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Clean Water Blueprint Upheld

The Susquehanna river carries millions of pounds of pollution to Chesapeake Bay. (Jakec/Wikimedia Commons)
The Susquehanna river carries millions of pounds of pollution to Chesapeake Bay. (Jakec/Wikimedia Commons)
March 1, 2016

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvania's newly-revised plan to clean up roughly 19,000 miles of rivers and streams got a major boost from the the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday.

The American Farm Bureau Federation and others had asked the high court to hear their challenge to the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint, calling it a "land grab" by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

William C. Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), says denying that request means a unanimous Federal Appeals Court decision in Harrisburg upholding the plan stands.

"Now the Supreme Court has ruled, we can finally move on," says Baker. "And the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, for one, would like to reach out to the litigants and urge them to work with us."

Each state in the Chesapeake Bay watershed worked with the EPA to formulate its own plan to meet water quality standards by 2025.

Jon Mueller, CBF's vice president for litigation, believes the decision shows it is possible for the federal and state governments to cooperate in developing commonsense, science-based limits for pollution.

"And that EPA can give to the states the authority that they have to develop plans to meet those goals, in a way that is specific to their particular needs for that state," says Mueller.

Litigation over the Clean Water Blueprint took five years, and the effort to reduce pollution is already off by 29 million pounds, most of it coming from Pennsylvania.

Baker points out it isn't just about cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay.

"It's really all about cleaning up Pennsylvania's rivers and streams for the benefit of Pennsylvania, and that also helps the bay downstream," he says.

The cleanup will be costly. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation says the state will need to allocate significant new funds to meet its goals, but stands to reap more than $6 billion a year in natural benefits if the blueprint goal is achieved.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA