsylvania’s inaction has had huge impacts on the bay.
“Pennsylvania is a significant part of the overall Chesapeake Bay Watershed,” Campbell explained. “The Chesapeake Bay Watershed is 64,000 square miles in size. The Susquehanna River basin or watershed is almost 28,000 square miles in size.”
He added the Susquehanna River is the largest source of freshwater entering the bay.
Under the proposed agreement, the EPA will focus on Pennsylvania counties contributing the most pollution and have the largest impact on local rivers and streams. Campbell stressed while the agency will look at urban problems like stormwater runoff, the greatest impact on the watershed is from agriculture.
Will this work? I doubt it. Pennsylvania has no shoreline on the Chesapeake Bay, and benefits little from the Bay clean up (they get some benefit from cleaning their own river, but not to the point that it offsets the value of agriculture to their economy). I don't really know what sanctions the EPA can levee on Pennsylvania, a swing state with a lot of impact.