Chesapeake Bay TMDL Faces Challenge From US House

As previously reported on Conduit Street, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is confident that the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) requirement will withstand court challenges, but an August 9 Baltimore Sun article explores challenges being raised by the United States House of Representatives. 

Republicans – with some Democratic allies – attempted earlier this year to block EPA from spending any funds in the current budget on a variety of controversial regulatory activities, including curbing climate-warming greenhouse gases and enforcing the agency’s “pollution diet” for the Chesapeake. Though the House approved the spending curbs, the Senate refused to go along.

Now GOP members are making another run at EPA, proposing to reduce its funding significantly in the next year while also tacking a bevy of “riders” on the appropriations bill that would prohibit the agency from doing anything on climate, mountaintop coal mining and other moves by the agency that are opposed by various industries.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, is pushing proposals to block EPA’s Chesapeake cleanup plan, which set a “total maximum daily load” of pollution for the bay and requires Maryland and the other five states in the watershed to reduce nutrients and sediment to meet that cap.

In the article, Maryland Representative John Sarbanes expresses concern over the House proposals

“As this larger debate about cutting our debt and deficit is happening, they are sort of piling on behind that as much as they can,” Sarbanes said, with measures aimed at blocking new regulations or even rolling back existing environmental protections. Given the public’s understandable fixation now with jobs and the economy, he said that “it’s going to be very very difficult” to hold the line.  …

Sarbanes is also pushing a measure he contends ought to appeal to conservatives opposed to the heavy hand of federal regulation. Dubbed the “Save the Chesapeake Bay Homeowner Act” (HR1651), it would encourage homeowners to plant rain gardens and do other things voluntarily to reduce polluted runoff – one of the bay’s biggest threats. Under the bill, EPA would then be directed to give states and communities credit towards meeting their pollution diets, based on how many homeowners participate. To help win support for the bill, Sarbanes said he’s looking for places in Maryland to do a “pilot” demonstration of how homeowners can make a signficant dent in runoff to streams and the Bay. 

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