Thursday, December 19, 2019

EPA Says PA’s Final Chesapeake Bay Plan Falls 25% Short Of Meeting Necessary Nitrogen Reductions, Fails To Identify Funding To Implement The Plan

On December 19, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its evaluation of the final Watershed Implementation Plans submitted by Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New York, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia describing how they will meet the phosphorus and nitrogen reduction goals for 2025.
Overall, EPA found Pennsylvania’s Plan fell short of meeting the required nitrogen reductions by 25 percent and did not identify where the $1.944 billion in funding needed over the next 6 years to implement the Plan would be coming from.
The departments of Environmental Protection, Agriculture and Conservation and Natural Resources submitted the final Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan to EPA for review on August 23 for review.
“We appreciate the commitments to clean water and the robust public engagement reflected in the plans,” said EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Cosmo Servidio.  “Our reviews provide the Bay jurisdictions with detailed evaluations – where they succeeded and where they could take further action to enhance their plans to improve confidence in meeting their goals.”
“It is critical that we continue the momentum that has led to signature successes and positive signs of resilience in the watershed,” said Servidio.  “The Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure and its environmental, economic and cultural importance cannot be understated.”
Falls 25% Short
EPA’s evaluation of Pennsylvania’s Plan found it meets the target for phosphorus reductions, but falls 25 percent short of meeting the target for nitrogen.
"Pennsylvania’s current planned efforts do not achieve the nitrogen Phase III WIP planning target, nor does the plan explain how or when additional reductions from the remaining County Action Plans will be incorporated into the broader plan to achieve the nitrogen planning target."
EPA said Pennsylvania should “...seize upon the stakeholder momentum, reconsidering the sector workgroup recommendations, and develop numeric 2020 – 2021 milestones that are based on implementing programs and practices to meet 100 percent of the planning target for nitrogen by 2025."
EPA again gave Pennsylvania high marks for outreach and community efforts in developing the plan, for its county-based planning efforts and implementation for the PA Ag Conservation Stewardship Program starting in January.
[Note: This is no surprise. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation and other groups said Pennsylvania’s Plan fails to meet its 2025 pollution reduction obligations when it was submitted in August. 
[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.  Click Here for more.]
No Funding
EPA noted the Plan identifies several options for generating the $324 million a year needed for the next 6 years to implement the Plan, however, it “does not indicate if any of the options are actively being pursued.  EPA recommends that Pennsylvania clarify what commitments are being made and how establishment of a dedicated funding source for water quality improvements will be achieved.”
[Note: Again, this is no surprise.]
Lacks Detail On Ag BMPs
With respect to agricultural Best Management Practices, which account for 76 percent of nitrogen reductions, EPA said Pennsylvania's plan lacks detailed explanations about how DEP will "strengthen these practices and programs including the inspection and maintenance of the BMPs already implemented.”
EPA said, “These concerns could be addressed through development of specific and detailed numeric targets for BMP implementation in selected source sectors."
10 Recommendations
"EPA recommends that Pennsylvania consider amending its Phase III WIP to include more robust implementation details and programmatic commitments on the initiatives identified for achieving commitments on nutrient reductions, including securing the necessary funding and staff, enacting needed legislation, refining programs, and developing necessary regulatory changes."
Specifically, EPA makes 10 recommendations for amending the plan--
-- How To Makeup For Shortall: A description of the additional steps to be taken to close the 25 percent shortfall in meeting the nitrogen reductions;
-- Funding Options Being Pursued: Identify which funding options will be pursued to implement the Plan;
-- New Strategies/Programs: A description of the new strategies, legislative programs, incentive programs, compliance programs, and/or funding mechanisms) to support significant increases in implementation levels included in the Plan;
-- Specifics On How BMPs Will Meet Targets: More information on how specific BMPs are going to meet the numeric targets for nitrogen reductions;
-- How Will County Plans Meet Targets: Identify how implementation of the 39 countywide Action Plans will achieve the nitrogen reduction target by 2025;
-- Stormwater Trading Program: Description of how a trading program will address pollution reductions from stormwater runoff;
-- MS4 Stormwater Compliance: Description of how DEP will ensure MS4 Stormwater Program compliance;
-- Stormwater Outreach/Funding: Identify additional actions for communication and outreach and funding and resources for the stormwater program;
-- Wastewater Optimization Plan: Additional details neededon the expansion of its wastewater plan optimization program; and
-- General Trading Program: Additional detail needed with respect to using trading to achieve the Plan goals.
Pennsylvania will now have to respond to EPA’s evaluation.
For more information on how Pennsylvania plans to meet its Chesapeake Bay cleanup obligations, visit DEP’s PA’s Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan webpage.
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[Posted: December 19, 2019]

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