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1996 Chesapeake Bay Executive Council Meeting

                         Carol M. Browner

Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 1996 Chesapeake Bay Executive Council Meeting

                          Harrisburg, PA
                        October 10, 1996

I am happy to be here again with my fellow members of the Chesapeake Executive Council -- Governor Ridge, Governor Allen, Governor Glendening, Assistant City Administrator David Watts of the District of Columbia, and Chairman Wenger.

It is a pleasure to join all of you -- environmental leaders, agricultural leaders, business leaders, and representatives of local, state, and federal government who are working together to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay -- the largest estuary in the United States, home to nearly 15 million people and thousands of plant and animal species, a national treasure and a key part of our economy.

All of us here today understand that the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers is vitally important to the health of the people of this region, the health of our communities, and the health of our economy. A clean and productive Bay and clean, productive rivers create jobs and keep our communities healthy and thriving.

Over the past year we can point to a number of successes for the Chesapeake.

For fish and shellfish -- Striped bass are having their best year in 43 years. American shad are at their highest levels in many decades -- they have returned to the Upper Bay, and within the next few years we can expect to see them in the Susquehanna River and even swimming past Harrisburg. Blue crab are beginning a rebound. Thirteen new oyster reefs have been constructed.

In the area of toxics -- We learned this year that toxics released into the Bay region are down 5512ver seven years.

We are making progress toward our very important goal of reducing nitrogen and phosphorus pollution -- so-called nutrient pollution from fertilizer and wastewater.

We received very good news this year, when scientists confirmed that for the first time ever, nutrient pollution from fertilizers and sewage is down significantly in the rivers that flow into the Bay.

On millions of acres of farmland throughout the Bay region, farmers are taking steps to reduce pesticide and fertilizer runoff. And this year, the single largest source of nutrients to the Bay, the Blue Plains wastewater plant in Washington, D.C., began using an advanced technology to reduce that pollution. In addition, all of the major federal wastewater plants committed to significantly reduce nutrient pollution by upgrading their operations by the year 2000.

These successes are real, they are measurable, and they are important. All of us can be proud that our work to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers is a model for the nation.

But the threats to the Bay are also real. We have a growing population, a loss of wildlife habitat, and a growing understanding of how pollution in our air and on land is polluting the Bay and its rivers.

We at EPA are very pleased to have our budget for the coming year in place. Funding for the Chesapeake Bay program is in place -- President Clinton requested and received from Congress $20.1 million for the Bay Program plus an additional $1.3 million for Air Deposition work, to reduce air pollution that harms the Bay.

But funding alone is not enough to restore and protect the Bay. We need a firm and unwavering commitment to do those things that matter most, to make the Chesapeake Bay, its rivers, and its resources, all that they can be.

We must continue to move ahead to protect and restore the Chesapeake. And we must do it in three major ways: First, by informing, involving, and engaging the people of the Chesapeake Bay region. Second, by building buffers to protect the Bay and its rivers from agricultural runoff. And third, by continuing and accelerating the reduction of nitrogen pollution in the Bay.

This Administration, under President Clinton, has worked to expand the public's right to know. We believe that an informed and involved public is vitally important to protecting where we live and how we live.

Early in his Administration, President Clinton issued an Executive Order requiring federal facilities to report their toxic emissions and to cut their toxic emissions in half by 1999. Here in the Chesapeake Bay, we raised that goal to a 75reduction in toxic emissions by the year 2000.

We nearly doubled the number of chemicals that must be reported by industry through the Toxics Release Inventory, and we proposed to expand by one-third the number of companies that must report to the public.

Last month we officially began to explore a further expansion of the Right to Know -- informing communities not just about what chemicals are emitted by local industry, but also what goes into the community -- exactly how toxic chemicals are used on site.

This Administration's work to defend the right to know and expand the right to know is critically important to reducing toxic pollution here in the Chesapeake Bay region.

I am pleased to report that in this morning's meeting, the Chesapeake Bay Executive Council took several important steps to expand public information and involvement in restoring the Bay.

Our new LOCAL GOVERNMENT PARTICIPATION ACTION PLAN is designed to engage local governments in protecting and restoring the Bay.

Today, for the first time, we are authorizing more than 30 specific steps for the Bay Program to take to strengthen our partnership with local governments. It commits the Bay program to do our share to assist local communities in preventing pollution, encouraging sound development, preserving forests, and other concrete actions.

