Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its evaluation of Pennsylvania’s 2014-15 and 2016-17 milestones in the perpetual Chesapeake Bay Watershed cleanup program. Needless to say, and to the surprise of nobody, the EPA was disappointed in the Commonwealth’s current progress and recommended increased federal oversight of the cleanup efforts.
For 2014-15, Pennsylvania achieved its target for phosphorus reduction, but fell short on achieving the state-wide target for nitrogen and sediment reduction. Based on projections, Pennsylvania will likely meet state-wide goals for sediment reduction in 2016-17, though will miss targets for nitrogen and phosphorus reductions.
Although Pennsylvania released its “Strategy to Enhance Pennsylvania’s Chesapeake Bay Restoration Effort” (often referred to as the “Chesapeake Bay Reboot”) in January 2016, the EPA indicated it was not enough to address both current and future nutrient reductions. As a result, the EPA determined that it would conduct its own assessments of agricultural operations and implement its own nutrient and sediment goals for Pennsylvania. Read more on the Chesapeake Bay Reboot here.
The EPA targeted the agricultural community, stating that “Pennsylvania will need to place considerably greater emphasis on increasing implementation in the agriculture sector to address nitrogen and phosphorus.” Nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus are found in fertilizers and animal manure, which enter the Chesapeake Bay via streams containing agricultural runoff.
In March 2016, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), joined by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), failed to convince the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a challenge to the EPA’s authority to implement the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) requirements. Read more.
Urban and suburban stormwater management techniques also drew criticism from the EPA, which stated that it “expects Pennsylvania to include a milestone to develop a trading and offset policy for post construction stormwater.” Currently, Pennsylvania only provides a Nutrient Credit Trading Program for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permittees in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
The EPA acknowledged Pennsylvania’s “renewed commitment” to achieving TMDL goals through the Chesapeake Bay Reboot, but admonished the progress that has been made so far, stating that “the gap continues to grow as a result of growth in various sectors.” Although the EPA has not formally developed its own plan, the report states “EPA may develop Pennsylvania-specific Phase III [Watershed Implementation Plan] expectations to help the Commonwealth get back on track to meeting its 2025 Bay TMDL commitments and goals.”
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