Thursday 27 April 2017

Clean Water Advocacy (21)

Waterkeepers Chesapeake and our 19 independent Riverkeeper, Coastkeeper and Shorekeeper organizations advocate for legislation at the local, state and federal level. At the beginning of each calendar year, the legislatures in Maryland and Virginia come into session to debate and pass state laws. During these legislative sessions, Waterkeepers from around the Chesapeake Bay watershed advocate for policies to advance the goals of clean water. Now that both Maryland and Virginia have adjourned for the year, we can report on our successes. MARYLAND  The state's General Assembly met January 11 to April 10. Fracking ban (House Bill 1325)Passed and signed by Governor Larry Hogan. This legislation, sponsored by Del. David Fraser-Hidalgo bans hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, a technique known as “fracking,” in the state of Maryland. Maryland previously had a moratorium that was set to expire October 2017. Seven days after the House version of the fracking ban passed on March 10, Gov. Larry Hogan announced his intention to support the statewide ban bill. Maryland is the third state to ban fracking, but the first state with gas reserves to pass a ban through the legislature. This victory was due to a statewide people-powered movement, Don't Frack Maryland. Read more. Clean Water Commerce Act of 2017 (House Bill 417) Passed/awaiting Gov. Hogan’s signature. The original version of this bill would have reallocated Bay Restoration Funds (BRF) earmarked for specific wastewater improvement projects in urban areas and redirect those funds to an undefined pollution trading program. Because this had the potential to cause pollution hot spots instead…
In a unanimous 100-page opinion, the Court of Appeals on Friday dismissed complaints by several environmental groups that stormwater pollution discharge permits issued by the state were not sufficiently stringent and had been drafted without adequate public input. The groups — including Waterkeepers Chesapeake and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation — had gone to court to challenge stormwater permits given by the Maryland Department of the Environment to Baltimore city and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Prince George’s and Montgomery counties.  A Montgomery County Circuit Court judge had sided with the challengers, ordering the state to revise its permit for that county. But judges in the other jurisdictions had deferred to the state agency. The environmental groups still have one appeal pending over their complaint that Baltimore city, in particular, was not required to do enough to root out illicit discharges into its storm sewers. Betsy Nicholas, executive director of Waterkeepers Chesapeake, said the groups would decide whether to pursue that case in light of the appeals court’s ruling on the others. READ MORE... (Published in Bay Journal, March 11, 2016)
On March 28 2016 attorneys for Anacostia Riverkeeper, a local advocacy organization working to protect and restore the Anacostia River, filed a complaint in the current civil enforcement action taken by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) against PEPCO for Clean Water Act violations. The federal government charged PEPCO with illegally discharging hundreds of pounds of toxic heavy metals for over five years into the Anacostia River at its Benning Road facility.  These toxic metals include copper, zinc, iron and lead. For a copy of the complaint, see https://goo.gl/53wjxj.Anacostia Riverkeeper notified EPA that it would take action to stop these violations in Sept. 2015 when it filed a Notice of Intent to Sue under the Act. These unlawful discharges are ongoing and continuous, and involve dangerous toxic metals that violate PEPCO’s permit for at least the past five years.PEPCO’s extensive history of ongoing illegal discharges into the Anacostia River pose unacceptable risks of adverse health effects that threaten all users, including subsistence fishermen and casual visitors, while severely delaying progress toward clean up and restoration of this vital and historic watershed. DC and Maryland agencies have warned for years that local fisherman and their families should avoid eating fish caught from the Anacostia River because of toxic pollutants. The pollutants in the river accumulate in the tissue of the fish. Despite the risks and warnings, an estimated 17,000 people regularly eat fish taken from the Anacostia River. Anacostia Riverkeeper is deeply alarmed that EPA and the DC government tolerated these violations…