EPA Facing Multiple Lawsuits Over Failure to Enforce Chesapeake Bay Cleanup

A coalition being led by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and including Anne Arundel County is suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to hold Pennsylvania and New York accountable for inadequate pollution reduction plans. Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, along with other state Attorneys General from Delaware, Virginia, and Washington D.C. are filing a separate suit.

The coalition is following through on its notice of intent to sue EPA they filed back in May by formally filing suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The lawsuit alleges that under the Clean Water Act (CWA), EPA has a responsibility to ensure that states meet their 2025 pollution reduction goals outlined in the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. When state plans for pollution reduction were made public it was clear that both Pennsylvania and New York’s plans fall short. Both are underfunded and fail to reach the needed level of nitrogen-reduction.

From CBF’s press release:

“The Clean Water Act requires EPA to ensure the states design and implement plans to meet their clean water commitments. After years of failed voluntary efforts, this oversight and accountability is critical,” said CBF President William C. Baker.

CBF’s partners in the suit are Anne Arundel County, Maryland, the Maryland Watermen’s Association, and Robert Whitescarver and Jeanne Hoffman, who operate a livestock farm in Virginia.

“Anne Arundel County residents have invested far too much in the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort to watch from the sidelines as upstream states and the EPA abandon their obligations,” said Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman. “Since the federal government refuses to lead, placing our local economy, our residents, and our very way of life at risk, I must ask the courts to intervene and make them lead.”

Simultaneously, Attorneys General from the other Chesapeake Bay area states are filing suit. Their complaint asserts that while Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. will fulfill their pollution reduction requirements, EPA has wrongfully approved Pennsylvania and New York’s deficient plans, and has a duty to require they reach outlined goals.

From the press release:

“The Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure,” said Attorney General Frosh. “Restoring the health of the Bay will take a coordinated, comprehensive effort by each of the watershed states. EPA has walked away from its responsibility to regulate and manage the efforts of the Bay states. Today, we are asking the court to force EPA to do its job.”

“Governor Hogan has pressed for a lawsuit from day one if EPA and states in the Susquehanna River watershed failed to honor their Chesapeake commitments under the Clean Water Act,” said Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles. “Our lawsuit is now absolutely necessary to get EPA and our partners upstream and upwind to do their fair share to protect our beloved Bay.”

For more information, visit CBF’s page, and AG Frosh’s press release.