It’s time to look for solutions, not obstacles, to Bay’s restoration
Those who oppose the Chesapeake Bay pollution diet, or total maximum daily load, generally cite three reasons: EPA overreach; a flawed model; and staggering, "job-killing" costs. And they're using those reasons as an excuse to suggest that we delay important work that has already begun.
Say something often enough, and people begin to believe it.
For the sake of argument, let's leave the overreach argument where it is and should be - in the court of law. The American Farm Bureau Federation, seven other national agricultural lobbying firms, and the National Association of Home Builders have challenged the TMDL, stating it is outside the purview of the EPA's authority under the 1972 Clean Water Act. We think otherwise, the EPA thinks otherwise and several other groups have joined forces to intervene. The court's ruling will decide that question.
Let's move on.
The flawed model. Last December, a consulting firm, LimnoTech, issued a report that criticized the computer model the EPA used to develop the Bay TMDL and called for the suspension of the TMDL until the model could be corrected.
A group called the Agricultural Nutrient Policy Council, many of the same agribusiness lobbyists trying to derail the TMDL in court, commissioned the report. The council is chaired by a staff member at the American Farm Bureau Federation and includes members from the Fertilizer Institute, the National Pork Producers Council, the National Corn Growers Association â€” all plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the EPA.
Late in September, though, two scientific reviews of the LimnoTech report were released independently. The CBF hired a University of North Carolina modeling expert to review the report, and the Bay Program's Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee convened a panel of scientists to review it. Both found the LimnoTech report seriously flawed and concluded that its call for a delay in implementing the TMDL was unsupported by the science. Subsequently, Bay expert Donald Boesch wrote to the Washington Post in support of the Bay model.
The flawed model argument is specious. But let's keep moving on.
The costs. This is where we have our work cut out for us. Some have said farmers, unable to afford reducing pollution, will have to sell their farms. But many of the regions' farmers have installed the practices necessary to reduce pollution, and actually improved their bottom line.
Some local government officials have raised the red flag over stormwater costs, but in some cases they are focusing on the most expensive pollution reduction options.
It has always been true that saving the Bay will be expensive. Likewise, kicking the can down the road only makes it more expensive and more difficult in the long run.
The greatest - and cheapest - opportunity for Bay restoration is at hand right now, and those who want it to succeed need to get creative.
And there are some areas that could be looked at as models.
- Cooperative efforts employing best management practices that address agricultural and residential pollution have resulted in pollution reduction sufficient to remove the Shenandoah Valley's Muddy Creek and Dry River impairment from nitrate, and significant progress toward reducing impairments from bacteria.
- The city of Lancaster, PA, is improving local quality of life and reducing stormwater impacts by increasing tree cover, installing porous pavement basketball courts and encouraging green roof technologies.
- Maryland's Anne Arundel County is assessing how to reduce pollution from septic systems by expanding sewage hookups and the use of community systems.
So, where do we go from here? Let's gather the best economic minds in this region and figure out what local jobs - like construction, engineering or green infrastructure - will be created; what new technologies will create whole new industries; and how private investment can complement public cost-share monies.
It is time to change the discussion and approach from apprehension, obstructionism and generating obstacles to looking for solutions to get over the obstacles.
We believe everyone - citizens, small businesses, farmers, industry, local governments and builders - needs to join in designing and demanding solutions. Attend meetings on watershed implementation plans, talk to your congressional and state elected officials and support state initiatives that move the ball forward.
After decades of working on cleaning our rivers, streams and the Bay, it is time to get the job done. Raise your voice, be heard - and be part of the solution.
- Category: Politics + Policy
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