Va. will miss bay restoration deadline
Virginia will miss a deadline for filing its Chesapeake Bay restoration plan with the EPA and has asked for more time to make sure the governor fully supports the plan, an official said Wednesday.
Wednesday was the deadline for the six states to deliver their bay watershed implementation plans to the federal Environmental Protection Agency to meet goals under a strategy ordered by President Obama.
However, EPA official Jon Capacasa said during a conference call that Virginia had asked for a couple of days and that the plan was expected Friday.
Tucker Martin, a spokesman for Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell, issued a statement confirming that the EPA approved an extension.
"We needed a slight extension to ensure that the governor was fully briefed on Virginia's response," Martin's statement said. It was also necessary to make sure the report was complete, he said.
None of the other states in the bay watershed, Maryland, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, had indicated that they would miss the deadline, he said.
McDonnell wrote EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson in June expressing concerns about the strategy being developed and saying he wanted to be sure sound science was supporting requirements being placed on the states.
O'Donnell said he was concerned with the models being used to develop the strategy, a lack of funding for additional federal mandates, consequences for not meeting goals and other issues.
Earlier this year, McDonnell's secretary of natural resources, Doug Domenech, said he would not be surprised if industry groups sued over the restoration strategy.
Capacasa, the head of the EPA's Region 3 water protection division, said he could not say what issues led to the request for an extension, but said he felt it's important to take the time to get support.
Katherine Antos, coordinator of the water quality team for the EPA's Chesapeake Bay Program office, said the state plans will be used to guide development of the EPA's final bay-wide strategy.
"There is no cookie-cutter approach for bay restoration. That's why we want the states to tell us how it should be done," Antos said, adding that the federal agency is prepared to step in if it finds gaps in the plans.
That is what concerns many farmers, who have worked for decades to reduce pollution but still account for much of the nitrogen and phosphorous that run off into bay waters, where the so-called nutrients fuel oxygen-robbing algae blooms. The strategy calls for reductions from urban and suburban runoff as well, but many farmers are concerned about more regulation.
EPA and USDA officials on Wednesday also announced more than $5 million in funding for conservation programs.
Emmitsburg farmer William Morrow said he was not opposed to mandatory pollution reduction requirements on farmers because he already has implemented practices to cut pollution. However, Morrow, who was part of a group of farmers that called on the state this summer to crack down on pollution by large poultry companies, said a valid concern was the amount of paperwork farmers must do to show compliance.
"They don't have time for that and it's really annoying. The paperwork requirements are so cumbersome for nutrient management plans that now farmers have to hire certified consultants to do them," Morrow said. "States used to do them for the farmer, but with budget shortfalls, many states no longer provide that service."
-- Associated Press
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