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Bay Leaders Introduce Bay-Friendly Bills Before August Recess
Ahead of their month-long August recess, Congressional representatives from our watershed took the lead to introduce multiple bills to support Bay priorities. CBF is eager to build support and urge movement on these bills once Congress returns from recess.
Senator Van Hollen and Representative Sarbanes introduced a bill on July 27 to designate the Chesapeake National Recreation Area (CNRA), in an aim to create a unified collection of public lands in the Chesapeake watershed as a unit under the National Park Service. The CNRA would increase both the quantity and quality of public access sites around the Bay, fostering connections between the people and the waterways and wildlife. By inviting both Bay residents and visitors to experience and engage with the Chesapeake Bay and the restoration efforts, the CNRA will build upon the National Park Service’s legacy of preservation, conservation, and stewardship.
Bay leaders in both the House and Senate introduced the Chesapeake Bay Science, Education, and Ecosystem Enhancement Act (SEEE Act), which would reauthorize NOAA’s Chesapeake Bay Office, a key leader in Bay fisheries, environmental literacy, climate resiliency, and habitat work. This bill directs NOAA to leverage partnerships to promote monitoring and restoration activities. The SEEE Act also authorizes the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) program, which awards funding to Bay environmental and outdoor education programming. Highlighting the wide support for this legislation, the following Bay representatives are co-sponsors: Representatives Sarbanes (MD), Scott (VA), Wittman (VA), and Kiggans (VA) and Senators Manchin (WV), Warner (VA), Kaine (VA), Cardin (MD), Van Hollen (MD), Casey (PA), and Fetterman (PA).
In May, Senator Cardin led the introduction of a bipartisan bill to authorize the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Coastal Program, focusing habitat conservation in priority areas including the Chesapeake Bay. The Coastal Habitat Conservation Act of 2023 aims to combat increasing pressures, from climate change to development, that challenge coastal communities and habitats. The House version of the bill was introduced by Rep. Huffman (CA). CBF is proud to endorse this bill as we continue to build capacity to address threats to Bay communities and wildlife.
Federal Budget Process Spares Key Bay Programs
The House and Senate Appropriations Committees are working tirelessly to pass the fiscal year 2024 spending bills before the September 30 deadline. While the spending bills have overall received major slashes, key Chesapeake Bay funding priorities have been spared so far.
The House Appropriations Committee’s Interior-Environment spending bill maintains EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program funding at $92 million, while Senate Appropriations has boosted funding to $93.5 million. Robust funding is essential for the program to lead the federal-state-local government partnership in Bay restoration goals for 2025 and beyond. The current version of the House bill would again fund the Chesapeake Watershed Investments for Landscape Defense Program (WILD), which will provide grant funding for projects to restore water quality and wildlife habitat across the watershed, at $8 million, while the Senate gives a slight boost to $8.5 million.
Both the House and Senate appropriators recognized the critical importance of the Chesapeake Bay States’ Partnership Initiative (C-SPI) and encouraged the U.S. Department of Agriculture to leverage funding for the program. C-SPI, first administered in May of 2022, directs additional funding to Bay watershed farmers to help them adopt conservation practices that improve water quality in the Bay and its tributaries.
The House and Senate Appropriations Committees must reconcile the differences between their spending bills before the end of fiscal year 2023 ends on September 30 in order to fund the Federal government, including all the key Bay priorities. They are far from making that deadline and will have a lot of work to do when they return to D.C. in September.
Big Step for a Bay-Friendly Farm Bill
Passed every five years or so, the Farm Bill is a critical piece of legislation that has far-reaching impacts on our communities, the way food is grown, and the health of our waterways. The most cost-effective way to reduce pollution to local rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay is to use agricultural best management practices, many of which are funded through Farm Bill programs. A new Farm Bill must be passed by September 30 and CBF is ensuring that Bay farmers will have the funding and support they need to implement pollution-reducing practices on their land.
Before going on August recess, a bipartisan and bicameral bill that packages together our top five Bay-friendly Farm Bill changes was introduced. The Chesapeake Bay Conservation Acceleration Act is critical to getting our priorities into the Farm Bill. To maximize benefits from federal conservation programs, support our farmers, and meet our water quality goals, CBF will continue working with Bay representatives and partners to pass a Bay-friendly Farm Bill. Join us by calling your members of Congress and urge them to pass a Bay-friendly Farm Bill!
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
CBF Outlines Policy Priorities for a More Bay-Friendly 2023 Farm Bill
The Federal Affairs Office is busy on Capitol Hill sharing its priorities for making the next Farm Bill more Bay-friendly. Agriculture is the leading source of pollution in the Bay and its tributaries. Farm Bill conservation programs that promote water quality are essential to restoring them. They also help ensure healthy soil for farmers, make farms more resilient, and boost the local economy.
To make the most of these programs, CBF advocates for funding increases and policy changes that would allow more Bay-region farmers to participate and encourage farmers to adopt conservation practices, like planting streamside buffers and fencing livestock out of streams, that deliver the biggest water-quality improvements for the money. Other CBF priorities for the 2023 Farm Bill include training more conservation experts to provide technical assistance to farmers and increasing support for historically underserved farmers such as beginning farmers, veterans, and farmers in socially disadvantaged groups that historically have been subject to discrimination by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Congress updates the Farm Bill roughly every five years. Current Farm Bill programs, which were authorized in 2018, are set to expire on September 30 unless Congress acts.
Fiscal 2024 Biden Budget Would Increase Technical Assistance to Farmers
President Biden's budget request for fiscal year 2024 would increase spending to provide farmers with technical assistance to implement conservation practices from the current level of $941 million to $1.02 billion in fiscal year 2024. President Biden submitted his budget to Congress on March 9. Although a divided Congress is unlikely to adopt the president's budget numbers, the proposed increase indicates this is a priority for the White House.
Lack of adequate technical assistance is a chronic problem for farmers in the Bay watershed states. Pennsylvania, which has the most pollution from agriculture to reduce, receives roughly half the national average for technical assistance funding, according to USDA figures. Getting more trained experts in the field directly helping farmers in this region makes it more likely the conservation practices they implement will be successful cleaning up local waterways and the Bay.
Settlement Proposed in Lawsuit against EPA for Pennsylvania Pollution
On April 20, a proposed settlement agreement was announced in the 2020 lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its failure to require Pennsylvania to develop and implement a plan to meet its commitments to reduce pollution under the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.
The lawsuit was brought against EPA during the Trump Administration by CBF and its partners, including Anne Arundel County, the Maryland Watermen's Association, and Robert Whitescarver and Jeanne Hoffman, and was combined with a similar suit filed by the Attorneys General for Delaware, Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Virginia.
The proposed settlement requires EPA to, among other things, look for ways to reduce pollution from agriculture—Pennsylvania's biggest polluting source—and stormwater polluted runoff form urban and suburban land. EPA also commits to increase compliance and enforcement efforts. The public has 30 days to comment on the proposed settlement before it can be finalized.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Report: Helping Farmers Improve Water Quality Also Helps Local Economies
A new CBF report details the economic benefits of helping farmers implement the pollution reduction practices needed to restore the Bay and its tributaries. The report, Agricultural Conservation Practices: Clean Water and Climate Smart Investments, found that fully funding practices like planting forested buffers or fencing livestock out of streams would pump $655 million annually into the Bay region’s economy and support 6,673 jobs annually through 2025. It also calculated that for every dollar invested in farm conservation practices that improve water quality, local businesses and workers would see $1.75 in returns through greater sales of goods and services and higher earnings.
Released in November, the report will help the Federal Office advocate for Bay states to get a significant share of the $20 billion increase for conservation programs in the Inflation Reduction Act Congress passed in August. It will also help make a strong case for Congress to boost federal investment in Bay region farmers in the 2023 Farm Bill. Roughly 90 percent of the pollution cuts the six states still need to make must come from agriculture. Conservation practices are often the most cost effective way to reduce polluted runoff from farmland
Supreme Court Hears Wetlands Case that Could Derail the Bay Cleanup
The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in October in a case with serious implications for the effort to restore the Bay and its rivers and streams. Sackett v. EPA involves an Idaho couple sanctioned by EPA for filling in wetlands on their property without a permit. At issue is which waters are protected by the federal government under the Clean Water Act and which are not.
