EPA Releases Local Consequences for Failure to Meet TMDL Goals

On December 29, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a letter containing potential consequences for State and local governments that fail to meet their total maximum daily load (TMDL) goals in cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay.  The letter discusses eight potential consequences, including:  (1) expanding National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits to cover previously unregulated sources; (2) object to NPDES permits and increase program oversight; (3) require net improvement offsets; (4) establish finer scale wasteload and load allocations in the Bay TMDL; (5) require additional reductions of loadings from point sources; (6) increase and target federal enforcement and compliance assurance in the watershed; (7) condition or redirect EPA grants; and (8)  federal promulgation of local nutrient water quality standards.

Articles in the Baltimore SunWashington Post, and The Capital discuss the letter and concerns raised by affected stakeholders, including the environmental community and the Maryland Association of Counties.  Several responses from the Sun article:

But activists expressed dismay Tuesday at the lack of specificity in the EPA sanctions. They criticized [the EPA’s] statement that states would not face consequences if they miss any of the short-term “milestones” they set in May when pledging to redouble efforts to restore the bay during the next two years.  “We remain unconvinced that this demonstrates a new EPA approach to enforcing the Clean Water Act,” said William C. Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation….Howard Ernst, a political scientist at the Naval Academy, called the EPA announcement “all teeth and no bite.”…Others, though, found the EPA threats sobering.  Les Knapp, legislative director of the Maryland Association of Counties, said local governments are in a bind, facing growing pressure to do more to reduce pollution while struggling with reduced revenue because of the recession.  And Del. Anthony J. O’Donnell, the House Republican leader from St. Mary’s County, said he believes the U.S. government is overstepping its constitutional limits in trying to dictate state policies.

In response to the perceived weakness of the EPA goals and consequences, Bay advocates and environmentalists have submitted their own restoration plan to President Obama.  As reported by the Washington Post:

The 24-point plan calls for significantly expanding farming regulations. Nearly all animal feeding operations would be regulated and the spreading of animal manure would be regulated the same as sludge from sewage treatment plants. The plan also calls on the EPA to require new development to offset any pollution it causes through reductions elsewhere.

The signatories include former Maryland Govs. Parris Glendening and Harry Hughes; former Rep. Wayne Gilchrest; W. Tayloe Murphy Jr., a former Virginia state delegate and natural resources secretary; and former Maryland Sen. Gerald W. Winegrad.

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