We at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation were surprised by Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen McGinty’s response to my March commentary, “Unlike Virginia, Pennsylvania’s trading policy shortchanges the Bay,” on nutrient trading.
Yes, we did levy some strong criticisms of certain elements of Pennsylvania’s trading program that we find particularly troublesome—concerns that we expressed to the DEP on numerous occasions during the development of Pennsylvania’s trading policy. We continue to respectfully disagree with the secretary on those issues.
Our letter, however, was not a criticism of Pennsylvania’s contribution to restoring the Chesapeake Bay. (See “Calculating Pennsylvania’s efforts to restore the Chesapeake,” April 2007). We applaud the DEP for including enforceable pollutant limits in point source discharge permits and for its efforts to reduce agricultural runoff through policies, regulations and funding initiatives like Growing Greener II.
Of particular note, according to the most recent data from the Chesapeake Bay Program, Pennsylvania leads all of the Bay states in miles of restored riparian buffers—an effort led by the DEP. The CBF has been a proud and faithful partner in that effort, working with private landowners to restore riparian habitat and fence livestock out of streams by leveraging state, federal and private funds.
The DEP has also finalized a new stormwater manual that will encourage smarter growth and development and will significantly reduce the impact of development on water quality and water quantity issues. This is a tremendous step forward in one of the most difficult arenas to achieve cost-effective nutrient reductions.
While the CBF and DEP agree that Pennsylvania has made substantial progress toward the Bay’s restoration, there also should be unanimous agreement that much more needs to be done.
A bill recently introduced into the Pennsylvania legislature—the Resource Enhancement and Protection Act of Pennsylvania (REAP)—has the potential for real reductions of millions of pounds of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution each year by providing transferable tax credits to farmers that install conservation practices. The bill has widespread support from farmers, sportsmen, environmentalists, Republicans and Democrats alike and, if passed, will be the largest single pollution reduction initiative in the history of the Bay Program.
Without question, Pennsylvania is doing good work. While we disagree with the DEP on several components of its trading program, we recognize their leadership in implementing many innovative, pollution-reducing programs currently in place in Pennsylvania.
We also welcome the opportunity to work with the DEP on creative, new initiatives, like REAP, which will substantially improve water quality and support the conservation efforts of the agricultural community throughout the state.