The Sacketts and their allies support a narrow reading of the law that would prevent EPA from safeguarding several types of wetlands and small waterways essential to cleaning up and protecting the Bay ecosystem. CBF and other environmental groups filed an amicus curiae brief in the case arguing that the Sacketts’ “backward interpretation” of the Clean Water Act would undermine the law’s intent and ignores scientific facts. Restoring and protecting wetlands is important to the Bay cleanup because they are natural filters, trapping polluted runoff from farms, suburban housing developments, and city streets before it can reach waterways that empty into the Bay. A ruling in the case is not expected for several months.
CBF Calls for Nature-Based Solutions to Address Coastal Climate Change
The Federal Office urged the Biden administration to incorporate living shorelines, restored oyster reefs, and other nature based approaches into its plan for mitigating and adapting to climate change effects on our coasts. Using natural materials like native plants often costs less than installing wooden bulkheads, rock walls, and other harden structures. Natural materials also can absorb wave energy, improve water quality, and provide habitat for fish and wildlife, in addition to helping to mitigate the impacts of rising seas and more intense storms.
CBF also stressed the importance of protecting disadvantaged communities, which are more likely to live in areas threatened by climate change but often lack the funds to relocate or improve their resiliency to its effects. CBF made its recommendations in comments submitted to the White House in November.
Interim Federal Affairs Executive Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Historic Funding for Farm Conservation Will Boost Bay Restoration
The climate and clean energy legislation enacted in August includes more than $20 billion for farm conservation practices that improve water quality and soil health, sequester carbon, and reduce greenhouse gases. The increase represents the largest federal investment in agriculture conservation in a generation.
While the extra money will boost conservation programs open to farmers nationwide, it represents an excellent opportunity for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ramp up the financial and technical support it provides to farmers in the Bay's six-state watershed.
Farmers across the Chesapeake region must come up with roughly 90 percent of the remaining pollution cuts needed to restore the health of the Bay and its tributaries. Adopting practices such as planting forested buffers and cover crops also will enable farmers to help fight climate change and mitigate its effects on their farms and throughout the Bay area.
Supreme Court Narrows EPA Climate Change Authority
The Supreme Court narrowed EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in a June 30 decision. The decision could also tie the agency's hands when drafting future environmental protections important to fighting climate change and restoring the Bay.
The court ruled in West Virginia v. EPA that EPA lacked the authority to require fossil fuel-fired power plants to switch to clean energy sources to meet new GHG emissions limits. But the decision still leaves room for EPA to act on its duty to tackle carbon emissions from power plants. Because one-third of nitrogen pollution in the Bay and its tributaries comes from the air, reducing these emissions is essential to saving this national treature.
Curbing GHG emissions is also vital to combating the effects of climate change already wreaking havoc in the region, like rising seas and more frequent, intense flooding. The Federal Office is urging EPA to issue a new rule to cut power plant carbon emissions as soon as possible.
House Boosts Funding for Priority Programs in Fiscal Year 2023
The House of Representatives recently approved increased investments for critical clean water programs as part of the fiscal year 2023 appropriations process. These programs will bring us closer to reaching the pollution reductions outlined in the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint and increased funding is critical.
The House approved budget includes a $4 million increase to the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program, the federal-state-local partnership dedicated to restoring the Bay and its tributaries. This would boost the Bay Program’s budget to $92 million, an increase over the current spending level of $88 million. This is supplemented by the additional $47.6 million annually, provided by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
The House also approved a $1.02 billion for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Conservation Programs, a welcome increase from the $760 million allocated in the FY22 budget. This funding supports the agricultural community in implementing conservation practices that improve water quality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and build climate resilience. CBF has also encouraged that additional conservation assistance funding be directed to Pennsylvania to address critical conservation needs and backlogs.
In another win, the bill appropriated $15 million for the Chesapeake Watershed Investments for Landscape Defense (WILD) program. The competitive grant program was created in October 2020 to support local efforts to conserve wetlands, reduce water pollution, and restore fish and wildlife habitat, but it was only funded at $4 million in FY22. With a boost to $15 million, this program will allow local partners increase their on-the-ground work in restoring habitats and more!
Finally, $3.5 million for the Army Corps of engineers to carry out large-scale oyster restoration projects across the watershed was included in the House bill. This is critical in order to meet the Bay Agreement's goal of restoring native oyster populations in the 11 Bay tributaries by 2025. Oysters filter algae, sediment, and other pollutants from our waters, while also providing habitat for fish, crabs, and other Bay species. CBF and partners across the watershed have made significant progress in restoring the once booming oyster populations to tributaries around the watershed, and this funding is essential to continuing the efforts to restore this iconic species to our waters.
Over the next couple of months, the Senate will prepare its version of the appropriations bill. This must be completed by September 30 in order to pass final FY23 funding package for these key programs.
Interim Federal Affairs Executive Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Federal Budget Includes Increases for Priority Programs
The $1.5 trillion omnibus package that set final fiscal year 2022 spending levels for the federal government increased funding for three programs integral to restoring the Bay, its tributaries, and wildlife habitat across the watershed. Although fiscal year 2022 began last October 1, federal agencies had to continue operating under their fiscal year 2021 budgets until the omnibus was enacted in March.
The measure raised funding for EPA's Chesapeake Bay Program, which coordinates the federal-state-local clean-up effort, from $87.5 million in fiscal year 2021 to $88 million for fiscal year 2022. President Biden's fiscal year 2023 budget request would boost that to $90.6 million. The fiscal year 2022 omnibus also bumped up spending on technical assistance for farmers enrolled in federal conservation programs from $734 in fiscal year 2021 to $760 million for fiscal year 2022. Biden's budget would boost the amount to $885 million in fiscal year 2023. A portion of the technical assistance funds helps watershed farmers adopt practices that reduce polluted runoff into the Bay and the local streams and rivers that feed into it.
In another win, the omnibus appropriated $4 million for the new Chesapeake Watershed Investments for Landscape Defense (WILD) program. Created in 2020 but not funded in fiscal 2021, the program will support local efforts to conserve and restore fish and wildlife habitat.
Report Highlights Benefits of Farm Conservation Practices
CBF released a new report, Farm Forward, that details the multiple benefits of conservation practices essential to cleaning up the Bay. CBF wants the Biden administration to dramatically increase funds for federal farm conservation programs. Agriculture must make roughly 80 percent of the pollution cuts still needed to restore the Bay. These programs provide financial and technical help to farmers who adopt practices, such as planting forested buffers along waterways, that keep polluted runoff out of the Bay and its tributaries. Farm Forward bolsters the case for spending more on conservation programs by explaining how these practices also fight climate change, improve soil health, spur local economies, and boost farmers' bottom lines.
CBF Supports Interim Wetlands Definition
CBF filed comments supporting the Biden administration's proposal to repeal its predecessor's dangerously narrow definition of wetlands protected under the Clean Water Act and temporarily replace it with an updated version of the stronger definition used before 2015. While CBF considers the temporary definition a good first step, we called on the administration to do more to ensure strong federal protections for ecologically important wetlands in the Bay watershed. CBF also urged the administration to thoroughly consider how the new definition it ultimately writes would affect socially under-resourced communities already overburdened by the effects of wetlands loss.
Federal Affairs Executive Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Encouraging Start for Federal Budget
Fiscal year 2022 spending bills moving through the U.S. House of Representatives include encouraging funding levels for several CBF priorities. EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program would see a $3 million increase, from $87.5 million this year to $90.5 million in fiscal 2022. Such robust funding is essential for the program to lead the federal-state-local government partnership in meeting its 2025 deadline for adopting practices to improve water quality in the Bay and its waterways. The Interior Department would get $15 million for the new Chesapeake Watershed Investments for Landscape Defense Program, which will provide grant funding for projects to restore water quality and wildlife habitat across the watershed. Funding for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) regional environmental education programs next year would rise to $12 million from $7.75 million currently. The Chesapeake Bay Watershed Education and Training Program is funded through this account. NOAA’s habitat conservation program, which helps support oyster restoration in the watershed, would see its budget increase from $57.6 million this year to $61.5 million in fiscal 2022. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would be allocated $3.9 million next year for its oyster recovery work, in line with President Biden’s fiscal 2022 budget.
