By Sabri Ben-Achour
A major piece of legislation designed to restore the Chesapeake Bay is one step closer to passage. The Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act made it out of committee Wednesday relatively unscathed.
The legislation would give the Environmental Protection Agency and states in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed two things: money and authority. The EPA is already developing limits on pollution and demanding that states reign in their stormwater runoff, but this legislation makes those demands law. Senator Ben Cardin from Maryland sponsored the bill.
"It puts teeth in the Chesapeake Bay Program by making it clear that the goals that we set need to be accomplished," he says.
If they're not, it authorizes the EPA to cutoff funding to states or even to take over their implementation programs.
And then there's the money: $2 billion to help local governments and farmers renovate stormwater infrastructure and reduce runoff.
"With the bill, we have a hope of getting the job done in 15 years," says Doug Siglin, with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. "Without the bill, we could get it done sometime in the future, but it's impossible to predict when."
In committee the bill received bipartisan support. That was made possible by several amendments that sought to prevent the EPA from widening it's jurisdiction beyond the areas it currently covers.
Siglin says those amendments won't affect Chesapeake restoration. A full vote hasn't been scheduled yet.