Chesapeake Bay Senators Urge Appropriators to Reject President Trump’s Dangerous Cuts to Bay Funding

Chesapeake Bay Senators Urge Appropriators to Reject President Trump’s Dangerous Cuts to Bay Funding

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators representing the Chesapeake Bay Watershed blasted President Trump’s budget released Thursday that would zero out funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay Program and severely cut funding for other core programs to maintain and restore the health of the Bay, which is an economic lifeline for the region. Led by Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bob Casey, Jr. (D-Pa.), Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Chris Coons (both D-Del.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) joined together as a regional delegation to immediately urge appropriators to reject the shortsighted and dangerous cuts put forward by President Trump. Their letter can be found here and is in full below.

 "At a time when Chesapeake Bay health is finally showing signs of improvement, this Administration ought to be doubling down on efforts to reduce pollution, not drastically cutting back,” said Senator Casey.  “I will continue to fight for additional resources to help Pennsylvania and all Chesapeake Bay states meet their cleanup obligations.”

“President Trump’s budget cannot be taken seriously. He claims to want to help strengthen our economy and create jobs while simultaneously wanting to eliminate critical federal investments that allow Chesapeake Bay states like Maryland to prosper,” said Senator Cardin. “The president needs to understand that a healthy Bay means a healthy economy and this cannot be accomplished without a strong federal partner. Less pollution means more oysters and crabs, healthier farmland, more boats and tourism on the water, and more jobs. As a region, we are urging appropriators to quickly reject the president’s budget before the absurdity of his proposed cuts causes ripples of uncertainty and fear across the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed economy.”

“Thousands of Delawareans and millions across our region depend on a clean and healthy Chesapeake Bay. Slashing the funding that allows the EPA to maintain this environmental and economic resource is short-sighted and irresponsible,” said Senator Carper. “It’s critical that we keep fighting to protect the Chesapeake Bay so that our children and grandchildren can enjoy it the same way we have for generations.”

“The President’s budget proposal to entirely eliminate funding for the Chesapeake Bay cleanup effort is incredibly short-sighted. The Chesapeake Bay is an essential economic engine in this region, supporting thousands of jobs in the fishery and tourism industries and generating millions in revenue each year,” Senator Warner said. “Since the implementation of the Chesapeake Bay Program in 1983, we’ve seen tremendous improvements in the health of the Bay.  I strongly urge congressional appropriators to reject the President’s request, and look forward to working with the entire regional delegation to Congress to ensure we don’t endanger the years of progress that have been made in restoring the health of the Chesapeake Bay.”

“Cutting the programs that protect our clean water won’t create good-paying jobs, it won’t raise wages for workers in the region, and it certainly won’t make anyone healthier,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Congress should reject President Trump’s irresponsible budget proposal and instead fight for funding that protects the health, safety, and economic wellbeing of all Americans.”

"As I have said, I haven’t met a West Virginian that doesn’t want clean air to breathe and clean water to drink,” Senator Manchin said. “The Chesapeake Bay is an invaluable body of water that does wonders for our ecosystem. I am proud of the work that has been done through these programs to restore the nation’s largest estuary, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to maintain their existence."

“We are blessed in Delaware with lands and waterways that are a source of pride, including the Nanticoke River,” said Senator Coons.  “The Chesapeake Bay supports the livelihoods of millions across our region, and our state agencies and landowners rely on this funding to ensure that we can continue to be careful stewards of the bay.  I will keep fighting to ensure that we can continue to preserve the health of this vital resource.”

“Because of bipartisan support for Chesapeake Bay cleanup, pollution is down, oyster and crab populations are up, and more people are able to enjoy the Bay. Saving the Bay is good for the environment and good for the economy,” Senator Kaine said. “In his joint address to Congress, President Trump stated that his Administration will work to ‘promote clean air and clean water.’ But today, just two weeks later, his budget proposes to eliminate the Chesapeake Bay Program. It is clear now what the President’s promises are worth.”

“The budget cuts proposed by President Trump would seriously damage our efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay – and threaten the jobs that depend on a healthy Bay ecosystem,” Senator Van Hollen said. “There is absolutely no justification for loosening rules on polluters and dismantling the Bay cleanup effort, which is what the Administration’s proposal would do. We must stand together and fight for the Bay so that the watermen, the tourism and boating industries, and all those who value clean water and clean air are protected from the Trump Administration’s assault on our environment.”

March 17, 2017

Dear Chairmen Shelby, Alexander and Murkowski, and Hoeven, and Ranking Members Shaheen, Feinstein, Udall, and Merkley:

As Senators from the six-state Chesapeake Bay watershed region, we have a strong interest in maintaining and restoring clean water throughout the region. We write you because we are particularly concerned that the President’s Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Blueprint proposes a drastic decrease across federal agency partners’ budgets for programs that benefit the Chesapeake Bay region. Cutting the overall funding to the Bay will reverse the improvements to water quality in our region that our states have worked to attain in a bipartisan, cooperative manner for decades.

We thank the Subcommittee for your continued leadership in providing the support necessary to achieve clean water, both in the Chesapeake Bay itself and its source water. As you develop spending priorities for Fiscal Year 2018, we urge you to continue your strong support for on-going efforts to achieve clean water in our region and our nation.

More than 11 million people in our region obtain their drinking water directly from the rivers and streams that flow through our cities, farms, and towns, and eventually into the Chesapeake Bay. The Bay watershed states are investing in efforts to restore clean, safe water to the Chesapeake and its tributaries. But their efforts cannot succeed without strong and sustained federal support.

There are a number of programs administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that we urge you to continue funding at least at the same level as enacted in Fiscal Year 2016.

EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program. The Program coordinates Chesapeake Bay watershed restoration and conservation efforts throughout our region. The majority of its funds are passed through to the states and local communities for on-the-ground restoration projects. We urge you to reject the Chesapeake Bay Program elimination in the President’s FY2018 Budget Blueprint. The Program was funded at $73 million in FY2016;[1] we strongly urge at least continued funding at that level. Additionally, we urge you to continue directing EPA to provide at least $6 million for the Small Watershed Grants and at least $6 million for the Nutrient and Sediment Removal Grants, as enacted in FY2016. These two grant programs are critical for local restoration efforts and leverage, on average, three times more non-federal money for each project. As our region’s waters improve, more and not fewer people want to utilize the many ecological, cultural, and historic resources the Chesapeake Bay has to offer.

State and Tribal Assistance Grants, Clean Water State Revolving Fund. A key federal program for our region, as well as for the rest of the nation, is the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF). This program is critical to the 1,779 local governments throughout the Chesapeake region. Investments in water and wastewater infrastructure provide significant economic benefits to our communities. Each dollar leverages another $2.62 in economic output in other industries, and each job created in this sector creates 3.68 jobs in the national economy.

State and Tribal Assistance Grants, Nonpoint Source Implementation Grants (CWA 319). Our states are implementing agricultural, urban, and residential best management practices with the support of Section 319(h) grants. States also provide significant project management and technical assistance to local stakeholders to install these practices. The President’s FY2018 Budget Blueprint provides EPA Categorical Grants with $597 million, “a $482 million reduction below 2017 annualized CR levels”—a 45% reduction—but does not specify which of those grants will be eliminated or substantially reduced. We are concerned that applying an across-the-board 45% cut would reduce State and Tribal Assistance Grants for Nonpoint Source Implementation Grants from a $231 million FY2016 enacted level to $126 million in FY2018. We urge you to support at least the same funding level enacted in FY2016.

Pollution Control Grants (CWA 106). These grants help states in the Bay watershed manage the federal water pollution permit program, or NPDES. Under the Clean Water Act, it is unlawful to discharge any pollutant into US waters without a NPDES permit. Without sufficient funding, this permit process gets bogged down, resulting in business losses and reduced permit monitoring and enforcement. An effective permit program is the backbone of the Bay watershed cleanup. A potential 45% cut in Categorical Grants would reduce funding for Pollution Control Grants from a $165 million FY2016 enacted level to $91 million in FY2018. We urge you to support at least the same funding level enacted in FY2016.

There are also a number of programs administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Agriculture that we urge you to continue funding at least at the same level enacted in Fiscal Year 2016.

Land and Water Conservation Fund. The Land and Water Conservation Fund, including the Rivers of the Chesapeake initiative, helps protect large-scale landscapes throughout the Bay watershed. By working with willing sellers to acquire or place under easement high priority lands throughout the watershed, agencies can enhance habitat connectivity for the protection of rare and endangered species, preserve the scenic integrity of National Trails, preserve land associated with Civil War battlefields and American Indian heritage, protect forests important for Bay water quality, and enhance public access to waterways. The 12% cut, if applied across-the-board, would reduce funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund from a $450 million FY2016 enacted level—$126 million in USDA programs and $324 in DOI programs—to $396 million in FY2018. We urge you to support at least the same funding level enacted in FY2016.

Natural Programs. Each year, more and more people want to utilize the unique resources of the Chesapeake Bay, and the National Park Service Chesapeake Bay Office works to increase public access and the use of ecological, cultural and historic resources of the region. A 12% cut applied across the board would reduce funding for the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Trails ($2 million FY2016 enacted level to $1.76 million in FY2018); Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail ($386,000 FY2016 enacted level to $339,680 in FY2018); Star Spangled Banner National Historic Trail ($490,000 FY2016 enacted level to $431,200 in FY2018); and support for coordinating these programs through the National Park Service Chesapeake Bay Office ($479,000 FY2016 enacted level to $421,520 in FY2018). We urge you to support at least the same funding levels enacted in FY2016.

Finally, the Army Corps of Engineers provides critical support to the Bay cleanup effort. We urge you to support at least the same funding level enacted in Fiscal Year 2016.

Environmental Restoration. The Chesapeake Bay Oyster Recovery Project has helped construct and seed new oyster reefs, which increase the oyster population and improve water clarity as those oysters filter water when they feed. The Army Corps’ efforts advance the goal of restoring oyster populations in 20 Bay tributaries by 2025, and play an important role in meeting state water quality goals in the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint through strong partnerships with the states. The FY2016 enacted level was $479 million for the Army Corps’ Environmental Restoration account, which provides $2 million in funding for the Chesapeake Bay Oyster Recovery Project. If the Army Corps’ overall budget is cut by $1 billion—a 16.67% cut—it could reduce the Chesapeake Bay Oyster Recovery Program from $2 million to $1.7 million. We urge you to support at least the same funding level enacted in FY2016.

The Chesapeake Bay is the nation’s largest estuary. Its watershed encompasses 64,000 square miles and is home to nearly 18 million Americans. Restoration of the Chesapeake ecosystem is a high-priority goal for the people of this region, one that for year after year unites us like no other objective. The federal partnership has been proven to provide the engine to unite efforts across the states to effectively address this long-term challenge. We hold continuing this partnership as the priority for the region. Thank you again for your continuing support for our states’ priorities.

Sincerely,

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[1] FY2016 enacted levels are used as proxies for FY2017 levels—which served as the basis for the funding provided in the two continuing resolutions (P.L.114-223 and P.L.114-254), each subject to its own rescission—because the “2017 annualized CR level” referenced in the Blueprint does not include final program amounts under P.L.114-254.