WASHINGTON — Environmental advocates are raising concerns over President Donald Trump’s proposed budget, saying the spending plan would slash funding for a program that has helped to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.
Under Trump’s proposal, released this week by the Office of Management and Budget, federal funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program would be eliminated.
The program is led by the Environmental Protection Agency and is focused on reducing pollution in the bay.
“This just makes no sense,” said William Baker, president of the nonprofit Chesapeake Bay Foundation. “The EPA role in the cleanup of the bay is nothing less than fundamental. It is not just important, it is critical.”
Trump’s budget proposal would effectively cut the program’s budget down to nothing. It currently has an annual budget of about $73 million.
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According to Trump’s plan, eliminating the federal funding will return “the responsibility for funding local environmental efforts and programs to state and local entities, allowing EPA to focus on its highest national priorities.”
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said the budget slashing is a break from a bipartisan tradition of supporting cleanup efforts.
“This is the first president that proposes fully eliminating all federal support for cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay,” Warner said in response to Trump’s budget blueprint. “That’s wrong.”
He said the plan would affect recreation and tourism as well as the fishing industry.
Environmental advocates say the federal program has been a major factor in reducing pollution, improving water quality and helping crab and oyster populations rebound in the Chesapeake Bay. They say the cuts proposed by the federal government could reverse years of progress.
“If this program is eliminated, there’s a very real chance that the bay will revert to a national disgrace with deteriorating water quality,” said Baker. “Clean water is not a luxury, it’s a right that no American should have to fight to achieve.”
According to the foundation, about $59 million of the $73 million in EPA funding for the program in the 2016 fiscal year budget was funneled down to state and local governments and groups that work to improve the bay.
The District and six states, including Maryland and Virginia, have been awarded grants annually to develop plans to reduce pollution.