Pennsylvania Dragging Down Chesapeake Cleanup

Turn to the nation's most objective and informative daily environmental news resource to learn how the United States and key players around the world are responding to the environmental...

By Leslie A. Pappas

June 17 — Pennsylvania continues to drag down efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and is responsible for the majority of a 10 million pound shortfall in the bay's nitrogen reduction goals for 2017, federal environmental regulators said June 17.

Eighty-nine percent of the projected 2017 nitrogen gap is from Pennsylvania, and about 11 percent is from New York, David Sternberg, a spokesman for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, told Bloomberg BNA June 17.

The news came as part of a regional checkup the EPA puts out every two years to help states assess whether they are meeting short-term milestones on the way to 2025 Chesapeake Bay water quality goals.

States and cities surrounding the bay didn't achieve their overall target in nitrogen reduction for 2015, despite meeting goals for phosphorus and sediment reduction that year, according to the EPA's most recent two-year assessment.

“There's a recognition that Pennsylvania got off track,” Shawn M. Garvin, EPA's Region 3 administrator, said during a conference call about the progress that Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New York, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia made in 2014 and 2015.

It's unlikely the bay as a whole will meet its watershedwide 2017 reduction targets for nitrogen either, although most in the region are on track to meet 2017 reduction goals for phosphorus and sediment, the EPA found.

The 2017 targets are set at 60 percent of the load reduction that the bay hopes to achieve by 2025. Yet the bay is currently on track to achieve only 46 percent of the load in nitrogen by 2017, the EPA said.

Region on Target for Curbing Nitrogen

Overall, the region is on target for reducing nitrogen in wastewater but not from agriculture or urban and suburban stormwater, the EPA said.

Pennsylvania has consistently failed to meet its goals for the Chesapeake Bay and has missed the mark in the last three two-year milestone assessments, according to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), an independent conservation group dedicated to saving the bay.

The region as a whole isn't on track to meeting its 2017 nitrogen goals “largely as a result of Pennsylvania's failure to reduce pollution from agriculture,” CBF President William C. Baker said in a June 17 statement. “It is well past time for Pennsylvania to accelerate its pollution-reduction efforts and EPA must do more to ensure that Pennsylvania obeys the law.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is working with the state's Department of Agriculture, the Department of Conservation and National Resources, the State Conservation Commission and others to accelerate bay cleanup efforts, DEP spokesman Neil Shader told Bloomberg BNA June 17.

‘Reboot' Strategy in Place

The state will keep looking for new ways to reduce pollution as part of its “reboot” strategy to clean up the bay “after years of inaction by state leaders,” Shader said.

Pennsylvania's reboot strategy is a “good first step” that reflects a renewed commitment to Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts, Garvin said, although the ultimate success of the plan hinges on how well the state implements it.

To contact the reporter on this story: Leslie A. Pappas in Philadelphia at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at

For More Information

The EPA's state-by-state evaluations are at