Five Ways We’re Advocating for the Bay in 2024

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Samuel Shoge

Legislative sessions have kicked off around the watershed. Here’s what we’re fighting for in 2024.

Achieving a healthy, resilient watershed for future generations depends on the actions we take now. To encourage major acceleration in Bay restoration, CBF is advocating for critical programs and funding throughout the watershed. With clean water advocates by our side, here’s what we’re fighting for in 2024:

1. Tackling Major Pollution Sources

CBF is urging the Virginia General Assembly to prohibit the sale and use of toxic pavement sealants in the state as a cost-effective way to limit pollution and protect public health. This type of sealant typically contains about 1,000 times more polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) than sealant products with an asphalt base. PAHs are known to cause cancer, birth defects, and mutations to aquatic life.

Maryland has, due to incomplete and inconsistent regulation, become a regional dumping ground for what's called “Dissolved Air Flotation” material or DAF—the sludge material left over from industrial protein rendering operations. DAF is stored in large open-air tanks and applied to farm fields where it produces odors and insect problems that plague local neighborhoods and communities. Storage tanks and trucks hauling the material can leak and spill, and runoff is delivering polluted industrial waste straight to local streams that feed the Bay. CBF is supporting legislation that would clarify and strengthen regulations that govern the hauling and application of this material on farmland by developing a permit program for its use.

At the federal level, CBF is supporting the Farewell to Foam Act. Introduced in December by Senator Chris Van Hollen, along with 51 co-sponsors, this bill would phase out plastic foam food containers, loose fill foam, and single-use foam coolers across the country by 2026. This legislation follows the lead of 11 states and hundreds of cities that have phased out plastic foam, aiming to keep this pollutant out of our environment. “Single-use plastics like foam food containers don’t disappear when you throw them away,” said Senator Van Hollen in a press release. “They end up choking waterways like the Chesapeake Bay and contaminating our food supply. This pollution poses a serious, growing danger to human and environmental health and causes real economic harm to those whose livelihoods depend on our waterways.”

2. Prioritizing Funding for Clean Water Programs

With reports of declining state revenues and increasing mandatory state expenditures in Maryland, CBF is gearing up for some difficult budget fights at the state level in 2024 and the years ahead. We’ll be educating new administration leaders and legislators on the importance and efficacy of Bay funding as well as urging lawmakers to protect the important investments Maryland has already made in clean water.

In Virginia, CBF will be advocating for full funding of programs that will help the state achieve clean water goals. In addition to these key investments, CBF will be urging legislators to support the Commonwealth’s fisheries by providing critical funding for mussel and oyster restoration efforts, capitalizing the oyster shell recycling fund, and funding research by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science on Atlantic menhaden in the Chesapeake Bay. CBF will also encourage robust investments in environmental education and literacy as well as providing funding for a pay-for-outcomes pilot program, which will encourage innovative best management practices to reduce pollution from agricultural land.

As Pennsylvania enters the second year of its legislative session, CBF will continue to advocate for investments in agriculture and clean water programs. This includes continued funding for the Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program that advocates throughout the state fought so hard to create, as well as funding for resource agencies in the state.

3. Strengthening and Expanding Nature-Based Solutions

In 2008, CBF led the charge to change Maryland state law to require that shoreline stabilization efforts prioritize living shorelines. Despite the clear directive established by the living shorelines law, a significant number of waivers to this requirement continued to be granted, resulting in nearly 2,000 miles of armoring, representing more than 25 percent of all of Maryland's shoreline. This year, CBF will be advocating for legislation that would build on the landmark 2008 law to clarify a portion of the waiver provision related to the replacement of existing hardened shoreline and expand the uses of waterway impact fee revenues to include grants for replacing armored shorelines with living shorelines.

In Virginia, CBF will be working to preserve and expand the state’s tree canopy. Virginia continues to lose tree canopy at an alarming rate due to development, road expansions, energy infrastructure, and other causes. To stem the loss, CBF is recommending legislative initiatives that would mitigate tree loss, provide additional local authority to expand tree canopy, provide flexible funding for tree planting and maintenance programs, and create a roadmap for forest management in the state.

In Pennsylvania, more and more people are planting native plants for their multitude of health, economic, and environmental benefits. Through House Bill 797, CBF is urging the Keystone State legislature to do the same thing. HB 797, which is currently under consideration in the House, would direct the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) to plant native trees, shrubs, flowers, and grasses along state-owned highways. These native plants would require less maintenance, would soak up polluted stormwater, and provide food and habitat for local wildlife. Pennsylvanians: You can show your support for this bill by contacting your legislators today!

4. Securing a Bay-Friendly Farm Bill

Every five years or so Congress passes the federal Farm Bill, a critical piece of legislation that has far-reaching impacts on farm communities and the way food is grown. With nutrient runoff from farms as the largest source of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, the 2023 Farm Bill is the biggest opportunity we have to get federal funds and resources to farmers in our region and bolster efforts to restore the Bay.

The most recent Farm Bill was passed in 2018 and expired on September 30, 2023, threatening critical conservation programs that support our farmers. This is not uncommon. In fact, every Farm Bill since 2002 expired before a new bill could be passed. The bad news is Farm Bill programs would be slashed to New Deal era funding levels if a new bill is not passed before the end of 2023.

The good news is Congress included a one-year extension of the 2018 Farm Bill in their short-term budget deal on November 16, 2023, avoiding cuts to critical conservation programs. The extension holds until September 30, 2024. Congress will continue to deliberate and work to pass the 2023 Farm Bill, and they still need to hear from clean water advocates like you.

5. Defending Wetlands

The Supreme Court’s 2023 decision in Sackett v. EPA removes federal protections from vast swaths of the nation’s wetlands—typically isolated wetlands that are not adjacent or connected on the surface to other waters. Without federal protection, many of Virginia’s wetlands, which support the state’s communities, local economies, and cherished resources, hang in the balance. Therefore, Virginia’s existing state tidal and nontidal wetlands laws and regulations are more important than ever. CBF is urging state and local decisionmakers to enforce existing wetlands laws and rebuff any attempts to weaken them.

And So Much More

While these are some of the major clean water issues we'll be advocating for in 2024, they do not encompass everything. Explore our website to learn more about these issues and our other advocacy priorities in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and the 118th United States Congress.

As legislative sessions continue, we will need our clean water advocates with us every step of the way. Want to get involved? Sign up for our Action Network and check out our advocacy tools and resources for more information on how you can advocate for clean water every day.

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Kirsten Hower

Digital Advocacy and Outreach Manager, CBF


Issues in this Post

Advocacy   Agricultural Cost-Share in Pennsylvania   Living Shorelines   The Federal Farm Bill   Trees   Wetlands Protection  

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