The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is withholding $1.2 million in federal aid from the commonwealth. Why? Because Virginia is not doing enough to meet new federal Bay pollution limits by reducing runoff pollution from urban and suburban streets and parking lots, the (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot is reporting. The state has been slow to issue new stormwater control permits to 11 municipalities across Virginia, including six in Hampton Roads.
"There's been a reluctance by the state and local governments to commit to steps that are significant" in reducing stormwater runoff pollution, said Peggy Sanner, a senior attorney for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. "EPA wants to see strong and enforceable permits that are going to mean something."
State officials told the Virginian-Pilot this week that they were “taken aback, but not especially worried,” by the EPA's funding cut because state officials have been working to fix shortcomings in their stormwater program for months.
"We were like, 'Whoa, wait, we're working on it,' " said Gary Waugh, a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, the state agency that regulates stormwater pollution and its many sources.
State officials said they will re-apply for the federal funds.
Large cities and counties in Virginia have been waiting for new state stormwater control permits for years, and EPA wants these new permits to require reductions in runoff pollution, according to the newspaper.
The EPA’s sanctions are appropriate, CBF believes, because they show the federal government is holding the Bay region states accountable for meeting new pollution limits for the nation’s largest estuary. Virginia and the other regional states have written plans to meet these targets that are like blueprints for cleaning up the Bay, and strong new urban stormwater control permits are an important part of these plans.
Without strong permits that are enforced by the state, we won’t have clean rivers and streams and a healthy Chesapeake Bay.
By Tom Pelton
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
(Photo at top from Chesapeake Bay Program)