By Brian Klose
President Donald Trump’s federal budget proposal aims to cut spending to anything the administration deems unnecessary or overreaching. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has long been one of Trump’s most loathed government agencies, and the budget reflects that sentiment. The proposed drastic cut to environmental measures has an especially serious impact in the Maryland, Virginia, and D.C areas, as well as Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New York.
If approved, the budget would eliminate Chesapeake Bay protection and cleanup efforts, endangering the country’s largest estuary and halting years of environmental progress. As a lifelong resident of the watershed, the thought of a federally-mandated dismissal of the Chesapeake Bay could bring serious environmental consequences and a decline of the of an entire regional identity.
Trump’s budget would cut EPA funding by over 30 percent, from $8.1 billion to $5.7 billion. The Chesapeake Bay cleanup program, which currently receives $73 million a year across the watershed’s 64,000 square-mile area, would be completely eliminated.
The program and its fate under the Trump administration has been a concern since day one. At Scott Pruitt’s confirmation hearing, Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin criticized the incumbent EPA head’s opposition to cleanup efforts across the nation.
“We do not know which Scott Pruitt wants to become the EPA Administrator,” Cardin said. “The one who testified before the EPW Committee committed to support multi-state solutions to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay, or the one who sued to stop such cooperation happening thousands of miles away from his own state of Oklahoma.”
Last month, 10 Democratic and seven Republican congressmen signed a bipartisan letter to President Trump urging the administration to keep the $73 million for the Chesapeake Bay program in the budget.
Pruitt’s eventual confirmation, in addition to the proposed program elimination, guarantees a term of inaction when it comes to environmental cleanup efforts. The cuts would also affect certain states’ economies.
“Cutting off funding,” Jenna Portnoy of the Washington Post said, “would threaten multibillion dollar tourism, recreation, and commercial industries and could reverse strides in water quality that sustain fishing, boating and crabbing in the largest estuary in North America.”
This is especially upsetting because of the great work the bay cleanup program has already accomplished. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, one of the leading bay cleanup and advocacy organizations, reported increases in habitat, fishery, and pollution quality over the past two years, continuing a trend of steady recovery for the bay.
With the threat of losing Chesapeake Bay protections, it is important for those who utilize the bay to urge their representatives to oppose the proposed budget cuts. The Chesapeake bay is an iconic member of America’s most beautiful and important waterways, driving economies across an entire East Coast region. The threat of letting the bay deteriorate threatens the identity of the land in Trump’s own backyard.