The 2012 Virginia General Assembly adjourned earlier this month after approving several bills that should advance Chesapeake Bay restoration. Good legislation included a measure that expands the state’s pollution trading program to allow more participation, transparency, and accountability, and a bill that will reduce nitrogen runoff from lawn fertilizer.
And several bills that posed a real threat to the Bay failed to win passage, including ones that would have directed the state attorney general to consider suing EPA over the Bay pollution limits (TMDL), withdraw Virginia from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (to protest the commission’s management of menhaden), and eliminate federal oversight of nontidal wetlands in Virginia.
On the flip side, the Assembly adjourned without agreeing on a state budget. That puts in limbo proposed funding to help upgrade local sewage treatment plants, assist farmers with soil and water conservation practices, and help CBF provide environmental education to Virginia students and teachers. Budget negotiations resumed this week, however, and published reports were predicting lawmakers could reach agreement on the state’s two-year spending plan as soon as next week. Stay tuned.
And some good news emanating from the Hampton Roads region: Last week, 2nd District Congressman Scott Rigell held a public forum to discuss Chesapeake Bay issues with constituents in Virginia Beach. More than 100 local residents showed up to hear from experts and ask questions.
Rigell was asked what he thought of a proposed bill offered by fellow Virginia Congressman Bob Goodlatte that would eliminate EPA’s authority in the Bay restoration effort and leave all decisions to states and localities. Such an approach would undermine the pollution limits for the Bay, derail ongoing cleanup efforts, and undercut the federal government’s role in ensuring clean water for all of us.
Rigell told the Virginian-Pilot that Goodlatte’s bill “doesn’t do much to protect the Bay…I’m deeply skeptical of it and think others would feel the same if it were to come to the floor” for a vote.
It’s good to know there are representatives in Congress willing to stand up for the Chesapeake Bay and those whose lives and livelihoods depend upon it.
Virginia Bay Plan Needs Help
More troubling, however, is Virginia’s updated Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan, or WIP Phase 2. The plan, which is intended to be the state’s blueprint for restoring the Bay over the next 13 years, remains seriously lacking in locally specific measures, strategies, and implementation commitments. As is, the Commonwealth’s plan is little more than a statewide wish-list of possibilities that, unless revised, falls far short of providing Virginia citizens with the reasonable assurance that Virginia can actually meet its Bay cleanup goals.
The plan is available for public review and comment through May 31st here. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation encourages Virginians who care about clean water to take a look at it, then urge state officials to strengthen the plan by describing the actions that will be taken in their community to protect local streams and the Bay.
Your voices helped propel the successes in the General Assembly; the future of the Bay and Virginia rivers may well depend upon sustaining those voices to ensure Virginia follows through on its clean water commitments.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation