The Chesapeake Executive Council met today in Richmond, Virginia, and selected EPA Administrator Michael Regan to be the next Council Chair. The Council includes the governors of the six watershed states, the mayor of the District of Columbia (DC), the chair of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, and the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Its role is to establish the policy direction for the restoration and protection of the Chesapeake Bay.
Governor Northam, the current chair, and Virginia State Representative David Bulova, Chair of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, were the only sitting members that attended the meeting. All the other governors, the DC mayor, and the EPA Administrator sent surrogates.
While past Bay restoration efforts are littered with promises unmet and commitments unfulfilled, the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, established in 2010, is an improvement. It includes pollution limits allocated to each jurisdiction, specific plans to meet those limits, two-year milestones for accountability, and a commitment from EPA that there would be consequences for failure (called back-stops).
Of the three major Bay states, Virginia and Maryland have plans that, if fully implemented, would achieve the Blueprint requirements. And just today, Governor Northam demonstrated singular leadership with a historic, billion-dollar Bay budget proposal. Pennsylvania’s plan, however, is woefully inadequate. The Commonwealth’s plan would only achieve 75 percent of the nitrogen pollution reduction goal and is underfunded by more than $300 million annually.
EPA should have imposed consequences for Pennsylvania’s failure (as it is obligated to do under the Blueprint and the Clean Water Act) but has not. In September of 2020, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and its partners sued EPA for abdicating its responsibilities under the Clean Water Act. . Underscoring the damage this has caused for Bay restoration efforts, Attorneys General in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, and the District of Columbia also filed a separate suit.
More than a year and a new Presidential Administration later, Pennsylvania still lags far behind. And there are still no consequences.
Following the meeting, CBF President William C. Baker issued this statement.
“I am gravely concerned about the lack of leadership by the Chesapeake Bay Executive Council. Only Governor Northam has made a clear stand in support of Bay restoration. That so many leaders were missing today does not bode well for the future.
“For more than 35 years there has been scientific certainty about what needs to be done to restore the Bay, but the states and EPA have fallen short.
“The 2025 deadline is near and leadership by the new Chair, EPA Administrator Regan, is essential. The agency must ensure that all the states meet their commitments. If not, the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint will be yet another failure to restore this national treasure—this one is on President Biden’s watch.”
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