On April 12, 2019, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) released its long-anticipated Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan (“WIP 3”) that describes steps it will take to improve local water quality in both the Chesapeake Bay and the Bay watershed in Pennsylvania. The WIP 3 plan lays out strategies for reducing nitrogen and phosphorus discharges to Pennsylvania streams that eventually flow into the Chesapeake Bay.
The plan calls for significant increases in funding and staff to meet the requirements imposed on the Commonwealth by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”). The report notes that an additional $1.5 billion in funding and 144 new staff are needed to achieve the Chesapeake Bay pollution reduction goals. With just the existing funding and programs, Pennsylvania would not achieve the 2025 nitrogen reduction goal until 2044.
Under the WIP 3 plan, the majority of the nutrient reductions will need to be achieved in agriculture, most notably in Lancaster and York counties. These two counties account for 25% of the reductions needed to meet Pennsylvania’s total nitrogen reduction obligation. Municipalities will also be required to increase their efforts to control stormwater discharges to streams. Failure to meet the nutrient reduction goals could lead to a number of actions by EPA, including withholding of funding from the Commonwealth, increasing the number of farms that will need to obtain water quality permits, and increased enforcement actions by EPA.
DEP is accepting comments on the draft WIP 3 until June 7, 2019. The plan can be accessed at https://www.dep.pa.gov/Business/Water/Pennsylvania%E2%80%99s%20Chesapeake%20Bay%20Program%20Office/WIP3/Pages/Phase-III-WIP-(Watershed-Implementation-Plans).aspx. Comments can be submitted at https://www.ahs.dep.pa.gov/eComment/.