- The Washington Times - Friday, September 25, 2009

BALTIMORE | Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts could serve as a model for restoration efforts nationwide, a top EPA official told a gathering of environmental lawyers Thursday.

“This is worth watching not only for purposes of understanding the administration’s approach to the Bay, but also as a possible harbinger of new approaches to water quality management more generally across the country” said Scott Fulton, the Environmental Protection Agency’s acting deputy administrator and general counsel.

The federal agency is developing a restoration strategy in response to an executive order earlier this year by President Obama, who put the federal government at the head of efforts previously led by the states.

The EPA official spoke at an American Bar Association meeting in Baltimore, where he noted the impact on the Bay from suburban and urban areas as well as farms. Mr. Fulton said urban and suburban runoff pollution is the fastest growing source of Bay pollution and possibly the most significant, although agricultural runoff remains the largest source of Bay pollution.

Mr. Fulton said EPA officials hope “our work in the Bay and other watersheds will point to more broadly transferable tools” for dealing with water quality, on which the administration is bullish.

“So, stay tuned on this front,” Mr. Fulton said.

Earlier this month, the EPA and other agencies issued drafts upon which its strategy will be based.

Mr. Fulton said the draft report on water quality includes some of the more significant potential changes to existing programs and shows the EPA’s intent to hold states more accountable through increased oversight, enforcement and policies.

Recommendations in the draft reports include expanded regulation of large-scale animal farms and municipal stormwater runoff, and requirements that increases in pollution be offset by reductions from other sources. The EPA said it was working with Chesapeake Bay states and the District of Columbia to establish limits for nitrogen, phosphorus and sediments. States would have to develop detailed plans on how to reduce levels of those pollutants.

Jody Freeman, a White House energy and climate adviser, on Thursday noted environmentalists went “zero for five” in cases before the Supreme Court this year and said she expected future environmental gains would come from Congress or the use of laws already on the books.

“I think that where we’re all heading to is to Congress and the use of existing authority,” she said.

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