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Hogan asks Frosh to sue Pa., EPA over bay cleanup efforts

Water flows through Conowingo Dam, a hydroelectric dam spanning the lower Susquehanna River near Conowingo, Md., on Thursday, May 16, 2019. Officials once counted on the dam to block large amounts of sediment in the Susquehanna from reaching Chesapeake Bay, the nation's largest estuary, but the reservoir behind the dam has filled with sediment far sooner than expected. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark)

Water flows through Conowingo Dam, a hydroelectric dam spanning the lower Susquehanna River near Conowingo, Md., on Thursday, May 16, 2019. Officials once counted on the dam to block large amounts of sediment in the Susquehanna from reaching Chesapeake Bay, the nation’s largest estuary, but the reservoir behind the dam has filled with sediment far sooner than expected. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark)

Gov. Larry Hogan has directed Attorney General Brian Frosh to pursue litigation against Pennsylvania and the Environmental Protection Agency over Pennsylvania’s plan to clean up the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Hogan believes the EPA will not force Pennsylvania to meet its requirements under the state’s Watershed Improvement Plan. 

“In an evaluation of the (Watershed Improvement Plan) released in December 2019, EPA made excuses for Pennsylvania’s alleged ‘unique challenges’ and suggested Pennsylvania could merely make some ‘potential enhancements’ in its final WIP,” Hogan wrote in a letter to Frosh Wednesday. “To make matters worse, EPA officials have made recent public statements downplaying the enforceability of (The Chesapeake Bay Total Daily Maximum Load). The EPA currently appears to have no intention of taking the necessary action to ensure Pennsylvania’s compliance with its commitments.”

Hogan and his administration have battled Pennsylvania over its efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay watershed for the past several years.

Last year, the members of the Chesapeake Executive Council – which includes Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia – submitted their final Watershed Implementation Plans to the Environmental Protection Administration for review.

These plans detail how states will meet their goals of improving water quality in the bay by 2025.

In an August letter expressing “alarming concerns” with Pennsylvania’s plan, Hogan wrote that the state’s plan achieves just 73% of its nitrogen reduction goal and has a funding gap of more than $300 million a year.

Patrick McDonnell, Pennsylvania’s secretary of environmental protection, has suggested that models used in measuring pollution reduction efforts underrate Pennsylvania’s efforts. He said the state has taken significant steps to improve water quality. 

“There are things not in the model that we are doing that include some wetland restoration, that include work on our wetlands, that frankly aren’t even on the radar in most of the other jurisdictions,” he told reporters last September at a meeting of the Chesapeake Executive Council. “So some of the work that we’re engaged in is making sure that we have a good accounting with those other practices and making sure that that’s getting credited within the context of the model.”

Hogan has been critical of Pennsylvania throughout his tenure as governor and repeatedly has called for the state to improve efforts to reduce pollution and sediment flowing into the Susquehanna River and its tributaries. Half of the Chesapeake Bay’s fresh water comes from the Susquehanna.

Hogan now believes the EPA will not hold Pennsylvania to higher standards because the agency’s bay program director said at a conference last week that the 2025 goals are “an aspiration” and not an enforceable deadline, according to The Capital.

“We have a generational responsibility to protect the Bay, and we simply cannot afford to fall short of these shared obligations,” Hogan wrote to Frosh. “Therefore, I ask that you commence litigation against the EPA and Pennsylvania, and in close coordination with the Maryland Department of the Environment.”

Frosh’s office said it had not seen the letter Wednesday, but that it aligns with Frosh’s intentions to “force the EPA to do its job.”


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