Reps. Tim Holden (D-Pa.) and Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) requested late last week that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) take a close look at modeling the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses to evaluate programs and create proposals with regards to the Chesapeake Bay.
EPA has used what is known as the Chesapeake Bay Model to propose a draft Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for the region, which would set limits on the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution discharged into the Chesapeake Bay and each of its tributaries by different types of sources.
To date, however, the Agency has not publicly released the assumptions behind this model, so it is hard to evaluate if it is indeed the right tool for measurement of these discharges. Despite this, an executive order, various existing federal programs and legislative proposals in both chambers of Congress rely on the Model’s information.
The two Congressmen said that if the proposed TMDL is to move forward, “we need to make certain any and all tools used to determine the load allocations are scientifically sound, and the GAO investigation will allow Congress to verify that nutrient levels in the Bay are being calculated accurately by the EPA.”
Holden and Goodlatte introduced a bill in June dubbed the Chesapeake Bay Program Reauthorization and Improvement Act, or H.R. 5509, which would restructure on-going efforts to restore the Chesapeake and would set up an independent advisory committee to review past Chesapeake Bay initiatives.
It was a counter-proposal of sorts to a measure championed by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) that would, among other things, institute statutorily-mandated TMDLs on the region, which would be particularly burdensome for agricultural producers in six states surrounding the Bay.
Many across the ideological spectrum are also concerned about the program’s technical feasibility and the likelihood of its authority expanding to other regions.
NAWG is strongly supportive of the Holden-Goodlatte measure, which was approved by the House Agriculture Committee in July, and NAWG strongly supports the Congressmen’s efforts to ensure that any modeling used in future regulation takes into account the voluntary efforts of farmers, including those done through USDA-administered conservation programs.