Oppose the Chesapeake Bay Dirty Water Act
More dirty water coming to the Chesapeake Bay, and maybe your river soon.
Don’t be deceived by the words” reauthorization” and “improvement.” The “Chesapeake Bay Program Reauthorization and Improvement Act” (H.R. 4153) introduced by Representatives Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Tim Holden (D-PA) is about rolling back protections under the Clean Water Act for the Chesapeake Bay, and by extension, the rest of the country.
Although H.R. 4153 applies directly to the Chesapeake Bay, it would set a precedent to disrupt the careful balance of shared federal and state responsibility for clean water for all Americans that is the foundation of the Clean Water Act. Much like the earlier “Dirty Water bill,” this proposed legislation would return us to the days of a patchwork of variable state protections. We know what happens when states alone are in control of setting pollution limits without consistent federal standards.
Before the Clean Water Act, you would have needed a tetanus shot if you fell into the Potomac River. Our rivers were too polluted for swimming or fishing, so polluted that they even caught on fire. Why would we ever want to go back to that?
The Chesapeake Dirty Water Act does the following:
- Places the authority to establish limits for the Bay’s multi-state pollution diet, the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), entirely in the hands of individual Bay states themselves. This would turn back the clock on the Clean Water Act, allowing each state to set pollutant levels with no federal safeguards to ensure that the limits lead to clean water. If the Chesapeake Bay states aren’t coordinated, the Bay will fall victim to a “race to the bottom” as states vie with each other to exempt industries or corporations from laws in order to lure one from another. Already, states and local governments have the authority for implementing their part of the pollution diet.
- Establishes a pollution trading program that allows polluters to meet permit limits by paying someone else to do their work. Water quality trading has only provided elusive benefits and cannot succeed without minimum nutrient criteria for all of our rivers and good monitoring programs, including on agricultural land, neither of which are in the bill. The bill also allows developers to pollute local waters and instead meet stormwater requirements by reducing runoff anywhere else in the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed.
H.R. 4153 is not the solution to cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. It not only upends a decades-long collaborative process to address the pollution flowing into the Bay, but sets a dangerous precedent to weaken Clean Water Act protections across the country.