Howard board, superintendent in legal battle as they run county school system

Bay cleanup efforts threatened by House bill

E.B. Furgurson III
Contact Reporterpfurgurson@capgaznews.com
"If we want to protect the Bay for future generations of Marylanders, then we need to follow through on conser

The Republican-led House of Representatives has passed an appropriations bill that cuts deeply into Environmental Protection Agency enforcement efforts, including the Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan.

The $32.1-billion bill for the Department of the Interior and EPA curtails funding for much of President Barack Obama's environmental agenda, like the Clean Power Plan and an effort to redefine waters protected by the Clean Water Act. It also contained an amendment by Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte that prohibits the EPA from spending money to take actions against states that fail to meet pollution standards.

The several bay states signed the latest Chesapeake Bay Agreement in 2014 outlining a multitude of efforts to meet those standards, and some progress has been made. Still, some states, like Pennsylvania, have been lagging to meet the goals.

All Maryland's congressmen voted against the amendment, but it ultimately passed and was included in the appropriations bill.

"The frustrations of the bay getting worse have been huge," said Chesapeake Bay Foundation president William Baker. "But now, with the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint (Bay Agreement) we are seeing real, system-wide improvements."

He said the amendment guts the federal-state effort to clean up the bay.

By cutting the EPA's ability to enforce consequences, the Bay Agreement could lose its advantage over previous years of bay cleanup efforts.

"Previous efforts all lacked meaningful consequences for failure to reduce pollution," Baker said in a statement before the amendment passed. "These … actions are what give the Blueprint its "teeth."

Rep. John Sarbanes was one of seven Maryland congressmen who voted against the amendment.

"If we want to protect the Bay for future generations of Marylanders, then we need to follow through on conservation programs like the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Agreement," he said via email. "The Goodlatte Amendment will set back our multi-state efforts to improve the health of the Bay — efforts that are showing promise and early signs of success — and will threaten the vitality of the entire Bay watershed in the years to come."

Court challenges by the American Farm Bureau and others to stop the EPA bay cleanup plan have lost in federal District Court and on appeal to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

The case was appealed to the Supreme Court, which decided not to hear the case, letting the lower court's decision stand — supporting the plan carved out by the states and the EPA.

The bill must now go to the Senate for passage. President Obama has threatened a veto.

The primary pollution reduction goals in the Bay Agreement are found in the so-called bay pollution-diet, setting the amount of specific pollutants a body of water can withstand and still function biologically.

If states do not meet the interim and final goals set in watershed implementation plans designed to facilitate pollution reductions by 2025, the EPA can take action to force compliance or seek other methods of reducing those pollutants.

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