Proposed Chesapeake Bay funds aim to curb pollution  

Proposed Chesapeake Bay funds aim to curb pollution  

Chesapeake Bay Bridge panorama by Peter Peretz with Flickr Creative Commons License

By ALEX ARGIRIS
Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — As much as $737 million in proposed funding expected to be part of a budget reconciliation package being negotiated in Congress would be used toward reducing pollution in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, including for agricultural conservation.

The funds would also be used toward reducing agricultural pollution in the local streams, creeks and rivers that feed into the Chesapeake Bay.

Included in the $737 million are proposals to plant forested buffers and rotate where livestock graze.

The programs are intended to provide financial and technical support to farmers who may not have the available resources to implement conservation practices.

Sens. Bob Casey, D-Pennsylvania, Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, Mark Warner, D-Virginia and Chris Coons, D-Delaware, joined Maryland’s two senators, Chris Van Hollen, D, and Ben Cardin, D, in pushing for the funding.

In a letter sent on Oct. 7 to Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, the six senators argued that the need to reduce nitrogen levels in the Chesapeake Bay was urgent.

The potential funds for the conservation programs would be allocated from up to four programs within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, according to a spokesperson in Cardin’s office.

Cardin’s spokesperson cautioned that despite the push for all $737 million in funding, it is unclear how much money the reconciliation package would direct to the Chesapeake Bay.

The push for funding comes amid a report that 84% of the 182 Maryland poultry operations that the state inspected between 2017 and 2020 had one or more violations of their state water pollution control permits, according to the report published in The Environmental Integrity Project.

The report also found that about two-thirds of the poultry operations that failed inspections had a waste management problem.
The goal of the new conservation programs is to meet the restoration targets that watershed states committed to in a 2010 Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, which was a plan to reduce pollution enough to restore the health of the waterways.
Around 80% of the pollution reduction needs to come from agriculture to meet the 2025 deadline established in the blueprint, according to plans that the states developed.
“(Chesapeake Bay Foundation) is excited to see momentum for the (Chesapeake Bay Resilient Farms Initiative) building among agricultural leaders who represent more than 100,000 farm families across the watershed,” foundation Federal Executive Director Denise Stranko said in a statement.

Pollution and restoration efforts for the Chesapeake Bay have been going on for decades.

Congressional Democrats continued early this week to negotiate the cost and programs within the reconciliation package.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, indicated on Tuesday morning that a vote on the reconciliation bill could happen as early as Thursday.

The reconciliation bill is a broad social spending plan that includes universal pre-K, an expansion of the child tax credit and an expansion of Medicare, among other measures.

Sens. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, have been unwilling to support the $3.5 trillion amount that President Joe Biden, D, initially proposed.

The final price tag appeared likely to land at around $1.75 trillion as negotiations progressed.

Manchin recently expressed opposition to Biden’s $150 billion climate plan within the bill to transition toward clean energy, although approximately $500 billion worth of other environmental provisions remain in the proposal.

Biden announced a revised framework for the reconciliation package on Oct. 28, but it remains unclear whether it has the support of all 50 senators.

Progressive House Democrats have expressed more of an openness in recent days to reducing the overall cost of the reconciliation plan.

Members of the House Progressive Caucus had been unwilling to vote for a bipartisan infrastructure bill that the Senate passed in August until an agreement on the reconciliation bill was reached.

On Tuesday, progressive lawmakers appeared open to advancing the infrastructure bill without details of the reconciliation package in place.

In an interview on CNN Tuesday morning, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington, who chairs the House Progessive Caucus, conveyed optimism that both bills could pass the House this week.

Meanwhile, in a press conference on Monday, Manchin reiterated his position of pushing for a vote on the infrastructure bill as soon as possible while refraining from committing to support the current reconciliation framework.

That bipartisan infrastructure bill also included $238 million in funding for Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts, but is separate from the push for $737 million in the reconciliation package.

Moderate House Democrats had urged Pelosi to pass the infrastructure bill regardless of the progress on the larger reconciliation package.

Rep. Andy Harris, who is the lone Republican member of Maryland’s congressional delegation, declined a request for comment on the proposed $737 million in funding.

Congressional Republicans are united in opposition to the reconciliation package and have derided the proposal as far too expensive.

However, 19 Senate Republicans voted for the infrastructure bill that passed in August and several House Republicans have expressed support for it as well.

About The Author

Capital News Service

kdenny12@umd.edu

Capital News Service is a student-powered news organization run by the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism. For 26 years, we have provided deeply reported, award-winning coverage of issues of import to Marylanders. With bureaus in College Park, Annapolis and Washington run by professional journalists with decades of experience, we deliver news in multiple formats via partner news organizations, a destination Web site, a nightly on-air television newscast and affiliated social media channels (including Twitter and Facebook). We provide breaking news coverage, in-depth investigative and enterprise journalism, and serve as a laboratory for students to test and develop innovative new methods of reporting and telling stories. By providing a true newsroom experience to our students, we send them into the job market with real-world skills and the ability to shape the future of journalism. Only Merrill’s most motivated students are accepted into the Capital News Service program, and they go on to land internships and jobs at the nation’s finest news organizations: The New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, the Associated Press, Politico, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, ProPublica, National Geographic, NBC News, The Dallas Morning News, the Washington City Paper, Washingtonian magazine, Money magazine, the Wall Street Journal and more.

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