A U.S. Senate panel advanced an increase in federal spending for Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts, three months after the House approved a 16% budget increase for the program.
A Senate subcommittee included $76 million for the Chesapeake Bay Program, the Annapolis-based organization that oversees state-by-state bay cleanup initiatives. That is short of the $85 million bay program budget the House passed in June, but $3 million more than the office’s current budget.
Many hurdles remain before Congress could pass a new funding plan for the bay program, and it’s not clear if or when a new appropriations bill could be approved. But the move by the Republican-controlled Senate was encouraging to bay advocates after President Donald Trump has repeatedly proposed slashing spending on Chesapeake cleanup and similar efforts around the country.
The bay program, which falls under the Environmental Protection Agency, guides and enforces states’ commitments under a 2010 plan to reduce pollution flowing into the Chesapeake and restore its health by 2025.
Jason Rano, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s recently named federal executive director thanked Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat and member of the Senate subcommittee, and leaders of the panel “for advancing and supporting this critical investment, particularly given the budget constraints they faced this year.”
“This funding boost is welcome news for efforts to save the Chesapeake Bay and the local economies it supports, and for everyone who values this national treasure," he said in a statement. “Annual increases like this are essential to meeting the 2025 deadline to restore the health of the Bay set by the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.”
Van Hollen said he would continue fighting for bay funding as the proposal advances through the Senate. A full Appropriations Committee vote is expected later this week.
“The Chesapeake Bay Program is our first line of defense in protecting and preserving the Bay. This program is central to our efforts to maintain a healthy Bay and ultimately a healthy Maryland economy," he said in a statement. “I’m pleased to have secured this investment, despite the President’s continued efforts to rob the program of its funding.”