Maryland concerned about Pennsylvania’s water plans for bay

Brian Witte
The Associated Press

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland continues to have “alarming concerns” about neighboring Pennsylvania’s lack of progress in meeting clean water goals and how falling short will affect the Chesapeake Bay, Gov. Larry Hogan wrote Thursday to Pennsylvania and federal officials.

Hogan sent a letter to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, ahead of next week’s meeting of the Chesapeake Executive Council, which includes the governors of the six states in the watershed of the nation’s largest estuary.

Hogan, who chairs the council, criticized Pennsylvania’s final Watershed Implementation Plan, which was recently released. States in the bay’s watershed have released plans to meet restoration goals by 2025.

“The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s final WIP falls far short of the federally established nitrogen goal by only achieving 73% of the required reduction,” Hogan wrote. “Pennsylvania’s plan also includes a troubling funding gap of over $300 million annually.”

J.J. Abbott, a spokesman for Wolf, said Pennsylvania has made great strides in improving local water quality by investing in best practices and working with conservation and agriculture sectors. The state is addressing a huge area that spans over 15,000 miles (24,140 kilometers) of impaired streams, 33,000 farms and 350 municipalities, he wrote in an email.

“Over 1,000 Pennsylvanians – farmers, foresters, academics, local municipal and community leaders, environmental advocates, and state government agencies – contributed their expertise to our plan,” Abbott wrote.

Abbott also noted that Wolf proposed farm legislation approved by lawmakers this year that makes a $23 million investment with new conservation funding, with priorities to be given to counties in the bay’s watershed.

“Pennsylvania is committed to having projects and practices in place by 2025 to attain our goals and meet our requirements in full,” Abbott wrote.

The Chesapeake Executive Council includes the governors of the six bay watershed states, the administrator of the EPA and the mayor of the District of Columbia. The watershed covers 65,000 square miles (165,000 square kilometers) and includes Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.

Concerns about pollution were heightened last year in Maryland, after heavy rains washed a large amount of debris including trees, tires and garbage into the state from upstream.

Hogan noted that for decades the nation has committed to restoring the bay through executive orders, congressional actions and policies. A 2014 agreement between states in the watershed and federal agencies reaffirmed support for a regional approach and partnership, including a commitment to clean water goals by 2025, Hogan wrote.

“We urgently need a more complete and comprehensive commitment from Pennsylvania, as well as a clear and robust demonstration from the Environmental Protection Agency that appropriate oversight powers will be used to maintain our momentum,” Hogan wrote. “Restoration requires full federal and state engagement and investment, with success dependent on each and every jurisdiction.”

Hogan said next week’s council meeting offers another opportunity for constructive dialogue.

“After three decades of federal, state, and local initiatives and investments in Chesapeake Bay, now is not the time to waiver,” Hogan wrote.