AG Schwalb Announces Agreement to Enhance Chesapeake Bay Restoration Efforts

Settlement Requires EPA to Ensure Pennsylvania Meets Strict Pollution Reduction Requirements

WASHINGTON, DC – Attorney General Brian L. Schwalb today announced that a proposed settlement has been reached in the lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its failure to ensure that Pennsylvania reduce its contribution of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, including the Potomac River.

“Ensuring DC’s waterways and natural resources are clean, safe, and accessible for all DC residents is a top priority for the Office of Attorney General,” said AG Schwalb. “Every state in the Chesapeake Bay watershed shares a responsibility to clean up our local waterways, and the EPA must ensure that states fulfill those obligations. This settlement is an important step to ensure that the Chesapeake Bay’s pollution reduction goals continue to progress on track.”  

The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States, spanning 64,000 square miles of waterways in the District, Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Efforts to protect the Bay are uniquely challenging because water from all these states flows into it.

In 1983, DC, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, the Chesapeake Bay Commission, and the EPA signed the Chesapeake Bay Agreement, the first multistate effort to clean up the Bay, which required each state to develop and implement individual plans. All of the Bay states developed strong plans to protect their local waters, but an EPA analysis determined that Pennsylvania’s most recent plan would only meet 75% of its pollution reduction target. As a result, excessive pollution continued flowing from Pennsylvania’s waterways, principally in heavily concentrated agricultural areas, and the pollution reduction goals of the Chesapeake Bay Agreement were not met.

As a result of OAG’s 2020 lawsuit, EPA will now abide by stringent oversight requirements to ensure that Pennsylvania develops and implements a pollution minimization plan that achieves and maintains the environmental goals of the Chesapeake Bay Agreement. 

  • EPA will take a close look at farms not currently required to have federal permits that have proximity to rivers and streams to see if there is significant damage to water quality.
    • If EPA determines that a farm is a significant contributor of pollution, EPA will confer with Pennsylvania about designating the farm as a point source subject to permitting. 
  • EPA will evaluate whether pollution from sources of stormwater that are not currently subject to federal regulations are adding to water quality impairment of local rivers and streams.
    • If EPA determines that a particular source or sector of sources contributes to a water quality violation EPA will, at a minimum, confer with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) to consider requiring the sources to obtain a permit that limits pollution.
  • EPA will increase compliance-assurance activities to assess whether federally permitted sources are complying with existing permit requirements. 
    • EPA will work with Pennsylvania to develop a wastewater permit reissuance strategy designed to bring permits up to date and significantly reduce the number of administratively extended permits. 

The full settlement is available here.

The settlement is the result of lawsuits filed in 2020 by OAG and its partners, including the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), Anne Arundel County, the Maryland Watermen’s Association, and Bobby and Jeanne Hoffman, and the Attorneys General for Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. The public will have 30 days to comment on the proposed settlement before it can be finalized. 

OAG’s Environmental Work
Over the last three years, OAG has worked to protect the environment and address persistent local environmental problems, including those that disproportionately impact low-income communities. OAG filed suit against Ward 5 businesses that repeatedly spilled toxic oil into District streets and waterways and forced a landlord to clean up toxic lead paint that put children at risk. OAG also recovered $2.5 million from a power plant that discharged oil into the Potomac River and recovered $52 million from Monsanto, which produced, promoted, and sold toxic PCBs that damaged the District’s waters and other natural resources. OAG also works closely with the Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) to coordinate and implement Anacostia River cleanup efforts and investigate and assess damages to these natural resources. Since 2014, OAG has recovered over $60 million to promote environmental justice in the District.

Read more about OAG’s efforts to protect the environment and fight for environmental justice.