Sarbanes Presses EPA Administrator Wheeler to Fully Fund Chesapeake Bay Program [Video]
WASHINGTON, D.C. – During a House Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change hearing today, Congressman John Sarbanes (D-Md.) grilled U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler about the Trump Administration’s continued assault on the Chesapeake Bay and urged Administrator Wheeler to reverse course on the Administration’s proposed budget cuts to the Bay Program.
“Administrator Wheeler, I wanted to talk about the Chesapeake Bay,” said Congressman Sarbanes. “You won’t be surprised to hear that, being a Representative from Maryland and having been a champion of the Bay really since I was a little kid crabbing on the Nanticoke River on the Eastern Shore, but having that opportunity obviously since I came to Congress, and I’m extremely distressed at this continued run that the Administration is taking at the funding for the Chesapeake Bay.”
Sarbanes continued: “As you know, the President in his budget two years ago proposed to completely zero-out funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program. Last year, he proposed a 90 percent cut to the funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program at EPA and has done the same thing with the budget proposal this year. And obviously, that would have a huge impact on our restoration efforts for the Chesapeake Bay. There are nearly 50 Members of Congress here whose districts intersect with the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, and there’s 18 million residents of the Bay Watershed, 64,000 square miles within the Watershed and the resource that that represents, not just as a national entity, natural treasure, but in terms of the economic engine that it represents for Maryland and for the region really cannot be overstated…. There’s been a bipartisan pushback on the part of Members of Congress – Republicans and Democrats – who understand how valuable the program is to all of the states involved, but really to our country overall…. I’d ask you to comment on that, please.
Wheeler answered: “The Geographic Program Areas is just one area of funding that we use to help restore the Chesapeake Bay. We have other Clean Water Act programs, as well as the Source Water Protection Programs authorized under the Safe Drinking Water Act to protect the watershed…. We have a number of different programs aside from the geographic-specific programs that we can use, and that we do use, to not only help the Chesapeake Bay but the Great Lakes, Puget Sound, a number of watersheds all around the country. We’re not limited to our programs to the geographic programs. We have a lot of other tools at our disposal.”
Sarbanes responded: “Well, I certainly appreciate that you have those other tools, and maintaining commitment to them is really important, but the Bay Program that the EPA funds and supports is really critical, because it’s a leveraging program, and the amount of expertise that has been assembled in the program with respect to restoring the Chesapeake Bay is tremendous over the last few years…. So, we urge you – we beseech you – to take a position of restoring that funding. You can rest assured that that’s the position that we’re going to assemble here in Congress on a bipartisan basis.”
See below for the full exchange.