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May 16, 2019 by Brian Gumm

Chesapeake Bay State Plans to Protect Watershed, Reduce Pollution Fall Short

In April, states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed published drafts of the latest iteration of plans to reduce pollution and protect their rivers and streams. New analyses from the Center for Progressive Reform show that the plans fall far short of what is needed to restore the health and ecological integrity of the Chesapeake Bay.

The draft plans, known as Phase III watershed implementation plans (WIPs), were developed as part of the Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) framework that includes all the states in the Chesapeake watershed. CPR Policy Analysts David Flores and Evan Isaacson focused on three states – Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia – that are responsible for nearly 90 percent of nitrogen pollution to the Chesapeake and represent more than 90 percent of the remaining pollution reductions needed to reach the final 2025 pollution reduction target.

Isaacson examined and evaluated the draft WIPs with several criteria in mind, including new laws, regulations, and funding; contingency planning; enforcement; consistency with EPA expectations; and environmental justice. Maryland and Pennsylvania have a lot of work to do if they're serious about addressing significant shortcomings in all these areas and more. While Virginia's plan was the best of the three, the Commonwealth's draft …

Nov. 1, 2018 by David Flores
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This op-ed originally ran in the Bay Journal. Reprinted with permission.

Recent extreme weather — Hurricanes Harvey and Florence — caused widespread toxic contamination of floodwaters after low-lying chemical plants, coal ash storage facilities and hog waste lagoons were inundated.

Such storm-driven chemical disasters demonstrate that state water pollution permitting programs are overdue for reforms that account for stronger and more intense hurricanes and heavy rainfall events, sea level rise and extreme heat.

As the District of Columbia and the states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed prepare their final watershed implementation plans for cleaning up the Bay, two important lessons should be clear from the recent disasters: First, climate change will greatly complicate Bay cleanup efforts and must therefore be factored into planning. Second, the state regulation of pollution sources can and should be a critical component of the plan.

The potential pollution implications of climate change are many …

July 27, 2018 by Evan Isaacson
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Today, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Office of the Environmental Protection Agency officially released its assessment of Chesapeake Bay restoration progress. This marked the formal conclusion of the multi-year process known as the "midpoint assessment" for the Chesapeake's cleanup plan.

2017 represents the halfway point for the cleanup, at which time state and federal partners were supposed to have reached 60 percent of their final 2025 nutrient and sediment pollution reduction targets. Unfortunately, 2017 will go down as another in a long line of missed deadlines for the Bay.

Several weeks ago, the Chesapeake Bay Program released the official progress data on the 2017 interim pollution reduction targets. The data reveal that for nitrogen, long considered the limiting pollutant in the Bay TMDL cleanup plan, the seven Chesapeake jurisdictions and all sources combined were only a …

July 25, 2018 by Evan Isaacson
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This post is part of a series on Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.

President Trump's nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court has enormous environmental and public health implications – true of any high court nomination, but particularly true in this case because he would replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, the high court's long-time swing vote.

As it stands, Kavanaugh has already had an outsized impact on the shape and direction of environmental law in the United States. A review of Kavanaugh's judicial opinions shows that he has been one of the most prolific writers of environmental law decisions over the last decade on what is considered the nation's second-highest court, and the one with jurisdiction over much of the federal regulatory system. Only one other judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of …

June 20, 2018 by Mariah Davis
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The Chesapeake Bay restoration effort is arguably one of the largest conservation endeavors ever undertaken. The Bay watershed is made up of 150 major rivers and streams and contains 100,000 smaller tributaries spread across Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. It supplies drinking water for more than 17 million residents and is one of the most important economic drivers on the East Coast of the United States.

The Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), enacted in 2010 by the Environmental Protect Agency (EPA) in collaboration with the Chesapeake Bay states, is a framework for allocating and eliminating excessive loads of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment polluting the watershed. It was designed to ensure that pollution control measures would reduce persistent dead zones in the Bay and its tidal tributaries by 2025. As part of the TMDL, the states and …

June 11, 2018 by David Flores
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This op-ed originally ran in the Bay Journal. Reprinted with permission.

Science is hard, environmental policy is complicated and regulatory science can seem endlessly confounding.

It does not have to be. Earlier this year, the Chesapeake Bay partners stepped into a time-worn trap, heeding calls from overly cautious states to wait for more refined scientific modeling of climate change impacts before taking action to eliminate pollution in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Having punted action until 2021 at the earliest, the Bay Partnership needs policies to prevent further delay. An innovative policy tool called "stopping rules" could be the answer.

Chesapeake Bay Program scientists have determined that Bay states need to eliminate an additional 9 million pounds of nitrogen pollution and 500,000 pounds of phosphorus to offset the impacts of climate change and ensure that dissolved oxygen standards can be met in the Bay by …

April 13, 2017 by Evan Isaacson
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The City of Baltimore is wrapping up an $800 million upgrade of its largest sewage treatment plant. At the same time, the city is starting a $160 million project to retrofit a drinking water reservoir; is in the midst of a $400 million project to realign a major section of its sewer system; and is spending several million on projects throughout the city to manage polluted runoff from its streets and other paved surfaces.

And these are just a few of the city's many infrastructure projects to upgrade drinking water and wastewater facilities, improve the systems of pipes that deliver clean water to homes and, separately, sewage to their treatment plants, and begin to deal with the thousands of acres of pavement that channel filthy water into the city's harbor.

Managing our need for water is both expensive and complicated. If you consider the challenge involved in …

April 19, 2016 by Evan Isaacson
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Yesterday, the Chesapeake Bay Program released its latest estimate of nutrient and sediment pollution in the Bay watershed. The annual model run of the program's Watershed Model shows that the estimated nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment loads decreased by three percent, three percent, and four percent, respectively, compared to 2014 levels. These are important improvements, but much work lies ahead to improve water quality in the Bay and boost the fisheries, wildlife, and recreational activities it supports.

The estimated decrease in nitrogen loads of nearly 7 million pounds brings the Chesapeake Bay a bit closer to the 2017 interim target under the restoration plan known as the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (Bay TMDL). However, the watershed as a whole – including the six Bay states of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia, plus the District of Columbia – remains significantly off track.

The latest annual …

Nov. 18, 2015 by Evan Isaacson
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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 legal arguments have changed significantly since the first motions and petitions were filed several years ago, with some of the most ambitious legal theories having fallen away. What remains in dispute in these cases are largely procedural, though still crucial, issues regarding how to structure the permits so as to ensure that the permits are enforceable and that the counties are accountable to the public. Basically, the …

July 27, 2015 by Evan Isaacson
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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 subject to a certain federal stormwater permit (including, for example, Baltimore City and Prince George’s County) to implement an annual stormwater remediation fee and a local watershed protection and restoration fund to hold those new funds. The law did not require the local governments to set the fee at any specific level or otherwise require them to collect a specified amount in revenues; each jurisdiction had …

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