Van Hollen Presses EPA Administrator Regan on Plans to Meet Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Goals by 2025
Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, questioned Michael Regan, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, on his plans to meet the Chesapeake Bay 2025 cleanup goals. In April, Senator Van Hollen led several of his colleagues in sending a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) urging the use of all tools available to meet these targets, including pollution reduction requirements laid out in the Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). These goals are vital to protecting the health of the Chesapeake Bay and ensuring surrounding states each do their part in reducing pollution. The Senator went on to ask the Administrator a question about community air monitoring and how to expand air pollution control efforts in cities like Baltimore where the presence of fossil fuel power plants has led to increased rates of illness like asthma. A full transcript of the Senator’s exchange is available below, and the video is available here.
U.S. SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-Md.): I would like to start by talking about the Chesapeake Bay. As you know, six states and the District of Columbia drain into the Chesapeake Bay. That’s why about 50 years ago, those states and the federal government agreed that the EPA had to play a vital role in protecting the Bay. In April, a group of Chesapeake Bay Senators sent you a letter outlining the challenge, and what I’m looking for today is your commitment to work with us to make sure that we meet the cleanup goals by 2025. Do we have that commitment?
MICHAEL REGAN, ADMINISTRATOR OF U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY: We do.
VAN HOLLEN: If you look at the watershed implementation plans of the various states, one state stands out as not being in compliance. That is the state of Pennsylvania. If you look at their current cleanup plan, they will acknowledge that they only will achieve 75 percent of the target needed to reach the cleanup goals by 2025. Do we have your commitment that you will work with us to make sure that Pennsylvania meets its goals under the 2025 agreement?
REGAN: We want to facilitate this process so that everyone meets the goals that have been set out for protecting this national treasure.
VAN HOLLEN: Okay, if you could get back to us with your plan for how you’re going to hold everybody accountable, can you do that?
REGAN: Yes. We can do that.
VAN HOLLEN: You know a lot of the runoff into the Bay that needs to be addressed is from agricultural runoff – which doesn’t come necessarily directly under the jurisdiction of the EPA in all cases. There are grants supplied by the Department of Agriculture, and they could be helpful to farmers. We need much better coordination – which is why the Obama Administration had appointed kind of a quarterback at EPA – the Senior Advisor to the Administrator who could work with other agencies. I believe it’s your intent, but can you confirm that you plan to fill that position?
REGAN: We’re looking at filling that position, and we’re trying to determine the Director of the Office of the Chesapeake Bay in Region Three. What we want to do with these resources that we’re pushing forward is to make that office more muscular and have that office and that position as the expertise that is whispering in the Administrator’s ear. So we’re evaluating whether or not we will make that office more muscular and have the right leadership there or have someone in the Administrator’s office that is detached from what we have started there. So I think we’re looking at what is the best scenario for me to have the best advice on the ground on how to coordinate on these efforts.
VAN HOLLEN: My understanding was that the Agency had decided to move forward with this other position. Let me just stress that I think the Maryland delegation and others think it’s really important. I would like to see a more muscular Region Three. I’m all for that. I don’t see this as an either-or situation.
As I mentioned, the Region Three Administrator could be muscular within EPA’s authority, but there are many other pieces to this cleanup puzzle – including the Department of Agriculture – and you’re going to need somebody who is 24/7 making sure that all the other agencies that are involved in the cleanup effort are at the table and doing their job. So we’ll follow up with you on that.
Let me ask you a question about your sort of air pollution control system, including climate change. If you look at the city of Baltimore, we’ve talked about this. Asthma-related hospitalizations were three times the national average in 2010. That is twice the Maryland average due to heightened air pollution from 13 fossil fuel-burning power generation plants in that area. How will community air monitoring in the budget expand efforts of air pollutant control agencies to reduce greenhouse gases that EPA regulates also have a beneficial impact in these areas?
REGAN: We’ve asked for in this budget approximately $100 million specifically for air quality monitoring in these communities of concern, the communities that have been disproportionally impacted or underserved. It will be of great help to have adequate monitoring in these communities so that we have the data on the ground so that we can enforce the regulations at the level we do to reverse the trends that we’ve seen with this disproportionate impact.
VAN HOLLEN: Thank you, Mr. Administrator. I’d be remiss if I didn’t say I support your budget. I was glad to see the budget request for the Chesapeake Bay. The previous administration zeroed it out and then dramatically cut it, so we’re grateful for the budget. Thank you.
REGAN: Thank you.
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