Update on Congress

The Goodlatte "Dirty Chesapeake Bay Bill" (H.R. 4153)

copyright neil ever osborne/iLCPPhoto credit: ©Neil Ever Osborne/iLCP

Congressman Goodlatte's Dirty Chesapeake Bay bill would bring the progress we've made in cleaning up our rivers, streams, and Chesapeake Bay to a screeching halt. It will drag our waterways back to the far more polluted days before the Clean Water Act.

Stop the Goodlatte "Dirty Chesapeake Bay Bill"

He calls it the "Chesapeake Bay Program Reauthorization and Improvement Act." We call it the "Dirty Chesapeake Bay Bill."

H.R. 4153 would remove the core Clean Water Act protections for all polluted streams, rivers and tributaries in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and halt any progress made to stop pollution and recover the Chesapeake Bay. The bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on March 8, 2012, by Congressman Bob Goodlatte (VA-6th) and three other cosponsors. 

For more than four decades, a cooperative process has been underway among the federal government, the six states of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the District of Columbia, and many universities and private groups to restore the Chesapeake Bay. Because of this process, the long decline of the Bay has been halted and we are seeing improvements. The process needs to be protected and encouraged, not destroyed, as the Goodlatte Dirty Chesapeake Bay bill does.

The Goodlatte Dirty Chesapeake Bay Bill allows the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries to become more polluted.
The Chesapeake Bay and its huge watershed is a single biological system and must be managed that way. No state can do it alone. The process that has been put in place has resulted in modest but positive progress in reducing pollution and restoring aquatic life. The bottom line on the Goodlatte Dirty Chesapeake Bay bill is that it stops that progress and allows the Bay to become more polluted.

More pollution in the Bay and its tributaries harms public health and the economy.
The Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries would suffer long-term harm if the clean water protections currently in law are eliminated. Downstream from all states in the watershed, the pollutants that reach the Bay create dead zones that harm commercial and recreational fishing, and cause algal blooms that can hurt public health. The Bay is just beginning to recover from a historic lack of region-wide protections, and cannot prosper without them. The Goodlatte Dirty Chesapeake Bay bill would take away these protections. 

Implementing projects needed to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries creates jobs and helps local economies, while improving everyone's quality of life.
Economic studies, experience from other parts of the country, and examples of communities that have taken action to improve their own water quality all show that reducing pollution helps both economic vitality and the overall quality of life of communities. Data shows that these projects generate local jobs. New businesses and residents seek out communities that committed to installing "green" water pollution control projects. The Goodlatte Dirty Chesapeake Bay bill does not promote pollution reducing projects and the jobs associated with them. 

The Goodlatte Dirty Chesapeake Bay bill creates a huge new bureaucracy.
In its unnecessary attempt to create a new system to replace the current one, the Goodlatte Dirty Chesapeake Bay Bill requires thousands of hours of wasted staff time by federal and state employees, creates unnecessary duplication, an unnecessary new commission, and general waste of precious federal and state resources. 

National agricultural industry trade associations are working with Congressman Goodlatte and others to evade their responsibilities.
Poll after poll shows that safe and clean water is the top environmental priority of Americans. Farm families are no different. Many individual farmers have spent thousands of their own dollars to make sure their farms don't pollute the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. But the big agricultural trade associations have a different agenda and it is clearly stated in the Goodlatte Dirty Chesapeake Bay bill. They spend millions to make sure that their members are free to pollute without consequence, or that more fertilizer is bought and applied than is necessary.

The Goodlatte Dirty Chesapeake Bay bill allows states to create safe havens for polluters.
The federal Clean Water Act allows the United States to protect water quality if the states refuse to do it adequately. The Goodlatte Dirty Chesapeake Bay bill gives states free rein to do what they please. For example, if one of the farthest-away Bay watershed states chose to allow more pollution for some kind of economic gain, neither the federal government nor the other states could do anything. This is how America was before the Clean Water Act, when the Cuyahoga River caught on fire more than a dozen times and far more people died of air and water pollution. A race to the bottom, as allowed under the Goodlatte Dirty Chesapeake Bay bill, would be bad for America, and for the Chesapeake Bay. 

The Goodlatte Dirty Chesapeake Bay bill sets a terrible precedent: undercutting the federal government's protection of clean water, public health, and the environment for all Americans.
The 40 year old federal Clean Water Act creates a balance between the states and the federal government, but it recognizes that ultimately, rivers, streams, estuaries like the Chesapeake Bay and coastal areas are "owned" by the people of the United States. This idea is particularly important when, like with the Chesapeake Bay, waters come from many states. While the Goodlatte Dirty Chesapeake Bay bill only applies to the Chesapeake Bay states, the precedent it sets eliminates the federal government's ability to protect the citizens of the United States by assuring that its waters are clean and healthy. This could make the Chesapeake Bay region more polluted than the rest of the nation. 

H.R. 4153, the Goodlatte Dirty Chesapeake Bay bill, will not improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay, and it is false to claim it will. Instead, H.R. 4153 halts the progress being made to stop pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, takes us back to a far more polluted time before the federal Clean Water Act, and only serves as an example of how to kill a Bay.

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