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EPA and the Bay
Federal oversight and enforcement is really the only way to ensure progress on restoring the Chesapeake Bay

Date published: 4/18/2011

ONE OF THE cuts that resulted from the tense negotiations to avert a government shutdown was welcomed by advocates of the Chesapeake Bay restoration plan. An amendment offered by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) would have prevented federal funding of the EPA's efforts to impose and enforce its "pollution diet" for the Bay, but fortunately it was removed with the rest of the GOP's legislative "riders."

Of course that isn't the end of the story, because such language is certain to be resurrected as Congress pursues a spending plan for fiscal 2012. Those who agree that federal involvement is necessary to achieve the goal of a restored Chesapeake Bay need to be vigilant.

Mr. Goodlatte is certainly not alone on this. Many of his GOP colleagues see the EPA as a particularly heinous example of federal government intrusion and control. It apparently does not occur to them, or if it does it is irrelevant, that pollution issues such as the Bay, smokestack and automobile emissions, acid rain, etc., are multi-state concerns that require elusive multi-state cooperation to combat.

Without central oversight, little if anything is accomplished. Virginia and Maryland could make their waterways squeaky clean, for example, but progress would be stymied if New York and Pennsylvania failed to limit pollution of the Susquehanna River, which, notes the U.S. Geological Survey, contributes more than half of the Bay's fresh water.

Attitudes such as that of Mr. Goodlatte, who insists the Bay will somehow heal itself without such oversight, stand to cripple restoration efforts.

On the other hand, new legislation introduced by Virginia Sens. Mark Warner and Jim Webb, both Democrats, aims to ensure accountability as the Bay cleanup proceeds while encouraging cooperation among the many agencies and local governments involved.

The legislation is similar to that introduced by 1st District GOP Rep. Rob Wittman, as a recent letter-to-the-editor writer pointed out, which passed the House in the last Congress and has been reintroduced. In the meantime, however, the partisan composition of the House has changed.

Nevertheless, the Warner/Webb/Wittman legislation is the sort that should draw bipartisan support, particularly from those moderate Republicans who understand the value of restoring the Bay as well as the need to have federal oversight and enforcement in order for progress to be made--but who also want to be assured that money is being spent wisely and bringing results.

Those are priorities all involved should share.