Some of the nation's most powerful legal and political forces are trying to derail efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams.
Why? Because the National Association of Home Builders and huge agricultural lobbying groups with deep pockets are willing to sacrifice the long-term good of our region's 17 million citizens and all the critters that depend on clean water to maintain the status quo.
In an attempt to derail long overdue water quality protections, opponents have been making patently false and misleading statements. We want to bust their myths.
Can you tell the fact from the fiction? Click on each statement below to find out the truth.
Fact or Fiction #1: Pollution limits and environmental regulations kill jobs.
|Economic experts have concluded that the historical evidence fails to support the environmental "job-killer" myth. Four decades of false alarms about the alleged dangers posed by environmental regulations should be a reality check to everyone now trying to defeat the Chesapeake Bay pollution limits.
The burgeoning environmental industry that has emerged since the passage of federal clean water and air laws in the 1970s employs 1.7 million people and is worth $312 billion a year nationally. The federal Clean Water Act alone spurs construction projects that are worth at least $11 billion per year. [CLOSE X]
Fact or Fiction #2: The pollution limits required by the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint will put family farms out of business.
|Farmers across the Bay region are disproving this myth. In fact, pollution control practices are improving many farmers' bottom lines.
In addition, cost-share funding from the 2008 Federal Farm Bill, state programs such as Virginia's Natural Resources Conservation Fund, Maryland's Chesapeake Bay Trust Fund, and Pennsylvania's REAP agricultural tax credit program, and partnerships and initiatives spearheaded by CBF have enabled more farmers to voluntarily implement such conservation measures. [CLOSE X]
- Innovative conservation tillage practices not only reduce runoff of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment but also improve profitability (Gaining Ground Virginia).
- Livestock farmers who use specific grazing practices to improve the quality of their pastures not only help improve water quality but also can be more profitable than conventional livestock farmers. (Maryland Grazers' Network).
Fact or Fiction #3: The Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint pollution limits are another example of federal intervention and big government.
|Pollution flows downstream, across state boundaries. That's a fact. Without federal and interstate cooperation, downstream economies and environments suffer from the waste generated by their upstream neighbors. That's why almost 30 years ago the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency signed the first of many inter-jurisdictional agreements with Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia recognizing the need for cooperative action to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.
In the next 17 years, the partners signed three more agreements to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus pollution to levels needed for a healthy Bay. In 2007, when the Chesapeake Executive Council announced that the Chesapeake Bay Program would not meet its water quality goals by 2010, EPA was legally obligated to develop pollution limits for the Chesapeake Bay. [CLOSE X]
Fact or Fiction #4: EPA does not have the authority to develop Bay-wide pollution limits.
|Since the late 1990s, numerous federal courts have ruled that a state's failure to develop pollution limits for impaired bodies of water, as required under the Clean Water Act, obligates EPA to generate these limits. In 2000, the Republican-led Congress amended the Clean Water Act to improve the section of the Act addressing the Chesapeake Bay. That amendment required EPA, in conjunction with the Bay jurisdictions, to reduce pollution to the Bay so that it would be removed from the Clean Water Act impaired waters list by 2010. When that goal was not met, EPA was bound to develop a Bay-wide pollution limit.
Additionally, in June 2008, a committee of the Chesapeake Bay Program, which included representatives from each of the Bay jurisdictions, requested that EPA develop the Bay-wide pollution limit no later than December 31, 2010. [CLOSE X]
Fact or Fiction #5: The EPA's pollution limits are based on flawed information.
|When a report from the Agricultural Nutrient Policy Council challenged the validity of the Chesapeake Bay model's calculation of the amount of pollution agriculture contributes to the Bay, two independent reviews found that report to be fatally flawed. One independent panel found that the report had "poor scientific merit and promote (d) a false set of criteria by which to judge the…watershed model…"
The computer models being used by the Chesapeake Bay Program were developed by the Bay partnership over decades and with rigorous technical and peer review. Several prominent scientists, such as Donald Boesch, Professor of Marine Science and President of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, have stated that it is the best modeling effort ever performed for the development of multi-pollutant, multi-jurisdictional pollution limits.
For years, the Chesapeake Bay Program partners have used this computer model to guide their own cleanup strategies and estimate their progress. Now, however, special interests who are vested in maintaining the status quo are trying to change the focus from getting the necessary restoration practices in action to nonproductive debates about the accuracy of the model. [CLOSE X]
Fact or Fiction #6: We can meet the necessary pollution reductions with voluntary measures. We don't need more regulation.
|Let's clear up one misunderstanding first. The Bay pollution limit is not a regulation. It provides a scientifically-determined number for the amount of a pollutant that may be discharged into a body of water in order to meet applicable water-quality standards.
As far as voluntary measures go, cooperative efforts to restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries have been underway for almost 25 years. We have seen cooperative technical efforts, voluntary agreements, congressional and executive branch actions, and litigation—all designed to remove the Bay from EPA's dirty waters list by 2010. While these efforts have had positive impacts on water quality, it's clear that we won't get the rest of the way without holding Bay jurisdictions and their polluters accountable and providing the financial assistance necessary for change. [CLOSE X]
Fact or Fiction #7: The timeline for achieving the Bay pollution limit is too aggressive.
|This process began 40 years ago with the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972. Cooperative agreements to clean up the Bay go back to 1983. How much time do we need?
The Bay pollution limit provides another 13 years—till 2025—to cut pollution to the minimum levels science says is necessary to restore the Bay to balance. The Bay is poised to recover. Signs of hope include the resurgence of blue crabs Baywide, the explosion of underwater grasses on the Susquehanna Flats and evidence that the size of the Bay's dead zone is shrinking. The Bay's best chance is finally in place—strong and enforceable pollution limits. This is not the time to be pushed off course by special interests who are more concerned with corporate riches than with the health and well-being of our people and our economy. [CLOSE X]
Fact or Fiction #8: EPA did not allow the public enough time to comment on the Bay pollution limits.
|EPA, the Bay states, and D.C. began working on the Bay pollution limits in 2005 and spent months working on the technical aspects of the limits. In 2007, the Chesapeake Executive Council (comprised of the Bay jurisdictions and created to ensure Bay cleanup) recommended that EPA lead the creation of the pollution limits. EPA was required to provide public review of the limits. EPA complied and, over a period of months before their release in December, 2010, held numerous public forums throughout the watershed to educate residents on the pollution-reduction process, including explaining how the pollution limits were created and answering questions. These meetings and the public comment periods that followed gave the Farm Bureau and Homebuilders enough opportunity and time to submit hundreds of pages of written comments to EPA. Those extensive written comments are proof that there was time for sufficient public input. [CLOSE X]
Fact or Fiction #9: Farmers are already over-regulated by EPA
|Agricultural runoff, except for that directly related to Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO), is exempt from the Clean Water Act. The truth is that big agricultural lobbyists fear the Chesapeake Bay pollution limits and states' plans to achieve those limits represent a threat to that absolute exemption. To achieve the pollution limits, states may choose to increase state-level regulation of agricultural runoff, but EPA does not have that authority. [CLOSE X]