Stand up to Pa.'s Chesapeake Bay pollution

I read with disappointment, but not surprise, the ludicrous response from Pennsylvania’s environmental protection secretary to Gov. Larry Hogan’s call for our neighbor to the north to take greater action to stop its pollution and sediment from contaminating our Chesapeake Bay (“Hogan: Pa., N.Y. fouling the bay,” Aug. 3).While Maryland has taken dramatic and costly steps to curb pollution and runoff to prevent its damaging effects on the Chesapeake Bay, Pennsylvania’s efforts have been lackluster and minimal.

Maryland’s farming community continues to invest millions of dollars to reduce animal manure and fertilizer runoff into waterways that flow into the Bay, while Pennsylvania’s agricultural interests ignore, with impunity, their state laws to do the same, as there is little if any enforcement effort by their government. While Maryland increases its funding to clean up the bay, the Pennsylvania legislature has consistently cut that state’s budget for environmental cleanup efforts.

Pennsylvania is responsible for half of the nitrogen pollution choking the bay, twice that of Maryland, and they are responsible for 31 percent of the of the sediment and 26 percent of the phosphorous pollution. Pennsylvania is the only state in the Chesapeake Bay watershed that has consistently had not one, but two “Backstop Action Levels” which are the EPA’S highest rating level of failure for pollution cleanup. Garbage, debris and sediment from Pennsylvania continuously piles behind and flows over the Conowingo dam into Maryland’s national treasure, the Chesapeake Bay.

The bay is invaluable to Maryland’s economy, providing revenue and jobs from fishing, boating, real estate and tourism. The bay is a source of better than 30,000 Maryland jobs and generates over $2 billion a year to our economy. As recently as 2016, Pennsylvania’s environment secretary reported that 70 percent of the state’s 33,600 farms in the watershed still lacked even plans to reduce manure runoff into waterways, despite a 35-year-old law requiring them to do so. The state’s agriculture community is powerful and influential and they have stymied all efforts to get the state legislature to act on cleanup efforts.

It is time for Maryland’s residents, businesses and government to respond and say no more shall we sit idly by and allow Pennsylvania’s weak-kneed politicians to allow our bay to be their toilet bowl. Our state and local governments should prohibit the procurement of goods and services from entities headquartered in Pennsylvania. Maryland residents should stop spending their tens of millions of dollars in tourism money in Pennsylvania. Instead of visiting Hershey Park, go to Six Flags in Maryland. Instead of visiting wineries in Pennsylvania, visit the numerous wineries that are flourishing in our own state. Kayak, hike and camp in Maryland.

And don’t “Visit Philly.” Maybe if the tourism industry in Pennsylvania begins to feel the financial pinch, then they will demand that more of their elected officials take action and stand up to their farming community and enforce mitigation efforts to clean their waterways which eventually flow into our bay. Most importantly, stop spending money in Lancaster and the surrounding areas of southern Pennsylvania. Farmers in these areas are consistently the greatest source of nutrient pollution in the state (and if you need another good reason, they operate some of the most cruel and barbaric puppy mills in the nation).

It is time for Maryland’s residents who care at all about our environment and economy to stand up to the bully to our north and say, “Hey, Pennsylvania, stop polluting my bay.”

Ben Kramer, Wheaton

The writer, a Democrat, represents District 19, Montgomery County, in the Maryland House of Delegates.

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