Report: Major cuts proposed to federal Chesapeake Bay funding

David Weissman
  • White House budget proposal includes cutting Chesapeake Bay cleanup funding by more than 93 percent.
  • Funding is used to promote pollution reduction among 6 watershed states, including Pa., and D.C.

The White House has proposed slashing federal funding to the Chesapeake Bay cleanup project by more than 93 percent, according to a Washington Post report.

The Susquehanna River is shown looking north from Safe Harbor Dam.

The Environmental Protection Agency currently provides about $73 million annually to the project, which encompasses efforts of six states — including Pennsylvania — and Washington, D.C., for coordinating science, research and modeling to cleanup efforts in addition to grants to state and local governments for reducing pollution.

The federal Office of Management and Budget has proposed cutting that funding to $5 million during the next fiscal year, The Post reported.

The proposal includes cutting the EPA's staff by one-fifth and eliminating dozens of programs, according to the report.

Williams Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said in a statement that the funding reduction mentioned in The Washington Post would seem to be inconsistent with President Donald Trump's remarks about clean water.

Trump pledged to "promote clean air and water" in his speech to Congress on Tuesday night.

Baker said the proposed reduction would undo major strides the states have made in recent years to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

Report: Pa. improving, but behind clean water goals

The foundation's most recent report found that the health of the bay is steadily improving, though Pennsylvania is lagging behind other watershed states in its pollution reduction goals.

The EPA set pollution standards for each state that are supposed to be 60 percent complete by the end of 2017 and 100 percent complete by the end of 2025.

The state Department of Environmental Protection has already acknowledged that Pennsylvania likely won't meet its 2017 milestones.

Per the agreement, the EPA is allowed to withhold funding to any state that does not meet its goals.

Members of the bipartisan Congressional Chesapeake Bay Watershed Task Force recently sent a letter to Trump urging him to maintain the $73 million provided annually to restoration efforts.

Baker noted that the proposal is just the first step in developing the EPA's budget, and the foundation is hopeful that administrator Scott Pruitt will want to take advantage of the "successful, bipartisan and noncontroversial" program.

— Reach David Weissman at or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the EPA has the power to fine any state that doesn't meet its clean water goals, but a Chesapeake Foundation spokesman said the EPA is only allowed to withhold funding.