The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on June 30 approved several bills to protect and restore great U.S. water bodies, including the Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes. The Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act of 2009 (S. 1816), sponsored by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), would give state and local governments in the Chesapeake Bay watershed expanded authority, authorize $1.5 billion in new grants over five years to control urban and suburban stormwater, and provide new enforcement tools. The bill also would establish a flexible pollution trading program that is designed to lower compliance costs while providing bay watershed farmers with added financial incentives to implement conservation practices on their lands.
The approved version of the bill includes a key amendment provided by Sens. Cardin (D-MD) and Inhofe (R-OK), which clarifies that EPA will not be given additional permitting authority and that EPA will use existing authority to issue Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs). Other provisions in the amendment allow for state-adopted watershed implementation plans to meet pollutant goals along with enforcement mechanisms such as a penalty structure for non-compliance or a reduction of state funds. Amendments provided by Sens. Arlen Specter (D-PA) and Thomas Carper (D-DE) were also approved, which include the protection of agricultural producer that is in compliance with federal, state, or local laws and is consistent with an approved state watershed implementation plan, and the authorization of a grant program for agriculture animal waste-to-energy projects.
The committee also approved by voice vote the Great Lakes Ecosystem Protection Act of 2010 (S. 3073), which was introduced by Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), George Voinovich (R-Ohio), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), and Richard Durbin (D-Ill.). The bill would authorize $650 million annually for fiscal years 2010 through 2014 to protect and restore the Great Lakes, by funding $475 million annually to remove contaminated sediments from lakes, control invasive species, reduce pollution, and restore fish and wildlife habitat in the Great Lakes. Additionally, the bill would authorize $25 million annually for the EPA's Great Lakes National Program Office.