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Nancy Stoner’s Blog

Chesapeake Bay water – and users – to benefit from Senate bill

Nancy Stoner

Posted October 19, 2009 in Curbing Pollution, Health and the Environment, U.S. Law and Policy

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Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., has introduced a bill to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay. Standing at Sandy Point State Park, a popular beach destination that has been plagued in the past with periodic episodes of bacteria pollution, I could imagine the shorebirds, crabs, oysters and the next crop of sunbathers, cheering him on.

Sen. Cardin's bill, the Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act, contains important new provisions to hold the Environmental Protection Agency and the states accountable for setting and enforcing strict limits on pollution. It calls for a clear, enforceable limit on nutrient pollution and assigns specific federal, state and local responsibilities and funding mechanisms to meet pollution reduction goals. The bill also calls for an interstate program to help achieve timely, cost-effective pollution reductions and offer new market opportunities for farmers and others innovating pollution reduction controls.

The bill delivers what the Bay and the public deserve most: accountability and results from the billions in federal dollars that go to agricultural conservation and water quality assistance programs within the Bay watershed. The Act will help states and localities focus tax dollars on the most cost-effective ways to reduce pollution to our rivers and streams. If pollution reductions aren't being met, EPA will step in to make sure the job gets done. This is good for the Bay, good for the water and good for the country.

For more than 25 years, the region has struggled - and failed - in a largely voluntary effort to protect the Chesapeake Bay. Thousands of miles of streams still do not meet basic water quality standards due to pollution from leaking septic systems, sewer outflows, factories, animal waste and runoff from roads, crops, lawns, and construction sites.

Thankfully, President Obama and his administration have shown historic federal leadership to clean up the nation's largest estuary, including issuing an Executive Order in May. Earlier this month, NRDC released the report Seizing a Watershed Opportunity: NRDC's Plan to Clean Up the Chesapeake Bay and its Beaches, outlining numerous threats facing the Chesapeake Bay and providing a Congressional playbook to solve them with the one-two federal punch we need to finally make progress in restoring the Bay. Sen. Cardin's legislation was a top priority in our report.

Many local rivers in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, West Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. - all areas with waters that drain into the Bay - remain unsafe for swimming, fishing, and drinking. We have the tools to clean up this mess. The Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act will end the excuses and inaction and put those tools to work.

While this is an important first step, the real work still lies ahead.  Support from other congressional leaders is critical to the bill's success. Anyone living in the watershed benefits from this bill. Your drinking water, favorite swimming beaches, best fishing spots - and even your crab cake and rockfish sandwiches - all come from the Bay or the waters that flow into it. It's time to raise our voices in support of this opportunity to protect the water that sustains us.

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Comments

Jason DubowOct 26 2009 01:27 PM

Hello Nancy,

I'm glad to see NRDC involved with the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort.

I know NRDC has a strong smart growth program as well. As you know, smart growth has a very important role to play in preventing pollution (by preventing forest loss, septic tanks, impervious surface, and air pollution) and I'm wondering your thoughts in collaborating with the NRDC smart growth program to tackle the Bay restoration/protection effort.

I didn't see smart growth mentioned in NRDC's "Seizing a Watershed Opportunity" issue paper - it would be interesting to see an NRDC analysis on the potential pollution prevention benefits from smart growth in protecting the Chesapeake Bay from further degradation.

Thanks again for all of the great work that you do.

-Jason

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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