"Keep the Weed Killer Out of My Crab Cakes"
Florida Attorney General Joins Legal Battle to Stop Chesapeake Bay Cleanup

Runoff Bills Trapped, Filtered in Virginia

DSC_0025Some good clean water news from Virginia’s General Assembly.

This week, legislation advancing runoff pollution efforts in Virginia was passed overwhelmingly by the state’s House of Delegates and cleared a major state Senate committee. While a few issues are still to be resolved, most believe the measure will be approved by the full Senate and signed into law by Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

That would be a solid victory for clean water and the Chesapeake Bay. The bill represents a compromise among conservation groups, developers, and local governments about how best to implement new state runoff pollution standards. The new, tougher standards were adopted by Virginia several years ago but have been delayed multiple times.

Localities across the state were to have assumed responsibility for managing local runoff and implementing the new standards this July. However, 15 bills were introduced in the legislative session to delay, dilute, or exempt localities from moving forward. Had they passed, such laws would have further stalled restoration of neighborhood streams, rivers, and the Bay.

Runoff pollution -- the water that washes off buildings, streets, parking lots, and lawns when it rains – P1010004often sweeps a noxious brew of fertilizers, chemicals, pet waste, and dirt into local waterways. In fact, urban/suburban runoff is the only major source of Chesapeake Bay pollution still on the rise. It contributes to local flooding, chokes streams and rivers, threatens public health, closes beaches, and contaminates seafood.

Facing this onslaught of proposed delays and changes to the state’s runoff programs, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), other conservation groups, developers, and local governments sat down with state lawmakers and hammered out a compromise. If passed, the legislation will respond to the concerns of local governments but also keep Virginia’s runoff reduction programs on track and on time.

The legislation:

• Ensures that Virginia’s updated runoff standards will be in force as of July 1.

• Ensures that Virginia’s largest localities (MS4 localities) begin managing their local runoff programs July 1 but allows Virginia’s smaller, more rural counties to have the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) manage their runoff programs if they prefer.

McAuliffe and Will 2• Provides a few counties that will become MS4 localities for the first time in 2014 to have DEQ manage their runoff programs for six months after July 1 so they can get up to speed.

• Provides less burdensome paperwork for builders of a single family home.

Virginia has more than 13,000 miles of polluted waterways, including most of the Chesapeake Bay. The dirty water threatens public health, the environment, and the economy. State elected leaders have a heightened responsibility and a great opportunity to restore clean water to Virginia and at the same time boost jobs and the economy. CBF is working hard in Richmond to see that they do.

 

(See photos of CBF meeting with legislators and other Virginia government officials at a reception this week.)

Chuck Epes

Chesapeake Bay Foundation

 

 

 

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