U.S. Water News Online
HARRISBURG, Pa. — A Pennsylvania court refused to throw out a lawsuit brought by dozens of municipalities and local sewer authorities that claim the state's Chesapeake Bay watershed cleanup plan is illegal.
Commonwealth Court's 5-2 decision denied a state Department of Environmental Protection motion to dismiss the year-old lawsuit. The municipalities and authorities sued after complaining that they would be saddled with at least $1 billion in sewer plant improvements they say they can't afford.
At issue is who should pay to clean up the wastewater treatment plant discharge and farm runoff that pollutes water running into the Chesapeake Bay.
The court's majority opinion said more study is necessary to determine whether the state's cleanup plan acts as a regulation, which has the force of law.
The municipalities and authorities contend that the state's cleanup plan is an invalid regulation and must be voided because it did not undergo the long approval process required to finalize a regulation.
State officials say the strategy is simply a statement of policy, which is not binding and is typically an agency's interpretation of law. As such, it has no approval burden.
Pennsylvania contributes more pollutants to the bay than any other state and faces a 2010 deadline for meeting water quality standards that were once voluntary, but were made mandatory in 2005.
Algae feed on the pollutants, including nitrogen, and make much of the bay uninhabitable for fish, crabs and oysters during the summer.
Click here to subscribe to e-Water News Weekly!