Delmarva Now: House approves Luria bill to fully fund Chesapeake Bay Program
House approves Luria bill to fully fund Chesapeake Bay Program
February 6, 2020 | By Staff
The U.S. House of Representatives voted Wednesday to fully fund the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Chesapeake Bay Program over the next five years.
The Chesapeake Bay Program Reauthorization Act (HR 1620), sponsored by Congresswoman Elaine Luria, D-Va.-02, will fund the bay program at a level of $455 million over the next five years. It also provides funding for local projects.
“I am pleased the House passed my bill that will ensure that our Chesapeake Bay will be clean and thriving for future generations,” Luria said in a release.
“In Coastal Virginia, our economy and livelihood depend on the health of the Chesapeake Bay. I urge the Senate to quickly pass this critical legislation that protects this invaluable economic and recreational resource.”
The Chesapeake Bay Program helps coordinate restoration efforts and distributes grants to states for efforts that restore the Chesapeake Bay. By fully funding the program, Congress will help states, including Virginia, get the resources they need to clean and preserve this natural treasure.
Although Congress has continuously provided funding for the program, it has not been formally reauthorized in law since 2005.
Original House co-sponsors of the Chesapeake Bay Program Reauthorization Act include Chesapeake Bay Watershed Task Force co-chairs Rep. Bobby Scott (VA-03), Rep. Rob Wittman (VA-01), and Rep. John Sarbanes (MD-03). Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) are leading the effort in the Senate.
In an appropriations bill last December, Congress approved $85 million in funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program for Fiscal Year 2020. This was a $12 million increase from the previous fiscal year and the highest level of funding that the program has received.
The program, whose funding comes from the Environmental Protection Agency, works to improve the health of the bay through enforcement of pollution reduction and grants for cleanup efforts.
Most of the operating budget for the Chesapeake Bay Program is handed out to nonprofits or state and local governments.
It's used for programs that vary from addressing polluting septic systems to oysters restoration.
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The Trump Administration has each year proposed steep cuts to funding for the program in its budget. But control of the budget rests with Congress, which has maintained funding for the program against Trump's recommendations.
Six states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed cooperate under the program umbrella. It's an area of 64,000 square miles that houses 18 million people.