Is there gold at the end of Virginia's environmental rainbow?
Chances looked slim back in early 2012 that Virginia's elected folks would have much to brag about as far as improvements to the environment went. Our Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli had questioned the EPA's authority to regulatate greenhouse gases, going as far as a lawsuit. Sure wished the legal funds for that had gone to cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay.
In March, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality added 840 miles of our rivers and streams to the growing list of polluted waterways. Oops! That means about 25 percent of Virginia's waterways are impaired, an increase of 1.6 percent from 2010.
Then in June, an enlightened federal appeals court told Cuccinelli to go stand in a corner because yes, indeedy, the EPA had such authority under the Clean Air Act. The U.S. Supreme Court had mentioned that the EPA had the obligation a while back, didn't they, Ken? But he says he will persist.
Good news continued in July when Governor McConnell announced that Virginia had dramatically exceeded pollution reduction goals for our waterways in the past year. So I was confused. Did he factor in the state DEQ report from March mentioned above?
As a frequent sailor on Chesapeake waters, I can't see much improvement although the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) folks can measure the suspended silt much better than I. Plus, they can actually assess the growth of submerged aquatic growth, otherwise known as "seaweed" when it fouls boaters' engine intake filters.
So the CBF consensus that emerged a few weeks ago was that Virginia met (or exceeded) six of their nine goals in the bay's "pollution diet." Pennsylvania 4 of 10 goals and Maryland 5 of 8.
To me that's only a fair report card. But it's better than no progress during the decades of declining health for the bay.