By Andy Fellows, Chesapeake Regional Director
Sunday’s report in the Washington Post about the “dead zone” in the Chesapeake Bay is deeply disturbing. This year,nearly a third of the nation’s largest estuary is dead. This situation can be fixed – and a plan exists: Last year the Environmental Protection Agency finalized an aggressive “pollution diet” for Chesapeake Bay. The diet is on track to restore the Bay by 2025.
What is even more disturbing than the 83 mile long “dead zone” stretching from Baltimore to Virginia is that the “pollution diet”, the diet that is working, is under threat. Two powerful groups have targeted EPA’s plan. The American Farm Bureau and the National Association of Homebuilders are seeking a court order to suspend the plan. The pollution diet calls for strong protections from storm water and runoff to be implemented. The Farm Bureau believes that states should decide what protections are strong enough, not the EPA.
What happens in one community, one state, or one farm upstream affects all of the communities, states, and farms downstream. Pollution doesn’t stay where it originates. Treasured waters such as the Chesapeake Bay are only safe if every upstream community protects its water. That’s why the Clean Water Act was created nearly 40 years ago. The idea that we all live downstream is powerful, reminding us that we all need to work together to keep our water clean.
Unfortunately, there are members of Congress, specifically the 239 Representatives that make up the Dirty Water Caucus, who agree with the American Farm Bureau. These Representatives voted for HR 2018, the Dirty Water bill. If enacted HR 2018 would gut the Clean Water Act and remove federal authority to keep our water safe from the most irresponsible polluters. In voting for the bill, these Representatives conveniently ignored the progress we’ve made over 40 years under the Clean Water Act. They have refused to see the progress that programs like the Bay’s “pollution diet” are making. HR 2018 does exactly what the Farm Bureau wants for Chesapeake Bay – it allows the state with the worst, most polluter-friendly laws to effectively determine Bay Restoration Policy, thus sealing the fate of the Chesapeake.
We can keep the Chesapeake pollution diet on track and stop the summer of Dirty Water – or we can let the nation’s most important estuary go to pot. Find out if your Representative is a member of the Dirty Water Caucus and take action to protect Chesapeake Bay and the rest of our waters.