On Nov. 3, Rep. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, and Forestry, held a public hearing to review the implementation of Phase II of the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Watershed Implementation Plans (WIP) and their impact on states and rural communities. The implementation of the TMDL is complex and far-reaching, affecting communities in six states and the District of Columbia. States are now in the second phase of a three-part process to limit discharge into the bay and several of them have raised concerns about the cost and the regulatory burden they face in meeting the new limits.
Witnesses testified that the process is being driven by arbitrary deadlines from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) instead of economic and scientific assessments. This creates difficulties for states and municipalities attempting to meet EPA’s requirements.
Here are excerpts of testimony presented during the hearing:
“Farmers who voluntarily step forward and ‘do the right thing,’ and then verify the implementation of those practices to achieve necessary WIP pollution reductions, should receive a level of certainty or predictability, for a certain time, that they will not be subject to new or more rigorous standards if the federal government changes its mind about what is the expectation for compliance under the WIP.”
Pennsylvania state senator and chairman
Chesapeake Bay Commission
“I am very concerned about what our locality, and others, are being compelled to do. It is estimated that the cost to Virginia communities alone is over $10 billion. The schedule for the implementation of these new TMDL regulations is arbitrary; no other TMDLs that we are aware of have a fixed schedule, or are required to have a fixed schedule by the Clean Water Act.
Instead of establishing a realistic schedule based on the ability to implement, the schedule is being driven purely by the EPA’s voluntary settlement of a lawsuit with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and others.”
Member, Lynchburg City Council, Lynchburg, Virginia
“We all want to implement a plan that furthers restoration of the Chesapeake Bay; however, it must be equitable. It’s problematic that we still do not have a cost-benefit analysis of this process nor a sound model for a baseline measurement under the current plan.
Ultimately, we must be certain that the federal government is not executing the facets of this plan in a heavy-handed manner, which will place undue burden upon states and localities, during a time when we need fewer hindrances to economic growth and job creation, not more.”
Chairman Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson
“The health of the Chesapeake Bay and those bodies of water contained in the bay watershed deserves our full attention. Efforts to improve bay water quality, however, should not impede on the livelihood of our family farmers.
It is important that EPA works with the states as true partners to ensure the proper balance between a healthy environment and a healthy economy.”
Ranking Member Tim Holden
“EPA proposals are overwhelming to farmers and ranchers and are creating a cascade of costly requirements that are likely to drive individual farmers to the tipping point. The overwhelming number of proposed regulations on the nation’s food system is unprecedented and promises profound effects on both the structure and competitiveness of all of agriculture.”
President, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau
Camp Hill, Pennsylvania
“As Pennsylvania and the Chesapeake watershed jurisdictions began to review Chesapeake Bay watershed model outputs at county levels, they determined that the model had serious technical deficiencies that do not provide full nutrient reduction credit for several nonpoint source Best Management Practices (BMPs).
Moreover, EPA was intent on using the model in the Phase 2 WIP process as a metric to drive huge expenditures and determine compliance where the only proper role of any model would be as a prediction tool.”
Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection