McDonnell stonewalls Chesapeake cleanup
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.
| July 21, 2010; 12:25 PM ET
Categories: HotTopic, Maryland, Va. Politics, Virginia, development, economy, education, environment, real estate, wildlife
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