EPA Overreach with Chesapeake Bay Program Outlined During Agriculture Hearing

Nov 4, 2011 Issues: Agriculture
Picture of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Representative Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA), Chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, and Forestry today held a public hearing to review Phase II of the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Watershed Implementation Plans and their impact on rural communities.  Among the hearing panelists were Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary, Michael Krancer, and Pennsylvania Farm Bureau President, Carl Shaffer.  

The implementation of the TMDL is complex and far-reaching, affecting communities in six states and the District of Columbia. States are now in the second phase of a three-part process to limit discharge into the Bay and several of them have raised concerns about the cost and the regulatory burden they face in meeting the new limits. Witnesses testified that the process is being driven by flawed scientific modeling, arbitrary deadlines from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) instead of economic and scientific assessments.  This creates major difficulties for states, municipalities, and Pennsylvania’s farmers attempting to meet EPA’s requirements. 

Under the Rendell Administration, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection estimated that the cost of the TMDL, under the best case scenario, would cost the Commonwealth alone upwards of $8.7 billion.

“Because the Chesapeake Watershed TMDL is such a broad effort, and because of the costs imposed upon local communities, it is imperative for members of this subcommittee to understand what is being asked of the counties, towns and municipalities,” said Subcommittee Chairman Glenn 'GT' Thompson. “We all want to implement a plan that furthers restoration of the Chesapeake Bay, however, it must be equitable. It’s problematic that we still do not have a cost-benefit analysis of this process from EPA nor a sound model for a baseline measurement under the current plan. Ultimately, we must be certain that the federal government is not executing the facets of this plan in a heavy-handed manner, which will place undue burden upon states and localities, during a time when we need fewer hindrances to economic growth and job creation, not more.”

“Over the years significant progress has been made to reduce nitrogen and phosphorous pollution of local waters in Pennsylvania's watersheds,” said Secretary Michael Krancer, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. “It should be noted that EPA’s watershed model can be a useful tool to help guide management actions and project their results. It is not, however, sufficiently precise to measure actual progress or lack thereof. It should not be used in a regulatory context to determine whether an enforcement action or other penalty is appropriate.”

Secretary Krancer also wrote in his testimony: “We all share the core desire to keep up the progress on making the Bay even cleaner than it is now.  While doing so, we do need to be mindful of how we are going to pay for this progress and what it is we are paying for.  We need to be mindful of using available funds in an efficient and cost-effective manner so that we get the most ‘bang for the buck’ that we can and avoid spending a lot of “bucks” for very little “bang”.  We also believe that it is important that the federal government “put its money where its mouth is” and if it is going to prioritize the Chesapeake Bay program, to appropriately also prioritize it among the competing voices for the pool of federal funding that is available to bring to the effort.”

“The demands that EPA is putting on Bay states in Phase II is further crippling states ability to devise a program that will encourage meaningful and effective long-term benefits, already hampered by the demands that EPA has already placed so far through EPA’s excessive TMDL regulation,” said Carl Shaffer, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau President. “EPA’s questionable modeling has not given taxpayers in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed reasonable assurance that the practices the model is directing the states to implement and the millions of dollars the states will need to spend to implement these practices will get it even close to the reduction goals EPA is demanding states to meet.”

Under Chairman Thompson’s leadership, this is the Subcommittee’s second hearing focusing on implementation of the Chesapeake Bay TMDL.  The Subcommittee’s first hearing, "To review the Chesapeake Bay TMDL, agricultural conservation practices, and their implications on national watersheds," was held on March 16, 2011.  

To view additional information from today’s hearing, click here.