News Feature | September 16, 2013

Pennsylvania Mulling Bill To Shift Chesapeake Nutrient Strategy

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering a bill that would shift focus in state efforts to reduce nutrient levels in the Chesapeake, according to the Lancaster New Era.

The Major Watershed Improvement Act would “dramatically shift” the state’s approach, which has previously centered on promoting sewage-plant upgrades, storm water management regulations in municipalities, and piece-meal financial support for farmers, the New Era reported.

Under the proposal , “the state would seek competitive bids from the public and private sectors for nutrient-reduction technologies, then agree to the long-term purchase of nutrient ‘credits’ from the winners — likely large-scale manure-treatment facilities where farmers would have to transport their excess manure,” the New Era said.

State Sen. Mike Brubaker, a supporter of the bill, says the legislation will lower costs.

"We have no choice but to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment," Brubaker said. "How to do it at the least cost to the taxpayer — that's where innovation is very, very important."

The legislation comes as Pennsylvania participates in the multi-billion interstate and federal plan to clean up the bay. Goals are laid out in the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, a collection of federal standards the states are seeking to meet by 2025 as part of a bay restoration effort.

Groups supporting the legislation include Affordable Bay Solutions, a coalition of farming, energy and other industrial interests. The environmental group Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) has criticized the bill as favoring capital-intensive  nutrient reduction technologies.

As various states work toward the goals for cleaning up the Chesapeake, a recent report by environmental groups said Pennsylvania was off track on certain goals, including wastewater targets.

Pennsylvania failed to issue enough permits for wastewater treatment plants, and regulators must accelerate that process, according to the report, conducted by the CBF and the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

The next important date for the Chesapeake Bay restoration comes this fall, when officials expect to sign updated goals, according to The Daily Times of Salisbury, Maryland.

Nick DiPasquale, director of the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program Office, told the Daily Times that the agreement is intended in part to “harmonize” objectives so federal agencies and states are working toward common goals and “improved coordination.”

Image credit: "Chris Waits," © 2011 Dairy farm and Corn rows, used under a Creative Commons Attribution license: