Environment Chapter: Time for “Expeditious Resolution of the Issues”

Back on June 15, the Board of County Supervisors was all a-twitter about the need to act on the Environment Chapter update to the Comprehensive Plan.  A week later, the full Board adopted a resolution directing the Planning Commission to submit its recommendations by September 15 so we could have an “expeditious resolution of the issues,” and committing to a public hearing on October 5.

Now the Board has postponed the public hearing until October 26, perhaps because the chickens-in-the-yard zoning issue is coming up.  A three-week delay is not the end of the universe, but the supervisors were right in June: it’s time for action on the environment in Prince William.

It’s time for the elected supervisors to update the Environment Chapter, and to provide clear direction on environmental policy.  Prince William officials are asleep at the switch now, and the Board needs to get better performance from its staff. 

County staff have ignored egregious violations of the Chesapeake Bay regulations along the Occoquan Reservoir for years.  The Park Authority has damaged rare wetlands that it had promised to protect.   The county’s Transportation Department has exempted itself from environmental compliance requirements that it imposes on private developers.  The Planning Department has facilitated efforts to destroy public streams, maximizing short-term profit for a few influential companies but imposing long-term stream restoration costs on the taxpayers.

Now a Federal judge is forcing the EPA to reduce excessive pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. A legal settlement on May 11 obligates EPA to act.  In the recent past, EPA demonstrated that it had the capacity to force action to meet Clean Air Act standards.  Now it appears EPA is serious about complying with the Clean Water Act. 

Everyone’s strategy to save the bay has always been to reduce the pollution in the tributaries, such as the Occoquan River and Marumsco Creek.  When Prince William and other localities clean up their own mess and send cleaner water downstream, the bay will get cleaner. 

On October 26, the county supervisors could do nothing regarding the environment, and pretend that we don’t have a problem.  The supervisors could abdicate responsibility for the excessive pollution that Prince William generates, and blame Richmond/Washington when we are finally required to comply with the Clean Water Act and clean up our own mess. 

That’s not leadership, of course.  This county needs positive direction now – expeditiously.

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