New CPR Analysis: Chesapeake Bay TMDL Failure Looms

by Matthew Freeman | February 04, 2016

NEWS RELEASE: Analysis of EPA TMDL Data Documents Looming Failure by Chesapeake Bay States to Meet 2017 Pollution-Reduction Goals

In Report & Letters to EPA and Governors, CPR Authors Call on Bay States to Step Up, and on EPA to Begin Enforcement Actions

A new analysis from the Center for Progressive Reform concludes that the efforts of the U.S. Environmental Protect Agency (EPA) to restore the Chesapeake Bay to health is veering off course because of state failures to reduce pollution and EPA’s reluctance to compel state compliance. “Countdown to 2017: Five Years in, Chesapeake Bay TMDL at Risk Without EPA Enforcement” examines progress by the six Bay watershed states and the District of Columbia as they work to reach an EPA-mandated overall “Total Maximum Daily Load” (TMDL) for the Bay, a sort of “pollution diet,” as well as many TMDLs for local waters. The report authors, in letters to EPA and the Bay state governors, note that Pennsylvania’s failures threaten to undermine the entire TMDL, and urge specific reforms for all jurisdictions.

The landmark TMDL agreement between the states and EPA has been considered a model for other watersheds, but with key 2017 interim goals approaching, CPR’s analysis of EPA data finds that several states in the region have fallen behind, endangering the entire effort. The analysis singles out Pennsylvania’s failure ...

Maryland's Pressing Stormwater Infrastructure Needs

by Evan Isaacson | January 13, 2016
The water crisis in Flint, Michigan, is a tragic reminder of the hidden costs of our nation’s failing infrastructure.  Whether through benign neglect or deliberate “starve the beast” cost-cutting measures, we are continually seeing the costly and sometimes terrible consequences of failing to meet our infrastructure financing needs.  The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the state of U.S. infrastructure a D+ grade in its most recent 2013 Report Card, which included a D for both drinking water and wastewater ...

Delmarva CAFO Expansion Continues Despite Calls for a Moratorium

by Evan Isaacson | January 12, 2016
Last September, the Environmental Integrity Project put a spotlight on the dramatic increase in the number of industrial scale poultry houses being established on the Delmarva Peninsula.  In its report, More Phosphorus, Less Monitoring, the organization found that more than 200 new chicken houses had been permitted on the peninsula since November 2014, including 67 in just one Maryland county (Somerset County, on the state’s lower Eastern Shore). Shortly thereafter the Maryland Clean Agriculture Coalition, supported by the Center for ...

Now is the Time to Restore MDE Enforcement Resources

by Evan Isaacson | December 18, 2015
A few months ago, I recounted the recent history of budget cuts to Maryland environmental agencies and their effect on the state of environmental inspections and enforcement in the state over the last two decades.  Fortunately, it appears that an opportunity to change this situation has presented itself to policymakers in Annapolis.  Recently, at the annual November meeting of the legislative Spending Affordability Committee, key lawmakers from the budget committees and House and Senate Leadership heard from the top legislative ...

Maryland Deregulatory Commission Targets Protective Bay Regulations

by Evan Isaacson | December 04, 2015
Politicians are famous for reneging on, or conveniently ignoring, campaign pledges and other promises.  In some cases, politicians put themselves in untenable positions, such as when they offer conflicting promises to different interest groups.  This is when it becomes easy to see what an elected official’s true priorities are.  Governor Hogan proclaimed that he would be “the best environmental governor that’s ever served.”  Of course, he also campaigned for “regulatory reform” in Maryland.  The Governor established a Regulatory Reform Commission ...

Support CPR on Giving Tuesday

by Robert Verchick | December 01, 2015
In August I commemorated the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina by pedaling along the self-guided "Levee Disaster Bike Tour." I began beneath the muscular oaks along New Orleans' Bayou St. John and threaded my way around potholes and waterfowl to pay my respects at three prominent levee-breach sites.  The ride gave me a chance to reflect on many problems that my adopted hometown of New Orleans faces, as well as countless opportunities for improving the policies that will take advantage of ...

Confusion, Frustration as Maryland High Court Hears Stormwater Permits Case

by Evan Isaacson | November 18, 2015
Last week the Maryland Court of Appeals heard several hours of oral argument in back to back (to back) cases regarding whether five different municipal stormwater (“MS4”) permits issued by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) complied with the federal Clean Water Act and state water pollution laws. Although divided into separate cases due to their unique procedural histories, the three cases were consolidated into one marathon oral argument due to the substantial overlap of the issues involved. The ...

EPA Cracks Down on Stormwater Pollutants in Rhode Island

by Evan Isaacson | October 27, 2015
Here in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, polluted runoff from impervious surfaces, such as roofs, driveways, parking lots, and a vast network of roads, is a huge problem.  In fact, while pollution from wastewater treatment plants has decreased significantly since EPA established the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) several years ago, and while overall agricultural pollution has even decreased slightly during that same general period, nitrogen pollution from stormwater has actually increased since 2009. The lack of progress in ...