Senate Infrastructure Bill Has Big Boost for Bay Restoration
The Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure bill would boost the yearly budget of EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program by $238 million over five years, or $47.6 million annually from fiscal year 2022 through 2027. That increase would come on top of the program’s annual appropriation from Congress. If the House accepts this bump-up and the Senate accepts the House’s $90.5 million appropriation for next year, the program’s budget would soar from $87.5 million currently to $135.1 million in fiscal 2022.
Stricter Limits Proposed
The Biden administration proposed new limits on vehicle greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy requirements that are an improvement over the dramatically weaker standards the Trump administration proposed last year but not as protective as the original Obama administration standards. Vehicles that burn less gasoline and emit fewer pollutants and greenhouse gases are key to addressing climate change and reducing nitrogen pollution in the Bay watershed. CBF is urging the White House to strengthen its current proposal, which covers new cars, SUVs, and pickup trucks made between 2023 and 2026, as well as propose even more ambitious standards for vehicles manufactured after 2026.
Federal Affairs Executive Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Aid for the Bay’s Seafood Industry
The Federal Affairs Office has been deeply engaged in securing aid for the Bay’s struggling seafood industry, which is still reeling from the widespread closure of restaurants, seafood markets, and processing houses due to COVID-19. CBF, the Chesapeake Oyster Alliance, and our congressional partners in Congress successfully advocated for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to make shellfish aquaculture eligible for pandemic aid after it initially excluded growers from all USDA relief programs. CBF and Alliance members continue to work with the Bay delegation in Congress to increase aid to the watershed’s seafood industry in a future relief bill as the aid package enacted in March allotted less than $10 million to seafood producers in Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia.
Fighting for the Bay in Federal Court
CBF attorneys are busy fighting dangerous new Trump administration environmental rules that threaten the Bay watershed. CBF joined with Maryland-based nonprofit ShoreRivers on April 27 to sue the Environmental Protection Agency over its restrictive new definition of Waters of the United States (WOTUS). The rule canceled protections for many wetlands and streams essential to restoring the health of the Bay and its waterways by the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint’s 2025 deadline. CBF is also part of a 12-group coalition that sued the administration on May 27 for dramatically weakening clean car and fuel economy standards vital to cleaning up the watershed and protecting it from climate change. And on June 19, CBF and 22 allied organizations sued EPA for gutting the legal basis for successful limits on mercury and other toxic chemical emissions from coal- and oilfired power plants.
New Rules Undermine Environmental Magna Carta
CBF is considering all options to oppose the Trump administration’s assault on a law known as the Magna Carta of the environmental movement, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Enacted in 1970, NEPA is the only law that expressly requires the federal government to get citizen input on how major projects that require a federal permit, such as construction of a highway or dam, would affect the local environment. The new rules the White House released on July 15 undermine the law’s fundamental purposes of ensuring the government weighs the environmental consequences of major actions it approves, considers less harmful alternatives, and involves members of the public in the process. Gutting these protections will be especially harmful to low-income and minority communities that often lack the financial means and political clout to protect themselves from polluting projects.
Federal Executive Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
During these trying times, CBF continues to advocate for the Bay
While CBF’s offices are closed to keep staff safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, our work in Washington, D.C., continues in earnest. In fact, our focus on protecting the Bay and ensuring the people who live, work, and enjoy our national treasure can do so long into the future has never been more important. Over the past few months, we have held the administration accountable for regulatory rollbacks that would harm the health of the Bay, pushed Congress to fund critical restoration programs, and championed legislation to benefit the Bay.
Congress has taken significant actions to respond to the coronavirus crisis and discussions continue about further aid packages. CBF is working with Congressional leadership and members of the Congressional Bay delegation to ensure that future aid and recovery legislation protects the Chesapeake Bay watershed’s economy, helps restore the Bay, and provides and supports employment throughout the watershed.
Our priorities include ensuring
- investments in green infrastructure and other tools to reduce pollution flowing into our waterways;
- access to important recovery funds and markets like food banks and other food emergency programs for farmers and shellfish growers;
- and installation of conservation practices to supports jobs and limit pollution across the watershed.
Support for the Chesapeake Bay Program
Key to a restored Bay is the Chesapeake Bay Program—a partnership between the federal government, the six Bay watershed states, and the District of Columbia. The Chesapeake Bay Program provides vital grants and funding and runs programs to ensure states are making progress in their restoration commitments. To demonstrate Congress’s continued bipartisan commitment to a restored Bay, the House and Senate have passed legislation to reauthorize the Chesapeake Bay Program. While Congress has continued to fund the Program since the last authorization expired in 2005, it is important that as the 2025 deadline to implement pollution controls quickly approaches, Congress demonstrate its continued bipartisan commitment to a restored Bay by updating the legislation.
The Senate began 2020 by passing the America’s Conservation Enhancement Act, a package of conservation bills that includes language to renew the Chesapeake Bay Program. In early February, the House also acted in a bipartisan manner to reauthorize the Bay Program by passing a bill sponsored by Rep. Elaine Luria (VA-2). While these legislative efforts are temporarily on hold, CBF continues to work with members of Congress to reinvigorate this critical program and ensure the federal government remains committed to providing essential funding to meet the goals of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint for restoring the Bay and more than 111,000 miles of local creeks, streams, and rivers in its watershed.
Funding for Chesapeake Bay Restoration Priorities
On February 10, President Trump released his proposed budget for fiscal year 2021, which will begin on October 1, 2020. Congress ultimately is responsible for setting annual spending levels for the federal government, and CBF is working closely with the watershed delegation to ensure Chesapeake Bay priorities continue to be funded, including the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program , the Army Corps of Engineers oyster restoration initiatives, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries and Watershed education programs.
Increasing Effectiveness of Conservation Practices
Before Congress narrowed its focus to coronavirus response and recovery, CBF worked closely with members of Congress on the Farmer Driven Conservation Outcomes Act, a bipartisan bill introduced by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Reps. G.T. Thompson (R-PA) and Marcia Fudge (D-OH) in March. This bill would assess the effectiveness of agricultural conservation practices and provide guidance on how to improve implementation to achieve the best possible conservation results. We are proud to support this legislation and will continue to work with members to pass this bill.
While the country has been focused on the coronavirus pandemic, the administration has been working to roll back key environmental regulations, eliminating decades of progress for clean air and clean water. CBF remains focused on these rollbacks and is working tirelessly to protect the Bay by submitting comments and engaging with the administration.
Clean Water Rollbacks
The Trump Administration on January 23 unveiled a new rule that slashes protections for wetlands and waterways that are essential to restoring the Chesapeake Bay. The administration’s new definition of ‘Waters of the United States’ that would be protected under the Clean Water Act excludes certain types of wetlands and streams that only flow after heavy rains or snow. It also leaves out waters and wetlands that cross state borders. This new definition would have watershed-wide impacts to the health and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. CBF sued the administration on April 27 to stop the new definition from taking effect.
Clean Air Rollbacks
This spring, the EPA finalized two rules that jeopardize our air and could impact restoration progress in the Bay. On March 31, EPA announced a rule that threatens to accelerate the damaging effects of climate change by weakening greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy standards for cars, pickup trucks, and SUVs. Just a few weeks later, the EPA announced it no longer finds it ‘appropriate and necessary’ to limit toxic mercury air emissions from coal and oil-fired power plants. CBF engaged on both rules, as they will drive up emissions of air pollutants, threatening the Bay and the people that live in the watershed.
Limiting the Role of Citizens and Science in Rulemaking
In January, the Council on Environmental Quality (part of the federal government) proposed sweeping changes that would undermine the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the nation’s bedrock environmental law. The proposal would exclude climate change from the impacts federal agencies must consider when evaluating major federal actions. It also calls for limiting citizens’, participation in the process of reviewing major government projects, such as highways and the construction of oil and natural gas pipelines. CBF submitted comments detailing its objections to this proposed rule on March 10 , alongside over 2,000 CBF members and supporters.
