Chesapeake Bay Group Wants EPA to Be Aggressive

With its 10th annual State of the Bay report continuing to show no significant progress, Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) President William C. Baker on April 15 challenged the U.S.Environmental Protection Agency to use its regulatory authority to take aggressive new action to reduce pollution.

"That the Chesapeake Bay, a national treasure, remains in critical condition is outrageous. It is a national disgrace," said CBF President Will Baker. "Who are we kidding? It is 2009 and this national treasure is still getting trashed, while government refuses to use every possible tool available to stop it. When will EPA exercise its regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act to set a strict pollution reduction mandate and enforce it? Do laws mean nothing when it is only nature that is getting injured?"

CBF is calling on EPA to take three actions:

  • It must stop issuing permits for new development projects that increase pollution in local waterways, absent a two to one offset. New discharges from sewage treatment plants and industry would also be prohibited.
  • It must require reductions in polluted runoff from urban and suburban lands.
  • It must deny air pollution permits for all new coal-fired power plants that pollute the region’s waterways.

"These are actions that EPA can take today," Baker said. "However the ultimate success will only be achieved when EPA takes a leadership role in working to restore the Bay as a single ecological system. From the headwaters to the Atlantic Ocean, EPA must manage the efforts of the six state and numerous local governments with milestones, accountability, and consequences for goals not met."

CBF along with several partners have filed a lawsuit demanding that EPA exercise its full authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA) and meet its obligations under the Chesapeake Bay agreements. The CWA requires that the waters of the nation be fishable and swimmable, and the Bay agreements require sufficient reductions in pollution to remove it from the "impaired waters" list by 2010. This year’s State of the Bay health index remained at 28, an unacceptable "D" grade, still impaired and far from the fishable and swimmable standard.

The annual State of the Bay report is a comprehensive measure of the Bay's health. For the report, CBF evaluates 13 indicators: oysters, shad, crabs, striped bass (rockfish), underwater grasses, wetlands, forested buffers, resource lands, toxics, water clarity, dissolved oxygen, and phosphorus and nitrogen pollution. CBF scientists compile and examine the best available historical and up-to-date information for each indicator and assign it an index score and letter grade. Taken together, these indicators offer an assessment of Bay health.

The unspoiled Bay ecosystem described by Captain John Smith in the 1600s, with its extensive forests and wetlands, clear water, abundant fish and oysters, and lush growths of submerged vegetation serves as the benchmark, and would rate a 100 on CBF's scale.

This year saw declines in dissolved oxygen, rockfish, crabs, and shad. Gains were reported in underwater grasses and resource lands. The other indicators remained the same.