Pound-Wise and Penny-Foolish in the Chesapeake Bay

by Evan Isaacson | October 19, 2015
It’s a staple of the right-wing assault on government that “bloated” government programs, like those intended to protect the environment, are a burden to taxpayers. In my home state of Maryland, the numbers demonstrate otherwise. The percentage of taxpayer dollars spent by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) is tiny and getting tinier.  In 2014, less than one-quarter of 1 percent of the state’s general funds were expended by MDE, a 40-percent reduction in this share since 2004.  In ...

Bay Experts Debate Effectiveness of Nutrient Management

by Evan Isaacson | August 24, 2015
As readers of this blog and watchers of the Bay restoration process understand, states are under increasing scrutiny regarding their progress, or lack thereof, implementing the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) as we approach the 2017 midpoint assessment. But behind the scenes, a federal-state partnership known as the Chesapeake Bay Program is also tasked with working on the framework for tracking implementation of the Bay TMDL. This framework consists of establishing and improving many guidelines and protocols used ...

Farm Bureau Loses Another Clean Water Case

by Evan Isaacson | August 14, 2015
This week provided another important legal decision in the fight to regulate polluted runoff from agriculture.  A California lower court on Tuesday ordered the State Water Quality Control Board to reconsider its ineffective regulations on agricultural operations in the Central Coast region.  Judge Timothy Frawley of the Sacramento Superior Court ruled in favor of the Monterey Coastkeeper, the Otter Project, and other environmental and commercial and recreational groups, as well as a resident who could no longer drink her tap ...

Montgomery County Should Appeal Stormwater Case

by Evan Isaacson | July 27, 2015
Last Wednesday, a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge held that the Montgomery County Water Quality Protection Charge is invalid and that the plaintiff should not have been required to pay any stormwater fee to the county. The case could have significant ramifications across the state for jurisdictions that have, like Montgomery County, established a stormwater fee similar to the one invalidated in the case. First, some background.  In 2012, the Maryland General Assembly passed HB 987, which required any jurisdiction ...

Two Interesting Things About the Chesapeake Bay TMDL Decision

by Dave Owen | July 07, 2015
In a blog post yesterday, Todd Aagaard provided a quick summary of yesterday’s Third Circuit decision rejecting the Farm Bureau Federation’s challenge to the Chesapeake Bay TMDL.  This is an interesting and important case, and it will take a while to digest.  But just based on a preliminary read, a few issues seem particularly interesting and important. What does TMDL mean?  The Third Circuit interpreted section 303(d) in a way that seems to afford EPA—and the states—discretion in determining the ...

CPR's Steinzor on the Third Circuit Court's Decision to Uphold the Chesapeake Bay's TMDL Program

by Rena Steinzor | July 06, 2015
The Third Circuit’s decision today is a tremendous victory for the elusive goal of restoring the Chesapeake Bay to the point that it is ecologically healthy.  As the Third Circuit made clear, the Farm Bureau’s relentless and self-serving opposition to EPA’s leadership in this area misreads the law.  Strong federal pollution controls are the last hope for the largest estuary in the world and for the millions of people who trek to its shores to enjoy its amazing beauty.  The ...

West Virginia's Bay TMDL Progress Needs to Accelerate

by Evan Isaacson | July 01, 2015
Editors’ Note:  This is the sixth in a series of posts on measuring progress toward the 2017 interim goal of the Bay TMDL.  The first five posts cover the region as a whole, and then Maryland,  Pennsylvania, New York, and Virginia, Future posts will explore the progress of the two remaining jurisdictions. Like New York, the State of West Virginia can seem a bit distant from the Chesapeake Bay and the process of implementing the Bay Total Maximum Daily Load ...

NY's Bay TMDL Progress Report: Ignoring a Worthwhile Investment

by Evan Isaacson | June 24, 2015
TMDL.  The first four posts cover the region as a whole, and then Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland.  Future posts will explore the progress of the remaining three jurisdictions.                 So far, we have evaluated progress of the three core jurisdictions in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed in reducing nutrient and sediment pollution under the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (Bay TMDL).  These “big three” states and members of the Chesapeake Bay Commission are the ...

Maryland's Bay TMDL Report: A Tale of Two States

by Evan Isaacson | June 22, 2015
Editors’ Note:  This is the fourth in a series of posts on measuring progress toward the 2017 interim goal of the Bay TMDL.  The first three posts cover the region as a whole, and then Pennsylvania and Virginia. Future posts will explore the progress of the remaining four jurisdictions.                 Judging from the Chesapeake Bay Program’s modeling of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland is a tale of two states when it comes to ...

PA's Dismal TMDL Report: An Opportunity for Change

by Evan Isaacson | June 17, 2015
We recently explored how Virginia’s progress toward meeting the 2017 interim goal for the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (Bay TMDL) is mostly the product of decades’ old financial commitments.  So, we might hope to see much of the same from Pennsylvania, a fellow member of the Chesapeake Bay Commission since 1985.  Unfortunately, despite decades of participation in the various agreements to clean the Bay, Pennsylvania’s lack of progress is the single biggest reason to worry about the future ...

Chesapeake Bay

The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in North America, home to more than 3,600 species of plants and animals. The Chesapeake Bay watershed—the land that drains into the Bay—encompasses parts of six states and Washington, D.C. This national treasure has been deteriorating since the 1930s. The Obama Administration made important progress, however, pressing states to reduce pollution flowing into the Bay.. 

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