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Chesapeake Bay partners say they aren’t giving up on environmental cleanup despite falling short

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge is seen from Stevensville, Maryland in 2020.
Susan Walsh/AP
The Chesapeake Bay Bridge is seen from Stevensville, Maryland in 2020.

The state and federal partners in the Chesapeake Bay cleanup may have conceded they won’t make their 2025 goals. But that doesn’t mean they won’t stop trying. Michael Regan, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, said at a meeting in Washington D.C. on Tuesday the members of the members of the Chesapeake Executive Council are asking their employees for help to move forward.

“This morning, during the Executive Council meeting, we agreed to ask our principals, staff committee to rethink how we accelerate our work through 2025 and beyond,” Regan announced. “We need a clear path forward that prioritizes and outlines next steps for achieving our goals.”

The plan, which will be presented at next year’s executive council meeting, should lay out steps “to sustain and build the partnership’s restoration efforts in the long and short terms,” he said.

“We know that our goals are ambitious,” he acknowledged. “But we've all agreed–every single person at this table has agreed–we are up for the challenge.”

His remarks came one week after reports from the EPA and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation found most of the states in the Bay watershed would not make their clean-up goals.

The Bay Foundation’s report says states that collectively account for 90% of the Bay’s pollution — Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania — have made significant progress in upgrading wastewater treatment plants. But not enough to make up for pollution from farm fields and storm water runoff.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation president Hilary Harp Falk said the states need to make “key policy changes” to catch up, or potentially change the deadline.

The EPA report found that despite significant efforts, Maryland is making only incremental progress in reducing pollution from farm fields and animal waste. It said the agency expects Maryland to accelerate its implementation of controls in that sector.

Only West Virginia and the District of Columbia are on track to meet their 2025 clean up goals, according to that report.

Pennsylvania, with significantly more acres in farmland than Maryland or Virginia, in addition to a record of failing to adequately invest in conservation measures, is significantly behind in meeting the goals it agreed to in 2010, the report said.

Executive Council members praised Pennsylvania for recently passing a measure to regulate fertilizer use on farm fields.

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