Sarbanes Leads Bicameral Push Urging Bay States, D.C. to Uphold Chesapeake Bay Environmental Protections as EPA Abandons Enforcement

Today, Chesapeake Bay Watershed Task Force Co-Chair Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) and Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) led 15 Members of Congress in urging Bay Watershed Governors Larry Hogan (R-Md.), Tom Wolf (D-Penn.), John Carney (D-Del.), Ralph Northam (D-Va.) and Jim Justice (R-W.Va.), along with Mayor Muriel Bowser (D-D.C.), to maintain rigorous environmental standards to reduce pollution and protect the health of the Chesapeake Bay, despite the Trump Administration’s decision to relax enforcement of these standards.

“As you know, Americans are currently facing the worst public health crisis in a century and we appreciate the work that you and your states are doing on the front lines to address it,” the Members wrote. “Yet, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, the EPA has taken several actions that will increase pollution and cause significant adverse impacts to public health and our environment. Specifically, the relaxation of the Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Program, outlined in the EPA memorandum released on March 26, 2020, could have significant negative impacts on the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its 64,000 square mile watershed, and those Americans who depend on it for recreation, fishing, and clean water.”

The Members continued: “The vitality of the Chesapeake Bay watershed is contingent upon compliance with statutory pollution limitations. EPA’s decision to refrain from enforcement action against entities’ failure to comply with their obligations under federal law, federal permits, EPA administrative orders and EPA-related judicial consent decrees abdicates its duty to ‘protect human health and the environment.’”

The Members concluded: “We urge you all to reject the EPA’s memorandum and provide an update on your plans to ensure critical and essential environmental enforcement within your authorities during this time. Maintaining transparency and the ability for the public to comment on any actions is necessary at all times, especially now, and we urge all state and local governments to utilize technology to meet these obligations. As many of you are partnering to respond to COVID-19 on a regional basis, we must all work together to meet our mutual goal of clean water in the Chesapeake Bay watershed by 2025.”

In addition to Congressman Sarbanes and Senator Van Hollen, the letter was signed by Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Representatives Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), Anthony G. Brown (D-Md.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), David Trone (D-Md.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Donald McEachin (D-Va.), Gerald Connolly (D-Va.), Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.), Donald Beyer (D-Va.), and Elaine Luria (D-Va.).