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Posted at 12:25 PM ET, 07/21/2010

McDonnell stonewalls Chesapeake cleanup

By Peter Galuszka

This May, environmentalists hailed two developments that finally seemed to bode well for the Chesapeake Bay.

The Environmental Protection Agency settled a lawsuit with activist and seafood groups to start enforcing bay-related pollution rules. Also, the Obama administration announced it would undertake a pollution survey of bay watersheds to identify and stem pollution.

Unfortunately, the positive moves are running into a brick wall, namely Gov. Robert F. McDonnell.

He and his secretary of natural resources, Doug Domenech are pushing back on Obama's moves to cut pollution from farms and rainwater runoff from residential subdivisions that scientists believe lead to oxygen depleted "dead zones" and too many chemicals that lead to algae blooms.

McDonnell wrote EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson recently that "the EPA's time and energy would be better spent in Virginia educating farmers on best practices and positive actions ... rather than expanding the scope of its regulatory authority through enforcement measures."

Domenech has said in media interviews that with the economy still sputtering, now is not the time to push new regs that could stymie housing construction and forest products.

It was probably naive to think that the anti-regulation McDonnell administration would go along with what the Chesapeake Bay Foundation has dubbed the most significant measures to improve the health of the bay in 38 years. As a staunch conservative, he is dead set against any expansion of government.

It is also curious that McDonnell believes that Virginia's farmers need to be "educated" about pollution. He must have in mind the quaint notion that Old Dominion agrarians still work their 40 acres with a mule. The reality is that some of the biggest polluters are gigantic corporate farm operations.

One is Virginian-based Smithfield Foods, a global food producer that operates big hog farms that produce enormous amounts of animal waste. One such company farm was fined millions for polluting the Pagan River in the mid-1990s. And it is unlikely that Ma and Pa farmers have the deep pockets to hire cooking show star Paula Deen as their pitchwoman, as Smithfield has.

As for Domenech, it may be no surprise that he is worried about what new bay regs might do to the forest products industry. He worked for 12 years for the Forest Research Association, an industry lobby group, before moving over to the U.S.Department of the Interior during the George W. Bush administration.

Some believe that McDonnell's stone wall on efforts to avoid computer modeling to identify bay pollution sources could lead to a break-up of the multi-state pact that has been trying to do something about bay pollution for decades.

That would be a huge price to pay for one politician's anti-government dogma.

Peter Galuszka blogs at Bacon's Rebellion. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By Peter Galuszka  | July 21, 2010; 12:25 PM ET
Categories:  HotTopic, Maryland, Va. Politics, Virginia, development, economy, education, environment, real estate, wildlife  
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Yes and for all those people in Virginia who felt they were going to send some sort silly message to Washington by casting their vote for Bob McDonnell; they will just need to live with their brilliant thought process, and this Republican Governor. Thanks to Bob McDonnell the Bay will become nothing more than a sewage holding pond.

Posted by: SeanBond | July 21, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

McDonnell takes the usual GOP track of looking out for big business, rather than the average citizen. He would rather see the Bay die than hold the polluters responsible. Perhaps he should have a sit-down with the waterman of his state and see how they feel about it.

Posted by: jckdoors | July 21, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Virginians are sending a message - they don't care about the environment. They never really have, there is a reason Virginia is rock bottom in the USA on spending per capita for the environment. They do not care. Kaine didn't do much of anything either.

Posted by: thorval1 | July 21, 2010 11:48 PM | Report abuse

To sum it up for you people... The bay is dead in the northern areas not the southern areas! We in Virginia do not share the same bay problems. Fact is I was appauled when I heard that the bay was like the dead sea in the north. I grew up on the bay and my dad told me it would happen.

Posted by: jack_be_nimble | July 22, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse

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