Environmentalists outraged by Chesapeake Bay program budget cuts

Photo by Julie Tripp
Photo by Julie Tripp
Photo by Julie Tripp
Photo by Julie Tripp

Environmental groups are outraged at the Trump administration’s proposed funding cuts for Chesapeake Bay cleanup programs.

President Donald Trump’s budget plan, released last week, reduces the federal budget for the Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent. Such a reduction would include a $427 million to address regional pollution, including the Chesapeake Bay protection efforts. The proposed budget would also eliminate funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program, which received $73 million from the federal government in 2016.

CBP runs a variety of programs, including environmental education centers, oyster restoration centers and environmental centers that maintain clean water throughout Maryland and Virginia – all of which may be cut under Trump’s new budget plan.

“It’s indicative of the overall policy of the Trump administration, which is bad,” said Drew Shannon, an organizer with the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition.

Shannon said people across the political spectrum are angry because of the importance of the Chesapeake Bay and its connection to Virginia culture.

“It’s a rare instance where we see bipartisan support for an environmental issue,” Shannon said.

Trump administration officials said the proposed budget addresses Americans’ worries about a large, inefficient and intrusive government.

“This is the message the president wanted to send to the public, to the press, to Capitol Hill: He wants more money for defense; more money for border enforcement; more money for law enforcement generally,” said Mick Mulvaney, the White House director of the Office of Management and Budget in a press briefing last week.

A White House summary released with the budget last week states the administration wants to transfer responsibility for programs like the Chesapeake Bay cleanup to state and local governments.

Most of the Chesapeake Bay Program’s federal money goes to states, local governments and community groups through grants. The foundation focuses on coordinating and monitoring the efforts of the six bay watershed states and the District of Columbia. Besides Virginia, these states include Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

“Since water does not respect state boundaries, restoring the Bay depends on each jurisdiction’s funding levels and ability to implement the blueprint,” said Kristen Davis, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, in an email to The Virginian-Pilot.

The “blueprint” Davis referenced is a pollution reduction plan signed by the six watershed states and D.C. in 2010.

The proposed budget would also undermine programs monitoring sea level rise, a concern in the Hampton Roads region.

“This is a program that’s enjoyed bipartisan support. It’s non-controversial. It’s science-based, and it’s working. The bay is getting better,” said Chesapeake Bay Program president Will Baker in a video released on the organization’s Facebook page.

Last month, a bipartisan group of 17 members of Congress from the six watershed states sent a letter to Trump asking him to keep bay program funding the same in the new budget.

Congress now has the opportunity to revise the proposed budget. It must pass both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate before taking effect.

“We’re discouraged, but we’re not giving up. We will fight to get these funds back into the federal budget with every fiber in our bodies,” Baker said.

Julie Rothey, Contributing Writer

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