Deadline Looms For Congressional Decision on Bay Restoration Funding, EPA Enforcement Authority

Bay Journal article (2018-03-09) reported that Congress must resolve by March 23 how much federal funding will be provided for Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts and whether to include an amendment stripping the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of its ability to sanction Bay watershed states that fail to meet their water quality goals under the Bay’s Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).

The article noted that last year President Donald Trump proposed eliminating all funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program but earlier this year proposed including $7.3 million for the Program (last year the Program received $73 million in funding). However, Congress appears to be considering much higher levels of funding. The Senate has proposed maintaining funding at $73 million while the House of Representatives has approved $60 million.  Congress must also determine whether to include an amendment passed by the House that would prohibit the EPA from punishing or enforcing “backstop” actions against a Bay watershed state that is failing to meet its Bay TMDL goals. The amendment was introduced by Representative Bod Goodlatte (R-VA).

From the article:

The amendment has been strongly condemned by environmental groups, and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan added his voice to the criticism in February with a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY. …

“While I strongly support the multijurisdictional approach to achieving clean water — which is working — it would be unwise to effectively remove the ability of the Clean Water Act to function as designed,” the Republican governor wrote in the Feb. 13 letter. “The Clean Water Act has been one of the key drivers of the cooperative federalism you now see working with great success in the watershed.” …

“We need to have an interstate umpire,” said Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles. “We need to have the EPA very much engaged, and hopefully, that provision that passed the House will not get traction.”

The article also stated that Hogan supports the Senate’s $73 million funding position as opposed to the House position. The Senate position is also supported by environmental groups such as the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Choose Clean Water Coalition.