To restore the Chesapeake, we need the help and support of all the communities in the watershed. Next year at this time, we expect to recognize dozens of communities that are participating as Chesapeake Bay Partner Communities.

This morning, the Council also adopted a new Information Access Strategy. Through this new strategy, we will ensure that the latest scientific findings on the health of the Bay are accessible through the Internet to scientists, schoolchildren, and all who live in the Bay region.

The Council also this morning adopted "Priorities for Action for Land, Growth and Stewardship" for the Chesapeake Bay. These priorities will help to guide the region in making sound decisions about land use and development as our population increases over the coming years.

I am also pleased to announce that today, in partnership with business leaders, we are launching a new voluntary pollution prevention program called "BUSINESSES FOR THE BAY". By the year 2000, our goal is to reduce all toxic chemicals in the Bay by 65and to reduce chemicals of particular concern by 75We invite businesses to join in this voluntary pollution prevention activity to help us reach the very important goal we reaffirmed two years ago -- the goal of a toxics-free Bay.

In addition, the Council accepted three Toxics Regional Action Plans and signed off on an interstate management plan for the black sea bass fishery.

All of these actions by the Council this year establish important new partnerships with local governments, business and industry, communities, developers and the general public in restoring and protecting the Bay.

A second important means of ensuring the health and productivity of the Bay is substantial action to protect the rivers that flow into the Bay from agricultural runoff pollution.

Planting a buffer, restoring a buffer, the planting of trees and other vegetation alongside the waters that flow into the Bay is a common-sense, cost-effective way to keep pollution out of the Bay. The commitment to restoration in conjunction with the preservation of existing forest land alongside our rivers and streams will provide significant nutrient reduction and habitat creation and protection.

Our long-term goal is to assure, to the extent feasible, that all streams and shoreline will be protected by these natural buffers. This is a critical means of keeping pollution out of the Bay.

I am pleased to say that Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, the District of Columbia, the Federal Government, and the Bay Commission have joined in endorsing a bold numerical goal for these streamside forest buffers. Our collective efforts will result in the planting of 2010 miles of streamside forest buffers by the year 2010, as well as the preservation of existing forest land along our rivers and streams.

I am proud to say that this will be among the most far-reaching such efforts in the nation.

Finally, the third means of protecting and restoring the Bay must be to continue our progress in ridding the Bay of excess nitrogen, or nutrient, pollution.

In 1987, the Chesapeake Bay program adopted the very important goal of reducing nutrient pollution -- which stems primarily from farms and sewage plants -- in the Bay by 40by the year 2000. In 1992, we reaffirmed that goal. During the next year, the Executive Council is scheduled to re-evaluate our nutrient reduction efforts.

It is my firm view -- and I think the view of all of us -- that the job of this Council must be to evaluate what further steps we need to take to attain the 40reduction goal -- not lower it, not extend the deadline, not retreat from that goal in any way.

Others may say that is unrealistic, that we should not set our sights so high. I strongly disagree. Reducing nutrient pollution is vital to protecting the Bay. We must continue to move toward that goal with all seriousness and with all due speed.

As the member of the Executive Council who represents all federal agencies involved in the Bay Program, I want to take just a moment to highlight for you what federal agencies are doing to protect and restore the Bay.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is leading an important effort to restore habitat on Federal lands.

The U.S. Geological Survey has begun a 5-year project to assess groundwater in The Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers leads our efforts to restore the Anacostia River and to restore habitat on Poplar Island and other islands.

EPA has launched the Sustainable Development Challenge Grants Program to help communities ensure that economic growth and environmental protection go hand in hand.

The U.S. Forest Service has played a leadership role in our efforts to conserve and restore the forest lands alongside our rivers and streams.

And finally, in March of this year I joined representatives of 12 other federal agencies in signing a tributary strategy for federal lands in the District of Columbia, to assure that federal landholders in the District will do their fair share in reducing nutrient pollution.

In conclusion, the people of the Chesapeake Bay region recognize the importance of clean, healthy water and are taking action to protect it.

As we continue to take action to protect the Bay, we will continue to see the benefits -- for the public's health, for the environment, for the economy.

President Clinton is committed to use all the tools at the disposal of this Administration to protect and restore the Bay. If we are to protect our health, our communities, and our economy, we must protect our water.