PHILADELPHIA — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) completed creation of a rigorous accountability framework for reducing pollution in the Chesapeake Bay and the region’s streams, creeks, and rivers. A letter outlining a series of consequences that EPA could impose if jurisdictions do not make adequate progress in reducing water pollution was sent to the six states in the Bay watershed and the District of Columbia.

EPA’s Administrator, Lisa P. Jackson said, “President Obama, EPA, and the states want real, measurable results to restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay. To get there EPA is strengthening support for our partners, setting clear standards for progress, and ensuring accountability if those standards aren’t met. Pollution in the Chesapeake is a challenge that has persisted for decades. This federal-state partnership presents new opportunities for cleanup, and we’re increasing support and accountability to be sure we get the job done.”

Federal, state, and local officials have been working together on development of the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), a pollution budget that will set limits for sources of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment to the Bay and its tidal creeks, rivers, and bays. EPA said it is confident that the collaborative work will continue and that the states and D.C. will successfully meet expectations for reducing water pollution. The series of consequences will serve as a backstop, however, to achieving water quality goals.

To help the states and D.C. improve the performance and accountability of pollution control programs, EPA will provide technical assistance and an additional $11.2 million in grants for fiscal year 2010, more than doubling 2009 funding levels to the states. The funds are designed to improve permitting, enforcement, and other key regulatory activities that increase accountability for reducing water pollution.

EPA is creating the rigorous accountability framework for accelerating cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay and the region’s waterways by utilizing the authorities of the Clean Water Act, President Obama’s Executive Order, and the Chesapeake Bay TMDL. Letters to the states and D.C. in September 2008 and November 2009 stated that the jurisdictions must create strategies and schedules for reducing water pollution loads as part of the accountability framework.

While the six Bay states – Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia – and D.C. have considerable flexibility in how they achieve reductions, the jurisdictions must meet milestones every two years for implementing pollution controls. EPA may impose a variety of consequences for inadequate plans or failure to meet the milestones, including:

  • Expanding coverage of National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits to sources that are currently unregulated.
  • Increasing oversight of state-issued NPDES permits. 
  • Requiring additional pollution reductions from point sources such as wastewater treatment plants. 
  • Increasing federal enforcement and compliance in the watershed. 
  • Prohibiting new or expanded pollution discharges unless sufficient offsets are provided. 
  • Redirecting EPA grants. 
  • Revising water quality standards to better protect local and downstream waters. 
  • Establishing finer scale load allocations in the Bay TMDL. 

EPA will provide an assessment within 60 days of receiving a deliverable, such as a plan, milestone, or permit. If EPA finds a deliverable inadequate, the state or D.C. will then have 30 days to respond. EPA will deliver its final assessment and indicate any consequence the agency intends to impose within 120 days of the original submission.

The Chesapeake Bay TMDL will be completed by Dec. 31, 2010. Under the TMDL, EPA expects the states and D.C. to provide specific timelines for enhancing programs and implementing controls to reduce pollution. By November 2010, the states and D.C. are required to identify gaps in current programs that must be addressed to meet pollution limits. Bridging these gaps may require expanding regulatory authorities, improving compliance with existing regulations, securing additional financial resources, and issuing more stringent permits for wastewater facilities.

By 2011, EPA expects the states and D.C. to divide their allocated pollution loads to the local level so that counties, municipalities, conservation districts, and watershed organizations understand their role in meeting water quality goals. States and D.C. must also offset any increased loads from population growth and land use changes anticipated in the coming decades. EPA expects that pollution controls will be in place that should result in approximately 60 percent of the required reductions by 2017. All measures needed to reach the pollution load limits must be in place no later than 2025.

Click here to view the letter sent to the states.