Concluding that we had little alternative, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation recently delivered an official warning to the EPA of our intent to sue the nation's federal clean water agency for its failure to clean up the Bay. The warning, a "60-day notice," demands that the EPA respond to a series of claims about this failure or face a federal lawsuit.
The arguments we have made in the notice reflect our conclusion that the EPA has legal obligations under the Clean Water Act and the Chesapeake 2000 agreement that it has not met. The 60-day notice argues that the EPA administrator has failed to enforce Bay-specific provisions of the federal Clean Water Act (specifically, Section 117 (g)) and failed to implement required pollution reductions established by Chesapeake 2000.
Perhaps most significant to readers of the notice will be our conclusion that the Chesapeake 2000 agreement is an interstate compact enforceable against the EPA.
The Virginia Waterman's Association and the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen's Association, along with former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams, former Maryland Sen. Bernie Fowler and former Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Tayloe Murphy are joining us in the filing of this notice. The watermen are part of a broader community that has suffered direct financial harm as a result of the failing restoration efforts. Populations of the iconic blue crab have fallen by two-thirds since 1990 and, last year, watermen suffered the worst crab harvest since World War II. As a result, their incomes and way of life have been drastically hurt.
The states of Maryland and Virginia are instituting new restrictions on the harvest of crabs. While the vast majority of watermen are willing to do their part in meeting this new burden, they know that catch limits alone will not solve the problem. Thus, they, and we, rightfully demand that a reduction in catch be matched by a real commitment to reduce pollution and restore water quality and valuable habitat.
Our filing of this notice comes after the EPA's admission that the Bay will not be cleaned up by the Chesapeake 2000 agreement's 2010 deadline. The Bay's history over the last four decades has been littered with cleanup promises made and broken. This has continued with the promises of the Chesapeake 2000 agreement. Now, the government is debating whether to extend the 2010 water quality cleanup deadline of the Chesapeake 2000 agreement to 2020.
It is this pattern of delay that necessitated our action.
There is no doubt that this legal action has ruffled some feathers not only at the EPA but also with other Bay partners. But this action was a necessary step toward the Bay's restoration.
Progress in cleaning up the Bay is simply not occurring at an acceptable rate: Water monitoring data do not show any sustained reductions in nitrogen loads since the signing of the Chesapeake 2000 agreement.
Last year, 318 million pounds of nitrogen flowed into the Bay, compared with 250 million pounds in 2000. Granted, variations in annual rainfall cause fluctuations in nitrogen runoff. But no matter how you measure it, the Bay is nowhere near the 175 million pound annual limit on nitrogen pollution set by the EPA and its partners pursuant to the Chesapeake 2000 agreement.
What are we seeking with the filing of this notice? Compliance. We are asking the EPA to meet its commitments.
Should EPA not respond positively to the notice and should the notice lead to litigation, we will ask the court to order the EPA to take the necessary action to ensure that the EPA abides by an aggressive and enforceable cleanup plan that will, in fact, reduce nitrogen pollution and achieve the long-promised goal of clean water in the Bay and its rivers.
When the EPA and the Bay states agree to certain actions and specific deadlines to achieve measurable pollution reduction benchmarks, it is incumbent on us-all of us-to hold them accountable. That is the intention of our 60-day notice letter.
It is our hope that it will result in the dramatic acceleration of the cleanup, measurable short- and long-term targets, and specific sanctions if these targets are not met.