President Trump recently proposed to eliminate all federal funding for the Chesapeake Bay cleanup program, reducing appropriations from $73 million a year down to zero.
His budget, which must still be approved by Congress, is part of a bigger plan to slash the funding and power of the Environmental Protection Agency. Trump has proposed cutting EPA’s budget by 31 percent nationally, eliminating 3,200 positions, and terminating 50 programs nationally, including not only the Chesapeake Bay Program but also the Great Lakes restoration.
Yesterday, the President also signed an executive order that seeks to throw out all carbon dioxide pollution limits for power plants, open up public lands for coal mining, and abolish a requirement that federal agencies consider the climate impact of the decisions.
The Trump administration argues that EPA must be dismantled because its regulations are killing jobs. But there is no factual basis for this claim. U.S. Department of Labor Statistics show that less than two tenths of one percent all layoffs are caused by regulations.
In truth, these cuts are all about political ideology. In Trump’s budget, titled “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” he makes the case for stripping all funding from the Chesapeake Bay and Great Lakes cleanups because these are initiatives that he thinks should be handled at the state level.
But this “state’s rights” argument makes no sense, because the biggest problem in both the Chesapeake and Great Lakes is interstate water pollution, which no individual state can stop on its own.
Nine U.S. Senators and 17 Representatives from the Chesapeake region recently signed letters urging Trump not to cut funding for the bay cleanup because it is finally working. After years of no progress under a state-led partnership, the overall health of the Chesapeake started improving in 2010, when EPA finally asserted a stronger leadership role and threatened penalties to states that kept failing to meet pollution reduction goals.
Twenty one of those 26 lawmakers who spoke up for the bay were Democrats. Five were in Trump’s party. One was U.S. Representative Andy Harris of Maryland, a Republican who serves the first district, including parts of Baltimore County and the Eastern Shore.
Harris issued a statement to the press that attempted to agree both with Trump and with protecting the bay. He said, "As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I look forward to working with the administration to prioritize programs within the Environmental Protection Agency that would preserve bay cleanup efforts.... within the constraints of the discretionary budget cuts necessary to increase defense spending."
The last part of his statement touches on the core craziness at the heart of Trump’s proposed cuts to EPA. Not even Trump -- who claims all kinds of outlandish things -- claims that eliminating funding for the Chesapeake cleanup will save taxpayers money.
Trump’s budget document argues that EPA and other federal agencies should be cut to help make room for a $54 billion increase in spending for the U.S. military, which already receives more money than the armed forces of the world’s next seven largest nations combined.
A study by the U.S. Defense Business Board found that the Pentagon could save $25 billion a year simply by reducing waste. That’s enough to fund the entire Chesapeake Bay Program’s budget 342 times over.
A single new U.S. Navy Zumwalt-class destroyer of the kind that visited Baltimore Harbor last fall costs $8 billion. Think about it: That’s more than enough money to totally rebuild Baltimore’s antiquated and leaky sewer system, plus replace all 191 of the city’s public schools with state of the art learning campuses.
All for one boat – which probably wouldn’t be much use against terrorists in the back alleys of Syria, anyway. This Trumps all logic.