Calling it “a national treasure,” President Barack Obama on Tuesday issued an executive order to bring the full weight of the federal government behind cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. The executive order calls for the Environmental Protection Agency and six other federal agencies to coordinate the scattered federal tools and resources to help the neighboring states speed cleanup of the nation’s largest estuary.
Standing in front of the Potomac River, EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson presented the executive order, which creates the Federal Leadership Committee for the Chesapeake Bay and institutes a bay-wide set of strict pollution caps backed by state action plans and federal consequences to assure progress.
The caps include sharp reductions in pollutants that impact the bay; robust use of existing authorities; increased funding support, and unrivaled scientific and technical assistance.
“This executive order is a strong signal of the President’s commitment to restoring this national treasure, which is so vital to the environment, the local economies, and the way of life for millions of people,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “If we come up short, this may be the last generation of watermen on the Chesapeake Bay.”
Today, the Bay’s oyster population is a mere two percent of its historic level, and diminished ecosystems continue to keep the crab population well-below the average.
The $35.1 million budget proposal for the Chesapeake Bay Program for FY 2010 unveiled in early May is the largest ever requested by an administration. States in the watershed, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware, have begun to approve additional clean water awards from the Recovery Act to reduce water pollution impacting the bay and its tributaries.
“The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has said the bay could be restored to health in five years if the federal government fully enforced the Clean Water Act,” reports the AP. “The foundation earlier this year sued the EPA seeking such enforcement. Obama’s executive order cites the Clean Water Act as justification for his actions.”
The new EPA plan will identify actions to make full use of Clean Water Act tools, implementing a compliance and enforcement strategy to ensure that regulated entities follow the rule of law.
Virginia Governor Tim Kaine had a large hand in the policy, encouraging the President and meeting with Administrator Jackson as well.
Although it is a fight for clean water, the EPA will also act to reduce air pollution that impacts the bay. A new Clean Air Interstate Rule will provide significant reductions in nitrogen and other pollutants emitted from power plants and other sources in the eastern United States — by an estimated 10 million pounds annually.
Federal agencies will create action reports that will be integrated into a draft federal strategy within 180 days of the signing of the executive order to include progress reports and periodic reviews by an independent evaluator.
More information on the Chesapeake Bay Program: www.epa.gov/Region3/chesapeake