Monday, May 17, 2010

The EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Agreement

The Chesapeake Bay Commission was created in 1980 to coordinate Bay-related policy across state lines and to develop shared solutions for cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. The catalyst for their creation was the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) seven-year study (1976-1983) on the decline of the Chesapeake Bay. The six Bay watershed states are Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New York, and Delaware and the District of Columbia and are all parties to the Chesapeake Bay Agreement.

Despite more than 25 years of effort, the Bay’s waters remain seriously degraded as measured by the agreed upon criteria and considerably short of attaining the 2010 water quality goals set forth in the Chesapeake 2000 agreement. As a result US EPA was under a court order to draft a new Bay-wide cleanup plan by May 2011. Because of the region’s failure to meet the 2010 deadline for water quality in the Bay, EPA is now developing a new federally mandated Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) plan to establish and apportion an allowable pollution budget among the states.

On Tuesday, May 11th 2010 the EPA announced that it will mandate that the six states and the District of Columbia who are parties to the Chesapeake Bay Agreement limit their nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment flow into the bay in compliance with an overall daily maximum being formulated by the federal agency. On Wednesday, the administration laid out their initiative to purify (as measured by nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment) 60 percent of the Chesapeake Bay's waters within 15 years, combining federal resources with a mandate that requires the six Bay watershed states (Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New York, and Delaware) and the District of Columbia to develop the regulatory blueprint.

The plan is to develop a top down regulation model. EPA will dictate numeric pollution values for every surface water of the regions and force the states to develop an acceptable (to the federal government) regulatory framework to achieve those goals. This will avoid direct federal regulation of rural, urban and suburban runoff only in the most technical sense, eliminate local control of decisions on land use and water supply. Each state will be required to propose its own regulations for developers, farmers, homeowners, and other sources of non-point source pollution to be approved by the federal government. The EPA is trying to determine how much reduction is necessary to meet the targets. Then, under the agreement it signed this week, it will require the six watershed states and the District to come up with pollutant reductions that bring them into compliance with those goals. Some of the ideas being tossed about are the imposition of a ban on pesticides for ornamental use in at least some areas of the watershed, limitations on farming, developing incentives or requirements for farmers to utilize best practices.

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