On March 18th, the EPA announced an update to its pending ‘secret science’ proposal that would restrict the types of science the agency can consider when developing regulations that are meant to protect the environment and our health—including disallowing scientific studies that don’t reveal underlying data, such as the identity of participants. Scientific studies, especially those around public health, are designed to protect the identity of participants to ensure their privacy. CBF provided comments, alongside over 12,000 CBF members and supporters.
Implementation of the 2018 Farm Bill
The 2018 Farm Bill made legislative changes to several U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs that help farmers adopt conservation practices that improve water quality in the watershed. The agency has been developing interim regulations to implement the 2018 Farm Bill over the last year, and CBF has been tracking and commenting on those proposals and working with members of Congress to ensure USDA is following the legislative intent.
For example, in February 2020, the USDA issued an interim rule detailing how USDA should implement changes to the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), which is the main source of funding and technical assistance for farmers to install forested stream buffers. The 2018 Farm Bill directed USDA to ensure farmers are adequately compensated for installing and maintaining forested buffers, including a requirement that CREP cover up to 100 percent of the cost of maintaining forested stream buffers once they have been created. Unfortunately, the rule issued by the USDA simply restated their current policies. CBF submitted comments outlining where the rule needs improvement.
On May 12th, CBF submitted comments on the USDA’s interim rule to implement the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) that promotes partner-driven agricultural conservation practices. Here again there are inconsistencies between the legislation and the interim rule, particularly around reporting by USDA and the administrative burdens placed on partners.
Federal Executive Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
CBF has objected forcefully to EPA pursuing its regulatory rollback agenda despite the upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. To safeguard citizens’ right to comment on regulations affecting the Chesapeake Bay and its waterways, CBF urged the Trump administration in a March 23 letter to extend the comment period for all federal regulations not related to COVID-19 until the president lifts the emergency declaration he issued on March 13. EPA hasn’t relented so CBF continues to file comments and engage members to make their voices heard.
In a separate letter to EPA dated March 31, CBF expressed deep concern about the environmental and public health risks of the agency’s decision not to pursue enforcement against permit- holders that claim they cannot comply with their legal obligations because of the COVID-19 emergency especially when there is potential harm to human health. CBF specifically noted the danger of not requiring permit-holders to notify the public when they fail to meet their permit requirements.
Standing up for Clean Air
The Trump administration dramatically weakened federal efforts to cut nitrogen oxide and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions fouling the Bay when it released revised rules governing fuel economy and GHG emissions from cars, SUVs, and pickup trucks on March 31. In place of the Obama-era Clean Cars Rule, which required automakers to improve vehicles’ fuel economy and lower their GHG emissions five percent annually through 2026, the new rule requires standards to lighten by just 1.5 percent a year.
CBF is weighing all options to oppose this rule, which threatens to accelerate the damaging effects of climate change on the Bay region and derail states’ progress towards meeting their 2025 goals for reducing nitrogen pollution under the Bay clean-up plan.
Climate Change and the Permitting Process
Equally dangerous is the White House’s proposal to eliminate climate change from the environmental impacts government agencies must consider when issuing permits for large-scale federal infrastructure projects, like building a pipeline or expanding a highway.
The National Environmental Policy Act requires all federal agencies to evaluate how major projects would affect the surrounding environment, consider less harmful alternatives, make this information public, and get citizens’ input before proceeding.
The White House in January proposed limiting the influence of local communities (and organizations like CBF) on permitting decisions, narrowing the possible alternatives agencies can consider and excluding climate change impacts from the environmental consequences agencies must weigh.
Ignoring climate change isn’t an option when the Bay’s 64,000-square-mile watershed is already grappling with its effects. Sea-level rise is claiming Bay islands. More frequent, intense storms regularly flood low-lying coastal cities like Annapolis and Norfolk. CBF submitted comments objecting to this dangerous proposal on March 10.
Federal Executive Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Congress Pushes Back against Cuts to Bay Funding
In a major win for the Bay cleanup effort, Congress reaffirmed its longstanding, bipartisan support for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Chesapeake Bay Program in the year-end 2020 budget deal by increasing its funding from $73 million to $85 million.
The $12 million increase comes as a direct rebuke of 90 percent cut President Trump proposed in his budget and reflects the fundamental role the Bay Program plays in restoration efforts. The program is the glue that holds together the federal-state partnership to clean up the Bay by coordinating cross-state collaboration, directing funds to state restoration programs, and providing scientific research, modeling, and monitoring across the watershed.
Congress also approved additional funding to implement conservation practices on farms through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, support oyster restoration projects through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, improve public access to the Bay through the National Park Service, and conduct Bay research and educational outreach through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
We thank Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Senators Ben Cardin, Chris Van Hollen, and Shelley Moore Capito, Representatives Dutch Ruppersberger and Matt Cartwright, and members of the House Chesapeake Bay Task Force, led by Representatives Bobby Scott, John Sarbanes, Rob Wittman, and Andy Harris, for their leadership ensuring these critical programs receive additional federal dollars this year.
Congress Pushes Back against Cuts to Bay Funding
The U.S. House of Representatives sent a loud message reaffirming its longstanding support for the Chesapeake Bay when it rebuffed a budget proposal from the Trump administration that would have gutted spending for critical Bay programs.
In June, the House voted to increase funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Chesapeake Bay Program from $73 million to $85 million. It was a direct rebuke of the 90 percent cut proposed by the president’s budget and reflects the fundamental role the Bay Program plays in restoration efforts. The program is the glue that holds together the federal-state partnership to clean up the Bay by coordinating cross-state collaboration, directing funds to state restoration programs, and providing scientific research, modeling, and monitoring across the watershed.
The House also approved funding to implement conservation practices on farms through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, support oyster restoration projects through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, improve public access to the Bay through the National Park Service, and conduct Bay research and educational outreach through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
We thank Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and members of the Bay delegation who ensured the passage of these measures and continued Congress’ strong tradition of bipartisan support for the Bay. As the federal budget process moves to the Senate, CBF will continue advocating for the funding necessary to fully meet Bay restoration goals.
Regulatory Rollbacks Threaten the Bay
Rule Repeals Increase Climate, Air, and Water Pollution Risks
In a big blow to national efforts to combat climate change and air pollution, EPA in June finalized its repeal of the Clean Power Plan. The agency replaced the plan with the Affordable Clean Energy rule (ACE), which contains much weaker goals for reducing harmful emissions of carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides from power plants.
The two pollutants are bad news for the Bay. Roughly a third of the nitrogen pollution in the Bay actually comes from nitrogen oxides in the air, and the weaker standards make it harder to cut this source of pollution. Allowing higher emissions of carbon dioxide will also intensify climate change, which is already causing major problems—like sea level rise—in the Bay watershed.
Unfortunately, the assault on clean air and water continues. We expect the final version of the Safer Affordable Fuel Efficient (SAFE) rule, which will relax fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks, will also fail to make the reductions in carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide pollution that are critical for a healthy Bay.
Weakening Endangered Species Protections
As of press time, we expect the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to finalize changes to Endangered Species Act regulations that will limit protections for plants and animals at risk of extinction. The changes could allow federal officials to consider economic costs and benefits when determining whether to protect species and their habitats.
The Chesapeake Bay and its 64,000-square-mile watershed provide critical habitat to 113 animals and 46 plants protected by the act. Those animals include the Atlantic sturgeon, several species of freshwater mussels, and the leatherback sea turtle. These animals and plants depend on the Endangered Species Act to protect the clean water and healthy ecosystems that enable their populations to rebound. The protection of these—and other species that have yet to be identified—will now be in jeopardy.
Federal Spending Omnibus: A Win for the Bay
Bay Delegation Pushes for Federal Funding
Despite the president’s proposed 90 percent cut to funding for the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program, bi-partisan efforts are moving along in Congress' appropriations process to increase funding from $73 million, which has been appropriated in recent years, to more than $80 million. In fact, House members led by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD 5th District) and Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA 3rd District), John Sarbanes (D-MD 3rd District), and Robert Wittman (R-VA 1st District) spearheaded efforts this year to increase Bay Program funding to $85 million as part of Interior Department budget legislation. In the Senate, Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) has introduced a bill to increase Bay Program funding to $90 million for fiscal year 2020 and steadily increasing the funding in following years.
EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program is the glue that holds the historic federal and state Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint partnership together. Due to the effects of climate change, additional pollution loads from the Conowingo Dam, and the fast-approaching 2025 deadline for meeting the requirements of the Blueprint, the time to accelerate our efforts, including increased funding to the Bay Program, is now!
CBF is also working with members of Congress to ensure that there is adequate funding for other programs that are critical to the restoration of the Bay, including U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (ACOE) Chesapeake Bay Comprehensive Plan, ACOE construction projects for oyster restoration, the recently passed Farm Bill, Bay Watershed Education and Training, Sea Grant, and Chesapeake Gateways.
Currently Protected Waters in Danger
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) are moving ahead with a two-step plan to repeal the 2015 Clean Water Rule and replace it with a much narrower definition of "Waters of the United States" (WOTUS). The replacement proposal narrows the definition of WOTUS to exclude features that only contain water during or in response to rainfall.
This limited reading will have the greatest impact upstream and is a significant problem for Delaware, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia because they rely upon federal law for their clean-water protections. If finalized, this rule will impede the success of the wetland-restoration goals of the Chesapeake Bay Agreement. CBF opposes these efforts and is preparing comments urging EPA and ACOE to withdraw this proposal.
Stay Tuned for Offshore Drilling Plan
CBF opposes offshore drilling because a major spill off the mouth of the Bay could poison wildlife, devastate wetlands and beaches, jeopardize commercial and recreational fishing, increase dead zones, and release considerable amounts of greenhouse gasses. Instead of risking our environment, CBF favors pursuing energy efficiency and conservation now, and developing wind, solar, and other resources for the future.
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.
Federal Spending Omnibus: A Win for the Bay
We're happy to report there's good news out of Washington. On Friday, March 23rd, President Trump signed into law an FY18 omnibus spending bill that fully funds the EPA's Chesapeake Bay Program at $73 million.
The Bay Program is the glue holding the Chesapeake Bay Agreement together. An excellent steward of taxpayer money and a model of cooperative federalism, the Bay Program has enjoyed strong bipartisan support for decades. Despite this, the President's FY18 budget proposal threatened to eliminate this program.
Across the watershed, CBF members worked to preserve funding for the Bay Program. Through emails to members of congress and letters to local papers, we got the word out. A team of 20 super-committed CBF volunteers from Virginia met with their representatives on Capitol Hill. They educated members of Congress about how the Bay Program benefits their districts' local waterways through projects like planting underwater grasses, building oyster reefs, controlling runoff, and even starting a community garden.
Our advocacy helped steer Congress in the right direction. The newly passed spending bill contains no cuts to the Chesapeake Bay Program. The bill also funds NOAA's B-WET environmental education program and contains no cuts to the Farm Bill's agricultural conservation programs.
Additionally, the omnibus includes funding for the U.S. Geological Survey coupled with a statement of support for USGS' role in Chesapeake Bay Restoration. It also excludes a rider that would have undercut the EPA's ability to enforce the Clean Water Blueprint's pollution limits.
While we are encouraged by this success on the Hill, the fight is far from over. The President's FY19 budget proposal threatens to cut the Bay Program by 90%. Find and contact your member of Congress to tell them why the Bay Program matters to you. If we all speak up, we can make sure the federal government keeps its commitment to restoring the Chesapeake Bay.
Tell Congress to Protect and Fund the Chesapeake Bay Program
It's been a long nine months for everyone on our federal team, but we are finally closing in on the December deadline for Congress to decide the fate of the Chesapeake Bay Program—the historic federal-state partnership that is the hallmark of what could become the most successful estuary restoration effort in the world. Unless it gets stopped in its tracks.
In May, when the Administration proposed eliminating this program, we were shocked. Across the watershed, CBF staff and members started advocating for Congress not only to save this program, but to fully fund it at $73 million.
Why should Congress support the Bay Program? Is it because every dollar invested by Chesapeake Bay Program grants for clean water is nearly doubled by matching funds from local organizations? Or because the Program brings together hundreds of scientists and policy experts from universities and state agencies across the watershed to work tirelessly together to plan, track, and report on the hundreds of activities and tasks that are necessary to achieve the many goals and objectives they are pursuing? Or because it's important for the federal government to support the states and the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, a historic voluntary agreement signed by every state in the watershed? Or perhaps for the simple reason that it is working.
To help answer that question, we brought volunteers to Washington, D.C., to tell their Members of Congress why the Program is important to their state and community. They told stories and showed pictures of the incredible improvements they are seeing in local waterways. And they heard, “I am with you!” from many, including Congressman Scott Taylor (R-VA) who sits on the powerful House Appropriations committee.
Deeply concerned, the entire Maryland delegation, led by Senators Cardin and Van Hollen, invited CBF President Will Baker to meet with them in June to discuss the Program and what could be lost if it disappeared. Senator Cardin has introduced a bill to preserve the Program and Senator Van Hollen pledged to lead the fight for funding in the Senate Appropriations Committee.
In September, we brought Congress members and staff on the Potomac River so they could experience firsthand how beautiful—and fragile—our recovering waterways are.
Now that we're heading into December, the deadline to pass a funding bill is close at hand. While we can't know the fate of the Chesapeake Bay Program, we do know that our Members of Congress hold the key to whether it stays or goes. Contact them today and urge them to support full funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program before it's too late.
Federal Policy Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
P.S. Senator Van Hollen has recently introduced a CBF-supported bill that has the potential to greatly help Bay farmers. Please consider thanking Senator Van Hollen and other Bay leaders who support the Chesapeake Bay Farm Bill Enhancements Act of 2017.
Standing up for the Blueprint
Across the Chesapeake region, citizens, businesses, and governments—from both sides of the aisle—are rolling up their sleeves to reduce pollution to our rivers, streams, and Bay. And it is working. In fact, our recent State of the Bay Report showed the Bay's health earned its highest score ever!
Bay grasses and crabs are up, the water is the clearest it's been in decades, and the dead zone is trending smaller. Clearly the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint—the state-federal partnership to reduce pollution and Save the Bay—is working. But the recovery is fragile, and it is imperative that all 18 million of us who call the Bay region home recognize that the Bay is not saved yet. Not by a long shot.
In these uncertain times, it is more important than ever that citizens let their elected officials know that clean water should be an important priority.
With that in mind, here are a few resources to help you understand the issues at hand and to help you speak out on behalf of clean water everywhere:
- VIDEO: CBF President Will Baker on Proposed Federal Budget
- PRESS STATEMENT: CBF Issues Statement on Elimination of Funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program
- PODCAST: ALERT! Proposed Budget Cuts Bay Clean Up
- A Congressional Bipartisan Letter of Support for Chesapeake Bay Investment to President Donald Trump
- A letter from Chesapeake Bay Senators Urging Appropriators to Reject the Trump Administration's Dangerous Cuts to Bay Funding
- Presidential Executive Order on Reducing Regulations: How It Could Affect Chesapeake Bay Restoration
- The Clean Power Plan: How It Could Affect Chesapeake Bay Restoration
- Examples of citizens of all walks of life taking action and speaking out for the Bay and its rivers and streams in Letters to the Editor, op-eds, blogs, and so on:
- Harry Lester: Chesapeake Bay's Future Imperiled
- Desires Clean Water
- Save the Bay: Slashes to EPA Funding Would Reverse Years of Progress
- Prioritize Funding for Clean Water
- Your View: Conservation Funding Vital to Clean Water
- A healthy Bay remains a top priority
- Three Examples Show How Ripples Can Become Waves to Save the Bay
- Restoring, Protecting our Resource is a Priority
- Editorial: The Chesapeake Begins to Come Back
- Farm Bureau, Chesapeake Bay Foundation Both Backing Cost Share Program
- Harry Lester: Clean Water Remains a Priority
- Letter: Saving the Bay
- We Must Invest in the Future
- Protecting the Bay
All of us who love the Bay and its rivers and streams, must continue to do our part in restoring it. Our economy, our environment, and our health depend on it.
