Joint Statement Re: EPA, Lake Champlain Cleanup/TMDL

Joint Statement Re: EPA, Lake Champlain Cleanup/TMDL

Lake Champlain, the nation’s sixth largest body of freshwater and Vermont’s crown jewel, is suffering from a phosphorous pollution crisis. Too much of this potent nutrient is fueling terrible, sometimes toxic, algae outbreaks that disrupt habitat for fish and wildlife, cause fish die-offs, destroy the lake’s beauty, close beaches, and threaten public health. The impacts extend beyond the lake itself to the many rivers and streams that flow into it, many of which are polluted and in decline. We know what is causing this pollution crisis.  Polluted runoff from agricultural lands and over-development is dumping phosphorus into our waters.  And wastewater treatment plants continue to contribute potent dissolved phosphorus into the Lake.  Recent studies also show that climate change is bringing more intense storms that are making the impacts from these pollution sources worse.

Now, Vermont is at a crossroads. The state recently received a letter from the Environmental Protection Agency that outlines the stark choices we face with regard to cleaning up Lake Champlain.

Under Federal law, we have two options:

1. By the end of March, Vermont can provide EPA with an equitable, enforceable plan that spreads the clean-up obligations fairly across the full range of polluters, based on improvements to the draft State of Vermont Proposal for a Clean Lake Champlain, or

2. If Vermont fails to identify effective programs, EPA will be forced to take direct regulatory action that will fall disproportionately on a narrow category of polluters and will limit Federal funding for critical water pollution control infrastructure needed to support sustainable growth.

While EPA briefed lawmakers on these choices this morning, this is ultimately Governor Shumlin’s decision to make.

Vermonters have caused this problem, and Vermonters have a responsibility to solve it.   We should do this with the fullest range of fair and effective strategies possible.  Not choosing this approach places a disproportionate financial burden on municipal governments and a small category of landowners, and continues to imperil the state’s environment and economy.

Since he was first elected in 2010, Governor Shumlin has demonstrated leadership on transportation by declaring the Chittenden Circumferential Highway dead, and on energy by battling Entergy over the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.

Today, we call on the Governor to exercise comparable leadership on water quality and require that his ANR develop a comprehensive and effective plan for restoring the health of Lake Champlain.

Conservation Law Foundation
Lake Champlain Committee
Lake Champlain International
Vermont Natural Resources Council