July 2, 2014 by Anne Havemann

CPR Issue Alert: EPA Raps Chesapeake Bay States for their Weak Restoration Commitments

Pennsylvania, the source of nearly half of the nitrogen that makes its way into the Chesapeake Bay, is falling dangerously behind in controlling the pollutant. Delaware is dragging its feet on issuing pollution-control permits to industrial animal farms and wastewater treatment plants. Maryland has fallen behind on reissuing expired stormwater permits and is not on track to meet that sector’s pollution-reduction goals.

These are some of the findings of a series of reports the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued late last week. EPA assessed the progress the seven jurisdictions within the Bay watershed—Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C.—were making toward meeting the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), a sort of “pollution diet” that is at the heart of the federally led plan to restore the Chesapeake Bay by 2025.

Along with the reports, EPA announced that it would create consequences for states that are falling behind. It will immediately increase its oversight of Pennsylvania’s agriculture sector and has proposed increasing oversight of specific sectors in Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia unless the states meet certain conditions. EPA also threatened to withhold grant money in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia …

May 8, 2014 by Anne Havemann

Air pollution is a complex problem. For one, it does not adhere to state boundaries; a smokestack in one state can contribute to pollution problems in another, even a downwind state hundreds of miles away. What’s more, air pollution’s impacts are not confined to just the air. What goes up must come down, and air pollutants are eventually deposited on the ground where they are washed into rivers, lakes, and streams. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has tried for decades to address the thorny problem of interstate air pollution. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court revived the EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, the agency’s most recent and comprehensive attempt to tackle the issue. The decision in EPA v. EME Homer City Generation, L.P. will mean that large sources of nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions in certain states will be subject …

March 17, 2014 by Anne Havemann

Maryland faces an important deadline in its long-running effort to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.  By 2017, the state will be legally required to have put in place a number of specific measures to reduce the massive quantities of pollution that now flow into the Bay from a range of pollution sources in the state.  Unfortunately, if the terms of a draft Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement are any indication, we’re going to miss the deadline.

Today, CPR President Rena Steinzor and I submitted comments to the Chesapeake Executive Council, a collaborative partnership of Bay state governors currently chaired by Gov. Martin O’Malley, arguing that the Agreement falls well short.  As the first interstate agreement since EPA issued the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for the Chesapeake Bay, the Agreement is an opportunity to build off the TMDL and tackle the issues that plan does not …

March 10, 2014 by Anne Havemann

EPA’s budget is in free-fall.  Members of Congress brag that they have slashed it 20 percent since 2010.  President Obama’s proposed budget for 2015, released on Tuesday, continues the downward trend.  The budget proposal would provide $7.9 billion for EPA, about $300 million, or 3.7 percent, less than the $8.2 billion enacted in fiscal year 2014.

To cope with these cuts, the agency plans to fundamentally change the way it enforces environmental laws.  A draft five-year plan released in November signals that the agency is retreating from traditional enforcement measures, such as inspections, in favor of self-monitoring by regulated industries.  Specifically, the agency aims to conduct 30 percent fewer inspections and file 40 percent fewer civil cases over the next five years as compared to the last five.

Even before releasing the draft plan, the agency had already begun cutting down on …

Feb. 7, 2014 by Anne Havemann

Anchorage, Alaska is more than 4,000 miles away from the Chesapeake Bay, yet Alaska joined 20 other states on Monday in asking a federal appeals court to overturn the EPA-led plan to restore the Bay, known as a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).

While Alaska’s interest in the Bay-wide TMDL is murky, the history of the lawsuit is straightforward. In 2009, the Obama administration issued Executive Order 13,508, directing EPA to take a leadership role in cleaning up the Bay. The Bay-wide TMDL, often referred to as a “pollution diet,” followed in 2010. It imposed strict limits on the quantities of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment that could be discharged into the Bay and allocated the total permissible amount of each pollutant among the Bay states and the District of Columbia, leaving it up to the states to determine how to meet the specific …

Feb. 4, 2014 by Anne Havemann

Every day, we are presented with more evidence of the need to inspect for environmental violations and enforce the nation’s laws.  The evidence is stark in the Chesapeake Bay region where, in 2012 alone, just 17 large point sources reported illegal discharges of nitrogen totaling nearly 700,000 pounds.  These violations put the watershed states behind in their efforts to restore the estuary and meet the 2025 goals of the Bay pollution diet. 

