Maryland's Sen. Cardin says his bill would prod states to clean Chesapeake Bay

By David A. Fahrenthold
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) said Monday that he will introduce legislation to punish states that lag in cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, adding a regulatory hammer to a process that has let several deadlines slide by.

Cardin announced the bill in a news conference along the bay shore near Annapolis, saying later that the bill would be the most important new policy for the Chesapeake in 25 years. In that time, governments have spent billions on the bay but have not significantly improved its health.

"It puts teeth in the goals for cleaning up the bay," Cardin said. "If this bill was passed and funded, I think I would be very confident . . . we would really make significant progress."

The ideas in Cardin's bill are similar to those in the Obama administration's plans for the Chesapeake, announced last month.

Both aim to make the bay a national laboratory for cleaning up pollution, by attacking water contaminants with the same legal tools that have helped clean the nation's air.

Specifically, the proposals borrow a legal framework from the Clean Air Act, which requires state and local governments with too-smoggy air to file plans for reducing pollution. If the Environmental Protection Agency judges the plans to be inadequate, the governments must revise them or face a threat of losing some federal funds.

Under Cardin's bill, computer models would be used to figure out how much pollution needs to be cut to restore the Chesapeake's health. Those reductions would be parceled out to states, which would have to file plans for meeting their goals, two years at a time.

If the goals aren't met, the states could lose EPA funding for projects or have the EPA take over some of their environmental duties.

Cardin's bill calls for all the measures to be in place by 2025. It authorizes $2 billion in new spending, to be distributed among the bay watershed states of Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York, as well as the District.

The bill was applauded by environmental groups Monday. But Valerie Connelly of the Maryland Farm Bureau said her group worries that it would place burdensome regulations on farms.

"We're worried about the impact on small and medium farms," Connelly said. "And we're just not sure there's enough resources out there" to help them clean up, she added.

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