From the Desk of Harry Campbell Fall 2015

"Reboot" of Pennsylvania's Clean Water Efforts

Pennsylvania Executive Director Harry Campbell. CBF's Pennsylvania Executive Director Harry Campbell. 

As the budget stalemate between Pennsylvania's executive and legislative branches of government languished into the fall (well beyond the June 30 deadline), the Keystone State remains significantly behind in implementing the plans it has developed to reduce pollution and restore local waterways. It is a serious problem, with roughly 19,000 miles of polluted rivers and streams across the state.

Details of the Commonwealth's promised "reboot" of water quality efforts are expected to be released by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in the coming weeks. CBF expects that the new plan will accelerate pollution reductions to the level that will get Pennsylvania back on track.  

Since 1983, Pennsylvania and the other Bay states have agreed five times to reduce pollution. Yet, Pennsylvania's plans to reduce nitrogen and sediment pollution from agriculture and urban polluted runoff remain considerably off-track. 

The Commonwealth and the other Bay agreement signatories committed to specific actions, two-year incremental milestones, and a 2017 mid-term goal as part of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint to restore clean water to our region. 

In October, DEP Secretary John Quigley acknowledged that Pennsylvania will not meet its 2017 goals.

Governor Tom Wolf inherited this clean-water challenge when he took office in January. We have strong expectations that before the end of its first year, the new administration will enact the necessary measures to step up pollution-reduction efforts.

It is encouraging that state Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding has acknowledged that a "reboot" is imperative. DEP Secretary Quigley reiterated the Commonwealth's commitment to accelerating efforts during his address to the Chesapeake Bay Executive Council.

CBF believes that three vital elements should be at the core of a "reboot" that reinvigorates clean-water efforts in Pennsylvania: leadership, commitment, and investment.  

Leadership. Renewed leadership will be necessary to bring sectors such as agriculture and urban communities into compliance with existing state clean water laws. It is vital that leadership cultivates and enforces a culture of compliance that has been lacking. Informal DEP estimates conclude that only 30 percent of farms in the Commonwealth are currently in compliance.

Commitment. Meeting the Commonwealth's obligations requires commitment to solve the problem from all pollution-source sectors and all levels of government. Historically, Pennsylvania has attempted to reach its Bay goals without localizing responsibilities. This lack of connectivity to the importance of clean water in Pennsylvania has stymied success, both here and downstream, in the Chesapeake Bay.

Investment. Pennsylvania knows what needs to be done—decades of science and experience have led to the road map that is Pennsylvania's Clean Water Blueprint. Investing existing resources where it makes the most sense and committing new resources to fully implement the Blueprint will reap the greatest returns.

CBF also believes that, in the revised plan for Pennsylvania, the legislature should provide more adequate funding, making a greater "down payment" in the second year of the Wolf administration. This would include efforts to ensure accurate accounting of pollution-reduction practices already in place.

The investments in clean water will pay substantial dividends. A 2014 economic analysis found that fully implementing Pennsylvania's Clean Water Blueprint will result in an increase in the value of natural services by $6.2 billion annually. That's annually.

A "reboot" that gets the Commonwealth back on track is essential to meeting its clean water promise to its citizens and to those downstream. We look forward to a robust "reboot" plan by Governor Wolf in the coming weeks and working with the legislature and administration in assuring its implementation.   

Clean water counts in Pennsylvania. It is a legacy worth leaving future generations.

—Harry Campbell
Pennsylvania Executive Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation


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