Today marks the end of a public comment period on the federal government’s recent proposals to restore the Chesapeake Bay. The comment period follows the release of nine reports authored by federal agencies that served as a “draft strategy” for bay cleanup. In response, more than 40,000 residents of Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania submitted comments calling for bold federal action to restore the bay.
“The message from Virginia is clear: we want clean water in our communities, and we demand a clean Chesapeake Bay. From Virginia Beach to Roanoke to Richmond, more than 14,000 Virginians are calling on the EPA to hold polluters accountable and finally restore the Chesapeake Bay,” said J.R. Tolbert, Environment Virginia Advocate.
Environment Virginia working with their partner organizations in Maryland and Pennsylvania have been working to generate the comments as part of a coordinated effort to show the public’s commitment to a healthy Chesapeake Bay.
A presidential executive order from May 2009 directed the creation of a new Federal Leadership Committee, chaired by the Environmental Protection Agency, and the “draft strategy.”
In their September report, the EPA proposed to limit or prohibit new or expanded discharges by polluters and states. In addition, the draft plan called for strengthening and expanding permit programs to curb the largest sources of pollution—urban and farmland runoff – but under pressure from the Farm Bureau and other special interests the EPA has recently backed away from these aggressive cleanup measures.
“The original EPA plan was serious about cleaning up the bay, but in recent weeks we’ve seen a backslide towards the same failed policies of the past 26 years,” said Tolbert. Today, more than 40,000 people from across the watershed have said that the EPA should immediately crack down on the biggest polluters, and they should use the strongest penalties at their disposal to push states to meet their goals.”
This public comment campaign was organized by Environment Maryland, Environment Virginia, Penn Environment, and Environment America. The majority of the comments contain this language:
After 25 years, it is clear that much more needs to be done to heal the Chesapeake Bay. The Environmental Protection Agency should immediately issue more stringent, enforceable limits for the bay's biggest polluters: urban development and factory farms. For states or polluters who fail to clean up their waterways, the EPA should enforce strict penalties such as withholding federal dollars or new permits. States and the EPA should restore the bay in the fastest possible timeline. We've already waited over two decades for a healthy bay.
Environment Virginia is a statewide, citizen-based advocacy organization working for clean air, clean water, and open space.