January is here and that means that legislatures across the Bay watershed are returning to kick off session. As the 2021 State of the Blueprint report indicated, time is running out to save the Bay. The states—and the federal government—must take aggressive, urgent action if we are to leave a legacy of clean water to future generations.
To encourage this major acceleration, CBF is advocating for critical programs and funding throughout the watershed. Here’s what we’re fighting for in 2022 legislative session:
1. Prioritizing Funding for Clean Water Programs
Recent federal investments to aid in recovery from COVID-19 pandemic and propel the nation’s aging infrastructure to 21st century standards, represent an unparalleled opportunity to invest in clean water efforts across the watershed. Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia received billions in federal American Rescue Plan resources and the recently passed federal infrastructure bill will deliver additional funds. While some funds have already been allocated by each state, millions of dollars still need to be allocated in this year’s sessions.
2. Mitigating Climate Change in Maryland
Climate change is a reality around the world—and it's already having effects right here on our Bay and rivers. CBF, along with a coalition of partners, is advocating for legislation in Maryland’s General Assembly that establishes a deadline of 2045 for the state economy to reach net-zero emissions. The legislation focuses on addressing the emissions from transportation, electricity usage, and building fuel use—these three sectors make up more than 80 percent of emissions. CBF is urging Maryland to adopt an approach that centers on justice and equity, by implementing reductions on emissions that harm low-income and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities first.
CBF is advocating for climate change legislation at the local level as well. In 2021, Baltimore experienced more than 50 days with temperatures above 90 degrees. And heavy rains have already caused devastating flooding in the city, including the 2018 Frederick Avenue corridor flood that damaged more than 200 homes in the Beechfield neighborhood. The Baltimore City Council is currently considering a package of bills to help mitigate the worst effects of climate change and move the city toward a more sustainable future. Do you live in Baltimore? Join us in urging the city council to pass this critical legislative package.
Explore CBF’s other legislative priorities for Maryland’s 2022 General Assembly session.
3. Enacting a State-Based Conservation Program for Farmers in Pennsylvania
As Pennsylvania enters year two of its two-year legislative session, it remains one of the few states within the Bay watershed without a standalone agricultural cost-share program. These programs help farmers design and implement conservation practices, like forested stream buffers and cover crops, that keep farm soils and nutrients on the land instead of in the water.
CBF has been working alongside the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, as well as Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, the State Conservation Commission, and others to draft legislation establishing the Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program (ACAP). This program would provide county conservation districts additional resources to help farmers design and defer the costs of implementing conservation practices. Levels of support would be based on factors such as the size of the farming community and number of agriculturally impaired streams in each county.
At the moment, there are several avenues to establish ACAP. Senate Bill 465, introduced by Senator Gene Yaw (R-23), would create ACAP. And Senate Bill 832 and House Bill 1901 would create ACAP as part of comprehensive package called the Clean Streams Fund (CSF), a $250 million comprehensive funding package to address the top sources of stream pollution in the state. In fact, the CSF would dedicate $125 million (50 percent) towards ACAP. The CSF would also invest in reducing the impacts of polluted runoff from urban areas, cleaning up acid mine drainage, and restoring abandoned mine land across the state, and helping plant more trees alongside Pennsylvania’s streams and streets.
Explore CBF’s other legislative priorities for the final year of Pennsylvania’s 2021-22 General Assembly session.
4. Protecting Resilience and Water Quality Gains in Virginia
In the last several years, Virginia has taken a number of major steps to enhance its resiliency in the face of more severe weather and a changing climate. Protecting these measures is a priority for the 2022 General Assembly Session.
First, Virginia should maintain its membership in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a market-based program to cap and reduce carbon emissions from power generators. This program supports the Community Flood Preparedness Fund, which provides grants to localities across the state—from Winchester to Hampton, Danville to Fairfax—to build desperately needed resiliency against coastal and inland flooding. Virginia must stay in RGGI to assure the availability of funds to help communities threatened by intense storms and rising seas.
Second, Virginia should adopt into law the Virginia Coastal Resilience Master Plan, which aims to protect communities vulnerable to flooding and provides a roadmap for adapting to climate change. The master plan identifies priority resiliency projects, financing strategies, and a plan for coordination among state, federal, and local governments.
Recently, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission finalized guidelines intended to protect tidal wetlands from sea level rise and other climate change impacts. And the Department of Environmental Quality developed regulations to guide localities in taking sea level rise and climate change into account in considering land use proposals for Chesapeake Bay Preservation Areas.
These advances are important measures to help Virginia residents safely address climate change impacts while protecting water quality in our streams and the Bay. None of them should be rolled back.
Explore CBF’s other legislative priorities for Virginia’s 2022 General Assembly session.
5. Securing Agricultural Conservation Funding for the Watershed’s Farmers
Here in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, agriculture is the second largest use of land—second only to forests—covering nearly 30 percent of the 64,000-square-mile region. For states to meet the pollution-reduction requirements of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint by 2025, more than 80 percent of the remaining reductions will need to come from agriculture. While farmers are eager to help, they can’t do the work alone. That’s why CBF's Federal Office is advocating for Congress to pass the Build Back Better Act, which includes more than $28 billion nationwide in conservation funding to help farmers further reduce pollution and combat climate change.
Investments in agricultural conservation initiatives will help farms stay financially viable, create jobs, and help local economies. Studies have shown that implementing farm conservation initiatives at levels necessary to restore the Chesapeake Bay would create nearly 12,000 jobs. Nutrient management plans allow farmers to maximize yield, so they save on fertilizer costs while maintaining production. In addition, small, local businesses—from contractors to lumber yards to tree nurseries—benefit when a farmer installs a conservation practice on agricultural land.
While we are hopeful that this legislation will pass, nothing is certain. We are having conversations with legislators to let them know the importance of this funding, but they need to know that the public, not just CBF, cares about this issue. Please sign our pledge today and join thousands of others in voicing your support for agricultural conservation and the important work our farmers are doing across the watershed to help save the Bay.
Explore CBF's other legislative priorities for the 117th United States Congress.