Federally funded efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay are in line for a budget increase following a U.S. Senate vote Thursday, but the amount depends on how a divided Congress resolves its latest face-off on spending.
The Republican-led Senate, by an 84-9 vote, passed a spending bill that includes $78 million for the Chesapeake Bay Program. That follows House passage of an $85 million budget for the bay program, an Environmental Protection Agency office that guides work to reduce pollution across the bay watershed.
That means that instead of President Donald Trump’s proposal to slash the program’s $73 million budget by 90%, it could grow. The question for a bicameral conference committee will be, by how much?
“We fought hard for this increase in funds, and are pleased to have secured this investment despite the President’s continued efforts to cut the program,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen said in a statement. Van Hollen and Sen. Ben Cardin, both Maryland Democrats, pledged to continue pushing for bay program funding.
In a letter sent to the leaders of the relevant Capitol Hill committees Thursday, politicians from across the bay watershed applauded the vote and urged federal lawmakers to adopt the larger budget approved by the House. Signing the letter were: Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Delaware Gov. John Carney, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser, and state Sen. Guy Guzzone, acting chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Commission.
“We know you face many difficult choices,” they wrote. “The EPA Chesapeake Bay Program has bipartisan, bicameral support and strong non-federal partners and investment from across the Bay watershed."
Congress faces a Nov. 21 deadline to resolve how to fund the federal government for the next year, though it was expected to push a decision off to the new year. It was not yet clear Friday when the conference committee focused on the bay program and other EPA and Department of Interior spending would meet.