Advertisement

Senators vow to fight stripping federal funds to enforce Chesapeake Bay cleanup

Senators vow to fight stripping federal funds to enforce Chesapeake Bay cleanup
A small sailboat makes its way past Fort Monroe on the Chesapeake Bay Wednesday May 30, 2018. Virginia is on target for limiting nitrogen and phosphorus flowing into the bay from agriculture. (Rob Ostermaier / Daily Press)

Virginia Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner say they’ll oppose any effort in the Senate to undermine years of progress made in restoring the Chesapeake Bay after the House passed a measure to muzzle cleanup enforcement.

That measure, part of an appropriations package, would forbid the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from using federal funds to take action against bay states that fail to meet pollution-reduction targets set by the EPA and agreed to by the states.

Advertisement

The appropriations bill coming to the Senate next week doesn’t include a similar provision, according to Warner’s office, and Warner will oppose adding one.

Kaine said in a statement Friday that the Senate has consistently shown “bipartisan opposition to efforts that block Chesapeake Bay cleanup.” He supports holding states accountable if they fail to meet their cleanup targets.

Advertisement

“Virginia is doing its part to reduce Chesapeake Bay pollution, and it’s only fair that all states who rely on a clean bay should do theirs, too,” Kaine said.

The House amendment was introduced by U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke, who has said that the EPA “cannot be allowed to railroad the states” or hijack “states’ water quality strategies.”

“Every state in the watershed has basically been given an ultimatum — either the state does exactly what the EPA says or it faces the threat of an EPA takeover of its water quality program,” Goodlatte said.

His amendment is part of the 2019 Interior, Environment, Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, which passed 213-202.

Advertisement

It’s not the first time Goodlatte has pushed such a measure, nor the first time it passed the House. But it has always faltered in the Senate.

Virginia congressmen who voted against Goodlatte’s amendment include Republicans Rob Wittman of Montross and Scott Taylor of Virginia Beach, and Democrats Robert “Bobby” Scott of Newport News and A. Donald McEachin of Henrico County.

The EPA oversees a restoration partnership throughout the Chesapeake watershed that began in 2010 when Virginia and other bay jurisdictions signed onto a blueprint for cleanup.

Each state has reduction targets called TMDLs, or Total Maximum Daily Loads, set by the EPA. Each state devised its own program to meet those targets, while the EPA provides tens of millions of dollars each year to help them.

Virginia and most other bay states are largely adhering to their targets or surpassing them. Only Pennsylvania is seriously lagging and under enhanced EPA oversight to curb agricultural and urban/suburban runoff.

William C. Baker, president of the nonprofit Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said Thursday that “if one state does not implement their plan in good faith, the work and investment of all other states are in jeopardy.”

Studies in recent years show that reductions in nutrients and sediment have led to improved water quality, a boom in underwater grasses and improved oyster and blue crab numbers.

The Chesapeake watershed is 64,000 square miles spread over portions of Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York and the District of Columbia. It’s the largest estuary in the country.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement