Federal Water Tap, April 24: Pennsylvania’s Pollution Failures Targeted in Proposed Chesapeake Bay Settlement

The Rundown

  • Under a proposed settlement, the EPA will scrutinize Pennsylvania’s water pollution in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
  • The U.S. Forest Service begins re-examining climate resilience policies for forests and grasslands.
  • The House fails to overturn President Biden’s veto of legislation to reduce Clean Water Act protections.
  • The National Interagency Fire Center publishes a three-month wildfire outlook.

And lastly, the EPA establishes that water and wastewater are eligible categories for billions in federal funding to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.

“We definitely recognize that we’re not going to meet that 2025 deadline…We need to recalibrate.” — Michael Regan, the EPA administrator, addressing the House Agriculture Committee about how the Chesapeake Bay watershed will not meet water-pollution targets that were set for two years from now.

By the Numbers

$27 Billion: Size of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, a pot of money included in the Inflation Reduction Act. The EPA published a plan for allocating the money. More than half ($14 billion) is part of the National Clean Investment Fund. Water and wastewater improvements that reduce greenhouse gas emissions or air pollution are eligible for funding. Water and wastewater are also eligible in the $6 billion Clean Communities Investment Accelerator. The purpose of the fund is to bring in private dollars and ensure that low-income communities have access to financing for pollution-reduction projects.

6: Number of listening sessions the EPA will hold in the next two weeks to discuss the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. Times and registration info can be found here.

News Briefs

Chesapeake Bay Pollution Proposed Settlement
The U.S. Environmental Protection, in a proposed legal settlement, agreed to take a number of actions to ensure that Pennsylvania meets its pollution-reduction targets for the Chesapeake Bay watershed, which has been impaired by nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment.

  • Undertake annual assessments of Pennsylvania’s pollution-reduction progress.
  • Assess the adequacy of Pennsylvania’s permits for pollution discharge (NPDES) and municipal stormwater (MS4), especially in the highest-polluting counties.
  • Identify unpermitted animal feeding operations in Pennsylvania that might require permits.
  • Evaluate the progress of each state toward the 2025 pollution-reduction goals.

Most of the actions will take place in the next 12 months.

The legal complaints that prompted the settlement were filed by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Maryland Watermen’s Association, Anne Arundel County, as well as a separate suit by Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, which are all part of the watershed.

WOTUS Veto Failure
The House failed in its attempt to override President Biden’s veto of a congressional resolution that would undo the administration’s protection of seasonal streams and certain wetlands under the Clean Water Act.

Two hundred twenty-nine members voted in favor, some 61 votes short of the two-thirds threshold.

Studies and Reports

Wildfire Risk Outlook
The National Interagency Fire Center published its three-month wildfire outlook for North America.

Cold, wet weather has dampened fire risk through June in most of the western United States. Areas of above-average risk emerge in June in the Canadian prairies and southern British Columbia. Fire conditions in Mexico are stronger in April and May.

USFS Climate Risk Map
Alongside its call for public comment on revising climate resilience policies (see below), the U.S. Forest Service released a web-based tool that displays data sets related to watershed health, carbon storage, biodiversity, management practices, and other topics.

EIS Begins for Everglades Restoration Reservoir
The Army Corps of Engineers is gathering public input as it begins work on a draft environmental impact statement for a reservoir intended to improve water flows to the Everglades.

The Lake Okeechobee Component A Reservoir, a 200,000-acre-foot unit north of the lake, will hold water for release during dry periods.

Submit comments by May 24, 2023 to LOCAR@usace.army.mil.

On the Radar

Climate Policy at the USFS
The U.S. Forest Service called for public and tribal input as the agency considers revising its climate resilience policies for forests and grasslands.

Amid a changing climate and forests that are being attacked by insects, disease, and high-intensity fires, the USFS is looking for policy changes that can balance the “ecological integrity” of the landscapes it manages while also supporting “social and economic sustainability” — meaning jobs, recreation, cultural values and uses, and scenery.

Public comments are being accepted through June 20, 2023. Submit them via www.regulations.gov using docket number FS-2023-0006.

Another Farm Bill Hearing
Representatives continue work on one of the most significant pieces of environmental legislation.

On April 26, the House Agriculture Committee hears from farmers about what they want from the farm bill.

Flood Insurance Hearing
On April 28, a House Financial Services subcommittee will hear from FEMA officials about the National Flood Insurance Program.

Federal Water Tap is a weekly digest spotting trends in U.S. government water policy. To get more water news, follow Circle of Blue on Twitter and sign up for our newsletter.

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