The Beginning of a New Commitment
At CBF, we believe in new beginnings. For more than a year, we have been sounding the alarm in Washington that the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint was in peril because Pennsylvania was far behind in its work to reduce pollution flowing into its rivers and streams and the Bay. But on October 4, something changed. Dramatically.
To refresh: In early 2015, when it was clear Pennsylvania was falling behind in its work with farmers, CBF brought that message to Washington. By May, Senators Cardin and Casey took action to help PA farmers. They urged USDA to "enhance the resources it is allocating to the Susquehanna River Basin, as well as to take greater responsibility and demonstrate on the ground leadership as a federal partner to the Chesapeake Bay Program." But USDA was unable to do more.
By early 2016, the situation got worse: Pennsylvania was so far behind that it would miss the nitrogen pollution-reduction goals for the critical 2017 Mid-Point Assessment of the Blueprint. Again, CBF brought that message to Washington. We worked with the White House; we worked with our champions in the Senate and the House; and we worked with USDA and EPA. We said: It's not about the money; it's about results. And we urged greater investment in the most strategic, cost-effective opportunities for reducing pollution in Pennsylvania and downstream.
And then, on October 4, federal and state partners finally announced what we believe is a new beginning for Pennsylvania and the Blueprint: an investment of more than $28 million dollars to enhance and accelerate farmers’ pollution-reduction efforts in Pennsylvania.
The new federal and state funding to come from EPA, USDA, and Pennsylvania will allow more farmers in the Commonwealth to take critical steps like planting streamside buffers and cover crops, actions that will make a big difference for Pennsylvania waters and the Chesapeake Bay. Strategically investing in the practices, places, and people that will provide the biggest return is the best way to get the Blueprint back on track.
Today, the state of the Blueprint—the historic federal and state collaboration is strong. Senators Cardin and Casey have earned our greatest respect and gratitude for their leadership, without which this day might not have come. October 4 truly marks the beginning of a new commitment to meeting our clean water goals. Working together, we can and will achieve productive farms, and clean, healthy waters for the benefit of all.
Federal Policy Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Senator Mikulski: A Champion for the Bay
Every now and then you hear someone speak and their voice is so strong and clear, you stop and listen. Somehow they put into words things you have been thinking for a while—eloquently. And you decide then and there to follow their lead. Maybe it's the new rector at your church, or your child's new teacher. Or maybe, just maybe, it's a senator. For 45 years, Senator Mikulski of Maryland has been speaking—and leading—with a strong voice about something that matters to us a lot: saving the Chesapeake Bay.
"The Chesapeake Bay is a natural resource critical to our economy, culture, and heritage. You can count on me to fight to protect the Chesapeake Bay and protect the lives and livelihoods that depend on it." –U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.)
This year—her last in Congress—the Bay needs Senator Mikulski to fight the fight of her life. In February, we explained how Pennsylvania is so far behind in reducing nitrogen pollution from agriculture that it has made the whole region off track. But we also explained that there are waiting lists of farmers who want to do their part but need support. With the right federal support, the Bay cleanup can in fact get back on track.
This is the kind of fight Senator Mikulski does best, and there are three key points that are critical to her fight:
- Senator Mikulski has an incredible track record of securing strong federal funding for Bay Cleanup.
- Members of Congress from the Bay Watershed know how important it is to support farmers—because they have heard from you.
- Now, Senator Mikulski is not fighting alone.
On April 16, 2016, Bay watershed senators wrote directly to Appropriators in support of the Bay and clean water across the region: "States have committed to restore water quality in the Bay by 2025 and to coordinate their restoration programs. We must maintain federal investment . . ."
Speaking, leading, and fighting for the Bay. These are the core qualities of Senator Mikulski—and CBF. In September, when the funding bills must be passed, we hope we can add "Winning strong support for Bay farmers" to this list. Because with federal leadership, we can get the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint back on track, and Senator Mikulski can leave office with a legacy of fighting and winning for the Bay, bar none.
Federal Policy Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
In Washington, Groundhog Day always makes us stop and dream about spring, when the dogwood trees will suddenly bloom and the shad will start running up the Potomac in droves. Will it come soon?! It also means the President is about to unveil his budget for the next year. Will he provide the leadership we need to clean the Bay? Will he provide strong support for our communities and our farmers as we work to reduce nutrient pollution? On February 9, we will find out.
This year, the President's leadership is more important than ever. In December, we explained how Pennsylvania is so far behind in reducing nitrogen pollution from agriculture that it has made the whole region off track. This is a very serious development, particularly since Pennsylvania has recently reported a $2.3 billion deficit. On the other hand, we also know that our restoration staff (who work directly with family farmers in Pennsylvania) have waiting lists of farmers who want their help to reduce the pollution coming off their lands and into the water. This gives us hope.
There are some other things that give us hope:
- The President, in his very first Executive Order, declared the Chesapeake Bay a National Treasure and pledged federal leadership to help states restore the Bay and its waters.
- Federal agencies, especially USDA, have incredible tools and resources to help family farmers reduce nitrogen pollution coming off the land during this critical time. How do we know this? Because at CBF, we partner with USDA and farmers throughout the watershed—every day—on projects that do this.
- Members of Congress, like Senators Casey and Cardin, have heard from CBF members like you that supporting family farmers is important. For months, they have been asking the Administration to help family farmers in the watershed reduce nitrogen pollution.
So while we can't tell you if spring will come early, we can tell you that with federal leadership, we can get the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint back on track. And on February 10, you can look to CBF to find out how strong the President's plans are for the Bay this year.
Federal Policy Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
FALL-ing Behind in Pennsylvania
It's great to get outdoors in the fall and enjoy the foliage and pick apples and carve pumpkins on local farms. Our family farmers are stewards of the earth. For generations they have worked hard to protect our land and water, while producing healthy foods.
However, agricultural pollution from farms can end up in our rivers and streams. In Pennsylvania, like other watershed states, farmers need to keep excess nutrients—especially nitrogen—from polluting local rivers and the Bay in order to meet their 2017 Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint goals. A lot of nitrogen: 23 million pounds per year of nitrogen inputs. And they are falling even further behind.
Governor Wolf of Pennsylvania inherited this challenge, and we believe he is working in good faith to address it. But the Keystone State is so far behind in meeting its clean water commitments that it has made the entire region off track. That's why Senator Cardin of Maryland and Senator Casey of Pennsylvania are so concerned.
At USDA, Secretary Vilsack has the tools and resources that can help family farmers in Pennsylvania protect our land and water during this critical time. We need his increased leadership and support now more than ever.
CBF's team in D.C. is delivering this message on the Hill every day, and you can really help us! Did you know that Congress really listens when you tweet?! Believe it or not, it's true.
So we thought we'd offer up some Twitter ideas for you:
Suggested Tweets to USDA Secretary Vilsack:
.@USDA Please help Susquehanna River watershed farmers! USDA & PA can get the Blueprint back on track and save local waters and the #chesbay
.@USDA leadership, #PA can get back on track and save local waters and the #chesbay!
.@SenatorCardin & @SenBobCasey PA farmers need help with the Blueprint and Senators Cardin and Casey are leading the way. Thank you!
This Is Not the Time to Stop
Five years . . . this is how long we've had our formal federal-state Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint in place to restore the Bay—a partnership that is making incredible progress towards cleaning up the Bay. But one amendment on a funding bill in the House is poised to undermine this partnership and reverse the incredible progress states have been making.
This amendment, submitted by Congressman Bob Goodlatte from the 6th District of Virginia, would prohibit EPA from spending any funds on "backstops," the key tool that protects Bay states' work and investments in a clean Bay. How would this hurt the Blueprint? States are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in their Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint Plans. They know that if one state does not implement their plan in good faith, they jeopardize the work and investments of all other states. If this happens, EPA will take "backstop" actions by using existing authorities in the outlier state to make the needed pollution reductions. The "backstops" provide each state the certainty that all will take steps simultaneously towards a cleaner and healthier Chesapeake Bay.
We have been very concerned about this amendment because it would allow one state to break its agreement, stop implementing its plan, and jeopardize the work and investments of other states. In short, if this amendment becomes law there would be no tool to protect state investments in the extraordinary future that we have all been working towards: a vibrant Chesapeake Bay with abundant seafood, tourism, recreation, and improved quality of life.
