EPA Region III Administrator Adam Ortiz today announced actions EPA is taking to hold the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania accountable for an insufficient plan to put programs and practices in place to achieve the pollution-reduction goals of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint by 2025.
The Bay jurisdictions each submitted plans to achieve the 2025 goals. While other jurisdictions’ plans achieved their goals on paper, the Commonwealth’s first plan, submitted in 2019, would have only achieved 75 percent of the necessary nitrogen pollution reduction that it had committed to. A revised plan the Commonwealth contended would close the 25 percent gap was submitted in December 2021. EPA’s latest review determined Pennsylvania’s plan would only meet 70 percent of nitrogen goals and identified several deficiencies, including that the revised plan lacks details about program upgrades and fails to close funding gaps.
In a letter sent to Pennsylvania Department of the Environment (DEP) Secretary McDonnell, EPA noted the Commonwealth’s latest plan does not provide confidence that the Commonwealth will meet its 2025 targets. EPA has now announced several backstop measures the agency will be taking while also giving the Commonwealth 90 days to update the plan. Additional backstops were also outlined that could be taken after 90 days if the plan remains insufficient.
According to Pennsylvania’s DEP, there are 12,883 miles of Bay watershed rivers and streams harmed by pollution. More than 90 percent of the Commonwealth’s remaining pollution reductions must come from agriculture. Commonwealth officials say that efforts to reduce pollution are underfunded by more than $300 million annually. But to date, elected officials have not allocated the funding necessary to meet its commitments.
Following EPA’s announcement, Harry Campbell, CBF’s Pennsylvania Science Policy and Advocacy Director, issued this statement:
“We appreciate EPA recognizing that Pennsylvania’s plan is insufficient. This is a step in the right direction. However, until the plan is made sufficient and adequate funding is identified, there will be no reasonable assurance of success. EPA must continue to provide oversight and accountability to ensure the Commonwealth acts. Additional federal and state investments are crucial.
“The Commonwealth’s proposed Clean Streams Fund legislation would create a statewide farm conservation cost-share program called the Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program (ACAP), help municipalities reduce polluted stormwater, and restore streams damaged by acid mine drainage, among other vital things. If passed, Pennsylvania’s legislature will begin to close the funding gap and move us closer to bringing clean water to the Commonwealth’s rivers and streams. Our economy, health, heritage, and quality of life depend on it.”