By Carol Vaughn —
Attorney General Mark Herring announced he has filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency over its failure to protect the Chesapeake Bay.
Herring joins the attorneys general of Delaware, Maryland, and Washington, D. C., in the lawsuit.
The 26-page lawsuit was filed Thursday, Sept. 10, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Additionally, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation has filed a separate, similar lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges the EPA has not fulfilled its responsibility to ensure that Pennsylvania and New York develop and implement adequate plans to reduce water pollution and meet their requirements under the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement by 2025, the agreed-upon timeframe.
The bay is the largest estuary in the United States — its watershed spans six states and Washington, D. C., encompassing 64,000 square miles.
The states and Washington, D.C., along with the Chesapeake Bay Commission and the EPA, in 1983 signed the Chesapeake Bay Agreement, the first coordinated effort among the partners to improve the bay’s water quality.
Later, in 2014, the states, D.C., the EPA, and the Chesapeake Executive Council signed the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, which set a target date of 2025 for achieving pollution reductions across the entire watershed to restore the bay.
Each state and Washington, D. C., was required to submit a series of Watershed Implementation Plans detailing how they planned to achieve their goals.
The third set of those plans was due in August 2019 to the EPA, which subsequently concluded that Pennsylvania and New York had failed to meet their pollution reduction targets.
Still, the EPA has not required the two states to make new plans that would meet the targets.
“The Chesapeake Bay is one of Virginia’s most important natural treasures and we all have a role to play in protecting and restoring it,” Herring said in a press release, adding, “The EPA must hold every partner equally accountable and make sure they uphold their portion of the agreement, but Trump’s EPA shirked that responsibility and simply rubber-stamped inadequate plans. I will not stand by and allow the EPA to ignore its enforcement obligations and erase decades of progress we have made to reduce pollution and restore the Chesapeake Bay.”
The attorneys general in May announced they planned to sue the EPA if it did not fulfill its duty.
“This is the time for America to show that it can save a national treasure that is polluted,” said Will Baker, CBF president, during a press conference.
“We reject the suggestion to just kick the can down the road and extend the deadline,” he said, noting 50% of all fresh water entering the Bay comes from the Susquehanna River, meaning Pennsylvania and New York are integral to the Bay’s health.
Gov. Ralph Northam, who is serving his first term as chair of the Chesapeake Executive Council, which consists of the governors of the six watershed states, the mayor of Washington, D. C., the chair of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, and the administrator of the EPA, responded to the announcement.
“Years ago, the EPA, the states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and the District of Columbia agreed to a common strategy to restore America’s most beautiful estuary. But not all states are living up to that commitment, and the EPA is just standing by.
“I am committed to achieving the bay partnership’s restoration goals by 2025, and as chair of the Chesapeake Executive Council, I intend to move quickly to execute the council’s plan for diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice,” Northam said in a press release.
“This will require a strong and engaged partnership—including the EPA holding each partner accountable to the commitments they made. Federal leadership and state partnership are the right way to restore the Chesapeake Bay, and I am grateful to Attorney General Herring for his leadership on this issue,” Northam said.