United States: The Federal Funding Cut To The Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Program Will Have Potential Environmental And Economic Impacts

Last Updated: April 7 2017
Article by Van P. Hilderbrand Jr

In our previous post entitled "EPA's Budget was Cut How Much? Making Sense of the White House's 'Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,'" we discussed the White House's proposed fiscal year 2018 budget outline for the federal government, including spending at the Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA"). One line item in the proposal that affects a large portion of the nation, and the mid-Atlantic region in particular, is the proposed funding cuts to the Chesapeake Bay cleanup program. Since many of our clients call this region home and because this proposal will have potential economic impacts, we wanted to highlight them here.

The Chesapeake Bay watershed, at roughly 64,000 square miles, has a wide reach, stretching as far north as New York and running through Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia as it makes its way to the Atlantic Ocean. It contains 50 major rivers and streams and is utilized in some fashion by seventeen million people who live within its influence. In addition to sustaining native habitat and fisheries, the Bay supports commercial industry in all its bordering jurisdictions, including fishing and crabbing, tourism, commerce, agriculture, and manufacturing. According to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's ("CBF") 2016 State of Bay report card, the Bay is the healthiest it's been in years.

EPA Serves a Coordinating Role and Federal Funds Help Vital Water Quality Projects

The White House's budget proposal doesn't just reduce the program's FY 2017 budget of $73 million; it eliminates all funding for FY 2018. This means that no EPA resources or staff will be dedicated to work with watershed stakeholders. But how important is EPA's role? Will the progress of the Bay's cleanup be threatened if funding is eliminated?

In 2010, EPA established total maximum daily loads or TMDLs for nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) and sediment in the Bay watershed. TMDLs are the amount of pollutants a body of water can handle and still be able to support beneficial uses such as aquatic life, fishing, drinking water, and recreation. To achieve what many call this "pollution diet," EPA mandated a goal for each of the six participating states and the District of Columbia to achieve reductions by 2025. Although these limits were set as a result of a lawsuit against EPA, the federal agency has been a driving force in the cleanup. These jurisdictions and EPA signed the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement on June 16, 2014 to set further goals and to track the watershed's restoration progress.

In a press release published shortly after the budget was proposed, CBF noted that EPA plays an essential role in coordinating the cleanup and monitoring efforts across the Bay watershed. According to CBF, "[t]he EPA's role in this cleanup is nothing less than fundamental. It's not just important, it is critical." Moreover, "there is a very real chance that if this budget were implemented, the Bay will revert back to a national disgrace with deteriorating water quality, unhealthy fish and shellfish, and water borne diseases that pose a real threat to human health." From an environmental and economic perspective, this would be a tragedy. For industry and businesses whose own commercial viability and health is tied to the health of the Bay, this is a grave concern. Especially so if the region doesn't fully realize a $130 billion economic boon that many believe will come in the next 10 years with a restored Bay watershed.

Without EPA's oversight and coordination, there is a possibility that the goals established in the Watershed Agreement may not be met and water pollutants will again go unchecked. This is due to the fact that the states have no authority over one another and EPA has served to push lagging states toward their goals. Yet, lack of oversight is just one worry. A majority of EPA's funding appropriated for the Bay cleanup flows directly to the individual states for grants to fund projects focused on improving water quality, such as upgrading deteriorating waste water treatment infrastructure and controlling chemical runoff, and habitat restoration. Thus, many of the programs to be implemented through the watershed implementation plans in Maryland and in other states will be impacted. If the crucial restoration efforts are to continue, that money will have to come from individual state budgets, which will be problematic as states face their own resource constraints.

For some industry groups, the budget cuts may be welcomed. After EPA established the TMDLs for the watershed, several agricultural and development groups and numerous states, none of which later signed the Watershed Agreement, challenged the standards in federal court arguing Clean Water Act overreach and that the approach infringed on states' rights to manage their own waters and make decisions with regards to land use. A federal district court judge and an appellate court panel sided with EPA. Facing a potential 4-4 split on the issue after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case, leaving the appellate decision as law. Although the watershed TMDLs will stay in place for the time being, without federal funding and EPA involvement, it is conceivable that states will find it difficult to maintain enforcement and monitoring of these goals.

Cuts to the Bay Cleanup Program Have Been Opposed by Many Local Stakeholders

There has already been an outpouring of disagreement with the budget proposal among environmental and conservation groups, and state lawmakers, including Maryland and Virginia Congressional representatives. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, has opposed the proposed budget. Further, Democratic leaders in the Maryland General Assembly introduced a resolution on Thursday, March 23 that calls on Republican Governor Larry Hogan to oppose the proposed cuts in federal funding. In response, a spokeswoman for the governor reiterated that Gov. Hogan "has already made it clear he will always fight for the Chesapeake Bay and that he opposes hypothetical cuts at the federal level." As the budget proposal gets more detailed over the next few weeks, we expect many more stakeholders and states will voice their opposition to the elimination of this imperative program.

Keep in mind, as we noted in the last post, the budget outline is just a proposal and not that last word. We will follow this issue and post updates to this blog. Please check back.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.