EPA pressures VT to go further with lake clean-up plans

The lake clean-up plan known as a TMDL has been the subject of intense debate over the last year. EPA is in the process of developing a pollution budget while Vermont is responsible for outlining an implementation plan for meeting that budget. EPA anticipates the pollution budget will be completed by the end of March. Vermont released a draft implementation plan in late November, but EPA has asked for more detail. EPA called on Vermont to develop a schedule for key actions and program implementations across the Vermont portion of the Basin. The more detailed implementation plan accompanied by a letter of commitment from the Governor is necessary to provide reasonable assurance that pollution reductions will occur. Following Basin-wide plan development, EPA expects the state to develop sub-Basin plans which will be evaluated every five years to assess progress toward lake clean-up.

On February 13, EPA sent a follow-up letter indicating the state would need to find additional measures to ensure clean-up of Missisquoi Bay and the South Lake. So far, models developed by EPA have failed to find a mix of implementation strategies to sufficiently reduce phosphorus loading to meet water quality standards.

In Montpelier, the question remains open as to how the state will provide assurance that it has allocated enough funds to implement all the clean-up projects. A key House committee has passed legislation to find funding for such a plan. The bill would increase the state’s rooms and meals tax by 0.25 percent, increase the liquor and wine sales tax by 0.25 percent, and add a 1 percent fee on rental vehicles. Together these measures would yield approximately $4 million per year for water protection. The bill still needs to wend through a number of other committees before it could be voted on by the full House. The Governor has previously indicated that any clean-up should be done only with currently available funds.