Today the Administration released its draft strategy for the Chesapeake Bay. Public comment runs through January 8, and the final strategy is due in May.
There’s a lot to read. But here’s one point off the bat that’s of note:
Regulatory authority will be expanded to increase accountability for pollution and strengthen permits for animal agriculture, urban/suburban stormwater and new sources. . . . EPA will also initiate rulemaking to increase coverage and raise standards for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), municipal stormwater, and new dischargers of pollution.
EPA is taking a step in the right direction with these proposed steps to address runoff from agricultural pollution sources. Right now the EPA has the authority, under the Clean Water Act, to start tackling this problem. But EPA’s approach to CAFOs (factory farms), as we’ve said before, has been frustrating for many years. CAFOs are covered by the CWA, but EPA has historically not used that authority. The situation is so bad that, last year, the Government Accountability Office found that “no federal agency collects accurate and consistent data on the number, size, and location of CAFOs,” even though “large farms can produce more raw waste than the human population of a large city.” A genuine commitment to expand the scope of CAFO regulation is heartening.
Another broad point is worth making: Bay restoration has foundered for many years because EPA has refused to hold the states accountable for their actions, hiding its head in the sand (or underwater, as it were) with the states just as it has with CAFOs and nonpoint source runoff. With this report, EPA has signaled it plans to take a much stronger leadership role in cleaning up the Bay, and that it plans to hold the states to their pollution reduction targets. Such leadership is desperately needed from EPA, and, indeed, the Obama Administration generally, because the states won’t do the necessary heavy-lifting otherwise.
We’ll be reading the plan closely over the next few weeks. Stay tuned.
See also our previous “EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Reports: A First Look” and “Reasonably Assured? The Chesapeake Bay and Reasonable Assurances.”