The problem cries out for stronger enforcement of environmental laws, and yet EPA recently released a draft FY 2014–2018 Strategic Plan that signals that the agency will retreat significantly from traditional enforcement in the coming years.  Specifically, EPA aims to conduct 30 percent fewer inspections and file 40 percent fewer civil cases over the next five years as compared to the last five.

CPR’s newest Issue Alert, which I co-authored with …

Jan. 14, 2014 by Anne Havemann

As congressional negotiators reconcile the House- and Senate-passed Farm Bills, they are considering two provisions that would cut off access to information about federally subsidized farm programs and threaten public health and safety.

The Farm Bill will provide farmers with billions of dollars in federal subsidies, crop insurance, conservation payments, and other grants.  The vast majority of the farms that qualify for these federal dollars are incorporated businesses that turn a profit by working the land.  Yet, by conjuring up idealized images of a family sharing an old-fashioned farmhouse at the end of a country lane, the farm lobby managed to convince House lawmakers to pass two provisions that would prohibit federal agencies from revealing much of the basic information about the farms.  The government does not take such a hands-off approach with any other recipient of federal money.

This information can be critical to maintaining public …

Dec. 5, 2013 by Anne Havemann

Late last month, the Center for Progressive Reform revealed that the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) waives pollution permit application fees for concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in the state, and that the agency is far behind in processing such applications. Now we're able to put a number on MDE's decision: MDE is waiving $400,000 in application fees this year alone. And what might it do with that money it's choosing to leave on the table for some reason? It could speed up its delayed permitting process, for one thing.

The CPR report also found that MDE has not registered nearly 30 percent of these farms since the program began three years ago — in great measure because of the backlog in processing permits. Those permits are the best way to limit pollution from large farms, an effort that is absolutely critical to …

Nov. 21, 2013 by Anne Havemann

Lately, press releases from the Maryland Department of Agriculture read like a broken record:

MDA Withdraws Phosphorus Management Tool Regulations; Department to Meet with Stakeholders and Resubmit Regulations 

-- August 26, 2013  

MDA Withdraws Phosphorus Management Tool Regulations; Department to Consider Comments and Resubmit Regulations

--November 15, 2013

The second headline is from this past Friday when MDA withdrew a proposed regulation aimed at cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay by restricting the use of manure to fertilize crops.

Manure is full of phosphorus, one of the nutrients choking the Bay. Indeed, manure runoff accounts for 26 percent of the phosphorus in the estuary. The proposed “phosphorus management tool,” developed at the University of Maryland, would have helped determine which fields were over-saturated with the nutrient. If the soil contained too much phosphorus, the farmer could not apply manure to fertilize that field.

As the agency’s press releases …

Nov. 20, 2013 by Anne Havemann

Maryland’s effort to limit pollution from massive industrial animal farms in the state is falling behind. A new CPR Issue Alert finds that the state has not registered 26 percent of Maryland’s concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and Maryland animal feeding operations (MAFOs), missing out on tens of thousands of pounds of pollution reduction in the Chesapeake Bay.

The Chesapeake Bay is in trouble. Years of half-hearted interstate efforts to check polluting emissions and restore the nation's largest estuary have failed. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) plan for the Bay represents the Chesapeake's last, best chance of recovery. The TMDL requires all major polluting sectors—including massive industrial farms—to reduce their discharges into the Bay.

Maryland is home to at least 588 of these massive animal farms, known as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and state-regulated Maryland …

More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Jan. 21, 2015

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan Should Reverse his Opposition to the PMT

Dec. 18, 2014

Electronic Reporting Requirements: A No-Brainer

Dec. 12, 2014

Maryland's Phosphorus-Laden Farms: One More Reason for the EPA to Get Back to Work on a Comprehensive CAFO Rule

Dec. 8, 2014

New Map Plots Farmer-Reported Data to Show “Excessive” Soil Phosphorus Levels at All But One of 60 Large Poultry Farms in Six Eastern Shore Counties Due to Manure Usage

Dec. 5, 2014

Obama's Path to Progress: Protecting our Nation's Lakes and Streams from Pollutant-Laden Stormwater Runoff

Nov. 18, 2014

Oral Argument Begins in Farm Lobby's Misguided Challenge to Bay Pollution Diet

Oct. 23, 2014

CPR Submits Comments on Proposed Permit for Maryland's Industrial Animal Farms