CBF, partners sue EPA over failure to keep Bay restoration commitments

Jan. 6, 2009
After 25 years of watching promises broken and commitments unfulfilled, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) filed a lawsuit in federal court to require the federal EPA to enforce the law and reduce pollution sufficiently to remove the Chesapeake Bay from the federal 'impaired waters' list. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia following a legal requirement for a 60-day notice of intent to sue period (CBF filed the notice on Oct. 29)...

• Federal court asked to require EPA to enforce the law and reduce pollution

WASHINGTON, DC, Jan. 5, 2009 -- After 25 years of watching promises broken and commitments unfulfilled, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) today filed a lawsuit in federal court to require the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enforce the law and reduce pollution sufficiently to remove the Chesapeake Bay from the federal 'impaired waters' list. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia following a legal requirement for a 60-day notice of intent to sue period (CBF filed the notice on Oct. 29).

In the most significant lawsuit in the history of Bay restoration, and with unprecedented national implications, CBF is asking the court to order EPA to reduce pollution from all sources -- air, wastewater treatment plants, and urban, suburban, and agricultural runoff.

"We have asked that EPA accept its responsibility under the Clean Water Act. EPA must impose a legally binding pollution reduction budget (or cap) that will restore water quality. While discussions have occurred, we have not been able to resolve our claims during the 60day notice period," said CBF President William C. Baker. "Despite EPA's assertions to the contrary, CBF believes that after 25 years of failed policies the only way to ensure that EPA does its job is to have a court order requiring it."

Since 1983, EPA and the Bay states have signed three agreements to restore the Chesapeake Bay. The most recent, the Chesapeake 2000 agreement, committed to reduce pollution sufficiently to have the Bay removed from the federal 'impaired waters' list by 2010. EPA has acknowledged that the goal will not be met and there is now discussion of pushing that goal back to 2020 or beyond. In addition, over the past several years, three EPA Inspector General's reports and one Government Accountability Office report have detailed EPA's leadership failures.

"Over the last eight years the EPA, which has the responsibility to lead the effort to enforce the Clean Water Act, has abdicated leadership and weakened regulations that would have reduced pollution. The rule of science and the rule of law have been subjugated to political dogma and a policy of deregulation that has wreaked havoc from financial markets to environmental protection," Baker said. "Science has provided a roadmap for Bay restoration and EPA has the tools to get the job done. The Bay is still polluted due to the lack of political will."

To jumpstart resolution, CBF has provided a list of 33 actions that EPA and the federal government can take to achieve the goal. CBF has agreed to negotiate in good faith, and while not releasing all the detailed specifics, some important components include:
• Requiring EPA to commit to achieve 80 percent of the pollution reduction goal by 2012, with full implementation by 2015;
• Requiring EPA to take an active role in wastewater treatment plant permits to ensure compliance with pollution reduction goals and that there will be no net increase in pollution loadings;
• Improving enforcement of existing laws;
• Requiring tough construction stormwater permits at sites that discharge into impaired waters;
• Adopting stringent limits for municipal stormwater discharges;
• Requiring all power plants that generate air pollution that affects the region's waterways to install existing technologies that would reduce that pollution;
• Requiring that new and existing agricultural conservation funding be geographically targeted to practices that achieve the most pollution reduction;
• Requiring that a portion of federal transportation funding be directed to stormwater management on highways;
• Creating a costshare program to pay for implementation of best management practices for stormwater management; and
• Addressing injuries to recreational anglers and commercial watermen.

"With a new Administration, there is hope for change. This lawsuit will put Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts directly in front of the new EPA Administrator," Baker said. "The Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure. We believe that through this lawsuit, it can also become a model for pollution reduction and the restoration of water quality across the nation."

Joining CBF in the lawsuit are: the Virginia State Waterman's Association, the Maryland Watermen's Association, the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen's Association, former Maryland Governor Harry Hughes, retired Maryland Senator Bernie Fowler, former Virginia legislator and Natural Resources Secretary Tayloe Murphy, and former Washington D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams.

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