The EPA has reached a proposed settlement that would require greater enforcement in PA communities responsible for the greatest bay pollution.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reached a proposed settlement regarding several lawsuits over lax enforcement of Pennsylvania’s Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint commitments. Anne Arundel County, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), Maryland, Virginia, the District of Columbia, Maryland Watermen’s Association, and others decided to sue the EPA citing that,
“…(the EPA failed) to enforce provisions of the Clean Water Act by not requiring Pennsylvania to develop a plan to fully meet pollution reduction goals for the Bay set several years earlier in a multi-state compact with the federal government. The suits also noted that EPA did not use its mechanisms for penalizing states like Pennsylvania that did not meet their pollution reduction goals or for requiring the state’s to earmark sufficient funding for Bay clean-up.” (Maryland Matters)
Longtime readers will know that Blue Crab populations have dramatically declined in recent decades. Some crabs have even been spotted migrating from the Chesapeake Bay as far as Maine. This decline is a perfect representation of the health of the bay and is largely due to high levels of pollution flowing from the Susquehanna River, which runs almost entirely through Pennsylvania. For years the state has been holding back the progress of implementing the Chesapeake Blueprint, and to date, is not on track to meet any of its 2025 goals.
Under the settlement, EPA will prioritize, among other things, its efforts in Pennsylvania on the counties that contribute the most pollution to, or have the largest impact on, local rivers and streams. Those are Lancaster, York, Bedford, Cumberland, Centre, Franklin, and Lebanon counties.
According to the press release:
“Protecting our waterways is only possible if we all work together,” said Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman. “Anne Arundel County is doing our part to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay, and we need all of our regional partners to do the same to keep the Bay and our waterways healthy for all who depend on them.”
“Marylanders deserve a clean and healthy Chesapeake Bay. The Bay and its local waterways are vital social, economic, and cultural resources to communities across Maryland, but keeping them healthy is difficult when pollution from Pennsylvania washes downstream,” said Maryland Attorney General Anthony G. Brown. “The Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement only works if all the states that signed it maintain their commitment to restoring and protecting the Bay.”
“This proposed settlement is a win for local waterways, healthy communities, and the Chesapeake Bay. EPA focusing on concerted remedial action to address some of the most severe problems in Pennsylvania provides accountability and reasonable assurance that Bay restoration will succeed,” said CBF President Hilary Harp Falk. “This is a welcome change. The Trump Administration did not use its Clean Water Act tools to hold all Bay partners accountable. This proposed settlement shows that the Biden Administration has taken a significant step forward in meeting that obligation.”
Overview of EPA proposed settlement:
In the agriculture sector, EPA will take a close look at farms not currently required to have federal permits that have proximity to rivers and streams to see if there is significant damage to water quality from manure generation, manure management practices and/or available storage capacity, and compliance history. If EPA determines that a farm is a significant contributor of pollution, EPA will confer with Pennsylvania about designating the farm as a point source subject to permitting.
In urban and suburban areas, EPA will begin to evaluate whether pollution from sources of stormwater that are not currently subject to federal regulations are adding to the damage to local rivers and streams. If EPA determines that a particular source, or sector of sources, contributes to a violation EPA will, at a minimum, confer with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP). EPA and PA DEP will examine the possibility of designating the sources as needing to obtain a point source permit that limits pollution by requiring the removal of impervious surfaces, the installation of BMPs or both.
In enforcement, EPA will increase compliance-assurance activities in the priority counties to assess whether federally-permitted sources are complying with existing permit requirements. EPA will also determine whether there are any PA DEP-issued general permits or individual permits within the Pennsylvania portion of the Bay watershed that have been administratively extended. EPA will work with the Commonwealth to develop a permit reissuance strategy designed to bring permits up to date and significantly reduce the number of administratively extended permits.