So we have been getting the word out in watershed states and on the Hill. We have had incredible support from CBF members who have written letters to Congress and have talked to local papers and leaders in support of these "backstops." With your support behind us, we have been asking members of Congress to say NO to this amendment. Fortunately, they are listening. Representatives Hoyer, Van Hollen, Edwards, and Ruppersberger of Maryland and Representatives Scott and Beyer of Virginia rallied in opposition when the amendment was introduced on the House floor and helped highlight the impacts it would have if it were passed. And right now, the bill and thus the amendment has stalled and may never be voted on.
We will keep you posted on the amendment's fate. And we will get back to work on what we do need: increased federal support for watershed states, and particularly watershed farmers, who are on the front lines of this historic federal-state clean-up effort. Our message on the Hill? This is not the time to stop. This is the time to invest in our communities and in our farmers so we can make history!
Clean Water Is Worth It
Did you know that when there are big rain storms in the D.C. region, polluted runoff and sometimes even raw sewage overflows into local rivers like the Potomac and Anacostia and on into the Bay?!
The good news is that local communities are investing in projects throughout the watershed that, when complete, will capture this runoff and help meet the pollution-reduction targets in the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.
The latest example is in Prince George's County, MD, where it has created an innovative $100 million Clean Water Partnership, which will result in the retrofit of at least 2,000 acres—with installations such as permeable pavers and rain gardens—and ultimately thousands of local jobs. As EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy recently noted, "By providing innovative financing support for sustainable and resilient water infrastructure, this collaboration will help the community improve their drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater systems."
But how will we pay for it? What is unique about the Clean Water Partnership is it bundles many small green infrastructure projects into one, which allows them to finance it using local revenues from the local stormwater fee. Federal funds are also available. The main federal program that provides funding for water infrastructure projects is the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF).
Prince George's County can use this fund when it is ready to construct projects. A private company, Corvias, will manage the design, construction, and long-term maintenance of the project. If Corvias meets targets for efficiencies in construction and success in local business and jobs development, it will have the option to retrofit an additional 2,000 acres.
Unfortunately, President Obama has proposed to cut the CWSRF. Like PG County, Washington D.C. and other local and state governments rely on this fund for financing projects. This is one of many federal programs CBF is fighting for in Congress that help state and local governments afford to make necessary changes to reduce water pollution.
Clean water is worth it. As noted in the Economics Benefits of Cleaning up the Chesapeake report, the Chesapeake Bay is an economic engine that will provide at least $130 billion in benefits to the region annually when the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint is fully implemented. But we will only see these benefits if we can make the necessary investments in projects like the Clean Water Partnership. We are working hard on the Hill to fight for critical federal support for clean water.
News, Notes, and Priorities for the Year
February 2015—The agricultural community plays a vital role in the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint by reducing nutrient and sediment runoff through innovative best management practices (BMPs). Farmers and ranchers implement BMPs with critical federal funding support through programs that are authorized in the Farm Bill. However, the President's recently released Fiscal Year 2016 Budget proposes cuts to some of the funding that is essential to these programs. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, along with 34 other organizations, has signed a letter to the House and Senate budget committees urging them to "keep the commitment passed just one year ago to the original and best stewards of the land, America's farmers and ranchers," by rejecting the funding cuts proposed in the President's Fiscal Year 2016 Budget. Read the letter
Clean Water Progress on the Hill
strong>January 2015—As the snow begins to fall around the D.C. metropolitan area, and the new Congress is ushered into session, it is a great time to note the progress we made in the last Congress and look ahead to the next.
And we DID make progress! Important initiatives and funding for the Bay were passed: a new program that helps Bay watershed farmers reduce water pollution, continuation of NOAA's excellent Bay education program for teachers and students, increased support for EPA's Chesapeake Bay Program. And the latest win in December: the Chesapeake Bay Accountability and Recovery Act. Thanks to a bipartisan team from Virginia—Congressman Rob Wittman and Senator Mark Warner—we now have new tools for tracking and assessing the progress of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.
The Accountability and Recovery Act will ensure that we have a full-detailed report every year of all the Bay restoration projects, including which projects are planned and completed by each federal agency, and how much is being spent. As Senator Warner stated in a news release, "[t]he Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure that is central to the culture and the economy of many coastal communities in Virginia and neighboring states. In order to be successful in our efforts to improve the health of the Bay, the different agencies and groups who share concerns about the Bay must do a better job of coordinating their efforts." And Congressman Wittman stated that the Chesapeake Bay Accountability and Recovery Act " . . . will bring transparency to Bay restoration and ensure efforts and funds from the various entities involved are being harnessed effectively."
>At CBF, we will use this new report to help answer this question: Is the federal government doing its part to help us clean the Bay? Our members of Congress will do the same—and working together we will strive to ensure that agencies have the resources they need to be good partners with states.
Looking forward, CBF's federal team is now focused on funding for Bay priorities. President Obama will release his budget in February and soon after that, Congress will begin its budget and funding process. Thanks to Chairwoman Mikulski of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Congressmen Moran and Wolf, the Bay cleanup received strong funding for 2015. CBF President Will Baker recently commended them for this support: "[t]he federal government plays a crucial role in restoring the Chesapeake Bay. Thanks to the bipartisan work of the Bay delegation, this budget bill helps Bay states reach their clean water goals. These budget investments will sustain the region's economy as well as its environment."
We now know, thanks to the diligent work of CBF scientists, that to meet the Blueprint targets in 2017 and final goals in 2025, both the state and federal governments must accelerate pollution reductions. On the Hill, we will work with policymakers to make sure they have the tools and resources they need to meet these goals.
Clean Water Momentum on the Hill
Four Things You Need to Know About the Impaired Waters Improvement Act
As the leaves begin to turn vibrant colors throughout the watershed, Members of Congress will be returning to marbled hallways of Capitol Hill to finish up the 113th Congressional Session. For CBF, during the last few months of 2014, gaining support for critical pieces of legislation becomes more important than ever.
A top federal priority for the Chesapeake Bay is the Impaired Waters Improvement Act (H.R. 4739), a bill that can benefit both the region and the rest of the country. H.R. 4739 establishes a grant program that will provide funding to help communities and farmers implement projects that will reduce nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment. Below are four things that you need to know about the Impaired Waters Improvement Act:
- Democrats and republicans are working together to save the Bay
The Impaired Waters Improvement Act was written and introduced by Republican Representative Tom Reed from the 23rd District of New York (within the Bay watershed) and Democratic Representative Patrick Murphy from the 18th District of Florida. The bill is supported by two other Bay watershed representatives, Republican Congressman Chris Gibson from the 19th District of New York and Democratic Congresswoman Eleanor Norton from the District of Columbia. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Federal Affairs Office in D.C. is working with Congress to gain further bipartisan support for this bill.
- It provides tools and resources for small communities and farmers to reduce pollution
Local communities and farmers will truly benefit from the passage of the Impaired Waters Improvement Act. Instead of seeing new taxes to cover loans, small communities will get grants for improving their publicly owned treatment works or a publicly owned stormwater management practices. This includes many communities within the Bay watershed that have a federal blueprint for nitrogen, phosphorus, or sediment. The same goes for family farmers. Privately owned farms in an area that has a local cleanup plan for nitrogen, phosphorus, or sediment would be able to receive funding for those pollution reduction projects.
- Polluters pay into a specific fund
This bill sounds like it will create a great program, right? But, does the money come from the local taxpayers? No! The Impaired Waters Improvement Act creates an "Impaired Waters Trust Fund" within the U.S. Treasury Department. Violators of the Clean Water Act would be fined an additional 5 percent, which will be deposited directly into the newly created trust fund. The money would then be given to local communities and farmers, through grants.
- You can help!
Your voice in support of clean water is critical to this effort! Your Member of Congress wants and needs to hear from you. Sending a letter to your elected official in support of the Impaired Waters Improvement Act will help bring attention to this bipartisan funding resource for local communities and farmers. Keep your letters brief, specific and polite; and, remember to ask for a reply. You can find your Congressional Representative online by entering your zip code here.
