The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) welcomed today’s passage by the U.S. Senate of a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that would increase funding for EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program by $238 million over five years. The bipartisan bill, which passed on a 69-30 vote, would also boost funds available for upgrading municipal wastewater treatment plants.
The Chesapeake Bay Program, which EPA administers, is the glue that holds together the federal-state partnership to save the Bay and the local creeks, streams, and rivers that feed into it. It provides grant money for restoration projects and scientific research needed to save the Bay.
EPA’s most important responsibility in the cleanup is to keep the six watershed states and the District of Columbia on track to implement the pollution-reduction strategies they agreed to in the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint by the 2025 deadline.
Four states and D.C. are in good shape, but Pennsylvania, and to a lesser extent New York, is sorely deficient. Last year, CBF and its partners filed suit against EPA for not ensuring the Commonwealth’s plan will meet its obligations. Many of the region’s attorneys general filed a similar suit.
EPA also runs the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF), which provides low-cost financing to help local communities afford infrastructure improvement projects critical to improving water quality in the Bay watershed. The Senate-passed infrastructure bill would give SRF funding a $2.4 billion boost in fiscal year 2022.
CBF President William C. Baker issued the following statement:
“An infusion of $238 million for the Bay Program and additional funds for improving wastewater treatment are critical to save the Bay. We thank the Congressional Bay delegation senators. This bill provides a good down payment.
“Recent declines in grasses and the impact on crabs are frightening. Now more than ever we need to invest in the Bay. Without underwater grasses, there are no crabs.
“Pollution reductions must be significantly accelerated to meet the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint’s 2025 deadline—especially in Pennsylvania and from agriculture.
“Pennsylvania’s current plan doesn’t come close to addressing water quality there, nor help the Bay downstream. CBF is suing EPA in federal court—again. EPA must enforce the Clean Water Act and ensure Pennsylvania meets its commitments.
“Pennsylvania’s farmers also need more help. Additional USDA funding for Pennsylvania farmers would be a wise investment. Regenerative agriculture! It keeps the soil on the farm, out of the water, and also helps to address climate change.
“President Biden, EPA, and our elected officials can still write the greatest environmental success story the world has ever seen. CBF looks forward to working with Congress to strengthen this bill and other legislation to ensure we don’t let our last, best opportunity to restore the Bay slip away. Together we can still save the Bay, but only if EPA does its job. Hold Pennsylvania accountable.”
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