EPA Region 3 Administrator Adam Ortiz reaffirmed the agency’s commitment to meeting the 2025 goals of the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint at Tuesday night’s Maryland Environmental Legislative Summit.
Ortiz told legislators and environmental advocates, “I want to be really clear, we are going to turn a corner on the Chesapeake Bay. We are going to fulfill our role here at EPA, holding states accountable... At the end of the year, I sent a tough letter to Pennsylvania saying that they have to fully fund and commit to their watershed implementation plan. We have got to get it done and if they don’t, we will take action.
“The last administration said that the 2025 Bay goals were aspirational. That is not the position of myself. That is not the position of the Biden-Harris Administration. Those goals are a commitment. They are an agreement.”
“I also want a reality check. We're behind. We've made tremendous progress and Maryland has led the way in so many ways, from cover crops to green infrastructure to stormwater funding. We all know that stuff, but there's areas we can improve here in Maryland and other states have made strides in some areas and are falling behind in others. But we may not get quite to our goals in 2025, but we will accelerate and I will use every power that I have in this role to make sure that all the states and municipalities are doing what we need to do, what we've committed to do, because our word is our bond to the Chesapeake Bay.”
Ortiz’s comments represent a shift from when then-Chesapeake Bay Program Director Dana Aunkst said in Jan. 2020 that the Bay cleanup goals were “an aspiration” and that the technical targets of the cleanup plan are not enforceable. CBF and several states in the watershed are suing the EPA for failing to enforce the requirements of the Blueprint.
CBF Vice President of Environmental Protection and Restoration Alison Prost issued the following statement in response to Ortiz’s comments:
“It's refreshing to hear EPA re-commit to the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint 2025 goals and to EPA’s role of holding states accountable. EPA must resume a strong oversight role to finish the job. Meaningful and swift action on behalf of EPA could also translate into a strong resolution of our and the states’ pending lawsuits.
“Pennsylvania remains far behind in reducing pollution in its rivers and streams. In fact, a recent report found almost one in every three miles of waterways damaged by enough pollution to harm wildlife, recreation, or drinking water. While there are many residents, organizations, and farmers working to reduce pollution, the Commonwealth’s legislature has consistently failed to budget the funds they need to restore local waterways. We hope EPA’s strong commitment to the cleanup includes holding Pennsylvania accountable.
“Increased federal support is also needed. EPA must marshal federal resources where they can be used effectively to correct languishing water pollution problems.
“Bay restoration efforts are at a critical crossroads. The shift in tone from the previous administration is clear. Now it’s time for action. Fully implementing the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint can be one of the Biden Administration’s greatest environmental success stories. The Bay region’s health, well-being, and quality of life depend on it.”