Monday, May 28, 2012

Maryland Gets an A from the EPA-But it Costs $15 Billion

I decided to take a look at the Maryland Watershed Implementation Plan Phase II, WIP, that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, felt did a better job of meeting their expectations than the Virginia Phase II WIP to see how a state gets an A- from the EPA. According to the EPA, Maryland’s Phase II WIP was very targeted and met EPA’s goals, especially in the breadth and depth of local engagement. Maryland used a top down model of compliance management favored by the EPA while engaging local communities. What Maryland did was develop the Maryland Assessment Scenario Tool (MAST) for the local officials to use to develop local implementation plans and meet their assigned target.  The MAST is a simplified version of the Chesapeake Bay Model that let Maryland run different scenarios to meet the TMDL goals for Maryland utilizing public comment and local conditions.

Maryland allocated the 58 Chesapeake Bay TMDL segment targets to the 24 counties and the City of Baltimore and each jurisdiction essentially developed a WIP for their jurisdiction. (Extra credit given for having 25 mini WIPs.)  There was a minor amount of massaging of the statewide target loads for nutrients and sediment provided by EPA to comply with the slightly lower goals of Maryland’s point source cap policy that was adopted as part of the 2004 Tributary Strategy. The Statewide Phase II WIP was essentially a rollup of the local WIPs for all Maryland Counties and the City of Baltimore with local implementation targets for wastewater, urban stormwater and on-site sewer systems, as well as analysis of local implementation capacity, capacity gaps, and implementation strategies for those source sectors and incorporating the nutrient and sediment goals above. Maryland plans to submit final local jurisdiction plans to the Maryland Department of the Environment, MDE, by July 1, 2012. Utilizing the MAST Maryland demonstrated to EPA that the near term milestones and the 2017 and 2025 WIP model input decks meet and exceed planning targets for nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment statewide. Wow.

EPA requires that the “Interim Target” strategies, the first steps planed in the WIP should be designed to meet 60% of the Final Target TMDL reductions for nutrients and sediment. Maryland’s WIP and Interim Target strategy is projected by the MAST to achieve 91% of the nitrogen final target, 117% of the phosphorus final target and 401% of the sediment final target. Clearly nitrogen is the controlling factor in the Maryland WIP and mini-WIPs. The nitrogen load reductions planned for 2017 are planned to come from all the major sectors including air pollution.

Municipal waste water treatment plants (with some minor contribution from small industrial sites) will reduce their nitrogen release by 5.5 million pound per year. Maryland estimates that it will cost $2.37 billion to upgrade municipal waste water treatment plants with the costs incurred between 2009 and 2017 to finish upgrading the 42 major municipal plants and 5 minor municipal plants. No additional costs for upgrades or expansions are planned after 2017. These cost estimates do not include operations and maintenance costs. They also do not count costs incurred for private and federal plants that are also required to upgrade to ENR. Maryland’s execution on sewer upgrade plans has historically been slow; the sewer system in Baltimore still overflows with frightening regularity despite a consent order with the EPA signed in 2002.  In 10 years Baltimore has failed to upgrade their combined sewer system. The Baltimore public works department is in the 9th year of a $1 billion rehabilitation of the city’s aging, leaky sewer system, but now is apparently on a trajectory to complete system upgrades by 2017. Combined sewer systems are sewers that are designed to collect rainwater runoff and domestic sewage, and industrial wastewater in the same pipe.

Maryland plans to reissue and implement Phase I and II MS4 permits to include the key requirements to implement WIP strategies in 2012. The stormwater sector is planned to reduce about 875,000 pounds per year of nitrogen by primarily requiring the retrofitting of 20% of currently developed land to modern stormwater management standards. This strategy will use the stormwater permit reductions to achieve this goal. Maryland estimates that between now and 2017 that will cost property owners $2.52 billion dollars and by 2025 will have cost $7.77 billion dollars. These costs address only the system upgrades, maintenance and operation costs are not addressed in this figure.