Recent Bi-partisan Legislation Will Improve Local Water Quality
New York Stands Up for Clean Water!
When people think of the Chesapeake Bay, most do not immediately think of New York. But, the Empire State includes 6,250 square miles of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Nestled in the southwestern corner of New York sits the 23rd Congressional District, which includes the towns of Ithaca and Corning. Home to the Chemung and Susquehanna Rivers, this district is represented by Republican Congressman Tom Reed.
This summer Congressman Reed introduced bi-partisan legislation to help local communities in the Chesapeake region improve water quality. Reed teamed up with Congressman Patrick Murphy, a democrat from Florida, to introduce a bill that establishes a grant program to help local governments and farmers implement methods to reduce nutrient runoff that can have a serious impact on waterways.
This piece of legislation is suitably named the Impaired Waters Improvement Act.
According to the recently released milestone analysis of the progress Bay watershed states are making under the Blueprint, states are struggling to reduce pollution from urban and suburban polluted runoff, in part due to funding issues. The Impaired Waters Improvement Act will create a grants program—at no cost to taxpayers—to help them.
Time and again, we have seen that when communities have necessary funding, they are able to create and implement common sense plans to reduce polluted runoff. If done properly, these efforts can save municipalities money in the long run. Lancaster, Pennsylvania provides a glowing example. Lancaster City has a comprehensive Green Infrastructure Plan that addresses polluted runoff. For example, the city has identified approximately 20 street blocks that are scheduled for repair and will use porous pavement for these repairs to allow water to seep through. Over the next 25 years, some 450 blocks will be developed similarly. The city estimates that its efforts will save $121.7 million over the next 25 years.
CBF, in a partnership with the Center for Watershed Protection, has been working to help other Pennsylvania municipalities develop similar plans to address their runoff challenges. The Impaired Waters Improvement Act would provide funding to help communities implement these plans.
"Our farmers, our communities need help to improve runoff practices and community sewer and wastewater systems," said Congressman Reed. "Farmers and communities working hard to meet water quality requirements fairly deserve this help. I'm proud to join with my friend from across the aisle, Rep. Patrick Murphy, on this bill to care for water quality."
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation applauds Congressman Reed for introducing this bill which will help local governments manage against the increasing pollution associated with runoff and restore local rivers, streams, and the Bay.
What to Expect from the Farm Bill
New Farm Bill Supports Blueprint Goals
The cherry blossom trees have bloomed along the Potomac River after an unseasonably cold and snowy winter in the District of Columbia. Over the past few months Congress has been working to put the shutdown behind them, and pass effective legislation. The 2014 Farm Bill can serve as a tally mark in the win column, with its passage in January.
The Farm Bill's passage represents a successful bipartisan effort to continue to help family farmers that are working to implement the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. CBF's agricultural specialists throughout the Bay watershed help these farmers use Farm Bill conservation programs to share the costs of new farm practices that better protect the streams that flow through their lands.
Mike Marquardt, who operates Marquardt Farms in Spring Mills, Pennsylvania, now uses cover crops thanks to support from specialists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture who helped him select and pay for installation. This support is provided through the Farm Bill's Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Marquardt says that "Muddy Creek [a tributary of Penns Creek] runs through the farms, so I have to do my part to minimize the impacts." Mike Saxe Jr., a fourth-generation farmer in Sullivan County, Pennsylvania, now has a concrete barnyard and a manure storage facility thanks to the same program. Both help to improve farm production and water quality. "The importance of these programs can't be understated," Saxe said.
The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) is another essential Farm Bill program. Randy and Tina Kuhn, owners and operators of Kuhn Family Farm in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, decided to stop farming on land close to their streams. With support from USDA, they planted hardwood trees and shrubs to form a forested riparian buffer along the stream instead. This buffer helps filter nutrients and sediment that could make it to the stream and pond at times of heavy rainfall and runoff. The buffer also enhances the habitat for fish and wildlife.
Members of Congress love to hear success stories from their districts. Which is why Harry Campbell, Executive Director of CBF's Pennsylvania Office recently traveled from the banks of the Susquehanna River to the marble hallways of Capitol Hill.
Along with CBF Federal Policy Director Alix Murdoch, Campbell met with members of Congress and their staff to describe the great work that is being done by Pennsylvania farmers to protect their streams, and how the Farm Bill programs are essential to help them reach their pollution-reduction goals. To date, CBF has worked with more than 5,000 farmers in Pennsylvania to help them improve water quality, with support from Farm Bill conservation programs. These programs provide essential support for the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.
The Latest on the Federal Budget
Good News for the Bay!
When the President signed an Omnibus bill to fund the federal government through this fiscal year, he agreed to a $191 billion cut in his budget. There were many, many losers—but thanks to CBF, the Bay was not one of them!
U.S. Congressman Hal Rogers, who led negotiations for the House, describes the bill this way: "The bill reflects careful decisions to realign the nation's funding priorities and target precious tax dollars to important programs where they are needed the most. At the same time, the legislation will continue the downward trend in federal spending to put our nation on a sustainable fiscal path."
In other words, in today's climate on the Hill if you are not at the table, you are on the table. Our Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint Campaign has increased our presence and our message in key congressional districts in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, and we can report that in this year's federal budget many, many valuable programs were cut, deeply, but we and our allies on the Hill managed to ensure that key Bay programs were not on the table.
The top programs we focused on were the Chesapeake Bay Program, the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, the USDA EQIP program, and the NOAA BWET program. Here are the highlights of what we were able to achieve for clean water:
- The Chesapeake Bay Program funds the Program Office in Annapolis, but the lion's share of funds go directly to grants and cooperative agreements to implement the Blueprint. Its budget last year was $57.3M. This year, it got $70 million—an increase of $12.7 million.
- The Clean Water State Revolving Fund is an important, flexible financing program that allows watershed states to provide low-cost loans to local governments for the priority wastewater and polluted runoff projects that are planned in the Blueprint. Its budget last year was $1.465 billion and the House wanted to cut it to an historic low of $689 million. It did not prevail. This year, the Clean Water State Revolving Fund got $1.448 billion, meaning our states will continue to get the clean water loans they need.
- USDA Environmental Quality Incentives Program provides the cost-share programs that help farmers install basic on-farm practices required in state Blueprint plans. This program was also spared—it is funded at $1.35 billion, which ensures our farmers will have strong federal support for clean water practices.
- And finally, $7.2 million was provided for the Bay Watershed Education and Training Program, a program that supports important environmental education work around the watershed.
We'd like to extend a special thank you to Senator Barbara Mikulski for her leadership as Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
And, most importantly, we'd like to thank you all of you who have been working so hard to speak out for the Bay. Looking at the federal budget numbers, we are clearly defying the odds on Capitol Hill. The next round of federal budget fights—for 2015—will start soon, and we can go into them confident that together, we can save the Bay!
Federal Policy Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
The Latest on the Farm Bill
We Need Them to Get This Right!
Congress is finally in the last stage of writing a bill that is very important for the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint: The Farm Bill. Both the House and Senate have passed their own versions of this bill and they are moving forward on working out their differences in a final bill that will be written by a conference committee. All of the conferees—the 41 members of both the House and Senate who will iron out the details of the final bill—have been appointed, and they are scheduled to get to work on October 28.
We need them to hurry. Important programs for the Bay watershed have expired and many farmers have planned improvements to their farms that will help improve water quality in our rivers and streams—but they cannot afford to move forward without federal support.
During the conference, they are also making final decisions about a new program that could really help the Bay: The Regional Conservation Partnership Program. We need them to get this right. This new program will provide targeted support for areas of the country with particularly difficult conservation issues, like the water quality issues we have in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Most members of Congress from our watershed believe the Senate has created the best version of this program and are encouraging their leadership in the House to agree to accept that version during the conference. In fact, this fall, they joined with members from the Great Lakes and wrote a bipartisan letter to their leadership. In this letter, they said:
"The Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes are national treasures and economic engines in their respective regions, but they face significant water quality concerns. We believe that the Senate [version of the] Regional Conservation Partnership Program . . . would provide the best opportunity to support the farmers in our states and achieve important conservation gains and urge you to include it in the final conference agreement."
We wholeheartedly agree and are doing all we can to support them.