In 1983, 1987 and 2000, Maryland, Pennsylvania and the other Chesapeake Bay region states all signed much-heralded agreements to clean up the nation’s largest estuary.
But these agreements all failed to make any progress in the overall health of the Chesapeake Bay for a simple reason: They were purely voluntary, with no enforcement mechanism.
Then, in 2010, the Obama Administration – after being sued – issued a new and revised Bay cleanup plan that everyone praised as being the real breakthrough. For the first time, EPA set firm numeric pollution limits for the states, and threatened to penalize the states that failed to meet the cleanup targets by the deadline of 2025.
For a few years, there was real hope for the Bay’s restoration – despite the stubborn refusal of the Bay’s biggest polluter, Pennsylvania, to stop dumping on its downstream neighbors in Maryland and Virginia.
Then, on January 3, the Trump Administration’s EPA caused an uproar. The Administration’s Chesapeake Bay Program director suddenly announced that the 2010 agreement was, in fact, not enforceable, and was instead just “informational” and “aspirational” – just like all the previous failed bay cleanup agreements. The Trump EPA would do nothing to crack down on Pennsylvania’s pollution.