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Rep. Everett: If We Don’t Meet Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Milestones, It Isn’t Pretty

At the House hearing on DEP’s budget Wednesday, Rep. Garth Everett (R-Lycoming) asked Acting DEP Secretary John Quigley what the Wolf Administration’s strategy is to meet Chesapeake Bay cleanup milestones.

Rep. Everett is a member of the interstate Chesapeake Bay Commission and has been working on Bay-related issues for many years and Lycoming County has undertaken innovative programs to meet the Bay requirements.

Quigley agreed Pennsylvania is not meeting our cleanup targets for the Bay, other than wastewater treatment plants.  He said in meetings with the departments of Agriculture and Conservation and Natural Resources everyone is clear we need to “reboot” the Chesapeake Bay effort.

He said additional resources are needed as incentives for installing additional best management practices on farms, DEP needs to do a better way of counting what we are putting on the ground and do a better job of targeting the resources DEP has.

In a follow-up, Rep. Everett said Pennsylvania should use Gov. Wolf’s proposed $675 million bond issue for water quality cleanup, instead of for alternative energy and other uses.

“A much wiser use of that money, should we go to borrow money, would go to cleaning up the streams rather than searching for alternative energies that may or not be efficient because they need subsidies and can’t stand on their own,” suggested Rep. Everett.

Quigley said $20 million of the initiative is devoted green agriculture and supporting digesters on farms and would translate into some water quality improvement.

Rep. Everett said “that’s nice,” but it’s really inadequate.  He said at a recent Chesapeake Bay Commission meeting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency outlined what the consequences were for missing the milestones and “it isn’t pretty.”

A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report last year found Pennsylvania missed its 2013 nitrogen reduction goal by 2 million pounds and sediment reduction milestone by nearly 116 million pounds.

DEP said by 2017, Pennsylvania must make an additional 10 million pound reduction in nitrogen and a nearly 212 million pound reduction in sediment to meet our mandated milestones.

Simple math tells us we won’t make the milestones with the level of effort we now have.

Pennsylvania has just 655 days to put in place the cost-effective best management practices we know work to meet these 2017 reduction requirements-- two growing seasons-- since the biggest sources of pollution for Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams are agricultural runoff, stormwater and abandoned mines.

There are no silver bullets in this business and 30 years of experience has taught us what works and what doesn’t.  For example, agricultural waste digesters typically just move pollutants around and don’t address the significant problem of sediment pollution.

If, for example, the $20 million allocated to “Green Agriculture” in the Governor’s energy initiative were instead devoted to installing stream buffers, one of the most cost-effective pollution reduction tools we have, we could install up to 9,300 acres of buffers putting Pennsylvania a long way toward meeting our stream buffer milestone.  It would also help Pennsylvania’s family farms and create jobs at the same time.

Wastewater plants are already doing their part to meet the pollution milestones so far, which is a fraction of what Pennsylvania has to do as a whole.  Agricultural runoff and stormwater need major attention.

If we do not meet these milestones, the Chesapeake Bay Program requires the federal government to implement “backstop” control measures of their choosing that will dramatically affect local communities and businesses.

Written testimony and a video of this budget hearing is posted on the Republican House Appropriations Committee webpage.


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