Thursday, March 8, 2012

Bob, litter is part of the problem

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (VA-06) has introduced a bill to halt the EPA's Chesapeake Bay cleanup plans. Pointing to "more mandates and overzealous regulations," Goodlatte wants to turn the responsibility over to states and to rely on "voluntary efforts." He also calls for "nutrient trading" programs.

In response, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation issued a statement urging Congress to reject the legislation outright. The CBF said, in part, that the legislation will "undermine the pollution limits currently in place, derail cleanup efforts and undercut the federal government's role in making sure that all Americans have access to clean, swimmable, fishable waters."

Okay, let's keep it simple: Goodlatte's bill would result in uneven enforcement at best and a dirtier Chesapeake Bay. And a more polluted Bay impacts Virginia more than perhaps any other state.

The Chesapeake Bay watershed consists of 64,000 square miles and drains portions of six states (Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New York) and the nation's capitol. Leaving enforcement up to each individual state could mean no enforcement at all - Pennsylvania, a major contributor of the Bay's fresh water, might decide there is nothing in it for them and the costs just aren't worth it. So even if Virginia and Maryland made heroic efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, it would all go for naught.

"Voluntary efforts" is laughable. Let's try voluntary speed limits on I-81. It is hard enough to keep trucks and cars at 70 mph with enforcement; can you imagine the chaos if it were voluntary. Drivers who voluntarily comply better have a huge and effective rear bumper! As someone who has waded streams collecting water and macroinvertebrate samples, I have personally visited farms that have voluntarily done wonderful things to stabilize stream banks and to keep excess nutrients and pollutants out of our waters. But, I've also seen that a few miles of protected stream can't make up for the others that continue to allow erosion and waste to spoil our precious water resources.

"Nutrient trading" programs may have some validity in the short term. Polluters who can't clean up as quickly or easily could, I imagine, buy/trade nutrient credits with others who have cleaned up their act. But, in the long term we need everyone to get it right and realize we can't keep treating our waterways as sewers. Besides, "nutrient trading" sounds a lot like "cap and trade" which I thought the congressman and his GOP colleagues detested. A bit of Republican hypocrisy and insincerity on display here?

Cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay will take the efforts of all 17 million Americans who live in the watershed. And I do mean all - while intensive agriculture is a major contributor to excess nutrients and pollution in the Bay we need everyone involved. That means enforceable regulations on homeowners (septic fields and overuse of fertilizers), municipal sewage systems, developers, manufacturers, and businesses large and small.

Want to get involved with water cleanup in the Shenandoah Valley? Check out these organizations doing good work in your community:
You can also contact Rep. Bob Goodlate and let him know you oppose his bill (it is probably more about grandstanding against the EPA and posturing for the election than it is about good public policy). I just squawked at at the old bird.

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