The agricultural sector will reduce their nitrogen load by 3.9 million pound a year by 2017. The vast majority of the reduction (3.2 million pounds) is from cropland, the remainder is from nurseries, pastures and AFOs (agricultural feeding operations). There is a slight increase in forest lands over the period reflecting a conversion to forest land cover, but it is unclear what land is converted to forest cover. The cost for to meet the 2017 load reduction strategy is $498 million with a total planned cost of $928 million to meet the 2025 goals. This does not include the cost associated with maintaining and verifying farm BMPs. Also, Maryland seems to have dropped the mandatory cover crop requirement that appeared in the first version of the WIP. EPA wants that requirement added to the Phase II WIP or an explanation why that is no longer necessary.

The WIP strategy will reduce nitrogen loads from septic systems by 396,000 pounds per year by 2017. This is accomplished by targeting septic systems within 1,000 feet of the “critical area” (which is within 1,000 feet of a tidally influenced water body) for either upgrading to nitrogen removal technology or connection to an advanced waste water treatment plant (one that has been upgraded to meet the higher standards). By 2017 this results in 14,754 new septic connections using nitrogen removal technology, 32,908 systems upgraded to nitrogen removal technology, 24,501 system pump outs and an unspecified number of connections to the sewer system. The cost was estimated to be $896 million by 2017 with the full strategy implementation by 2025 costing $3.72 billion.

According to the state budget, included in the WIP to meet the Chesapeake Bay TMDL goals for nutrient and sediment, but not accounted for in the stated costs are:  Doubling Transit Ridership by the end of 2020. Reducing Per Capita Electricity Consumption in Maryland by 15% by 2015. Increasing Maryland’s Renewable Energy Portfolio by 20% by 2022. Finally, reducing Maryland’s Statewide Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 25% by 2020. These goals are an essential part of the comprehensive WIP to achieve nutrient and sediment clean-up goals for the Chesapeake Bay by 2025. Many of those steps are designed to reduce atmospheric nitrogen (NOx) that would help Maryland meet Clean Air Act Requirements and reduce air deposition of atmospheric nitrogen in the watershed. Part of the NOx problem will be addressed by federal rules like the Cross State Air Pollution Rule and the Tier 3 Vehicle/Low Sulfur rule.

Maryland also plans legislation to increase the Bay Restoration Fund for enhanced nutrient removal (ENR) upgrades at wastewater treatment plants (WWTPS), on-site septic upgrades and hookups, and stormwater retrofits; Nutrient management regulation revisions; and local or state legislation to establish stormwater financing mechanisms. Maryland General Assembly, SB 614/HB 987, would require each local jurisdiction to collect a stormwater utility fee. The implementation plan seems extensive and complete even without the ability to review the input deck for the model and will more than meet EPA mandated TMDL goals. How Maryland intends to finance the entirety of this plan over the next 13 years is not clear.

By 2025 the Maryland plan will have implementation cost that are estimated to be $14.8 billion in 2011 dollars. Of that total $2.37 billion for waste water treatment upgrades, $7.8 billion in stormwater management costs is planned to be financed 81% from local fees and taxes the rest assumedly from property owners direct capital costs, and $3.7 billion in septic system upgrades, homeowner connections to the sanitary sewer system and increased septic tank pump outs that will predominately be borne by the homeowners. In taxes, fees or direct payments the 5.8 million residents of Maryland will pay in addition to their current taxes, and fees $14.8 billion over the next 13 years to meet the Chesapeake Bay TMDL. Total revenue for the state was projected to be $14.4 billion for 2013 with a budget gap of $1 billion that the state needed to close by transferring the responsibility to pay the social security tax and half the retirement cost for the teachers to the local level and have eliminated more than 5,500 positions from State government.

Meanwhile the Maryland FY 2013 state budget included only $5 million to make progress on WIP goals, $4.2 million for State Highway Administration (SHA) stormwater management projects and $750,000 for WIP-related staff, equipment, and operating expenses in the Departments of Agriculture and Environment. The FY 2013 budget also includes $25 million for the Chesapeake Bay 2010 Trust Fund to support urban and storm water projects, agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs), and targeted innovative practices within watersheds.
Taken from the Maryland Phase II WIP

1 comment:

  1. With the nutrient load from agriculture being ten times that of the septic systems, it seems that the billions for the latter are not very cost-effective. I guess there would be a PR problem, however, in letting it go. But agriculture is definitely the biggest target, as if we didn't know that already.