Reviews | Chesapeake Bay governors no longer meet cleanup deadline

Gerald Winegrad, a Democrat, represented Annapolis in the Maryland Senate, where he chaired the environment and Chesapeake Bay subcommittee.

On Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency caved in to Chesapeake Bay state governors and agricultural interests by failing to enforce the Clean Water Act or impose penalties on holdout states for violating clean water pollutant reduction mandates. the Bay. Instead, the Chesapeake Executive Council’s annual meeting with the EPA Administrator and Bay State Governors turned into a self-congratulatory session where, for the third time, he been recognized that the Bay States will miss a vital cleanup deadline.

Required pollution reductions were set in 2010 when the EPA gave states 15 years to comply. All speakers acknowledged that these reductions would not be achieved by 2025. The critical reduction in berry-choking nutrients would be missed by wide margins – only 42% of nitrogen and 64% of phosphorus. Instead of the EPA announcing penalties for violations of the Clean Water Act and states detailing new measures to meet pollution deadlines, the only agreement reached was to reassess the 2010 Bay Cleanup Plan and its deadline of 2025 and taking another year to do it, effective kick, because it looks like the goal posts will be moved.

EPA data documents a striking failure to meet Clean Water Act requirements, leaving 71% of the bay’s waters polluted, up from 74% in 1985. Tragically, the outcome of this recalibration and non-enforcement of our basic clean water law undermines 39 years of formal bay program efforts.

These efforts began in December 1983, when, as a young state senator, I joined 900 other optimistic citizens and elected leaders at the signing of the first Bay Agreement, pledging to restore the Chesapeake. This led to the formal EPA Bay program established and funded in 1984. Other more detailed but voluntary agreements followed, including one in 1987 to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus by 40 percent by 2000. When states n ‘failed to do so by wide margins without any of the penalties, environmental groups sued and a federal court settlement forced states into a sweeping 2000 bay accord with detailed pollution reductions .

Again, states failed to meet these pollution limits by 2010 without penalties, prompting the EPA to impose a mandatory emissions regime on Bay States with strict caps on excess pollution. nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment that destroys the bay. Everyone has known for years that states will fail to meet the 2025 goals.

These failures result in collapsed or collapsed fisheries (oysters, shad, sturgeon, rockfish, crab), abyssal results with our essential laurel grasses, and carnivorous diseases proliferating in our waters.

Only two of six Bay State governors showed up for Tuesday’s carefully calibrated town hall meeting, and both have their sights set on the US presidency. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) touted all of their great accomplishments for the bay. Hogan even issued a press release hours after the reunion about his performance at the reunion and his successes. But Hogan ignored his abysmal record of enforcing critical water quality regulations for farm animal manure, particularly the chicken industry and industrial sewage and wastewater. The Environmental Integrity Project has documented them in reports such as “Blind Eye to Big Chicken”. Maryland has only achieved 24% of its mandatory nitrogen reductions from agriculture and is at 0% compliance for runoff from developed land.

Youngkin has been particularly anti-environmental in attacking longstanding regulations and trying to pull Virginia out of a regional greenhouse gas pact. The state Senate blocked his effort to install Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist and Trump appointee, as secretary of natural and historic resources. Then Youngkin created a new office designed to reduce state regulations and place it under Wheeler, who attended Tuesday’s meeting. And Hogan continues to rake in millions from his land development and consulting firm.

Yes, under the Bay Program, the bay is better off than it would have been. The nutrient reductions achieved through sewage treatment plants have been extraordinary – a singular success attributable to stricter EPA regulations and spending billions of dollars. But achieving reductions in pollution from agriculture has been a dismal failure with the need for stricter regulation and enforcement.

The failure of states to do what needs to be done to reverse the trend is met by an enforcement agency that refuses to impose sanctions and instead accepts a recalibration deadline. It seems likely that these failures will doom future generations to a Chesapeake Bay no better, and perhaps even worse, than it is today.

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