Our Perspectives on the Latest Issues
The Phase III Watershed Implementation Steering Committee meets this week in Harrisburg at a pivotal time for the Chesapeake Bay clean-up. In December, the steering committee met to discuss the mid-point assessment and to gather feedback from stakeholders to the PA Department of Environmental Protection and the Principals’ Staff Committee of the Chesapeake Bay Program.
As we turn to 2018, we are entering into the critical second half of the period for Pennsylvania to meets is pollution reduction goals by 2025, set by the Total Maximum Daily Load in 2010. For a number of reasons, progress made this year and the actions taken by the Phase III WIP Steering Committee and the state agencies will be crucial in setting the stage for how well Pennsylvania steps up to meet its obligations.
In December, early information from the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program’s model is showing that Pennsylvania’s 2025 targets for reducing nutrients may be 7 million pounds less for nitrogen and 270,000 pounds less for phosphorous than originally thought. While this is welcome news, PennFuture and clean water stakeholders plan to continue holding the state agencies, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the WIP Steering Committee to strong commitments for our clean water. Pennsylvania needs a strong Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan in order to meet its goals and restore thousands of miles of streams and creeks.
Last week, DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell informed the Citizens Advisory Council on DEP’s work with the Chesapeake Bay clean-up and shared that the Chesapeake Bay Program should be releasing its initial nutrient and sediment reduction targets in February, finalizing them in May.
Secretary McDonnell rightly admits that Pennsylvania still faces uphill challenges in reaching the pollution reduction goals. While it remains a key concern for clean water stakeholders in Pennsylvania and the Chesapeake Bay watershed, Secretary McDonnell told the Citizens Advisory Council that the Conowingo Dam issue will be dealt on its own with its separate watershed implementation plan created by the owner of the dam – Exelon, EPA, Maryland, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
2018 is shaping up to be a very important year for Chesapeake Bay and clean water policy in regard to the WIP and state agencies’ enforcement and work in water quality and restoration. On top of these challenges and movements in the right direction by our key policymakers in Pennsylvania, legislators in Harrisburg threaten the progress of the Chesapeake Bay clean-up and all of its stakeholders by continuing to challenge critical state funding for environmental projects, river basin commissions, and clean water programming at the Departments of Agriculture, Environmental Protection, and Conservation and Natural Resources. State elected officials are also actively seeking the roll-back of essential regulations to keep our water clean and are trying their best to implement a regime of supposed reform.
At the federal level, while the constant challenge to reach a deal on permanent appropriations from this Congress and presidential administration appear elusive, we have a few strong bills emerging from watershed legislators to help increase our buffers and funding to farmers as a part of the 2018 Farm Bill, including S.2139 from Senator Van Hollen (D-MD), and HR4420 from Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA).
At this time, we need a strong state government commitment to restoring and protecting our drinking water in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and in Pennsylvania.
PennFuture remains an integral part of the WIP development and discussions and state and federal levels of government for clean water.