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Water: Adopt Your Watershed

Response to Petition from Chesapeake Bay Foundation

The following letter is EPA’s formal response to a petition filed by Cheseapeake Bay Foundation, an environmental advocacy organization. The petition requested that EPA develop additional federal regulations to achieve nutrient controls in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

More information about efforts to restore the bay:

June 13, 2005

Mr. Will Baker
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
6 Herndon Avenue
Annapolis , MD 21403

Dear Mr. Baker:

Thank you for the letter of December 1, 2003 , transmitting a “Petition of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to amend, issue, or repeal rules or take action to address nutrient pollution from significant point sources in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed” (Petition). I regret the delay in providing this reply to the CBF Petition. EPA has worked very hard over the past 1 ½ years to consider carefully each of your specific requests and to prepare a comprehensive response. Our decisions have been guided by EPA's commitment to the protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay and to the Federal, State, public and private collaboration that remains the hallmark of this restoration effort. A detailed response to the CBF Petition is enclosed.

The CBF Petition requests that EPA take actions, mostly through the development of new permit regulations, to achieve greater nutrient reductions from significant point sources. EPA agrees with CBF that a strong National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program is a necessary element of an effective strategy for the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay . We believe, however, that the current regulatory program, combined with the goals and commitments established in Chesapeake 2000, establish the correct framework for achieving these, or even greater, point source nutrient reductions, sooner and more efficiently.

Since 1983, EPA and its partner jurisdictions, under the auspices of the Chesapeake Bay Program, have worked to restore the Chesapeake Bay through a cooperative approach to achieve the interim 40% nutrient load reduction goal agreed to in the Chesapeake Bay Agreement of 1987. In the face of 20% population growth from 1985 to 2003 (from 13.5 million to 16.2 million), this approach has resulted in reductions of 62 million pounds per year of nitrogen (including 26.8 million pounds reduction from point sources). Population continues to grow and is now expected to increase to 19.4 million by 2030. We agree with CBF that considering our current understanding of the contribution of point sources to the problem, it is appropriate and scientifically sound to couple the cooperative efforts of the CBP with the regulatory requirements of State and EPA administered NPDES programs.

EPA and its partner jurisdictions are currently developing improved tools necessary to establish and enforce effective limits for nutrients in the Bay. These efforts include the publication of new water quality criteria that more appropriately reflect conditions in the Chesapeake Bay; the development of cap load allocations for nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment for each major basin within the Bay watershed, the identification of individual facility loads to achieve the allocations outlined in the various Tributary Strategies, and the modification of the tidal Bay states water quality standards for the Bay. Together these actions will provide a strong regulatory and scientific foundation for establishing and enforcing nutrient limits in NPDES permits.

Within the past week, EPA has revoked our waiver for review of all significant NPDES permits within the Chesapeake Bay watershed to help ensure that these actions will result in appropriate limits. Furthermore, in 2007, EPA will reassess the schedule for developing nutrient Total Maximum Daily Loads for the Chesapeake Bay if expired permits are not being re-issued by that time with appropriate limits.

In contrast, we are concerned that the rulemakings requested in the Petition will take years to complete and because of the need to consider public comments, EPA can not guarantee that the final rule would be consistent with the specific rule provisions CBF requested. Instead, EPA believes that existing regulatory authorities allow us to achieve needed reductions of both nitrogen and phosphorus from significant point sources several years sooner than developing the regulations outlined in the Petition. Finally, the rulemaking process requires extensive resources to develop and complete, resources we believe are more effectively dedicated directly to the Bay clean-up effort itself.

I want to re-emphasize EPA's commitment to the protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay , a commitment I know that CBF shares. Please consider the enclosed response to the CBF Petition, which reflects the concurrence of EPA Region II and III Administrators. I would appreciate the opportunity to discuss this response with you following your review. Please do not hesitate to contact me or have your staff contact Mr. Jon Capacasa at 215-814-5422 if you have any questions.



Benjamin H. Grumbles
Assistant Administrator
Office of Water

cc: Roy A. Hoagland, Chesapeake Bay Foundation

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