Monday 27 May 2019
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The Pennsylvania House of Representatives is in the process of deciding whether to pass a suite of bills that would jeopardize our clean water protections. The bills would create unnecessary levels of bureaucracy and slow down progress on any environmental regulations that further protect our waterways from pollution. Here’s what a few of the more problematic bills would do:

  • House Bill 430 (PN 417) -  This bill would prohibit Pennsylvania state agencies, like the Department of Environmental Protection, from reissuing the same or similar regulations in the future, unless the regulation is authorized specifically by the state legislature. Not only does this present a separation of powers issue, but it would prevent state agencies from acting expeditiously to correct, tweak, or improve existing environmental regulations.
  • House Bill 509 (PN 945) - This bill would require state agencies to contract with “third-party professionals” to review and make decisions on permit applications. This would open the door for conflicts of interest where the “professional” reviewing the environmental permit application is actually in the pockets of the company applying for the permit. This runs counter to fact that the state government is accountable to Pennsylvania citizens. Additionally, this bill would prevent any new laws from applying to existing permits.
  • House Bill 806 (PN 899) and House Bill 507 (PN 636) - This bill would give the legislature effective veto power over the promulgation of all new regulations. Any new regulation would need to be approved by the legislature within ten days, or it would be effectively vetoed. With the state legislature meeting on a sporadic basis, this could halt any new clean water regulation from coming through.

These are just a few of the bills in the suite of proposed legislation that would halt any future progress from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

Tell Pennsylvania legislators to OPPOSE House Bills 430, 507, 509, 762, 806, and 1055 today! The House of Representatives will next meet on April 29th - time is of the essence!

Good news! The Sediment and Erosion Reporting Act (House Bill 703)​ has passed the House and Senate. We now need Governor Hogan to sign it. Send an email urging him to sign this important bill that will allow for better annual reporting and, ultimately, enforcement on stormwater pollution related to construction activities.​

Stormwater runoff remains the fastest growing source of pollution to our local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay. The largest component of stormwater runoff pollution is dirt. There are laws on the books to regulate polluted runoff, but the question is whether or not they are being enforced. South Riverkeeper Jesse Iliff has been working on the Sediment and Erosion Reporting Act (House Bill 703) that would require the 23 jurisdictions in Maryland that enforce their own sediment and erosion control laws to report on those efforts and bring some sunshine to a process that many members of the public know next to nothing about. A report last year shows that current enforcement efforts of the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) are lacking.

The Sediment and Erosion Reporting Act (House Bill 703) would allow for better annual reporting and, ultimately, enforcement on stormwater pollution related to construction activities. The Act would require local counties and municipalities to report annually the quantity, nature, and amount of fines assessed for any violations related to our sediment and erosion control laws to MDE. The Act would also allow for increased transparency by requiring the reported information to be posted on MDE’s website.

Better reporting and increased public transparency will provide for better accountability and, as a result, cleaner waterways. The Act has passed the House and Senate and just needs the Governor to sign it. Use the form below to send an email today!

Natural gas pipelines carrying fracked gas from other states are being proposed across Maryland – from the mountains in the west to the Eastern Shore. This expansion of fracked gas infrastructure poses significant risks to our state’s water and environment.

We ask you to write to your representatives to urge support of the Maryland Pipeline and Water Protection Act (PAWPA) to protect Maryland’s waters from dirty, dangerous fracked gas pipelines.

PAWPA would require the state of Maryland to conduct a full Water Quality Certification review of proposed fracked gas pipelines, as it is authorized to do under section 401 of the Clean Water Act, to assess their impact on the state’s water resources. Previously, state authorities abdicated this responsibility for the Potomac Pipeline and other pipelines.

We urge you to tell your representative to support SB387 and HB669 with amendments to have this act apply to all new gas pipelines (interstate and intrastate) and to have the public notice, comment and hearing provisions apply to all projects that fall under Clean Water Act Section 401. With the proliferation of proposed fracked gas pipelines, this Act is critically important to protect state’s water resources, threaten communities and our climate.

Agriculture is the single, largest source of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay, and it contaminates local waterways. Maryland is working on solutions, but our progress is hamstrung by a lack of information and a dysfunctional permitting system.

Agriculture Tracking and Improvement Act (SB 546/HB 904) would help Maryland get information currently lacking about agriculture practices, manure transport and water quality on the Eastern Shore, and it would improve transparency and fairness in the State’s industrial agriculture permitting program.    

