EPA Delivers on TMDL, Raps Chesapeake Bay States

by Rena Steinzor

September 24, 2010

As expected, the Environmental Protect Agency issued its draft Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for the Chesapeake Bay this afternoon – essentially a cap on total pollution in the Bay, as well as caps on each of 92 separate segments of the Bay. EPA also issued assessments of each of the affected states’ Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs), evaluating proposals for implementing the TMDL from Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.

As I said in this space this morning, the TMDL is a major step forward. Reading through the draft reinforces my view that there’s good reason to hope that, decades from now, we’ll look back on the issuance of the TMDLs as a watershed moment in the protection of the Bay.  It’s been a very long road to this point, with a couple decades of false starts. And we have a long road ahead of us yet. But EPA has stepped up to the plate to its great credit, and to the credit of the Obama Administration.

Over the years, the states have treated the Bay badly, for the most part buckling to industry or other political pressure to avoid meaningful protections. In my home state of Maryland, agri-business has been one such powerful force against progress, for example. As part of its release today, EPA also offered up comments to the states on their draft WIPs, and, again to its credit, EPA seems to mean business. It identified “serious deficiencies” in the plans from five states – Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, and “minor deficiencies” in the plans from Maryland and the District of Columbia. The message EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson is clearly intending to deliver to the states should be clear: there’s a new sheriff in town, and she means business.

It’s long past time.

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Also from Rena Steinzor

Rena Steinzor is a Professor of Law at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, and a past president of the Center for Progressive Reform. She is the author of Why Not Jail? Industrial Catastrophes, Corporate Malfeasance, and Government Inaction.

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