- The Washington Times - Monday, March 17, 2003

ANNAPOLIS (AP) Federal support for the nationally acclaimed Chesapeake Bay restoration effort, started two decades ago, has slipped under the Bush administration, environmentalists and Bay managers say.
To meet restoration goals, scientists say pollution must be reduced twice as much by 2010 as it was during the past two decades. However, the effort is losing momentum in Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania, the key states in the watershed, advocates say.
Strong oversight by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is necessary because the states are involved voluntarily, they say.
"But in the past two years, I feel EPA has become more a facilitator, playing defense when we need great leadership," said J. Charles Fox, who recently resigned as Maryland's natural resources secretary to work for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
In October, the EPA's Chesapeake Bay Program failed to meet a deadline for cuts in nitrogen and phosphorus.
"If things don't get moving a lot faster than they are now, the Bay will be worse in 10 years instead of better," said William Matuszeski, who led the program for 10 years until retiring in 2001.
Critics say the Bush administration and Congress have threatened restoration through a broad pullback of federal support, including:
A proposal to give the auto and electric utility industries more time to reduce air pollution from vehicles and power plants.
The weakening of Clinton administration proposals to regulate pollution from farm manure.
Signaling that they will soften guidelines on which the state will base new water-quality standards.
Declining to regulate carbon dioxide, which is linked to a sea-level rise that threatens Bay wetlands.
Cutting proposed spending for sewage treatment.
The administration wants to rely less on traditional federal regulation and more on market- and incentive-based pollution reduction, said James Connaughton, a Baltimore native who leads President Bush's Council on Environmental Quality.
"We're looking at a broader array of tools to get programs that work, that [polluters] will adopt rather than litigate," Mr. Connaughton said. "We think we have a winning combination that will dramatically transform places like the Chesapeake Bay."
Mr. Connaughton noted that federal spending for agricultural conservation around the Bay is increasing, and that the Bush administration cracked down on air pollution from large diesel trucks.
States hoping to get more federal money to help pay for the Chesapeake's restoration may be disappointed.
The Chesapeake Bay Commission, representing the three Bay states' legislatures, foresees a $13 billion shortfall in spending by government at all levels through 2010 and has called for a tripling of annual federal spending, an increase of more than $3 billion.
But with federal surpluses gone, war with Iraq looming and more tax cuts proposed by Mr. Bush, "it's very hard to see where the dollars are going to come from to match Bay needs," said Charles Stec, an aide to Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, Maryland Democrat.

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