Sun Calls for Tough Enforcement of Bay Cleanup Plans

In an opinion piece in today’s Baltimore Sun, the paper calls for tough enforcement of the cleanup goals targeted by the federal EPA.

But just how tough is the EPA prepared to be? The cost of these measures, particularly for such big-ticket items as new sewage treatment plants or storm water management controls to prevent run-off from fouling creeks and streams, could run into the billions of dollars. The agency already softened some of its more ambitious requirements in recent months, as officials negotiated with states over the specifics in what some have called a “pollution diet plan.”

While acknowledging fiscal strains facing all the area states subject to the EPA mandates, the Sun goes on to urge aggressive enforcement actions:

So while an economic recession may not be the ideal time for such a sweeping environmental initiative, it is as good a time as any. There is always an excuse to delay and defer: cost, inconvenience, jobs put at risk. Everyone knows what that gets us — the nation’s largest estuary simply becomes more polluted, the solutions that much more difficult.

What is needed is not just a legally enforceable EPA plan with tough but fair pollution standards, like the one unveiled last week. What is needed are the will and resources to actually enforce it. Agency officials say that is their intention, but we have heard such promises before.

As is the case with all regulatory solutions, what matters is the details. Will Maryland poultry producers be held accountable for animal waste? Will Pennsylvania curb storm water run-off? Will New York upgrade sewage plants? Will local governments adopt smart growth principles that preserve open spaces from development sprawl?

Actions in the coming months by local, state and federal authorities could speak volumes about what may be accomplished over the next 15 years to clean up and protect this important environmental treasure. Let 2011 be remembered as the year when the dream of a restored Chesapeake Bay resulted in something more than just another broken promise.

MACo will be hosting a sponsored “box lunch” session on Friday at the Winter Conference, entitled “Surviving the TMDL Flood” to detail the many issues related to Bay cleanup efforts and goals.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties

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