Federal Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Act Dies But Local Fee Bill Passes

A bill co-sponsored by Senator Ben Cardin and Representative Elijah Cummings ( S. 1816) and aimed at reducing nitrogen in the Chesapeake Bay, died in the waning days of the 2010 Congress.  The bill had been folded into a larger bill known as America’s Great Outdoors Act.

According to an article from the December 27 Capital,

The Chesapeake Clean Water Act would have put into law many of the bay cleanup actions already under way by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It also would have launched a nutrient-trading program for farmers and poured more money into the cleanup effort.

The bill, however, divided environmentalists.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation was a major backer of the bill and lobbied for it. While disappointed, bay foundation Vice President Roy Hoagland said he was pleased the bill got so much attention. “To have moved this legislation from nowhere to the center of the political debate at a national level is just a huge accomplishment,” he said.

The region’s riverkeepers, however, felt the bill was weakened too much during the Senate committee process.

And the bill drew strong opposition from farming groups, including the American Farm Bureau Federation. The farm bureau said the Chesapeake Clean Water Act would fundamentally change the way the existing Clean Water Act is enforced.

While the local aid component of the Cardin/Cummings bill died with the rest of the legislation, Congress did pass a bill  that would subject federal facilities to local stormwater service fees.  Sponsored by Senator Cardin and Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton, S. 3481 requires a federal facility to pay a locally imposed stormwater management fee “in the same manner and to the same extent as any nongovermental entity.”   The bill was cleared for White House approval on December 22.  The bill arose from a dispute between the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense, but will also help those Maryland counties and municipalities that have enacted a stormwater fee and have federal facilities within their jurisdictions.

December 22 Baltimore Sun article on Cardin/Cummings Bill

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