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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

House Agriculture Committee Passes Chesapeake Bay Watershed Bill

House Agriculture Committee Passes Chesapeake Bay Watershed Bill

Washington, D.C.—The House Agriculture Committee today passed H.R 5099, The Chesapeake Bay Restoration and Improvement Act. U.S. Representative Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson, R-Howard, is a cosponsor of the legislation and voted in favor of it. The bill essentially codifies the existing agreements among the states of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and Washington, D.C., to clean up the Bay.

“Many of our local governments and farmers across Pennsylvania are concerned about new and potentially unfair regulations that may be enacted in the coming months to govern the cleanup of the Chesapeake. This alternative legislation will give Pennsylvanians certainty as to how they must comply and allows for flexibility, specifically in the agriculture sector,” said Thompson.

In his mention of potentially unfair regulations, Thompson is referring to the Executive Order signed by President Obama on May 12, 2009 regarding the restoration and protection of the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed. The Order expands the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); sets rigid deadlines for pollution standards known as Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL); sets an enforceable timeline for compliance; and establishes a civil right to action, which opens the door to lawsuits. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) and Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) have introduced bills that essentially codify the President’s Executive Order into enforceable law.

“In my view, the Executive Order and the codifying legislation gives the EPA unwarranted and overreaching powers,” Thompson said.

“While Pennsylvania wants to do its part in helping to restore the Bay, we must be reasonable about our methods”, Thompson continued. H.R 5099, the alternative piece of legislation passed today by the Agriculture Committee, creates an incentive-based regulatory framework with more favorable targets for farmers within the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The bill is supported by the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and most agricultural groups in general.

The vote in the Agriculture Committee is an important first step to send the legislation to the full House and Senate for approval.

A summary of the legislation is attached above.

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