ANR: Feds may gut funding for Lake Champlain clean up

The EPA is unlikely to roll back clean water requirements for Lake Champlain.
Federal funding, however, may dry up and drive up state costs even further, the Scott administration told lawmakers Monday.
Representatives from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources explained the precarious finances of the federal program at a standing room only hearing held in a tucked away corner of the Statehouse. The House Committee on Corrections and Institutions committee heard testimony from Scott administration officials Monday as part of a review of a funding report.
Lawmakers also learned that inflation was not included in the estimated $1.2 billion in total costs for the 20-year cleanup effort.
Julie Moore, the secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources, said federal funding currently accounts for about 22 percent of Vermont’s clean-water budget.
Moore said if Trump administration officials gut clean water laws, the state will still have to pay for a massive pollution-control effort to abate toxic bacterial blooms in Lake Carmi and Lake Champlain.
If the state tried to back out of the phosphorus pollution mitigation effort, which is spelled out in a federal mandate adopted last year, environmental advocates would likely sue to ensure the state upholds the law, Moore said.
The Act 73 Working Group, which was formed to study funding options for clean up efforts, confirmed that the $1.2 billion estimate from State Treasurer Beth Pearce is accurate. Pearce has recommended that the state spend $100 million a year on phosphorus abatement.
The Legislature earlier this year asked that the group find a long-term funding source. While the study group was statutorily required to draft a funding proposal, the group, largely comprised of members of Scott’s cabinet, did not identify a revenue stream for the clean up effort in a report released in mid-November.
The working group determined that the state doesn’t need to raise revenues until after 2024; the plan relies on bonding.
Moore insisted that the working group made important contributions to the discussion about lake clean up. “We really advanced the conversation, contrary to some of the media reports,” Moore said.
Pearce said in a recent interview that the state needs to come up with $15 million a year for clean up.
Sen. Chris Bray, D-Addison, has introduced a bill that would levy a per parcel fee.
Much of the cost of complying with the federal Clean Water Act is aimed at reducing phosphorus pollution from commercial fertilizer and cow manure used on farms, which accounts for about 40 percent of the chemical in Lake Champlain. Phosphorus feeds toxic algae blooms that are a hazard to human health. Beaches in Burlington have closed each of the past two summers and Lake Carmi was closed for several months this year.
Read the story on VTDigger here: ANR: Feds may gut funding for Lake Champlain clean up.