Friday, August 23, 2019

Final PA Chesapeake Bay Implementation Plan Still Falls Short Of Required Water Pollution Reductions, Again

On August 23, DEP submitted Pennsylvania’s final Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its review of whether it meets the Commonwealth’s obligations to reduce water pollution going to the Bay enough to meet the 2025 goals.
The final Plan did not change from the draft final Plan reviewed on August 16 by the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Planning Steering Committee.
On its face, the final Plan achieves about 73 percent of the 34.13 million pounds of nitrogen reductions and over 120 percent of the 756,000 pounds of phosphorus reductions Pennsylvania needs to meet the 2025 goal.
The state’s draft WIP achieved 64 percent of the nitrogen and 76 percent of the phosphorus needed to meet Pennsylvania’s 2025 goals.
In spite of the nitrogen shortfall, DEP said “Pennsylvania commits to have the practices and controls in place by 2025 necessary to achieve the final Phase 3 WIP phosphorus and nitrogen targets.”
DEP expects to achieve the extra needed reductions by: “taking credit for programs that have not been documented prior to 2018, but that have begun to track progress for credit in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Model; statewide sector initiatives for all counties without a completed county Clean Water Action Plan; new sector initiatives that were added since the draft WIP; and continued quantification of undocumented practices including non-cost share BMPs.”
DEP added, “Through adaptive management, Pennsylvania also intends to gain accreditation of new practices that improve water quality and reduce nutrient and sediment pollution.”
Significant Funding Gap
DEP estimates the annual gap in funding to implement the final Plan is $324 million in each of the next 6 years to meet the 2025 goals-- $1.94 billion.
If state funding levels remain the same as they are now, Pennsylvania could not achieve the pollution reduction goals it is obligated to meet much before 2044-- 19 to 20 years late.
[Note: Harrisburg politicians have consistently and repeatedly failed in their obligation to invest in local clean water and environmental restoration over the last decade diverting well over $2.7 billion in environmental funding into the black hole of the General Fund or to non-environmental programs that could not get funding on their own.
[The FY 2019-20 final state budget is just the latest example.  It included only $6 million in additional funding for farm conservation practices and cut $16 million in funding from the Environmental Stewardship (Growing Greener) Fund that could have helped fund local watershed restoration projects, like 32,000 acres of stream buffers.
[The obligation for providing funding is squarely on the Harrisburg politicians. Click Here for more.]
Failing To Meet Goals
DEP said in the final Plan: “Failing to restore Pennsylvania’s impaired waters will mean that our drinking water resources, outdoor recreation, wildlife, and public health and safety will remain impacted. Local communities will continue to suffer from pollution-related problems such as stormwater and flood damage, contamination of drinking water sources, fouled waterways, and lost recreation opportunities.”
The Plan said if EPA determines that Pennsylvania cannot meet its goals on its own, EPA has stated it may increase federal enforcement and compliance efforts. For example, EPA has outlined possible consequences including:
-- New nitrogen and phosphorus numeric water quality standards for streams and rivers in Pennsylvania;
-- More animal feeding operations, industrial and municipal stormwater sources, and urban areas to obtain Clean Water Act permits;
-- Stricter nutrient or sediment reductions for those that already have permits;
-- Redirection of EPA grant funding away from the state’s priorities to its own priorities.
EPA already has Pennsylvania at so-called backstop levels for agricultural and urban/suburban stormwater sectors.  This means they have substantial concerns with Pennsylvania’s strategy to implement measures to achieve the goals and it may take federal action to get the state back on track.
In June of 2018, EPA outlined in writing to Pennsylvania and other states what its expectations were for the Watershed Implementation Plans and the consequences if they failed to achieve the goals.
State, County, Federal Actions
The final Plan lists the state, county and federal actions needed to implement the Plan and achieve the 2025 reduction goals.  
State Actions
Agriculture --
-- Agricultural Compliance:  Ensure farmers are continuing to implement their state required Agricultural Erosion and Sediment Control (Ag E&S) or conservation plan, Manure Management/Nutrient Management Plan, and are implementing required barnyard runoff controls, where needed.
-- Soil Health: Use crop and soil management practices that improve long-term soil health and stability.
-- Expanded Nutrient Management: Both manured and non-manured farmlands use nutrient management plans and precision nutrient management practices.
-- Manure Storage Facilities: Install and use animal waste management systems, meeting state regulatory requirements, to adequately store manure for effective nutrient use.
-- Dairy Precision Feeding: Use precision feed management to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus in manure.
