Today Congressman Bob Goodlatte introduced bipartisan legislation which will protect the health of the Chesapeake Bay while also ensuring the strength and vitality of our family farms and local communities within the Bay Watershed. The legislation reins in the unchecked power that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has usurped from the Bay area states.
"The Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the U.S., is an incredibly complex ecosystem that includes important habitats and is a cherished part of our American heritage," said Congressman Goodlatte. "The Bay Watershed includes all types of land uses, from intensely urban areas, spread out suburban development and diverse agricultural practices. Unquestionably the Bay is in need and worthy of our attention and concern and I believe everyone has a role to play in restoring it."
Unfortunately, proposals like the Presidential Executive Order forces more mandates and overzealous regulations on all of those who live, work, and farm in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. This strategy limits economic growth and unfairly over regulates our local economies. This strategy will limit economic growth and unfairly over regulate our local economies. The Executive Order attempts to give the EPA authority to run roughshod over local communities, farmers and small businesses. This legislation presents a positive alternative.
Goodlatte continued, "Instead of overregulation and intrusion into the lives and livelihoods of those who choose to make the Bay Watershed their home, the Chesapeake Bay Program Reauthorization and Improvement Act allows states and communities more flexibility in meeting water quality goals so that we can help restore and protect our natural resources."
All of these issues - the lack of the authority by the EPA, the failure of the agency to properly assess nutrient reductions, and the EPA's refusal to conduct a cost benefit analysis - are concerns shared by many in the Watershed. In fact, it has triggered a lawsuit by the American Farm Bureau in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and the National Association of Homebuilders.
Specifically, the bill sets up new programs to give farmers, homebuilders, and localities new ways to meet their water quality goals. The bill makes sure that the agencies are using common sense when regulating water quality goals for localities. This includes preserving current intrastate nutrient trading programs that many Bay states already have in place, while also creating a voluntary interstate nutrient trading program. Additionally, the bill contains language that reaffirms and preserves the rights of the states to write their own water quality plans, a role that has been traditionally reserved to the states and that is being threatened by the Obama Administration's policies.
For over three decades Congress has been working to preserve and protect the Chesapeake Bay. Despite the efforts of the federal, state, and local governments the health of the bay is still in peril.
This bill calls for a review of the EPA's Bay model. We often hear complaints from those who make good faith efforts to restore the Bay that their efforts are not being recognized by EPA's Bay model. EPA's model does not account for any voluntary measures being undertaken on farms to control nitrogen and phosphorous nor does it even account for some of the nitrogen and phosphorous reductions that are being achieved through government programs like USDA'S Environmental Quality Incentives Program. Effectively, EPA is ignoring nutrient reductions that have already been achieved. Our legislation requires that an independent evaluator assess and make recommendations to alter EPA's Bay model, so that we can develop a model that will capture all of the nutrient reductions that are happening in the Bay.
"The people who call the Bay Watershed home are the ones who are the most concerned about protecting and restoring the Chesapeake Bay," said Congressman Goodlatte. "Unfortunately, too often these hardworking individuals are cast as villains and placed in a position where restoring the Bay is pitted against the economic livelihoods of their communities. We can restore the Bay while also maintaining the economic livelihood of these communities. The Chesapeake Bay Program Reauthorization and Improvement Act is the way we can do both. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Congress, so that we can pass this important legislation and work to restore the Chesapeake Bay."
The Chesapeake Bay Program Reauthorization and Improvement Act has been referred to the House Agriculture Committee on which Congressman Goodlatte serves as Vice Chairman.