This two-part commentary from Bay Journal News Service presents the views of the Republican and Democratic candidates for president on their policies regarding the Chesapeake Bay region.
For those of us in the Mid-Atlantic region who value clean rivers and streams and want to preserve our quality of life, the decision to vote for Sen. Barack Obama is an easy one.
Mr. Obama's platform recognizes the unique nature of the Chesapeake watershed, and he is dedicated to providing the resources to clean up the water flowing into the bay. The Obama Democratic platform states, "We support a comprehensive solution for restoring our national treasures - such as the Great Lakes, Everglades and Chesapeake Bay - including expanded scientific research and protections for species and habitats there." The Obama platform also promises to change direction from the previous eight years and strengthen the enforcement of environmental laws.
More specifically, Mr. Obama supports numerous initiatives to reduce nutrient and sediment pollution from the three sectors that most affect local water quality and the health of the Chesapeake region: wastewater treatment plant upgrades, agriculture, and land-use change and development.
Mr. Obama has been a leader on clean water issues and recognizes the importance of wastewater treatment plant upgrades. However, he knows that these upgrades can be expensive investments for local and state governments. An Obama administration would help communities meet their clean water needs by restoring federal financing for water treatment infrastructure through full funding of the Clean Water State Revolving Fund.
As president, Mr. Obama would work to improve incentives that help farmers prevent runoff pollution from soil erosion, fertilizers and pesticides. This would include increased funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Conservation Security Program and Conservation Reserve Program.
Mr. Obama has demonstrated his commitment to agriculture and the environment by his endorsement of the 2008 Farm Bill. This bill included $188 million for the new Chesapeake Bay Watershed Program, which targets innovative conservation practices in the Susquehanna, Potomac, Shenandoah and Patuxent watersheds, as well as an additional $252 million from other conservation programs for the Chesapeake states.
Mr. Obama has worked for tougher environmental regulations on concentrated animal feeding operations, including limits on nitrogen, phosphorus, hydrogen sulfide, ammonia and other pollutants.
Land-use change and development in rural areas is the single most significant threat to the long-term quality of life and environmental health in the Chesapeake region. Mr. Obama recognizes that non-point pollution is the largest source of water pollution into our rivers and streams, which is his reason for proposing a new stormwater cleanup program. In addition, an Obama administration would re-evaluate the transportation funding process to ensure that Smart Growth considerations are taken into account and would recommit federal resources to public mass transportation projects across the country.
Forests and wetlands are two of the most important land uses in the Chesapeake region that need to be preserved to improve the quality of our rivers and streams. To foster healthier forests, Mr. Obama proposes offering incentives to maintain and manage them sustainably, including rewarding forest owners and farmers when they plant trees. Over the years, he has been an advocate for preserving our wetlands by supporting the North American Wetlands Conservation Act and the Wetlands Reserve Program.
Mr. Obama is proposing to invest $150 billion nationwide over the next decade to develop solar, wind and ethanol technologies. He would create a $50 billion Clean Technologies Venture Capital Fund that would move cellulosic technologies from the laboratory to commercialization. This effort would encourage cellulosic ethanol production in the Chesapeake states. This broad investment in energy technologies would generate 5 million jobs in our nation and provide greater energy security and cleaner water.
Mr. Obama's climate change initiative reduces carbon emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, employs a cap-and-trade system and auctions 100 percent of pollution credits.
In summary, Mr. Obama would bring the change we need: a stronger economy, more jobs, energy security and a cleaner, healthier Chesapeake region.
David Bancroft is an energy and environment adviser to the Obama-Biden campaign.