A two-year milestone assessment shows Virginia and Maryland are not close to meeting their 2017 goals, such as reducing stormwater runoff and animal waste in water. “I was excited to see that we have areas where we’re doing very well,” says Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy. “The assessment made it clear that we’re doing great in some areas, but also made it clear that there are areas where we’re not doing as well.”
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe also weighed in this week, “These meetings are not about a blame game. This is about how to take best practices from each other and to help our other states meet these goals.”
One of the tools being explored, is the Chesapeake Executive Council is exploring public-private partnerships to help finance the bay’s restoration. The federal government is providing $39.7 million through the Land and Water Conservation Fund. “This funding will allow us to conserve up to 7,500 more acres in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed,” McAuliffe said.
According to a report from the Associated Press, a U.S. appeals court on July 6th approved a federal plan to limit pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, despite objections from farmers, builders and others who accused the EPA of a power grab. The ruling by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld restrictions on farm and construction runoff and wastewater treatment.
“The Chesapeake Bay (plan) will require sacrifice by many, but that is a consequence of the tremendous effort it will take to restore health to the Bay — to make it once again a part of our ‘land of living,’ a goal our elected representatives have repeatedly endorsed,” Circuit Judge Thomas Ambro wrote in his ruling.
At issue, the Chesapeake Bay serves a ballooning population all through its watershed, and supporting economic drivers such as fishing, farming, shipping and tourism. The judges called pollution in the Bay “a complex problem that affects 17 million people”.
“The winners are environmental groups, the states that border the Bay, tourists, fishermen, municipal waste water treatment works and urban centers,” the judges said.
The losers are “rural counties with farming operations, nonpoint source polluters, the agricultural industry, and those states that would prefer a lighter touch from the EPA,’’ Judge Ambro wrote in his unanimous opinion.
The American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Association of Builders, the Fertilizer Institute and others have fought the restrictions, arguing the EPA’s comprehensive plan usurped state authority to regulate waterways. However, the three-judge panel found their arguments “unpersuasive.’’
“Congress made a judgment in the Clean Water Act that the states and the EPA could, working together, best allocate the benefits and burdens of lowering pollution,” the ruling stated.
The argument of EPA officials, is that animal waste and fertilizer are the largest sources of pollution that effect the Bay. Their scientific experts claim the Bay absorbs too much nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment to maintain a healthy ecosystem. The EPA expects 60 percent of the plan to be implemented by 2017, and the rest by 2025.