Pennsylvania still dragging its feet in Chesapeake Bay cleanup effort

Pennsylvania’s plentiful waterways have much to offer in terms of natural resources, outdoor recreation and aestetic beauty. But the state falls far short of taking care of business when it comes to keeping its largest watershed, the Chesapeake Bay, clean.

The Environmental Protection Agency recently released its evaluation of the Phase III Watershed Implemetation plans for the waters of three states (Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia) flowing into the Chesapeake Bay, which contribute to 90-percent of pollution entering the estuary.

While Maryland and Virginia have outlined well-defined plans to meet pollution reduction and restored water quality goals by the  target year of 2025, Pennsylvania’s plan is disappointing, as it is underfunded by more than $300 million annually and still falls 25-percent short of reaching its nitrogen-reduction goal.

The 2010 Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint was established a decade ago to hold states accountable for ensuring a healthy Bay. It required the states to set science-based pollution limits and implementation plans for meeting transparent, two-year incremental milestones working toward a fully restored Chesapeake Bay by 2025. If Pennsylvania doesn’t step up and carry its weight in this process, the partnership will be unable to fulfill its ultimate purpose.

As required by the Clean Water Act, the EPA is responsible for providing oversight on the progress of the Blueprint, but EPA has yet to take any action to hold Pennsylvania accountable for the failure of its plan to demonstrate reasonable assurance of meeting the 2025 deadline.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s President William C. Baker shared strong words regarding the lack of initiative displayed by both Pennsylvania and the EPA in this most recent report.

“Pennsylvania’s executive leadership has admitted that it has neither a complete plan nor the money to meet the Commonwealth’s repeated promise to reduce pollution,” Baker said. “Pennsylvania has consistently come up short in its implementation of every two-year milestone plan since 2010. This current failure to reach the 2025 goals should be no surprise.”

“EPA has failed to fulfill its obligation to be the referee of the multi-state partnership. It has not held Pennsylvania accountable. Rather, it has once again kicked the can down the road, abdicating its Clean Water Act responsibilities and putting the Bay restoration in jeopardy,” he added.

According to CBF, agriculture is the largest source of pollution to rivers and streams in Pennsylvania, so a great deal of attention is being focused on agriculture for achieving the required nitrogen reductions.

While there has been real commitment from farmers, county conservation districts, local nonprofits, and countless others to help farmers implement conservation measures, Pennsylvania’s elected officials have repeatedly failed to provide adequate financial investments.

Many farmers are proud of the progress they’ve made implementing conservation practices. They’re excited by the cover crops they’ve planted, the organic matter they’ve added to their soil through better management, as well as the potential for adding trees.

Likewise, county conservation districts and non-profits are working diligently, and at capacity, with farmers to make a difference. But without proper funding from the state, and enforced accountability from the EPA, Pennsylvania’s plan still falls short on the scope of impact necessary for a fully restored Chesapeake Bay.

“Eleven years ago, CBF sued EPA over its failure to uphold the Clean Water Act.,” Baker warned. “EPA’s continued failure means we will consider that option again.”

Categories: Pennsylvania – Tyler Frantz

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