EPA Finds Maryland Phase III WIP Will Meet Bay TMDL Goals But Pennsylvania & New York WIPs Miss Their Targets

Bay Journal article (2019-07-09) reported that the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has concluded that Maryland’s proposed Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) will meet its 2025 water pollution reduction goals under the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) but lacks important implementation details. EPA also found that the draft WIPs for Pennsylvania and New York fail to their Bay TMDL goals, meaning the entire region will miss its reduction targets.

Two Bay watershed jurisdictions, the District of Columbia and West Virginia have already meet their pollution reduction goals. Bay watershed states have to submit a final version of their Phase III WIP in August.

The article indicated that most of the WIP criticisms related to: (1) a lack of detailed cost estimates or how the states would pay for their plans; and (2) making up pollution reduction shortfalls with additional reductions from wastewater treatment plants or the agricultural sector. The article indicated that the combined costs for meeting the 2025 Bay TMDL goals could “easily run into the billions of dollars over the next six years.” EPA can take a variety of enforcement and regulatory “backstops” against a state that fails to meet its TMDL goals.

Agriculture would be responsible for about 85% of the reductions under the draft WIPs.

The article included a summary EPA’s comments for each Bay Watershed state and the District of Columbia. Here are brief summaries from the article for Pennsylvania and Maryland:

Pennsylvania

2025 Targets: 73.18 million pounds of nitrogen, 3.04 million pounds of phosphorus

EPA determined that Pennsylvania’s draft WIP would only meet 64% of its nitrogen reduction targets and 76% of its phosphorus reduction targets. From the article:

The EPA review said Pennsylvania’s plan lacked details showing how it would address shortfalls in funding and staff. The federal agency also questioned the lack of timelines for making needed regulatory and legislative changes. …

The EPA said it understood that Pennsylvania has “unique challenges.” The state is the largest contributor of nutrients to the Bay, and those pollutants mostly come from small farms and small municipalities where controlling them is difficult. …

The EPA also faulted the sparse explanation of how the state would curtail runoff from developed lands. Pennsylvania has more stormwater than any other state in the watershed, and 75% of it comes from areas too sparsely populated to be covered by existing regulatory programs.

While the state’s draft WIP outlined an annual $257 million funding shortfall and potential funding sources, it did not identify where specific funding would come from or if any dedicated funding source would be established.

Maryland

2025 Targets: 45.78 million pounds of nitrogen and 3.68 million pounds of phosphorus

While the EPA found that Maryland’s draft WIP met its nutrient reduction goals, the WIP did lack important implementation details. From the article:

In particular, the state needed to offer more information about how it would install new agricultural runoff control measures which, in many cases, must be done at significantly higher rates. The EPA said the draft is unclear whether the state has adequate funding in place to support those efforts, or to provide the necessary increased technical assistance to farmers.

The agency also said the plan lacked detail about how Maryland would accelerate stormwater controls by 2025.

Maryland’s draft WIP has also been criticized from some organizations for not including county-level details about meeting its nutrient reduction targets.

Useful Links

Maryland Department of the Environment Phase III WIP Webpage

Maryland Draft Phase III WIP (Full Report)

Maryland Draft Phase III WIP (Executive Summary)

Maryland Phase III WIP FAQ

Learn more about Maryland’s Phase III WIP and how it compares to other states at the 2019 2019 MACo Summer Conference. The panel “Endgame: Can Our Phase III WIP Meet Our Bay Restoration Goals?” will also discuss Maryland’s current Bay restoration progress and highlight county responsibilities under Maryland’s Phase III WIP. The panel will take place on August 16, 2019, from 2:15 pm – 3:15 pm.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

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