EPA Completes Accountability Framework for Reducing Pollution in Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Dec. 30, 2009
Additional $11.2 million in grants provided for fiscal year 2010

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has completed the creation of an accountability framework for reducing pollution in the Chesapeake Bay and the region’s streams, creeks and rivers. A letter sent to the six states in the Bay watershed and the District of Columbia outlined a series of consequences EPA could impose if jurisdictions do not make adequate progress in reducing water pollution.

“President Obama, EPA and the states want real, measurable results to restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “To get there, EPA is strengthening support for our partners, setting clear standards for progress and ensuring accountability if those standards aren’t met. Pollution in the Chesapeake is a challenge that has persisted for decades. This federal-state partnership presents new opportunities for cleanup, and we’re increasing support and accountability to be sure we get the job done.”

Federal, state and local officials have been working together on development of the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), a pollution budget that will set limits for sources of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment to the Bay and its tidal creeks, rivers and bays. EPA is confident the collaborative work will continue and that the states and D.C. will successfully meet expectations for reducing water pollution. The series of consequences will serve as a backstop, however, to achieving water quality goals.

To help the states and D.C. improve the performance and accountability of pollution control programs, EPA will provide technical assistance and an additional $11.2 million in grants for fiscal year 2010, more than doubling 2009 funding levels to the states. The funds are designed to improve permitting, enforcement and other key regulatory activities that increase accountability for reducing water pollution.

EPA is creating the rigorous accountability framework for accelerating cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay and the region’s waterways by utilizing the authorities of the Clean Water Act, President Obama’s executive order and the Chesapeake Bay TMDL. Letters to the states and D.C. in September 2008 and November 2009 stated that the jurisdictions must create strategies and schedules for reducing water pollution loads as part of the accountability framework.

While the six Bay states--Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia--and D.C. have considerable flexibility in how they achieve reductions, the jurisdictions must meet milestones every two years for implementing pollution controls. EPA may impose a variety of consequences for inadequate plans or failure to meet the milestones.

Within 60 days of receiving a deliverable--such as a plan, milestone or permit--EPA will provide an assessment. If EPA finds a deliverable inadequate, the state or D.C. will then have 30 days to respond. EPA will deliver its final assessment and indicate any consequence the agency intends to impose within 120 days of the original submission.

By 2011, EPA expects the states and D.C. to divide their allocated pollution loads to the local level so that counties, municipalities, conservation districts and watershed organizations understand their roles in meeting water quality goals. They must also offset any increased loads from population growth and land use changes anticipated in the coming decades. EPA expects that pollution controls will be in place that should result in approximately 60% of the required reductions by 2017. All measures needed to reach the pollution load limits must be in place no later than 2025.

Source: U.S. EPA