Foundation: Bill to cost watershed $300M

Goodlatte’s measure to cut federal funding from cleanup heads to Senate

By Preston Knight –

More than $300 million in federal assistance to clean up the Chesapeake Bay watershed stands to be lost if the U.S. Senate passes an amendment championed by Sixth District Rep. Bob Goodlatte, according to a report released last week.

The House of Representatives passed a continuing resolution introduced by the local congressman in February that prohibits federal funding for the cleanup. In an interview before the vote, he said that the Environmental Protection Agency had no authority under federal law to demand that farmers and localities make major upgrades to fight pollution.

On Dec. 29, the EPA announced its “pollution diet,” identifying the necessary reductions of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment into the bay from Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.

On Tuesday, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation released a memo that details the impact of Goodlatte’s amendment. In it, Doug Siglin, the agency’s federal affairs director, estimates that more than $300 million will not be disbursed toward cleanup efforts if the Senate sends the measure to President Obama as part of the government funding bill.

“This action would not only dramatically set back the ability of states, towns, cities, sanitation districts, farmers, landowners, and federal land managers to meet the agreed-upon targets for Chesapeake Bay watershed cleanup by 2017 and 2025, but also hamper efforts to clean up local rivers and streams,” the memo states. “Ratepayers, farmers, landowners, and other citizens would pay a heavy price for the destruction of more than 25 years of cooperation and investment in cleaning up the waters that lead to the Chesapeake Bay.”

On Feb. 19, following the passage of the resolution by a 230-195 vote, Goodlatte posted a statement on his website further explaining his position.

“EPA has proposed arbitrary limits on the amounts of nutrients that can enter the Chesapeake Bay, and how these nutrients enter the Bay,” he states. “At the same time EPA is seeking to expand their regulatory authority by seizing authority granted to the states and converting the Bay Cleanup efforts to a process that is a top down approach with mandatory regulations.”

Goodlatte writes that the “overzealous” regulations will impact everyone in the bay’s watershed, and the “devastating” cost of compliance will result in billions of dollars in losses.

“The EPA’s approach is far from the best approach to restore the Chesapeake Bay,” he states.

Foundation spokesman Chuck Epes said in an e-mail that Goodlatte’s amendment comes at a particularly difficult time for pollution, citing Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s recently updated impaired waters list that found 12,101 polluted stream miles out of 17,753 studied. In 2008, when the last report was conducted, the number of miles was 10,543 statewide, which was up from 9,002 two years prior, he said.

Before Goodlatte’s proposal, the American Farm Bureau Federation sued EPA regarding the cleanup. Meanwhile, Shenandoah Riverkeeper Jeff Kelble has called the congressman’s resolution “way out of step with Virginians and Americans.”

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