Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland speaking to the COG Board of Directors on October 14, 2009.
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) spoke to the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) on Wednesday about his proposal to restore the Chesapeake Bay and listened to their comments on the legislation.
Cardin’s proposal, “The Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act,” would codify President Obama’s recent Chesapeake Bay Executive Order. The act contains a number of important provisions, including strengthening the federal-state Chesapeake Bay Program, establishing aggressive new deadlines for meeting Bay water quality standards as well as consequences for failing to meet those deadlines, and requiring regular progress reports to Congress.
“The health of the Chesapeake Bay is vital to our region,” said Cardin. “Leaders at every level need to be at the table on this issue.” The Bay would likely be in much worse shape were it not for the federal, state, and local efforts coordinated in the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program. However, a number of the program’s water quality goals have not yet been met, and the restoration process must be accelerated. Population growth, the loss of green space to paved surfaces, and the impacts of climate change have made it more difficult to achieve the program’s objectives, Cardin said.
The Washington region has invested billions of dollars over the past three decades to put in place advanced wastewater treatment technology to clean up the Potomac River and the Bay. The region is continuing to invest heavily in further upgrades to the technology at area wastewater facilities, and is taking aggressive action to control stormwater runoff across the region.
Gaithersburg City Council Member Catherine Drzyzgula told Board members that she looked forward to working with Cardin on restoration of the Bay, and noted additional elements that COG has proposed be included in Cardin’s bill. Drzyzgula, Chair of COG’s Chesapeake Bay and Water Resources Policy Committee (CBPC) recently testified to Congress regarding the Chesapeake Bay on behalf of COG.
Current economic realities make additional funding necessary for Cardin’s proposal to be feasible at the local level, said Drzyzgula. Additionally, she noted that flexibility in implementation will be important. “Some aspects of regulation are best left at the state and local level,” Drzyzgula said. “Regulations must also strike a balance among often competing policy goals, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting smart growth.”
COG Board Chairman and Fairfax County Vice Chairman Penny Gross thanked Cardin for his leadership and his reaching out to COG. Gross noted that COG created the Chesapeake Bay and Water Resources Policy Committee in 1998 based on principles which are consistent with Cardin’s vision for restoring the Bay. Gross welcomed the opportunity to work together with the Senator on establishing achievable targets and standards that will lead to a restored Chesapeake Bay. “We want to cooperate with our federal partners to ensure that we succeed in this effort.”
Sen. Cardin also discussed legislation recently submitted by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and John Kerry (D-MA) that would create a cap-and-trade system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That legislation demonstrates that “America is ready to be a leader again in the fight against climate change,” Cardin said. The Senator also noted that passing strong climate change legislation will be a critical component for achieving the objectives of the Chesapeake Bay Program.
The COG Board recently transmitted a letter of support for the Kerry-Boxer bill. The letter also indicated the importance of allocating a meaningful share of any allowance revenue from the cap and trade legislation to local governments for carrying out greenhouse gas emissions reduction and energy conservation initiatives.