Trump’s proposed Chesapeake Bay cleanup cuts draw fire

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Credit: Ben Schumin, via Wikimedia Commons

By Bryan Gallion
Capital News Service

WASHINGTON — Members of Congress, state lawmakers and environmental groups are rallying against President Donald Trump’s 91 percent funding cut for Chesapeake Bay cleanup and restoration included in his 2021 fiscal budget.

“While the Trump administration continues to turn its back on the bay, we will keep fighting to protect one of our most precious natural assets,” Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, said in a statement.

For the fourth year in a row, Trump has suggested a drastic reduction in funding for the Annapolis-based Chesapeake Bay Program, which is managed by the Environmental Protection Agency and coordinates bay cleanup efforts by the federal government, the watershed’s six surrounding states–Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York–and the District of Columbia.

The program funnels about two-thirds of its budget to state and local efforts aimed at bay “restoration, protection and monitoring,” according to its website.

This funding drop to $7.3 million came weeks after both chambers of Congress passed a 16 percent increase in the program’s 2020 federal allowance and Trump signed off on the $85 million allocation. And just days before the budget proposal was unveiled on Feb. 10, the House voted to fund the program with $455 million spread over the next five years.

Trump proposed 90 percent slashes to the program’s funding in his budgets for the last two years and recommended nixing the program completely in 2017.

Congress has reversed these cuts in final spending bills. Chesapeake Bay supporters are hoping for similar congressional support this year.

“Since President Trump took office, we have worked on a bipartisan basis to prevent these damaging cuts—and last year we were successful in securing an even larger investment in the Bay Program,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) said in a statement. “As in years past, I will fight tooth and nail against this administration’s attempts to undermine bay cleanup, so we can preserve and protect this vital treasure for years to come.”

Van Hollen, who serves on the Senate’s budget and appropriations committees, has helped lead the charge to increase federal funding for the bay’s cleanup in recent years.

Hogan said he’ll use his position as chairman of the six-state Chesapeake Executive Council to garner bipartisan support for the restoration of funding.

Trump’s $4.5 trillion budget proposal also puts the bay in danger by cutting funding for the U.S. Geological Survey Bay Program, which received $5.7 million last year, and the National Park Service Chesapeake Gateways Program, which was allocated $3 million for 2020.

The lack of White House support for the program undermines the “trust, collaboration and partnership” between the states and the federal government established in the Chesapeake Bay Agreement, according to the nonprofit protection group the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. The cuts also would threaten clean water for the more than 18 million people who live within the watershed, the foundation said.

William C. Baker, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s president, said he looks forward to working with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to ensure funding for the program is secured. This support is crucial with only five years to finish implementing the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, Baker said.

No state within the watershed is completely on track to meet the water quality goals established by the blueprint, according to a 2019 Chesapeake Bay Foundation assessment, but Maryland is close to meeting its pollution-reduction goals by 2025.

“The administration is already attacking many of the bedrock environmental protections vital to the health of local rivers, streams and the Chesapeake Bay,” Baker said in a statement. “This drastic cut could be the final nail in the coffin for science-based restoration efforts.”

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