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It would be wise for the EPA to offer an olive branch before an invoice.
AS THE CHESAPEAKE Bay cleanup
The problem is easy to understand: Much of the bay's pollution originates well up the waterways that eventually empty into it. These are rural areas with sparse populations, communities with tiny operating budgets for whom the bay and its troubles are hardly specks on the radar. "Pollution" may be just as objectionable to these folks as it is to everyone else, and they may sympathize with the need to restore the bay's health, but they also face certain realities.
Consider the states of New York and Pennsylvania. New York is home to the headwaters of the Susquehanna River. For the next 444 miles, the Susie-Q collects pollution from farmland and many small Rust Belt cities as it winds through Pennsylvania to the Maryland border. Fourteen miles later it empties into the Chesapeake Bay, supplying half the bay's fresh water and 40 percent of its damaging nitrogen.
The officials of the distant localities that contribute that pollution are often heard complaining about the costs their communities face--a prospect made even more daunting by local unemployment and the state of the economy.
In Maryland, a state deeply affected by the bay's plight, the small town of Hancock at the headwaters of the Potomac River is incredulous at being told that it faces a bay cleanup tab of $31 million through 2025. Maryland writer Tim Rowland reported that the figure represents nearly 20 times the town's entire annual operating budget.
Mr. Rowland suggests that the EPA present its plea for cooperation first with pledges of assistance: "Don't lay down the law, don't throw your weight around, don't come in like a blunderbuss with threats and scare tactics," he writes. The reality, he notes, is that even in blue states such as Maryland there are red counties and red voters all over who will view any cleanup invoice as government overreach.
In Virginia, that position has been articulated in numerous bills introduced by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-6th, who would love to disable the EPA's enforcement authority if not the entire EPA itself. Home builders and farming interests have joined the chorus.
The importance of the bay to the broad, six-state watershed region, and the value of the investment in cleaning it up, have long been established. Getting the money to pay for it has always been the problem. In order for the job to get done, and the necessary funds accrued, federal and state officials should brush up on their diplomatic skills so they don't come off as bullies.