Environment

I deeply understand the importance of protecting the environment and our natural resources. As the home of the Chesapeake bay, the pride of our state, we must always remember that the most important benefits of our efforts will be given to our children and grandchildren, who simply cannot wait.

With over 11,000 miles of tidal shoreline, and a 64,000 square mile watershed, the Chesapeake Bay is the nation’s largest estuary, and the pride of Maryland.  Tragically, despite the expenditure of billions of dollars since the Bay was first listed as “impaired” under the Clean Water Act 24 years ago, the Bay’s water quality remains “very poor,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

You might say the Bay is the heart of Maryland. It is the organ that generates our weather, enriches our soil, provides much of the bounty of our economy and creates the opportunity for so many outdoor activities that involve the water. However, like a mistreated heart, the Chesapeake has begun to fail.

It is my greatest hope that we can help it thrive again—and there is reason to be optimistic. On May 12, 2009, President Obama issued Executive Order 13508, which calls for a new era of Federal leadership to restore this national treasure.  Specifically, the Executive Order establishes a Federal Leadership Committee to thoroughly review the challenges faced by the Bay, as well as the steps needed to overcome these challenges as we work to achieve clean, fishable, swimmable water quality in the Bay.

Since that time, the Leadership Committee has issued a series of reports confirming that the Bay is one of the most studied water bodies in the world.  We understand exactly what is harming the Bay: the inflow of nitrogen, phosphorous, and sediments.  And we also know the sources of these pollutants: farming, sprawl and the expansion of impervious surfaces, storm water run-off, and pollution from fixed points such as sewage treatment plants (although these have long been regulated and have reduced their overall pollution outputs). 

In October 2009, I introduced H.R. 3852, the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act. This timely legislation represents a new commitment to environmental stewardship that is focused on achieving real results.

The bill defines the responsibilities of governments throughout the Bay watershed, at the federal, state and local levels. Though some forms of pollution have been reduced through the application of the Clean Water Act and through voluntary agreements among the watershed states, the new law will improve the study and control of the pollutants that continue to harm the Chesapeake, particularly nitrogen, phosphorous and sediments. It will also create accountability for both polluters and the government agencies working to reduce pollutant levels.

Specifically, H.R. 3852 provides the legal authority needed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the States throughout the Bay’s watershed; authority specifically requested of the Congress, so they can take decisive action to restore the Bay.  The legislation codifies and accelerates the completion of a court-ordered “total maximum daily load” (TMDL) pollution allocation for the Chesapeake Bay.  The TMDL is effectively a “pollution budget” for the Bay that identifies the sources of nutrients and sediment, by major tributary, currently responsible for Bay impairment.  When this budget is met, the health of the Bay will be restored. 

Additionally, H.R. 3852 builds upon the existing Federal-State partnership in restoring the health of the Bay by prompting States to take on more authority and responsibility in reducing pollution. States will be given complete flexibility to develop watershed implementation plans that address sources of pollution within their borders, provided that plans provide reasonable assurance in meeting the pollution reduction targets called for in the TMDL. This legislation further enhances the accountability for cleanup of the Bay by requiring States to provide EPA and the public with biennial progress reports on addressing ongoing sources of nitrogen, phosphorous, and sediment. 

States will be required to report both successes and failures in meeting two-year benchmarks for Bay restoration, as well as a clear plan for addressing any anticipated shortfall in meeting these targets over the next two year period. The EPA Administrator will be required to oversee progress in State watershed implementation plans, to approve initial State watershed plans and biennial reports to ensure that the plans are likely to restore the health of the Bay, and to impose sanctions on States that fail to make progress. Testimony before the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment last September unmistakably indicated that the combination of this Federal backstop and two-year milestones will be critical to achieving our goals.

Also critical is an equitable targeting of pollutants to the Bay.  Over the past two decades, EPA and others have identified most of the major sources and respective contributions of pollution to the Bay. H.R. 3852 encourages States and local governments to develop watershed implementation plans to control or eliminate all sources of pollution in an equitable manner. For municipal storm water, the legislation directs EPA to work with States and local governments to control storm water runoff from development projects within the Bay watershed. For agricultural sources, the legislation encourages States to utilize existing authorities and funding to address ongoing agricultural point and nonpoint sources of pollution.

Importantly, H.R. 3852 authorizes significant Federal resources, totaling $2.125 billion, to support State and local efforts to the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay, as well as an additional $2.5 billion in Federal resources for implementation of nonpoint source management projects nationwide. Funding authorized under this legislation will help States, local governments, and agricultural interests defray the costs of implementing the pollutant reductions necessary to restore the health of the Bay.

Finally, H.R. 3852 promotes innovative and market-based incentives to restore the health of the Bay in a cost-effective manner, such as the promotion of low-impact development to reduce storm water runoff and the creation of a Bay-wide nutrient trading program. In terms of trading, this legislation encourages Bay-wide partnerships between municipal and agricultural interests for the implementation of cost-effective, upstream nutrient management controls that provide for necessary reductions in nutrients and sediment.

Through these efforts, and many others, we can bring the Bay back. Now, we must have the courage to pass the bill and the wherewithal to do what needs to be done. As a lifelong Marylander, I know what an incomparable resource the Chesapeake Bay is to our state.  It is all of our responsibility to work together to restore the Chesapeake Bay to its former glory. We must always remember that the most important benefits of our efforts will be given to our children and grandchildren, who simply cannot wait.

More on Environment

October 3, 2018 In The News

The congressman who could become President Donald Trump’s recurring political nightmare has photos on his office walls of himself with anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, pathbreaking boxer Muhammad Ali and civil rights activist Coretta Scott King.

Each were fighters of a sort, and Rep. Elijah Cummings says he is, too. The Baltimore Democrat’s battles usually involve pushing back as best he can on Trump administration policies and practices.

August 1, 2018 Press Release

WASHINGTON – The Maryland congressional delegation today praised the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for issuing a disaster declaration for the devastating storm and flooding that hit Ellicott City, broader Howard County, and Baltimore County in late May. The request for a disaster declaration for Baltimore City for the same storm is still pending.

July 19, 2016 Press Release

Baltimore, MD (July 19, 2016) – Today, Congressmen Elijah E. Cummings and John Sarbanes (both D-MD) and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawling announced a new agreement between the U.S. Department of Energy, the Maryland Clean Energy Center and the City of Baltimore to increase access to solar energy for low-income households. 

August 18, 2015 Press Release
Washington, D.C. (August 18, 2015)— Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) lauded the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) announcement that it has awarded a $200,000 Brownfields Assessment Grant to the City of Baltimore’s Sustainability Office to help revitalize properties.
October 20, 2009 Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 20, 2009  

 

Cummings Introduces Bill To Clean Chesapeake Bay
 HR 3852 creates new pollutant control and accountability program to aid in Bay restoration.

 

October 13, 2009 Press Release

 

Cummings Welcomes Important Funds For Energy Reduction

Full funding from Obama Administration will support energy efficiency and renewables development.

 

January 13, 2009 Press Release

Washington, D.C. — startwidainctext Members of the Maryland Delegation are calling on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to delay a decision on the proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility at Sparrows Point until the Obama Administration takes office next week.  In a letter sent to FERC today, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Congressman C.A.