Specifically, the bill would:

  • help the agriculture industry comply with the state’s regulation to reduce the use of phosphorous (known as the Phosphorous Management Tool);
  • create a voluntary system to track manure transport and land application by private companies;
  • update the permitting timeline and fees for industrial poultry operations (know as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations or CAFOs);
  • reinstate water quality monitoring stations on the Lower Eastern Shore.

Take Action and send an email to your Maryland representatives to urge them to vote YES on SB546/HB904. All sectors of our state --  business, cities, agriculture, residents – need to do their fair share to reduce pollution in our local waterways and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay.

Click here for more information about the bill.

We have only a few days left in this year's Maryland General Assembly. We need your help to move the House Joint Resolution 8 (HJ8) on Conowingo Dam from the House to the Senate. Act today to send an email to House Speaker Michael Busch and Delegate Anne Healey asking them to send the Resolution to the Senate for a vote.

Urban and rural legislators have joined forces to introduce House Joint Resolution 8 (HJ8) that will hold the Exelon Generation Company, LLC, financially responsible for the costs to clean up pollution discharging from Conowingo dam sufficiently to meet state water quality standards, as well as at least 25 percent of the costs associated with the Dam’s Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP). Exelon owns and operates the dam, located on the lower Susquehanna River in Maryland, approximately 10 miles north of where the river meets the Chesapeake Bay.

Send an email today House Speaker Busch and Delegate Healey to let them know you think this resolution is the right thing to do (click here or use form below). We have only one opportunity in this lifetime to get the Conowingo Dam cleanup right!

Exelon’s current license for the Conowingo Dam expired in 2014, and it is seeking a new 50-year license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Before FERC grants a new license, the State of Maryland is required, under section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act, to certify that the project will meet state water quality standards.

This bipartisan legislation presents a common-sense solution to reducing the sediment pollution stored behind the Conowingo Dam. The burden for cleaning up pollution behind the Conowingo Dam should not fall solely on Maryland taxpayers. Exelon is a multi-million-dollar corporation and should pay its fair share of the total cleanup costs.

The General Assembly should support this resolution to sustain the upkeep of the dam and protect clean water. It is imperative to get Exelon on the hook for at least a portion of the clean up costs to ensure the success of the Chesapeake Bay clean-up effort.

Send an email today (click here or use form below) urging the passage of House Joint Resolution 8 (HJ8) asking Exelon to pay their fair share!

Since its construction in 1928, Conowingo Dam has trapped polluted sediment from the Susquehanna River and its 27,000-square-mile drainage area. The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has concluded that the dam’s reservoir is now at capacity and studies estimate that there are nearly 200 million tons of sediment, nutrients and other pollutants trapped behind the dam. During major floods caused by large storms, powerful floodwaters can scoop out or “scour” the stored sediment pollution behind the dam and send that downstream to the Chesapeake Bay.

The dam is critically important to the health and ecology – and ultimately the cleanup – of the Chesapeake Bay.

 

The EPA has proposed a new rule to slash Clean Water Act protections for millions of people. In a blatant giveaway to the fossil fuels industry, industrial agriculture, big developers, and other major polluters, the EPA proposes to remove up to 60% of stream miles and up to 80% of wetland acres from federal protections under the Clean Water Act that safeguard drinking water for millions of people.

Clean water is essential for the health and sustainability of our families, communities and environment. Lest we forget -- we all live downstream and pollution knows no boundaries. We have a responsibility, as a nation, to control pollution at its source and protect the drinking water sources of all residents – regardless of where they live. In the Chesapeake region, streams and tributaries in the upper reaches of the Susquehanna, Potomac, Shenandoah, James and many other rivers, as well as a huge number of wetlands, would not receive protections under the Trump administration’s scheme to repeal the Clean Water Rule.

The Clean Water Act gave us the legal framework to clean the nation’s waterways after decades of neglect had turned some of our rivers into flowing dumps of flammable trash, chemicals, and debris by the 1960s. It gives any citizen the right to sue polluters to protect our waterways.

We oppose this repeal of the 2015 Clean Water Rule and the gutting of protections that have prevented reckless pollution of the nation's waterways for decades. Access to safe drinking water is a prerequisite for healthy, thriving communities, where everyone can participate, prosper and reach their full potential. This proposed rule would put water at risk for too many communities by removing protections for streams and wetlands across the nation and in our region.

What you can do:

1. TAKE ACTION NOW: Use the form below or click here to submit comments directly to the EPA.

2. Submit your own comments through the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov/All submissions must include the Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2018-0149. Click here for tips on commenting on this rule.

All comments must be received by April 15, 2019

Thank you for taking action. This is the most consequential attack on clean water since the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972. Congress understood then that to protect the waters of this country, we need to protect all of them.

