Thursday, December 30, 2010

Expensive new EPA plan pushes for clean Chesapeake

A Washington Post article today describes a new EPA initiative designed to clean up the Chesapeake. While Marylanders stand to benefit if the Bay gets cleaned up, this article points out that most of the costs, which look to be well upward of $2 billion, lie with the headwater states.

Political ramifications: Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley predictably released a supportive statement, but I'm a little more surprised to see Virginia's Gov. McDonnell doing the same thing. I guess it's easier to play nice up front than to come out against the plan when it has been clear for awhile that this is where things were going.

Technical concerns: I'll have to read the report to get more details, but apparently cuts of 20-25% are called for each of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment. I'm not sure how they're going to monitor that, but at least the plan identifies some very specific areas such as sewage treatment in West Virginia and in Virginia as well as agricultural pollution in Maryland.

Bringing together all the stakeholders and achieving the lowest cost reductions is a huge challenge when each faces different incentives. This looks like another huge test of the command and control model of pollution control: hopefully it can succeed in spite of the high costs.

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