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EPA Fails to Hold PA Accountable as Clean Water Plan Falls Short

by Andrea Sears, Keystone State News Connection

Dec 26, 2019

Pennsylvania’s clean water plan has an annual funding gap of more than $300 million.

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Pennsylvania’s Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan for reducing pollution flowing into Chesapeake Bay can’t meet its 2025 goals, but the Environmental Protection Agency is not taking required actions.

Under the Clean Water Act, the EPA is supposed to impose consequences on any Chesapeake Bay watershed state that fails to meet its goals under the Clean Water Blueprint.

According to Harry Campbell, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in Pennsylvania, the Keystone State has a good plan, but it falls short of pollution reduction goals by 25% and is underfunded by more than $300 million a year.

“Without that resource investment in clean water, that plan will not be fully implemented,” Campbell points out. “And a plan, no matter how good it is, is only as good as it’s implemented.”

The EPA has released its evaluation of the plan but did not take action to hold Pennsylvania accountable for its deficiencies.

Ninety percent of the pollution flowing into Chesapeake Bay comes from the watershed states, including Pennsylvania.

Campbell notes that the EPA has a variety of actions it can take when those states’ pollution reduction efforts miss the mark.

“Withholding permits that EPA is obligated to review,” he explains. “Making more farmers and municipalities and wastewater treatment plants obtain permits. Withholding or redirecting funding.”

In 2010 the Chesapeake Bay Foundation sued the EPA for failing to uphold the Clean Water Act and in light of the agency’s failure to act may consider doing so again.

But Campbell says ultimately, it’s up to state lawmakers to ensure that the funding is there to help farmers control nutrient and sediment pollution and municipalities control storm water runoff that affects water quality in Pennsylvania and downstream,

“Any delay in supporting those folks working on the ground is another day we lose for flooding, fewer trees planted, cover crops that keep soils on the land and polluted runoff that impacts our rivers and streams, our drinking water, health and wellbeing,” he states.

Campbell adds that Pennsylvania’s 33,000 family farmers are working hard to reduce pollution, but they can’t do it alone.

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