Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) sounded the alarm once again Thursday about Pennsylvania’s inability to meet its clean water goals, suggesting in a letter to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler that the Keystone State is impeding regional efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.
The six Chesapeake Bay states and the District of Columbia were required to provide the EPA with long-range clean-up plans last week, but Pennsylvania has frequently lagged behind when it comes to policing the pollution that pours into upstream bay tributaries and meeting federally-mandated goals.
The Chesapeake Executive Council, a regional management consortium that Hogan currently leads, is due to meet next week in Oxon Hill. Representatives from all the bay states and the federal government routinely attend.
“With the recent release of the final Watershed Implementation Plans (WIP) to restore the Chesapeake Bay by 2025, Maryland continues to have alarming concerns regarding Pennsylvania’s progress on clean water,” Hogan wrote in his letter.
“The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s final WIP falls far short of the federally established nitrogen goal by only achieving 73% of the required reduction. Pennsylvania’s plan also includes a troubling funding gap of over $300 million annually.”
Hogan said he is calling on the EPA to use its oversight powers to hold states accountable for meeting bay restoration goals.
In a statement, Wolf administration spokesman J.J. Abbott said the state Department of Environmental Protection does plan to participate in a requested briefing with their Maryland counterparts, adding that “We look forward to educating Maryland officials more about the work being done to meet these goals.”
The state has made “great strides” at improving water quality in the bay’s watershed, by “investing in best practices and working collaboratively with our conservation and agriculture sectors. We’re addressing an enormous area, spanning over 15,000 miles of impaired streams, 33,000 farms, and 350 municipalities.”
But for the cleanup to be truly successful, the state’s efforts need to be complemented at the local level, and Pennsylvania’s cleanup plan “presents a framework and actions for that support.” In addition, the state’s recently approved $23.1 million “Pennsylvania Farm Bill,” includes new and expanded conservation funding, with priority given to counties in the watershed, Abbott said, adding that Wolf’s $4.5 billion Restore Pennsylvania plan also invests in flood mitigation and green infrastructure.
“Unlike Maryland, Pennsylvania doesn’t generate millions of dollars from tourism on the Chesapeake Bay and can’t use those resources, at the moment, to improve water quality,” Abbott said. “If any entity in Maryland is interested in diverting funds to Pennsylvania to bolster our efforts, we would gladly accept them. Pennsylvania is committed to having projects and practices in place by 2025 to attain our goals and meet our requirements in full.”
John L. Micek of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star contributed to this report.