Pennsylvania, Federal Government Commit Funding for Keystone State’s Bay Restoration Effort

A Bay Journal article (2016-10-04) reported that Pennsylvania and the federal government are pledging $28 million in additional funding to address the state’s lagging Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts. As previously reported on Conduit Street, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found Pennsylvania has consistently fallen short of its Bay restoration targets. Maryland is affected by agricultural runoff from Pennsylvania coming down the Susquehanna River and through the Conowingo Dam. From the article:

“I think Pennsylvania has some explaining to do,” confessed Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, who was making his first appearance at an annual meeting of the federal-state Bay Program’s Chesapeake Executive Council.

Wolf, who laid his state’s laggardness on his predecessors, said that largely by shifting around funds in his budget he would put an additional $11.8 million toward a variety of efforts to get more Pennsylvania farmers to apply conservation practices on their lands.

Federal officials, in turn, announced they’d commit more funds to Pennsylvania. Robert Bonnie, undersecretary for natural resources and the environment at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said the USDA would funnel $12.7 million more for farm conservation efforts in the state. And U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy said her agency is providing an additional $4 million to help the state with its cleanup activities.

“That is not chump change,” McCarthy said of the combined total.

While stakeholders expressed support for the additional funding, several noted that there is still a significant amount of work ahead for Pennsylvania and all Bay states:

Maryland State Sen. Thomas M. Middleton, the Bay Commission’s chairman, pointed out that Pennsylvania has already spent about $4 billion on Bay restoration efforts since the 1980s but still is a long way from achieving the pollution reductions needed to improve Bay water quality. About 55 percent of all the nitrogen contributing to the Chesapeake’s algae blooms and oxygen-starved “dead zones,” Middleton noted, comes from Pennsylvania farmers.

“Pennsylvania’s farmers are making progress, but there is a lot of ground to make up,” he said in remarks prepared for the council meeting. …

“The really good news is that this is exactly the right time to be putting more money into restoration,” Chesapeake Bay Foundation President William Baker said, “when we’re seeing progress.” He warned against the “Lake Erie effect,” in which he said funding for cleaning up one of the Great Lakes fell off just as the effort appeared to be succeeding, and the water body declined again.

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