Maryland faces an important deadline in its long-running effort to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. By 2017, the state will be legally required to have put in place a number of specific measures to reduce the massive quantities of pollution that now flow into the Bay from a range of pollution sources in the state. Unfortunately, if the terms of a draft Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement are any indication, we’re going to miss the deadline.
Today, CPR President Rena Steinzor and I submitted comments to the Chesapeake Executive Council, a collaborative partnership of Bay state governors currently chaired by Gov. Martin O’Malley, arguing that the Agreement falls well short. As the first interstate agreement since EPA issued the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for the Chesapeake Bay, the Agreement is an opportunity to build off the TMDL and tackle the issues that plan does not address. Instead, the draft Agreement ignores some of the most pressing issues facing the Chesapeake Bay today.
Our comments urge the Bay state governors to:
Hold Agriculture Equally Accountable Across State Lines. Agricultural operations are responsible for nearly half of the nutrients now choking the Chesapeake. The authority for the TMDL comes from the Clean Water Act, which does not address nonpoint sources of pollution such as agriculture. To restore this vital economic and recreational engine, it’s only fair that each sector takes responsibility for its share of pollution. Bay state governors should use the Agreement to hold each of the various polluting sectors to roughly the same standards across state lines.
Invite EPA Oversight. The Bay’s recent progress is largely the result of the federally led TMDL, and the Agreement should acknowledge EPA’s critical role in restoring the Bay.
Address Toxics and Climate Change. The Agreement was the states’ chance to address some of the issues unaddressed by the TMDL, most notably toxic chemicals in the Bay and the problems resulting from climate change. Despite mounting evidence of impacts to fish and other resources, the draft Agreement omits any commitment to reduce—or even research—toxic pollution in the Bay and its tributaries. It is likewise inexcusable that the draft fails to even utter the words “climate change.” In the final Agreement, the authors must acknowledge reality and address the very real impacts that toxics and climate change are already having on the Bay.
This tepid don’t-rock-the-boat agreement harks back to yesteryear, when Bay states spent two full decades getting very little done. We urge Governor O’Malley, the head of the Chesapeake Executive Council, and other Bay state governors to revise the Agreement so the final document reflects the true value Bay restoration represents to the region.