Monday, January 25, 2016

Chesapeake Bay Update: Pennsylvania Announces New Plan to meet Chesapeake Bay Requirements

Written by M. Sean High – Staff Attorney

On January 21, 2016, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) issued a press release announcing a new strategy, “developed jointly by the Pennsylvania Departments of Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), and Environmental Protection (DEP),” to enable Pennsylvania to achieve federal Chesapeake Bay requirements.

According to the press release, the newly developed strategy stems from the commonwealth receiving “immense pressure from the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to improve water quality,” resulting from Pennsylvania’s inability to meet EPA “requirements to reduce water pollution under the requirements of federal court orders and regulations.”

According to the new strategy, titled A DEP Strategy to Enhance Pennsylvania’s Chesapeake Bay Restoration Effort, Pennsylvania’s inability to meet established EPA reduction goals has caused EPA to: 1) “withhold $2,896,723 in federal funding for Chesapeake Bay-related activities and grants”; and 2) identify potential targets, under federal authority, “to address the Pennsylvania Bay restoration shortfalls.”

According to the new strategy, Pennsylvania has not been compliant with EPA regulations regarding pollution reduction due to: 1) lack of farm inspection, documentation, and verification of pollution reduction activities; and 2) improper funding.  To correct these short comings, the new strategy proposes the following six recommendations:

1.      Establish a Chesapeake Bay Office within DEP to coordinate and implement Chesapeake Bay efforts and requirements.
2.      DEP and Conservation District staff should annually inspect 10% of all Pennsylvania farms in the Chesapeake Bay watershed (an increase from the current 1.8% annual inspection rate).
3.      Improve reporting, record keeping, and data systems (with the possibility of mandatory reporting requirements).
4.      Shift $1,250,000 of state water quality funding to Best Management Practices (BMP) programs and document the use of all BMPs (especially those previously unreported).
5.      Obtain additional sources of funding to assist in improving water quality and meeting federal Chesapeake Bay requirements.
6.      Identify any program, regulatory, or legislative changes that will allow Pennsylvania to achieve federal reduction goals by 2025. 

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