Bill aims to improve Chesapeake
Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) this week joined a majority of his colleagues on the Environment and Public Works Committee in supporting legislation that he says would help Delaware and other states clean up and restore the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.
The Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Act would reauthorize the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Chesapeake Bay Program and provide state and local governments in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed $1.5 billion in new grant funding to implement clean-up efforts.
For the first time in the Chesapeake Bay Program’s history, Delaware would be guaranteed federal money to implement restoration plans. The legislation includes an amendment authored by Carper that would provide grant money for projects that convert agriculture animal waste to energy.
“Over the past several months, I have worked with my colleagues in the Senate on this legislation to ensure that it builds on the progress we have made in Delaware to clean up our environment,” Carper said. “Thanks in large part to the efforts of our agriculture community and the Delaware Nutrient Management Commission, Delaware has become a national leader in reducing nutrient pollution.
“Since introducing this bill last October, my colleagues and I have worked with diverse stakeholders throughout the Chesapeake Bay region to improve the bill and make sure that states and our farmers have the tools they need.
“Going forward,” he said, “I remain committed to working with my fellow senators to further improve this legislation so it can effectively restore the bay and at the same time ensure that farmers, small businesses, and our state and local agencies are not negatively impacted.”
The legislation would guarantee Delaware a minimum of roughly $2.5 to $3 million per year in federal funding to create a state watershed implementation plan. Additionally, Delaware would be able to compete with other states for $1.5 billion in grants to implement its state watershed implementation plan.
Carper said the funds will lead to investments that will greatly benefit Delaware’s infrastructure and environment at home, such as grants to purchase new equipment to better manage stormwater and runoff from municipal wastewater treatment plants.
The bill also guarantees a minimum of $16 million annually in technical assistance grants to farmers in Chesapeake Basin states to help meet their nutrient reduction goals.
Carper’s amendment to encourage the conversion of agriculture animal waste-to-energy would establish a program to provide farmers, state and local agencies, private companies and nonprofits in Chesapeake basin states with grant funding for projects that demonstrate an ability not only to convert agriculture animal waste to energy but also reduce impacts of agriculture animal waste on water, air and environmental quality.
The amendment authorizes $30 million in grant funding over the next five years. The program is designed to help farmers meet their nutrient reduction goals while at the same time providing them a source of clean, renewable energy.
“My amendment would help farmers meet the new water quality targets, while also encouraging renewable energy production,” Carper said.
Sen. Carper also co-sponsored amendments offered by Sens. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) that he said will benefit Delaware farmers and state and local agencies.
Specter’s amendment ensures that farmers complying with a state’s watershed implementation plan will not be subject to new review by EPA should the state be found in non-compliance. Gillibrand’s amendment would save the state of Delaware money by changing the state share requirements for headwater states (Delaware, New York and West Virginia) from 50 percent to 25 percent for the state watershed implementation plan grants. Both amendments were adopted by the committee.
The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in North America, with a length of 200 miles and 11,684 miles of tidal shoreline, more than the entire U.S. West Coast. About 100,000 streams and rivers thread through the Chesapeake’s 64,000-square-mile watershed, which is home to almost 17 million people across Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. The Chesapeake Bay supports more than 3,600 species of plants, fish and animals.