-- Integrated Systems for Elimination of Excess Manure: Create integrated (county/regional) programs for transport and/or beneficial use of excess manure.
-- Forest and Grass Riparian Buffers: Plant perennial herbaceous or forest buffers along streams.
Forestry -- 
-- Forest Riparian Buffers:  Plant trees and shrubs along streams
-- Tree Canopy: Plant trees in developed areas.
-- Woods and Pollinator Habitat: Convert lawn and turf areas to woods and meadows.
-- Forest and Natural Area Conservation: Provide credits for land conservation and revise zoning and ordinances to conserve existing natural areas
-- Stream and Wetland Restoration: Support efforts to restore local streams and wetlands.
Stormwater --
-- Implement pollutant reduction plans for Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4) Communities: As one component of the 2018 permit, MS4 permittees must implement management practices to achieve the reductions identified in their respective Pollutant Reduction Plans (PRPs) by 2023.
-- New riparian forest buffers: Plant trees and shrubs along streams.
-- Control measures for illicit discharges: DEP to facilitate municipal ordinance amendments to control illicit discharges to storm sewer systems.
-- Industrial stormwater: DEP to develop technical guidance, intended to supplement existing requirements, to inform industrial stormwater discharge permittees engaged in these activities. This guidance will list appropriate BMP utilization, design standards and implementation to reduce pollution which are acceptable to manage industrial stormwater.
-- Fertilizer legislation: This proposed legislation could result in nutrient reductions in urbanized areas. When passed, it is estimated that this legislation could reduce nitrogen runoff by 105,000 pounds per year and phosphorus runoff by 4,000 pounds.
-- Erosion and Sediment Control (E&S Control) and Post-construction Stormwater Management (PCSM):  Continue permitting, inspecting, and ensuring compliance with Pennsylvania’s erosion and sediment control and post- construction stormwater permit requirements, found in 25 Pa. Code Chapter 102, including DEP programs that implement these provisions not previously reported to the Chesapeake Bay Program for progress. Initial estimates of the projected reductions from the implementation of these programs between now and 2025 are 433,000 pounds of nitrogen and 32,000 pounds of phosphorus.
-- Dirt and Gravel Roads:  Continue to implement the Dirt and Gravel Roads Program through the Center for Dirt and Gravel Roads.
Wastewater --
-- Continue Current Treatment: Existing significant wastewater treatment systems will continue the successful treatment levels already achieved with biological nutrient removal.
-- Plant Optimization Program: Expand DEP’s current assistance program to maximize operations at wastewater systems to achieve additional reductions where appropriate.
-- Municipalities Implement Onsite Septic System Inspection and Pumping Programs: As a requirement under the Act 537 Sewage Facilities Planning Act, municipalities are required to implement onsite septic system inspection and pumping programs. However, the implementation of these programs is not currently tracked or documented. Municipalities will work with DEP to ensure proper tracking and achieve further reductions.
County Actions
Each of the 43 counties in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed in Pennsylvania will receive a county-specific pollution reduction goal, planning tools and a customized technical toolbox to create a local Clean Water Plan for their county with local stakeholders through a collaborative process.
It is important to note the goals do not establish any new requirement or regulatory obligation on counties.  They are a way to engage with local partners on shared issues and focus resources.
Federal Actions
DEP has assigned major federal facilities in the 43 counties of the Bay Watershed a nutrient reduction goal and will require them to submit a plan on how they will achieve these reductions.
Somewhat obviously, DEP pointed out Pennsylvania will continue to need funding from EPA for pollution reduction projects. 
Other areas for coordination with the feds include--
-- Tracking and reporting efforts by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to install many of the pollution prevention practices described in this document.
-- Closing gaps in how the partners measure, verify, and report on BMPs and wetland restoration projects.
-- Revisions to EPA’s Clean Water Act Section 319 grants to make those funds available for projects that meet the goals of the Phase 3 WIP.
Other sections of the final Plan outline the steps Pennsylvania will take on: Documenting, Tracking & Verifying Reductions; Milestones and Progress Reporting; Accounting for Growth; Climate Change, a Communication and Engagement Strategy
Pennsylvania Is Lynchpin
Pennsylvania is the linchpin to meeting all the water pollution reduction objectives in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.  If Pennsylvania fails to meet its goals, so will the entire effort.
That’s why there have been recent rumblings in Maryland and Virginia about a fresh lawsuit against Pennsylvania for not meeting its clean water obligations.
Visit the PA Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan webpage for a copy of the final Plan.
Related Article:
CBF: Pennsylvania's Plan To Reduce Pollution Going To Chesapeake Bay Sorely Deficient

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