Clean Water Advocacy: September 2022 Update

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Debra Brown

Salmon, trees, plastic bags, and more. And all with Election Day right around the corner.

They say justice never sleeps, and we’re here to tell you that advocacy doesn’t either. The past few months since our last update have been filled with action alerts, public hearings, lawsuits, and so much more. It’s paying off, with big wins for climate-smart and Bay-friendly farming, forest protections, and clean streams. Bay advocates deserve a huge shout-out for continuing to stand with us every step of the way as we speak up for clean water.

Here’s a look at what you’ve helped us achieve since June and where we’ll need your help in the months ahead…

Climate change takes center stage in Washington, D.C.

In early August, the nation’s capital was abuzz with more than just mosquitoes and the latest investigation news. President Biden signed into law landmark climate change legislation that included historic investments in agricultural conservation programs essential to restoring the Bay and enhancing climate resiliency in the region.

The $369 billion Inflation Reduction Act directs $20 billion to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs essential to Bay friendly farming, including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program. This law’s historic investments could be a real game-changer for the Bay and its tributaries, and for the bottom line of farmers in the region. Most of the pollution cuts still needed to restore the Bay must come from agriculture, particularly in Pennsylvania. Farmers are willing to invest their time, land, and limited funds to clean and protect local rivers and streams that feed into the Bay. But they cannot do it alone.

This $20 billion funding infusion means USDA can afford to step up its commitment to helping Bay state farmers implement agricultural conservation practices to save this irreplaceable natural and economic resource. CBF urges USDA to seize this opportunity.

The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act was particularly welcome following the June announcement of the United States Supreme Court decision in West Virginia v. EPA. This case challenged the agency’s authority to regulate planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions from power plants under the Clean Air Act.

While this decision narrows the federal government’s authority under the Clean Air Act, it leaves room for EPA to act on its duty to tackle carbon emissions from power plants. Climate change is already making Bay restoration harder, and CBF urges EPA to issue a new rule to cut carbon emissions as soon as possible.

Tackling local issues in Maryland

Just because the General Assembly is no longer in session doesn’t mean advocacy stops. CBF is currently focusing on local issues across the state that impact clean water.

On the Eastern Shore, we’re working with advocates to oppose a permit requested by AquaCon, a company that proposes to build a massive indoor industrial salmon factory in Caroline County. We have serious concerns about the grossly deficient draft permit, which would allow the facility to discharge approximately 2.3 million gallons of wastewater per day into nearby Marshyhope Creek, a spawning site for endangered Atlantic sturgeon. That's more than twice the volume of wastewater discharged by all public treatment systems in the county where the facility is proposed. Join us in speaking out against this permit and contact the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) before the public comment period ends on October 17. Don’t live on the Eastern Shore? No worries! Advocates from across Maryland can submit comments.

Take Action

In Montgomery County, the time has come to once again speak up for forests. The county council is currently considering legislation that would update the county’s Forest Conservation Law. Montgomery County's law has remained largely unchanged since 1992, even as other Maryland counties have recently increased forest protections that safeguard water quality and mitigate climate change. While the changes are welcome, they don’t go far enough. If you live in Montgomery County, please join us in urging the county council to amend the proposed legislation to be stronger and protect our trees!

Take Action

In other forest-related news, we’re celebrating a few landmark wins in our work to protect Harford County’s Abingdon Woods. As you may remember, a developer intends to clear about 220 acres of forest—including the removal of 49 large, old-growth trees that are specially protected under Maryland law.

In late August, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that forest conservation plans for development projects can be legally challenged after being approved. This means that, from now on, forests will have the same legal protections as wetlands and waterfront lands in Maryland. Two weeks later, a Harford Circuit Court judge granted CBF’s request for a temporary restraining order to halt the ongoing tree clearing at Abingdon Woods for a proposed warehouse project. These rulings allow us some breathing room to move forward with plans to contest the developer's forest conservation plan in circuit court.

A Pennsylvania victory years in the making

If you are a CBF member in Pennsylvania, then you’ve likely received dozens of emails over the past three years as we worked to create a state agricultural cost-share program. With the passage of the state budget in July, all our hard work came to fruition.

The finalized version of the Clean Streams Fund (formally House Bill 1901/Senate Bill 832) invested $220 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to tackle the top three sources of pollution plaguing Pennsylvania’s local rivers and streams: agricultural runoff, acid mine drainage, and stormwater runoff from developed lands.

In partnership with the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and Penn State’s Agriculture and Environment Center, CBF advocated for the highlight of the Clean Streams Fund: the Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program (ACAP). This statewide program will provide resources to family farmers to install conservation practices that work best for each farm. Seventy percent ($154 million) of the funding will go towards ACAP.

The Clean Streams Fund was called a once-in-a-generation investment in restoring and protecting Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams, and the fields and forests that feed into them. It’s true. Thanks to our partners and the tireless voices of advocates like you, a grandfather will be able to take their grandchild fishing in a cleaner stream, a parent can introduce their child to the wonders of our forests, and a farmer can leave the farm more productive and resilient for the next generation.

Cleaning up the mess in Virginia

For over 50 years, Peck Iron and Metal operated a 33-acre scrap metal storage, processing, and recycling facility in Portsmouth, Virginia. During its operation, Peck Iron and Metal released highly dangerous and toxic contaminants into the soil and groundwater, threatening the health of the environment and surrounding communities. Now inactive, the site is in desperate need of cleanup. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a cleanup plan for the site and is asking input from the public, with two comment periods in 2022. We want to thank our advocates in Virginia who spoke up on the issue. We will continue to keep you updated as the process continues.

Continuing the theme of pollution: Did you know that Virginians use nearly 3 billion plastic bags annually? To start tackling the problem, the General Assembly passed the plastic bag bill in 2020 which allows localities to impose a fee of five cents per disposable plastic bag provided to retail customers by grocery, drug, and convenience stores. The list of localities that have already adopted the ordinance continues to grow—Alexandria, Albemarle County, Arlington, Charlottesville, Fairfax City and County, Falls Church, Fredericksburg, Loudoun County, and Roanoke.

Why? Because the program works. Ten years after Washington, D.C., imposed a five-cent plastic bag fee, the number of plastic bags caught in trash traps decreased by 72 percent.

Virginia Beach is currently considering joining the growing list of localities implementing a bag fee—but they need to hear from local advocates. Do you live in Virginia Beach? Contact your council member today and urge them to adopt the plastic bag fee!

Take Action

Election Day is almost here

This year has flown by and, believe it or not, Election Day is right around the corner. Between now and November 8, voters from across the country will cast their vote for legislators who represent their values.

But life is busy, and many folks don't realize an election happened until it has passed. That’s why we’ve launched a twist on our usual action alert that will help you make a plan to vote in the 2022 General Election. Simply make your plan using the alert and we will send you a reminder of your plan as the election draws closer.

Make Your Plan

To save the Bay, participation in our democracy is critical. Thank you for doing your part!

Advocacy and holding polluters accountable are essential to CBF’s role as a watchdog for the Bay. They’re also expensive. If you can, please consider a special, tax-deductible donation today to support our work to save the Bay.

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Kirsten Hower

Digital Advocacy and Outreach Manager, CBF


Issues in this Post

Advocate   Agricultural Cost-Share in Pennsylvania   Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint   Climate Change   Environmental Justice   Forest Loss   Litigate   Trees  




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