Thursday, January 9, 2020

Maryland Governor Directs Attorney General To Pursue Legal Actions Against PA, EPA On Chesapeake Bay Cleanup

On January 8, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan directed Attorney General Brian Frosh to pursue legal actions against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in order to protect Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts. 
Since his campaign for governor in 2014, Gov. Hogan has repeatedly called on upstream states-- including Pennsylvania-- to step up and take responsibility for sediment and debris that pours into the Chesapeake Bay via the Susquehanna River.
“We have a generational responsibility to protect the Bay, and we simply cannot afford to fall short of these shared obligations,” writes Gov. Hogan. “Therefore, I ask that you commence litigation against the EPA and Pennsylvania, and in close coordination with the Maryland Department of the Environment.”
In August, after watershed states submitted their final Chesapeake Bay clean-up plans to the federal administration, the governor expressed “alarming concerns” about Pennsylvania’s lack of progress on clean water goals and called on the EPA to use its robust oversight powers to hold states accountable.
“Pennsylvania, which is under ‘enhanced’ or ‘backstop’ federal oversight due to failed pollution reduction efforts, has proposed a draft Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) under which it would fall drastically short of its agreed-upon 2025 pollution reduction targets,” writes Gov. Hogan. “The EPA currently appears to have no intention of taking the necessary action to ensure Pennsylvania’s compliance with its commitments.”
“In an evaluation of the WIP released in December 2019, EPA made excuses for Pennsylvani’s alleged “unique challenges” and suggested that Pennsylvania could merely make some “potential enhancements” in its final WIP.
“To make matters worse, EPA officials have made recent public statements downplaying the enforceability of the TMDL.  The EPA currently appears to have no intention of taking the necessary action to ensure Pennsylvania’s compliance with its commitments.
Click Here to read a copy of Gov. Hogan’s letter to the Attorney General.
Gov. Hogan is serving his second term as chairman of the Chesapeake Executive Council, which consists of the governors of the six watershed states, the mayor of the District of Columbia, the chair of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, and the EPA administrator. 
As governor, he has committed an historic $5 billion toward wide-ranging Bay restoration initiatives, and was recently successful in securing an increase in federal funding for Bay cleanup.
Report: Raising Money To Implement PA’s Bay Plan Isn’t Going To Happen
After the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee Chesapeake Bay briefing January 8,  Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming) who serves as Majority Chair of the Committee, told the PA Capital-Star-- “raising that much money [$324 million to implement the recommendations in PA’s Clean Water Plan to meet its Bay obligations] through new fees or taxes “isn’t going to happen.”  
He added, even if the state generated more than $300 million in new taxes and fees by 2025, “I don’t know that we’d have the wherewithal to spend it.”
In a final comment to PA Capital-Star, Sen. Yaw said-- “The chances of us meeting the 2025 suggested [goals] are not likely.”  
Sen. Yaw said he thinks it’s more likely Pennsylvania will get a slap on the wrist from EPA for not meeting its Chesapeake Bay obligations-- “nobody knows what the EPA will do.”
During the Committee briefing, which included  representatives of the interstate Chesapeake Bay Commission, PA Farm Bureau, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation-PA, the departments of Agriculture and Environmental Protection and the State Conservation Commission which administers programs supporting county conservation districts, participants agreed--
-- We Have A Credible Plan: The Phase III Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan submitted to EPA showing how Pennsylvania would meet its water quality cleanup obligations was built from the ground up, based on significant local input and buy-in and represents the most credible plan ever developed by the state.
-- We Need More Resources: Many more resources were needed to implement the stakeholder-backed recommendations in the Plan, including help for farmers to install conservation practices, for communities to deal with issues like stormwater and to provide incentives for installing riparian stream buffers.
-- Momentum: As a result of the stakeholder process that was used to develop the WIP III Plan and other issues, there is now momentum and energy building to address clean water issues in the General Assembly and across the state.
On January 24, 2017, Sen. Yaw and other Pennsylvania members of the Chesapeake Bay Commission wrote to all members of the General Assembly putting a spotlight on the need to address the state’s water pollution cleanup problem and suggested creating a dedicated Clean Water Fund for Pennsylvania.
One proposal outlined in the letter was to raise $245 million a year through a fee on water use. And nothing was done.  Click Here for more.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is supporting Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s effort to pursue legal actions against the EPA and Pennsylvania for that state’s deficient Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation first sued EPA in 2009 for its failure to enforce the Clean Water Act regarding Chesapeake Bay pollution. The settlement to that lawsuit established the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, or Bay TMDL, which set a pollution reduction requirement for each state in the Bay’s watershed.
Last year, Pennsylvania submitted to EPA its most recent plan to reduce Bay pollutants. The plan included an annual estimated funding gap of more than $300 million and fell 25 percent short of the state’s requirement for reducing nitrogen. 
Meanwhile Maryland and Virginia’s plans were mostly on track to meet their pollution reduction goals by 2025, although Maryland must make more progress on reducing pollutants from agriculture and stormwater runoff.
Pennsylvania is the lynchpin of the Chesapeake Bay cleanup. The state makes up the bulk of the Susquehanna River’s watershed and the Susquehanna supplies about 50 percent of the freshwater that enters the Bay.
For several months, CBF has been considering a second lawsuit as EPA has failed to vigorously enforce the Blueprint.
In August, CBF sent a letter to Gov. Hogan in his role as Chairman of the Chesapeake Executive Council urging him to take a leadership role and to consider ways to hold Pennsylvania accountable if EPA failed to move forward with enforcement.
In response to Gov. Hogan’s directive, CBF President Will Baker issued the following statement:
“We commend Gov. Hogan for pursuing legal options. The Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint requires all states in the watershed to do their part and EPA to hold them accountable. So far, Pennsylvania’s elected officials have not made the investments needed to meet their clean water commitments. And EPA’s failure to impose consequences puts the entire cleanup at risk.”
PennFuture President and CEO Jacquelyn Bonomo issued this statement in reaction to the Maryland Governor’s announcement-- "PennFuture has worked for many years to hold Pennsylvania accountable toward its obligations in cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. We are encouraged that others, like the state of Maryland, are stepping up to ensure all of the partners in the Bay TMDL are doing their part, particularly when the EPA seems unwilling to hold Pennsylvania accountable."
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.
(Photo: Conowingo Dam, just below the Mason-Dixon Line after a heavy rain.)
Related Articles:
[Posted: January 9, 2019]  PA Environment Digest

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