EPA Backpedals on Regulations
Cleaner air helps make a cleaner Chesapeake Bay. That's why CBF has been fighting proposals by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to weaken several important air-pollution regulations.
Scientists estimate that about one-third of the nitrogen entering the Chesapeake comes from air pollution, much of it in the form of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from power plants, vehicle exhaust, and agriculture. Combined with nitrogen from wastewater treatment plants and farm and city runoff, nitrogen from the air sparks algae growth in the Bay, and eventually low oxygen. We can't finish the job of saving the Bay without further reducing air pollution.
Federal Clean Air Act laws have helped reduce nitrogen oxides reaching the Bay. The regional plan to clean up the Bay—the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint—is counting on EPA to further reduce this type of pollution into the future.
But EPA is backpedaling. It has proposed rolling back numerous environmental regulations. For example, EPA wants to freeze tailpipe emission standards and the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) at 2020 levels rather than further reduce vehicle emissions. It also proposed to roll back the Clean Power Plan, the first-ever attempt at limiting carbon pollution from U.S. power plants.
CBF has provided detailed comments to EPA explaining the danger of weakening these and other regulations. Science has clearly established the strong link between clean air and clean water. The Bay has benefitted significantly from steadily stronger clean air regulations. Weaker air laws could mean a dirtier Bay as well as increased respiratory problems for residents.
Congress Negotiating Farm Bill
The Farm Bill provides federal funding to help farmers plant trees along streams and undertake other conservation measures; efforts that are critical to restoring the Bay. Two separate versions of the Farm Bill were passed in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate earlier this year.
Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey introduced legislative language in the Senate bill to reinvigorate the important Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), thereby helping Pennsylvania and the other Bay jurisdictions meet state Chesapeake Bay clean-up goals.
In addition, Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen introduced amendments to the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) that will increase funding and give preference to areas like the Chesapeake Bay that have water-quality problems and help increase program efficiency.
Party leaders are trying to reconcile the House and Senate bills and CBF is hopeful that the Farm Bill will pass during the lame-duck session. If not, we will be ready to advocate for a strong Farm Bill in the 116th Congress.