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.