Letter to the Editor: Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Efforts Require Creative Solutions

I would like to thank Pennlive for running Ron Kreider’s May 25 opinion editorial, “Pa. can keep the Chesapeake Bay clean without hurting famers.” This op-ed makes the important point that Pennsylvania absolutely must explore creative solutions in order to meet federal pollution reduction goals within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

Mr. Kreider noted the critical role of technology in reducing run-off pollution into the rivers and streams that feed into the Chesapeake Bay. New equipment is capable of treating animal waste on farms before it becomes a source of pollution in our streams and rivers, while providing additional benefits to our farms. This technology is a game-changer in terms of allowing the agricultural community to meet its obligations under federal law, while at the same time limiting the amount of money that taxpayers will be forced to commit to the cleanup effort.

Unfortunately, the lack of a competitive nutrient credit trading program severely hampers the use of this technology, and our efforts to meet federal pollution mandates have suffered as a result.

Just this month, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lauded the performance of Virginia in meeting its obligations, but announced it will take over planning for Pennsylvania because our state didn’t meet its goals for 2015. In fact, the EPA has already determined that Pennsylvania won’t achieve its goals for 2017 to clean up nutrients created from farm animal waste. Our refusal to create a competitive nutrient trading program is big part of the reason why we are failing.

With over half of Pennsylvania located within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, our role in cleaning up the Bay is critical. If we fail to support our farms in reducing run-off pollution on their own, then taxpayers will be on the hook for the full cost. Our state Department of Environmental Protection has put the price tag for cleanup at $5 billion, but the actual cost could be triple that amount when all is said and done. We cannot ask taxpayers to invest billions upon billions of dollars in this effort if we’re not seeing results.

More information about this expensive environmental crisis is available in the EPA report on Pennsylvania’s cleanup effort. I encourage readers to learn more at https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-06/documents/pa_2014-2015_-_2016-2017_milestone_eval_06-17-16.pdf.

It’s time for Pennsylvania to get serious about this effort. We need to start exploring alternatives to prevent even more taxpayer dollars from being wasted on a losing proposition. Lending our farmers a helping hand by supporting the use of innovative technology to reduce pollution is a great place to start.

CONTACT:  Jeremy Shoemaker (717) 787-4651