The Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act of 2009, proposed by Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, is currently in the Senate. We are all frustrated with the slow pace of the Chesapeake Bay cleanup, and this bill, which would amend the Clean Water Act, seeks to provide new measures to help speed up the effort. However, despite the good intentions, recent amendments to the bill - made to get the votes needed to move it out of committee - significantly weaken the bill. As a result of the amendments, most Waterkeepers and some other environmental organizations feel that it would end up doing more harm than good.
The primary cause of our concern is that provisions of the bill will weaken the Clean Water Act, which is a proven tool for improving our impaired waterways. The bill would exempt some polluters from permitting requirements, would create a “safe harbor” for agriculture operations, and would set up a market-based pollution trading scheme which doesn’t contain an appropriate level of verification and accountability. For these reasons, although we acknowledge Senator Cardin’s good intentions, we oppose the current version of the bill.