EDITORIAL: Saving the bay
Apparently the Chesapeake Bay is clean enough for Donald Trump.
The golfer in chief wants to gut the Environmental Protection Agency, cutting funding by 30 percent, and completely eliminate the $73 million Chesapeake Bay Program, according to his proposed budget.
The proposal would leave the health of the bay and the people, animals and plants that depend on it up to the six states, including Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C., that have signed onto the program, which began in 1983 under Ronald Reagan.
The proposal goes against principles that true conservatives have held dear since Theodore Roosevelt named the first national park and Richard Nixon proposed the EPA by cutting a program that is doing good work both environmentally and economically.
Congress needs to take a hard look at Trump's entire budget proposal, especially portions such as this that will have a direct effect on the lives of many Americans.
Harry Campbell, executive director for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in Pennsylvania, said he was shocked when he learned about the proposal.
"This program has been a model of state and federal cooperation," he said. "It's working to provide real and tangible returns for cleaner water."
The goal of the program is to reduce pollution in the bay by cutting farm runoff, industrial pollution, untreated sewage and more from the streams and rivers that flow into the bay, including the Susquehanna River and all its tributaries in York County.
The EPA has in the past withheld program funding when states didn't meet its goals in the Clean Water Blueprint, which outlines steps each state must take to restore the bay to a score of 70 on an environmental scale. The bay was listed at 34 last year on the scale, which takes into account 13 factors involving pollution, habitat and fisheries. A score of 100, which would reflect the state of the bay before Europeans came to this continent, would be impossible to achieve, officials say,
The EPA set standards for the states that are supposed to be 60 percent in place by the end of this year and 100 percent by 2025.
Pennsylvania will not meet that 2017 goal, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.
With no funding to give or take away, the EPA would only be able to withhold permits to try to force states to live up to the agreement and reduce pollution.
The benefits of making the bay healthier go beyond simply making the world a better place with clean water and a wide variety of animal and plant species.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has estimated that Pennsylvania would see economic benefits of $6.2 billion a year through cleaner water and air, hurricane protection, recreational activities and more if it meets the goals.
In York County, farmers have used grants from the Chesapeake Bay Program to reduce runoff by adding stream-side trees, keeping cattle out of streams and determining the correct amount of fertilizer to use on crops. York County is second in the state for agricultural pollution, behind Lancaster County, with an estimated 6.54 million pounds of nitrogen pollution going into the Susquehanna River each year from the county's 250,000 acres of farmland, according to the CBF.
The Chesapeake Bay Program is not perfect. The standards it demands are very high, and getting to those goals is costly.
But the payoff in clean air and water, healthy fish and shellfish and waterways that are fit to use for recreation far outweighs the price of the fixes.
Possibly the president needs to spend a weekend on the bay instead of at one of his golf clubs so he can understand that.