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Pennsylvania Concedes…Sort Of

Joel McCord

Last week, Governor Larry Hogan sharply criticized Pennsylvania and New York for not doing enough to slow pollution and trash flowing down the Susquehanna River into the Chesapeake Bay. Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Environmental Protection fired back, calling the remarks “careless and insensitive.”

But the two were a bit more conciliatory at Tuesday’s Chesapeake Executive Council meeting.

Patrick McDonnell, the Pennsylvania cabinet secretary who said last week that Hogan’s remarks "undermined the tremendous strides Pennsylvania had made in improving water quality in the Susquehanna," conceded that his state lags in its commitment to reduce pollution going into the river.

But part of that has to do with finances, he said. Pennsylvania has no dedicated fund for Bay clean-up other than a $20 million "Growing Greener" campaign aimed at helping famers reduce polluted run-off. They’re looking to the federal government for help.

"Frankly, with how far behind we are we can always use additional resources," he said. "And I think the governor has been pretty clear on wanting to see additional federal dollars coming to the Commonwealth."

Hogan’s remarks during a Board of Public Works meeting came in response to the surge of trash and debris that poured down the river during last month’s record storms.

McDonnell said he recognized Maryland had a problem, but that Pennsylvania had its own issues to deal with.

"On our end, we were, frankly, in flood response mode," he said. "We had a couple fatalities within the commonwealth, some very, very significant issues within the Tremont, Tower City area of Pennsylvania that was our primary focus in making sure that we were keeping people safe."

Hogan, who chaired the meeting at the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park in Fells Point, seemed at least somewhat mollified.

"Just the fact that we have open dialogues with our upstream neighbors and the other states is a positive step in the right direction," he said.

Will Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said the secretary’s admission was "the most definitive comment by a senior official in Pennsylvania that they are very far behind, that they have got to catch up and they committed to doing it by 2025. Now, we need to hold their feet to the fire."

And if Pennsylvania fails, EPA should impose sanctions, he added.

Joel McCord is a trumpet player who learned early in life that that’s no way to make a living.
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