CBF Calls on EPA to Hold States Accountable to Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint

News Release, Chesapeake Bay Foundation

(ANNAPOLIS, MD)—Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its evaluation of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland’s draft “Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plans.” Once final, these plans will provide the roadmap for each state to meet its commitments to reduce pollution under the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint by 2025. The EPA is a critical part of saving the Bay because it provides oversight and enforcement of the Blueprint. If any jurisdiction fails to take the appropriate actions, EPA has promised to hold them accountable.

While Virginia and Maryland‘s plans are on track, Pennsylvania‘s draft plan falls drastically short of its pollution reduction goals, and Pennsylvania’s leaders are not providing the resources necessary to implement the plan and protect their waterways. This endangers the future of the Bay and the people that rely on it. 

EPA’s evaluation of Pennsylvania’s plan is inadequate. It did not demand further pollution reduction or outline consequences for failure.

Chesapeake Bay President Will Baker said:

“EPA’s failure to take action will reverse the Bay’s fragile recovery. Now more than ever, EPA must hold the states accountable. This is especially true for Pennsylvania. The Commonwealth’s draft plan will not accomplish the pollution reduction targets it promised to meet. The Pennsylvania legislature continues to deny farmers the investments they need to protect ground water, restore local streams, and reduce pollution. We have one last chance to get this right. If EPA doesn’t fully exercise its oversight responsibility, efforts to save the Bay will be lost. CBF will do everything in our power to prevent that from happening, including considering our legal options.”

EPA’s Evaluation of Pennsylvania’s Clean Water Blueprint

The evaluation presents the highlights and challenges of Pennsylvania’s draft Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP). EPA notes that the WIP lacks implementation details and programmatic commitments on the initiatives identified for achieving pollution reductions, including securing the necessary funding and staff, enacting needed legislation, refining programs, and developing necessary regulatory changes.

The evaluation also cites that the plan achieves about 64 percent of the nitrogen and 76 percent of the phosphorus planning targets overall. The EPA noted that, “Since the four pilot countywide action plans did not result in fully meeting their targets, Pennsylvania should identify a process for how the remaining counties will meet their targets, including a contingency plan in case the non-pilot counties cannot make up for that gap to achieve the Phase III WIP planning targets by 2025.” 

CBF’s Pennsylvania Executive Director Harry Campbell said:

“Pennsylvania has a lot of work ahead to get back on track toward its clean water commitment. Getting there requires a complete and funded Clean Water Blueprint.

“It is not acceptable that the draft Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan only achieves just two-thirds of the nitrogen reduction goal and is underfunded by nearly $257 million. 

“The Commonwealth must show leadership and make the necessary investments to empower the conservation community, farmers, and communities, so they can implement a complete Blueprint and provide the clean water that Pennsylvanians deserve.”

EPA’s Evaluation of Virginia’s Clean Water Blueprint

Highlights of EPA’s evaluation of Virginia’s proposed plan include: 

  • EPA found that Virginia’s plan will allow it to meet its pollution reduction goals by the 2025 deadline;
  • EPA supports Virginia’s call for legislation that ensures livestock will be fenced out of streams and scientific management of nutrients on most cropland;
  • EPA supports Virginia’s proposal to require additional reductions in pollution from wastewater treatment plants, and;
  • EPA calls for more detail on how Virginia will assure adequate funding for stormwater management and other strategies outlined in Virginia’s Blueprint. 

Chesapeake Bay Foundation Virginia Assistant Director Peggy Sanner said: 

“While the EPA found that Virginia’s Blueprint will keep the Commonwealth on track to meeting clean water goals, adequate, reliable funding and practical implementation details for key programs will be essential to making this plan a reality. Support from Virginia’s legislators will be crucial to ensuring full restoration of Virginia rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay.” 

EPA’s Evaluation of Maryland’s Clean Water Blueprint

EPA found Maryland’s plan to reduce nitrogen and phosphorous in the state could meet the reductions required by 2025. The agency commended state officials for funding the Bay Restoration Fund, Maryland Agricultural Cost Share and other conservation funds to enable the state to install best management practices to reduce pollution. In particular, the state has methodically worked to upgrade its wastewater treatment plants leading to significant reductions in the pollution released by them.

However, EPA, as CBF has done in the past, criticized the plan for failing to put forth concrete strategies to reduce agriculture pollution and stormwater runoff from cites and suburbs. EPA called on the state to better track progress in these sectors and provide more details about how it will fund practices to reduce pollution from farms and developed areas. CBF has already asked the state to provide more funding for long-term practices such as forested stream buffers, rotational grazing, and green infrastructure to address those issues.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation Maryland Executive Director Alison Prost said:

“Maryland should heed the criticism leveled by the EPA. The state must do more to reduce stormwater runoff streaming into the Bay from our cities and towns as well as the pollution generated from agriculture. Maryland has done an excellent job upgrading its wastewater treatment plants thanks to a dedicated funding source, but reducing runoff from farms and developed lands will protect the state long-term from climate change well after 2025. That’s why we continue to urge the state to invest more resources into planting more trees along streams, restoring wetlands, supporting farmers who want to use rotational grazing for their livestock, and helping jurisdictions install proven stormwater management techniques in their cities and towns.”

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