Bay Journal

January 2020 - Volume 29 - Number 10

Can the EPA enforce the Chesapeake Bay’s ‘pollution diet’?

Is the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load and its cleanup deadline enforceable? The answer is complicated.

TMDLs are required for any “impaired” waterbody — one that does not meet standards set by a state to ensure a waterbody is safe for people and aquatic life.

A TMDL sets the maximum amount of a pollutant that the waterbody can receive and still meet those standards. The Bay TMDL maximum “loads” are established for the pollutants nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment.

But, in a strict sense, it is not the TMDL that enforces those numbers for individual dischargers. 

MD threatens to sue EPA, PA over lack of action as regional tensions rise

The year 2010 closed with the unveiling of a new Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan lauded by states, federal officials and environmentalists as the rigorous, concrete and enforceable plan that would finally deliver on the promise of a clean and healthy Bay.

Ten years later, a new decade has opened with the restoration effort unlikely to meet its deadline, the regional partnership mired in acrimony and threats of lawsuits — topped with questions about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s willingness and ability to enforce its own cleanup plan.

“This has come to a boil now,” summed up Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-MD, at a Senate hearing on Jan. 8. “This is a moment we need absolute clarity and an enforceable program to hit the targets in 2025.”

Virginia menhaden fishery threatened with moratorium

Virginia faces a threatened shutdown of its large commercial fishery for Atlantic menhaden after federal officials found the state had allowed too many of the commercially and ecologically important fish to be taken from the Chesapeake Bay.

In a letter released Thursday, the head of the Commerce Department agency that regulates federally managed fisheries declared Virginia out of compliance with an interstate management plan for menhaden.

As a result, a statewide catch moratorium will be imposed June 17 if Virginia does not by then adopt and enforce a 2-year-old cap on Bay harvests of the fish.

Chesapeake Bay restoration gets a boost in federal funding

Federal funding for Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts is in line for a boost in the big spending package passed this week by Congress.

Increased Bay-related funding is included in a pair of appropriations bills totaling nearly $1.4 trillion that were agreed upon by delegations from the House and Senate to fund most federal agencies through Sept. 30, 2020, the end of this budget year. The House overwhelmingly passed the bills Tuesday, and the Senate approved them on Thursday. President Trump is expected to sign them promptly into law to avoid a partial government shutdown.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay Program, which guides the overall restoration work throughout the six-state watershed, will get $85 million, the most it’s ever received. That’s a 16% increase over what the program received annually from Congress for the last five years.

MD Port Administration gives $500,000 to revive community waterfront

A novel plan to refurbish an old waterfront park near Baltimore with sand and silt dredged from the harbor has received its first major infusion of the cash needed to make it a reality.

Community leaders in Turner Station, a historically African American neighborhood in Dundalk southeast of the city, cheered the announcement last week that the Maryland Port Administration would give $500,000 toward their hoped-for revival of Fleming Park.

Group sues PA for violating state’s Environmental Rights Amendment

In 2017, Pennsylvania’s environmental laws were turned upside down when the state Supreme Court ruled that the state, and possibly municipalities, were trustees of public lands and required to protect them for future generations.

Seizing on that broad and still unsettled mandate, the Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation is suing the state agency responsible for 2.2 million acres of state forests, saying it is violating its stewardship obligation by leasing public forestland for the hydraulic fracturing of natural gas.

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