 

 

Can you imagine what our recent torrential thunderstorms are doing to the exposed terrain and rivers and streams along the paths of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP)? (See photo on the right of huge mudslide at a Mountain Valley Pipeline construction site in Franklin County.)This is yet another example of why these fracked gas pipeline projects should not be rushed and why we can't rely on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nationwide Permit 12 (NWP 12) to ensure our waterways are protected. It's up to Virginia to step up in this process, and the way to do this is by requiring a stream-by-stream review of the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines.

The Virginia State Water Control Board opened a new 30-day public comment period -- deadline has been extended to June 15 due to DEQ computer problems -- to hear citizens’ input on where the nationwide permit falls short in upholding state water quality standards and where stream-by-stream reviews are needed for the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines.

Tell the State Water Control Board to protect Virginia waters. We should not use a federal “blanket” permit to allow pipeline construction!  The Nationwide Permit 12 is inappropriate for projects of this size, and our state Department of Environmental Quality should be analyzing the likely impacts at each water crossing instead.

Remember, YOU are the expert on the water resources that you use in your area. If you are downstream from either pipeline’s path, your use of waters is likely to be impacted. Simply tell the Board where and how you use these waters.

See below for instructions on how to submit your comments and what to include in them. 

  • All written comments submitted must include the name(s), mailing address(es), and telephone number(s) of the person(s) commenting.
  • All written comments submitted must reference exact wetlands and streams crossings using information — such as latitude/longitude or road mile markers — that is detailed enough to allow DEQ to identify the crossing or wetland of interest.
  • Comments may be submitted in the following ways:

By email (MVP) — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

By email (ACP) — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

By mail — DEQ, P.O. Box 1105, Richmond, VA 23218

By hand delivery — DEQ, 1111 East Main Street, Richmond, VA 23219

CLICK HERE to send a comment right now!

Written comments deadline has been extended to June 15th due to DEQ computer problems.

Our partners at Wild Virginia crafted a guide to help write comments to ensure they meet the State Water Control Board’s criteria. Our friends at Augusta County Alliance have also listed some examples below where the NWP 12 falls short and ways you can equip the State Water Control Board to advocate for better protections for our streams or wetlands:

NWP 12 does not consider cumulative impacts to water quality where there are multiple crossings along the same stream and its tributaries.

Without doing individual stream crossing reviews, the total threat to our water supply is not understood. For example, all of Staunton’s water comes either Gardner Spring or the reservoir in the National Forest, both located in the county and both downstream of intense pipeline construction. Since the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project began, city officials have been asking for individual wetland and stream crossing reviews in order to protect the city’s water supplies.

The proposed permit does not carefully examine on a case-by-case basis the unique characteristics of our special places. That is why our comments are so important. They need to hear what you and your neighbors know about the streams and wetlands that surround you — their special aquatic life, wildlife, recreational uses, and other features. Just don’t forget to mention your stream by name.

Without detailed review and research of our headwaters, there is no way for the pipeline developers and regulators to know what our frequent hurricane deluges do to the river bottoms and stream banks where the pipe is proposed to be buried. If you have information or pictures of what happens to a specific crossing during flood conditions, let the State Water Control Board know. An exposed and fractured pipe is an environmental and safety concern.

Use the form below to send a comment now!

The Conowingo Dam, at the mouth of the Susquehanna River near Havre de Grace, is owned and operated by Exelon Corporation. Exelon uses the dam to generate electricity from the river at a profit. The dam was completed in 1928 and has been trapping sediment and nutrient pollution from the Susquehanna and its 27,000-square-mile drainage area ever since. 

The reservoir behind the dam is now basically at capacity — it cannot trap any more sediment. This is a problem because when it rains, runoff pollution from the largely agricultural area upstream from the dam makes its way into the river and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. Even more problematic is the potential for “scour,” where powerful floodwaters can actually scoop out the stored sediment behind the dam and send that downstream to the bay. If not for the Conowingo Dam, this load would have been delivered to the Lower Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay at normal rates.

If a major, catastrophic-level storm happens, this sediment can and will be mobilized and delivered downstream – smothering aquatic grasses that provide food, habitats and oxygen for marine life in the Chesapeake Bay. It’s not a matter of if a major, catastrophic-level storm will happen, but when.

When planning for an emergency, you generally plan for the worst-case scenario. Ships need to carry enough life boats for every passenger, not just a few. Fire regulations call for smoke detectors in every bedroom, not just one per floor. Vehicle safety ratings are tested for full-speed collisions, not just fender-benders. We should expect the same for environmental regulations. Unfortunately, a recent decision by the Maryland Department of the Environment concerning the Conowingo Dam does not follow the same rationale.

