Yet again, the Trump Administration has put funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program on the chopping block, as President Donald J. Trump proposed a slew of environmental cuts in his budget last month.
In his budget, Trump proposed a 90 percent cut to the Chesapeake Bay Program, from $73 million to $7.3 million. While Trump’s budget, like all presidential budgets, serves a guideline for legislatures, it is Congress that has final say.
Trump’s proposed cuts to the Chesapeake Bay Program, a regional partnership among states in the bay’s watershed to reduce pollution, has drawn criticism from both Democrats and Republicans.
Given the critical role Chesapeake Bay’s plays in the state’s economy, Maryland politicians were quick to criticize cuts to the federal program, which coordinates the efforts of states in the region to keep it clean.
“As governor of Maryland and chairman of the Chesapeake Executive Council,
protecting the Chesapeake Bay remains one of my top priorities,” said Gov. Larry Hogan (R) in a statement. “The EPA Administrator himself called the Chesapeake Bay Program a ‘high priority,’ making this week’s cut in the budget a total betrayal. These cuts are potentially devastating to restoration efforts at such a critical time.”
While Congress often does not take the president’s budget as gospel, neither does Trump.
During a speech in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Trump announced that he changed his mind about a 90 percent cut to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, promising to support full funding of $300 million for the program.
In a terse exchange during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Committee hearing with EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) ripped into the Trump administrations cuts to the agency and Wheeler’s administration of the agency.
“It does indicate that the whole process on the executive side of the ledger is a bit of a sham here, but I’m pleased that on a bipartisan basis that this Committee has continued to fund these important projects,” Van Hollen said.
The proposed cuts come as a part of Trump’s across the board cuts to federal agencies — especially the Environmental Protection Agency. In his budget, Trump proposed a 31 percent cut to the EPA’s budget, totaling $2.76 billion in cuts.
Wheeler defended the cuts to the EPA, saying it represents a more-commonsense strategy to environmental regulation — one that places more emphasis on reducing the agency’s costs.
“This commonsense budget proposal would support the agency as it continues to work with states, tribes and local governments to protect human health and the environment,” Wheeler said in a statement. “I am proud of the tremendous progress that EPA and its partners have made in cleaning our nation’s air, water and land, and I am looking forward to continuing this progress through FY 2020.”
While under previous budgets, Trump proposed major cuts to programs of particular interest to Maryland, Congress has restored many of those cuts. Van Hollen said it is unlikely that the Senate would support a 90 percent cut to the Chesapeake Bay Program, and with a Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, which backs increased funding for environmental programs — cuts to it are unlikely.