Chesapeake Bay clean-up proposal needs more time for review, says NAHB

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WASHINGTON, DC, Oct. 18, 2010 -- Citing its national implications, extremely high costs and technical complexity, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) has asked the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to give the public more time to study the proposed "pollution diet" for the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

"The Chesapeake Bay is a precious natural resource, and it is essential that people living in the affected areas have ample opportunity to study and comment on the EPA proposal," said NAHB Chairman Bob Jones, a home builder in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. To that end, NAHB has asked EPA for a 120-day public comment period, rather than the 45-day timeframe that the agency set when it introduced the plan on Sept. 22.

"We are especially concerned that a unilateral approach that includes permanent restrictions on growth will further damage the region's economy and result in a lack of funds to pay for the measures that are necessary to improve the Bay," Jones said.

EPA's Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) proposal sets limits on the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment that each state is allowed to discharge into the Bay watershed, which includes parts of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.

In turn, the states have proposed discharge limits for agriculture, new development, and municipal wastewater treatment plants. Taking the steps necessary to meet the proposed discharge limits will cost billions of dollars. For example, Washington, D.C. officials have put a $4 billion price tag on a project that would renovate just one sewage facility.

Additionally, consumers will likely face new restrictions on fertilizer use, controls to help keep rainwater from running off their lawns, and significantly higher taxes and fees to pay for city, county and state infrastructure improvements.

"The new TMDL will impose extraordinarily difficult regulatory requirements on the citizens who live in the Bay states," said Jones. "EPA has already announced that these plans are a blueprint for the rest of the nation, which is all the more reason to make sure the public has ample time to carefully study these proposals."

He added that a too-short timeframe might discourage consideration of innovative solutions that can meet the needs of multiple stakeholders. One such solution is to allow nutrient trading programs that, for example, allow developers to build new communities in exchange for buying "water quality credits" that pay farmers for doing low-cost improvements on their farms to reduce pollutants to the Bay.

"Agriculture operations have an enormous effect on the Bay's water quality," Jones pointed out. "Paying farmers to reduce their pollution means more income for farmers even as it helps ensure that farmers tackle their share of the Bay's cleanup program."

The idea that the Bay region's citizens can evaluate the many provisions embedded in the TMDL proposal without careful study is "misguided - and just plain wrong. NAHB wants to ensure the proper balance between environmental stewardship and economic impact for the home building industry and for the watershed as a whole. We all have a stake in this," Jones said.

About NAHB
The National Association of Home Builders is a Washington-based trade association representing more than 175,000 members involved in home building, remodeling, multifamily construction, property management, subcontracting, design, housing finance, building product manufacturing and other aspects of residential and light commercial construction. NAHB is affiliated with 800 state and local home builders associations around the country. NAHB's builder members will construct about 80 percent of the new housing units projected for 2010. Web: www.nahb.org. Follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NAHBMedia.

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