BALTIMORE - The Environmental Protection Agency said yesterday that the Chesapeake Bay watershed states and the District of Columbia could face stiffer pollution reduction requirements and other consequences for not meeting bay restoration goals.
EPA Mid-Atlantic regional administrator Shawn Garvin said he signed a letter yesterday that was being sent to the district and to Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and New York.
Garvin told reporters in a teleconference that he expected the seven would meet cleanup goals and that enforcement would be unnecessary.
But the head of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which sued the EPA over the slow pace of bay restoration, said he remained unconvinced that the federal agency was taking the effort seriously enough.
Foundation president Will Baker noted that Garvin said during the conference call that the consequences would not be applied to restoration commitments announced in May, but only to the restoration strategy that is being developed.
"We're unconvinced because the words that were used were hardly commitments," Baker said.
The letter sent to the states and the district has been coined the "consequences letter," Garvin said, but he said he regarded it as a backstop to "ensure progress to water-quality goals."
The EPA will also provide an additional $11.2 million in technical assistance in fiscal year 2010, which is more than double the amount provided during fiscal 2009, to help meet the restoration goals.
An executive order by President Obama earlier this year mandated the cleanup strategy and put the federal government in charge of the effort previously led by the states.
The letter said actions that could trigger the consequences include failure to develop restoration plans and pollution-reduction milestones, and failure to achieve those milestones.
Consequences called for in the letter include requiring more farms and sewage plants to have permits, requiring additional pollution reductions, and requiring offsets for new sources of pollution or increases from existing sources.
Garvin said consequences would vary on a case-by-case basis.
That will give the agency flexibility in deciding how to address various problems, he said.
Baker said he wanted to "see a demonstration of the new EPA today, not at some unspecified point in the future," and he said he supported a bill proposed by U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D., Md.) to reauthorize the current bay program.
Baker said the bill would require the EPA to impose consequences if the states fall short of pollution reduction milestones.
Beth McGee, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's senior water-quality scientist, said the EPA letter "lacks concrete standards that will ensure when EPA will act. By what margin must a jurisdiction miss its goals before EPA takes action, for example?"