May 11, 2010
EPA Signs Binding Commitment to Reduce Pollution
CBF and Partners' Lawsuit Achieves Goal
(ANNAPOLIS, MD)—A new day has dawned for the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay as the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), its co-plaintiffs, and the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today settled the lawsuit with a binding agreement that will require pollution to be reduced across the watershed. This historic settlement is a legally enforceable commitment that requires EPA to take specific actions by dates certain to ensure that pollution to local rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay is reduced sufficiently to remove the Bay from the federal "dirty waters" list.
"When we filed our notice of intent in October, 2008, EPA had been missing in action for years. The Bush Administration had 60 days to respond, but consistent with its previous eight years it did nothing," said CBF President William C. Baker. "We filed suit on Jan. 5, 2009, and began negotiations with the new administration. While it has taken longer than we would have liked, we are very pleased with the results and commend Lisa Jackson and her senior staff for their willingness to work through the bureaucracy to obtain this game-changing agreement."
"The settlement between EPA, CBF, and the co-plaintiffs raises the bar for governmental commitment to restore the Bay. The settlement helps ensure, on an ongoing basis, that EPA will play its essential role in setting targets for Bay restoration and holding the states accountable," said Jonathan Cannon, director of the University of Virginia's Law School's Environmental and Land Use Law Program and former EPA General Counsel. "This is an excellent outcome and marks a further strengthening of our collective resolve to reverse the Bay's decline."
The history of Chesapeake Bay restoration is littered with broken promises and commitments unfulfilled. The latest agreement, called Chesapeake 2000 (C2K) and signed by EPA's Carol Browner for the Clinton Administration, was left to the Bush team of no fewer than three EPA Administrators to implement. It committed the federal government and states to reducing pollution sufficiently to get the Bay and its tributaries off the federal "dirty waters" list by 2010.
In 2007, the Governors of the Bay states and the EPA announced that they would not meet the 2010 goal and that at current levels of effort it would take decades to implement some strategies to reduce pollution, while others might never be implemented.
CBF's co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit included: former Maryland Governor Harry Hughes, retired Maryland Senator Bernie Fowler, former Virginia legislator and Natural Resources Secretary W. Tayloe Murphy, former Washington D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams, the Virginia State Waterman's Association, the Maryland Watermen's Association, and the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen's Association.
EPA is developing scientific limits on pollution across the Bay watershed, and the settlement defines how EPA will ensure that the necessary reductions will be achieved. The states will have the flexibility to create plans that make sense for their state, but the plans must achieve the goal by a time certain under the agreement or face the consequences.
"We have a firm agreement that would be most difficult for the U.S. government to renege on. I am reasonably convinced that our suit, in no small way, was the stimulus for the Presidential Executive Order and subsequent plan, which is the first of its kind for the Chesapeake Bay," said retired Maryland Senator Bernie Fowler. "We retain the option for future litigation should the U.S government fail to honor the agreement. We must succeed, and we will succeed, there is no alternative."
In the settlement EPA also commits to developing regulations that reduce pollution from agriculture and urban and suburban runoff. Runoff from developed areas is the only source of pollution that is increasing.
"Watermen need EPA to do its job. We cannot continue to live our lives without EPA stopping the pollution that is damaging the Bay and our livelihoods," said Maryland Watermen's Association President Larry Simns. "This settlement agreement will hold EPA accountable in doing its job."
"This agreement is a historic first step, and we commend EPA and the Obama Administration for their commitment to clean water," Baker said. "But the job is not done. We must ensure that today's words turn into tomorrow's actions, fight to ensure that offshore drilling in this region is stopped so that the Gulf coast's disaster will never happen here, and battle to pass the Chesapeake Clean Water Act now before Congress."
The Chesapeake Clean Water Act would give EPA additional tools to require pollution reduction. It would:
- Legally reinforce the pollution budget that is part of the settlement agreement, making it much more difficult for polluters to challenge the TMDL requirements;
- Authorize significant new funding to reduce urban/suburban runoff, the only pollution source that is still growing; and
- Establish a market-based, interstate pollution credit program aimed at improving water quality in local rivers, streams, and the Bay. Credit programs, which have been successful in other arenas, allow participants that can reduce pollution below baseline levels to sell their surplus reductions, or credits, to others facing higher pollution-reduction costs.
For more information about the lawsuit, go to cbf.org/c2k.