EPA Announces New Bay Cleanup Rules

Federal regulations on animal feeding, development and stormwater runoff will be tightened to help Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson announced last week. Jackson also asked watershed residents to consider their own actions and not limit their thinking to the idea that the federal government would only crack down on big polluters, “because oftentimes the polluters are us.” Jackson made the announcement at a clean water conference where she participated in a panel discussion on what is coming next from the Obama administration on bay restoration.

The EPA said it expects to have new national stormwater regulations in place by November 2012, which may be more stringent in the Chesapeake watershed. The EPA said tougher stormwater retention requirements may be imposed for newly developed and redeveloped sites, as well as for smaller sites. New rules also are expected to be in place by late 2013 for concentrated animal feeding operations that would be more restrictive and apply to smaller operations. The EPA also said it plans to adopt a pollution offset program by December that would allow pollution from new or expanding sources to be offset by cuts elsewhere.

The Federal agency is developing a restoration strategy in response to an executive order by the President. Lawmakers in Congress are working on a reauthorization bill for the Chesapeake Bay Program, which has guided restoration efforts since 1983. Jackson said that the District of Columbia and bay watershed states “must be the front line,” and she hoped federal intervention would be unnecessary.

Will Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay foundation, which has sued the EPA over the slow pace of restoration efforts, said the agency was “inching toward a real standard.” He said the EPA should be proactive and set a high standard, noting it issues the stormwater permit for the District of Columbia and can set an example through tough permitting.

Also participating was John Porcari, deputy secretary for the federal department of transportation, who said the agency was developing a new strategic plan that was a “break from the past” in that it considered transportation a means to an end, not just an end itself. Porcari said smart growth would be a big part of the strategy which would focus less on individual modes of transportation such as highways and rail and more on the system as a whole “figuring out what works best and working backward from there.”