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Pa. unveils enhanced Chesapeake Bay cleanup planEmphasis is on farmers' contribution, stronger enforcement

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Gov. Tom Wolf this week unveiled a "reboot" of Pennsylvania's efforts to prevent pollutants from entering Chesapeake Bay, and the strategy carries a carrot and a stick for the state's agricultural sector.

Developed by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection in consultation with other state agencies, the strategy "relies on a mix of technical and financial assistance for farmers, technology, expanded data gathering, improved program coordination and capacity and — only when necessary — stronger enforcement and compliance measures," DEP said.

The goal is to meet federal goals for pollution reduction by 2025, something the state has been failing to do — even though the commonwealth managed to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment output by millions of pounds between 1985 and 2013.

"Pennsylvania has not met the EPA’s requirements to reduce water pollution under the requirements of federal court orders and regulations," DEP Secretary John Quigley said, adding that the state is looking to create "a culture of compliance."

The plan's six elements include improved record keeping and documentation, as well as meeting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's goal of inspecting 10 percent of farms in the watershed to ensure development and use of manure management and agricultural erosion and sediment control plans, and enforcement for non-compliance.

Environmental groups, such as PennFuture, praised the plan.

While response from the agricultural industry has been muted so far, farmers and their advocates have in the past fought back against criticism that they were not doing enough to reduce watershed pollution.

State Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding offered words of praise for the sector, but also acknowledged how much work lies ahead.

"The agriculture industry is responsible for contributing three-quarters of the total nutrient reductions expected of states by 2025. That’s a sizable sum, and no small task, but we know there are countless farmers who are doing their part," Redding said.

"Part of the problem is that Pennsylvania is not getting full credit for the work we are doing. This plan sets out to rectify that, plus give those farmers who need help or encouragement the incentives to assist them. We all have a role here and agriculture stands ready to be part of the solution,” Redding added.

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Roger DuPuis

Roger DuPuis

Roger DuPuis covers Cumberland County, health care, transportation, distribution, energy and environment. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at rdupuis@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @rogerdupuis2.

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