Exelon has requested a new 50-year federal license to operate the dam. In order to receive it, the State of Maryland must certify that the dam’s operations will not adversely impact water quality under the Clean Water Act (CWA). Last month, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) announced that it had issued its CWA water quality certification for the Conowingo Dam. The certification acknowledges the impact of the dam on water quality, including the threat posed by the accumulated sediment. And while there are admirable goals, the certification only requires Exelon to adopt a “nutrient corrective action plan” rather than put specific measures in place.

The Clean Water Act requires the dam’s operator to do more than promise to reduce pollution. It requires concrete conditions that will ensure there is no adverse impact to water quality. Governor Hogan and MDE needs to hear from you TODAY.

We cannot afford to give Exelon a new, 50-year license without specific, measurable conditions that ensure its operations do no more harm to the Chesapeake Bay. MDE, under Governor Hogan's leadership, should include a requirement to dredge some portion of the accumulated sediment and nutrient pollution stored behind the dam as a condition of its water quality certification for the new license. We also call upon MDE to properly account for the damaging effects of large storm events during the new license period.

To achieve the best results, we must plan for the worst. The Chesapeake Bay deserves a good emergency plan.

Governor Hogan and MDE needs to hear from you TODAY on this important issue! We can’t wait another 46 years before taking action!

Under the Obama Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency adopted federal protections against the dangers posed by toxic coal ash. That rule requires closure of ash dumps in dangerous locations (including within five feet of groundwater), regular inspection of coal ash ponds, monitoring of groundwater near coal ash sites, closure of leaking ponds, cleanup when contamination is found, safe closure of dumps, and public posting of monitoring and inspection results.

Under Administrator Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed to weaken or eliminate the federal safeguards and protections against the dangers posed by coal ash. EPA is holding one public hearing on April 24th.

These changes put the health and well-being of communities on the Potomac, James, Susquehanna, Patuxent and many other rivers at risk!

Join your local Waterkeepers at the public hearing in Arlington on April 24th: CLICK HERE to register to speak.

When: Tuesday, April 24 (9AM–12PM; 1–4PM; 5–8PM)

Where: DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, 300 S Army Navy Drive, Arlington, VA 22202

If you cannot attend, submit your written comments by Monday, April 30th -- CLICK HERE 

EPA has proposed to:

  • Allow operators of coal ash ponds and landfills to write their own standards
  • Make cleanup of contamination discretionary (i.e., let polluters do nothing)
  • Eliminate the requirement that leaking ponds install liners or close
  • Give polluters extra time to close ponds and landfills located in unsafe areas and eliminate the strict location prohibitions entirely
  • Allow political appointees, instead of professional engineers, to decide if a cleanup is adequate or even required.

Every year, more than 110 million tons of coal ash are generated — the toxic waste left after coal is burned at power plants. It contains arsenic, chromium, lead, mercury, radium, and other hazardous chemicals that present serious risks to human health and the environment. For decades, coal ash has been dumped in unlined pits from which toxic chemicals leak into groundwater and pollute drinking water wells and our lakes and rivers.

Make your voice heard – we will not stand for EPA rollbacks that will endanger our drinking water and put the health of millions of people at risk!

Maryland has until March to issue a decision about TransCanada’s application to build a fracked gas pipeline under the Potomac River. That’s less than two months away, yet the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) is giving no signs that they are conducting a full review of the proposed pipeline’s impact on our water quality according to the Clean Water Act. So, we are bringing our fight to Annapolis to tell Governor Hogan to DO HIS JOB and protect Marylanders, and our regional neighbors, from the harmful effects this pipeline would have on the Potomac River and the drinking water for millions.  Come to Annapolis the evening of February 15th to join concerned citizens of Maryland, Washington, DC, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Virginia as we raise our voices in a rally on Lawyer’s Mall (in front of the State House), and then march to encircle the Governor’s Mansion!Will you join us in telling Gov. Hogan to keep his “fracking” promise?Here are the details:Who: You and concerned residents of MD, DC, WV, PA and VAWhat: Rally at Lawyer’s Mall and then March to Gov. Hogan’s Mansion, where we will join hands and encircle his home to make sure he hears our voices!Where: Meet at Lawyer’s Mall, State Circle - Annapolis MDWhen: Thursday, February 15th from 6:00 - 7:30pmRSVP to the Rally here!Get On the Bus!! We will have a bus picking up and dropping off people at 3 locations. Price: Free! Limited Seating - Sign up for a Bus here La Vale, MD Hagerstown, MD Martinsburg, WV  TransCanada wants to…

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