EPA chief to take helm of Bay cleanup effort
The head of the Environmental Protection Agency will take the helm of the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort next week when state, local and federal leaders huddle in the Washington area for a hurriedly scheduled stock-taking of their bid to jump-start the lagging cleanup campaign.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson is expected to be voted chairwoman of the multi-state bay program's "executive council" when it meets Tuesday, replacing outgoing Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine. Council members - including the governors of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia, the mayor of the District of Columbia and the EPA chief - guide the bay cleanup.
Kaine, a Democrat, has been chairman since November 2008. The leadership post normally is rotated among governors and the EPA chief at annual gatherings of the council, but bay leaders held an extra meeting in May to lay out plans for accelerating the Chesapeake cleanup. Kaine retained the chairmanship at that meeting at Mount Vernon (seen below), but his four-year term as Virginia governor ends next month, four months before the next scheduled council meeting in May 2010.
Jackson's assumption of the chairwoman's gavel now carries extra import, as she is leading the Obama administration's move to assert greater federal management over the bay cleanup. The president issued an executive order last May directing federal agencies to take the lead in the restoration, which has repeatedly missed targets and deadlines over the past 26 years.
In addition, the EPA is drawing up an elaborate pollution "diet" for the Chesapeake, which it will complete by the end of next year and then impose on states and localities. The "diet," required under court-ordered consent decrees, will mandate reductions in pollutant discharges from businesses, sewage plants and developments throughout the six states that drain into the bay.
An EPA source said there were no particular issues to decide at next week's meeting, beyond a review of the general direction of the bay restoration effort. "There’s all these big moving parts out there," the source said, mentioning the federal agency plans, the pollution diet and new bay legislation pending in Congress that would direct more federal funds to the effort but also mandate cleanup deadlines and penalties for failure to reach them.
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, who served as council chairman from 2007 to 2008, is expected to be there, the EPA source said.
(File photos: Lisa Jackson, Getty Images; Tim Kaine, Michael Land, Chesapeake Bay Program)