Federal Update - October 2018

Two big events happened in D.C. at midnight on September 30, Fiscal Year 2018 and the year’s federal appropriations ended, and the 2014 Farm Bill expired. Only one of those events has been addressed by Congress. Congress passed several funding packages (minibuses) that included most of the 12 appropriation bills that are needed to fund the federal government in FY 2019. But several of these bills, including Agriculture and Interior were given a temporary funding extension (Continuing Resolution) through December 7. The Interior Appropriations Bill funds EPA, Dept. of the Interior agencies, the Forest Service and numerous other agencies. Both the House and Senate versions of the Interior Bill contain $73 million for the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program, as well as language directing EPA to continue funding the NFWF-administered Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Grants at $12 million.

Two vastly different Farm Bills were passed by the House and Senate earlier this year, and the conferees from each body who have been trying to bridge their differences since August have not made a lot of progress. At this point it is very unlikely that Congress will resolve this impasse until after the mid-term elections on November 6. There are mechanisms that can be used by USDA and Congress to keep most Farm Bill programs viable through at least December 31 without a new Farm Bill or an extension. The strong possibility of the House flipping from Republican to Democratic control starting on January 3, 2019, also complicates the future of a new Farm Bill.

Peter Marx is a federal contractor at Choose Clean Water.

 

Federal Update - July 2018

All FY18 Federal spending bills expire at the end of the Fiscal Year on September 30, 2018, as does the current Farm Bill, which passed in 2014. The Coalition is working to support the Senate passed Interior Appropriations Bill as well as the Senate passed Conservation Title of the Farm Bill.

Appropriations:

The House passed FY19 Interior Appropriations Bill funds the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program at $73 million – the highest amount ever in the House. It also includes $6 million for the Chesapeake Small Watershed Grants and $6 million for the nutrient and sediment reduction grants – both currently administered by National Fish & Wildlife Foundation. The Bill itself, however, cuts overall EPA spending and has some very bad environmental riders, including Congressman Bob Goodlatte’s (R-VA) amendment to prevent EPA from enforcing the Chesapeake Bay TMDL. No Democrats voted for the final passage of this bill on the House Floor.

The Senate’s Interior Appropriations Bill just passed overwhelmingly on the Senate floor on August 1, and the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program has the same funding as in the House bill - $73 million and $6 million for each of the two grant programs. The bill also contains report language criticizing the Administration for ignoring a directive to keep Federal offices working on Chesapeake issues co-located in Annapolis. This seems to already have led to an agreement to keep EPA, U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service Chesapeake Offices all co-located in Annapolis.

The two bills also fully fund the Chesapeake Gateways Program –$2.02 million and contain some generic language that will likely make USGS Chesapeake work whole at $12.6 million.

Farm Bill:

The Senate Farm Bill Passed 86-11 on June 28 and House Farm Bill passed 213-211 on June 21 (after failing to pass on May 18)

The House bill has a lot of very bad provisions including:

  • Controversial SNAP (aka Food Stamps) workfare provisions that caused 0 Dems to vote for it in Committee and both times on the floor
  • Cuts $795 million in conservation funding over 10 years
  • Guts the Clean Water Act regarding regulation of pesticides
  • Weakens the Endangered Species Act
  • Seeks to exempt NEPA requirements for activities on Federal Forest lands
  • And others…

The Bill does have a number of good provisions in the Conservation Title – such as substantially increasing funding for EQIP; and increases for ACEP and RCPP; increased CRP acres; etc.

In contrast, the Senate Farm Bill has:

  • NO onerous controversial provisions for SNAP
  •  NO bad environmental riders
  • NO overall cuts to conservation funding

AND the Senate Bill contains two key provisions that are very important to the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) – incorporates almost all of Sen. Van Hollen’s Ches. Bay Farm Bill Enhancements Act (S. 2139 & H.R. 4420). The Coalition formally endorsed this “marker bill”, virtually all of which was incorporated into the Senate Farm bill.

  • Doubles the amount of mandatory funding for the Program – from $100 million to $200 million.
  • Eases the administrative burdens and confusion that participants had to face in the first 5 years of the program
  • Focuses projects in critical conservation areas (CCA), such as the Ches. Bay watershed, on conservation practices that benefit water quality.
  • AND the biggest change, is eliminating one of three funding pools (nat’l)  and folding that funding into the CCA and State pools – so CCAs will get 60 percent of the funds, rather than the current 35 percent. This doesn’t guarantee more funding for the Bay watershed, but it should happen.

Conservation Reserve Enhancements Program (CREP) – The Senate folded in most of Senator Bob Casey’s (D-PA) CREP marker Bill – generally known as the “buffer bill”. This provision is national in scope but there are big benefits in our region – as an example, the 2014 Ches. Bay Watershed Agreement calls for restoring 900 miles of forest buffers annually – and the states are way behind in meeting those goals. This new CREP is intended to streamline and increase its use in our region. This is program is authorized by acres, not dollars, and calls for at least a 50% percent increase in acres, from 1 million to at least 1.5 million acres.

 

 

Federal Update - May 2018

The House Agriculture Committee “marked up” and reported out a new 2018 Farm Bill (H.R. 2 - “Agriculture and Nutrient Act of 2018”) on April 18. The bill, developed by the Committee Chairman and other Republican members of the Committee, was viewed as a flawed partisan bill by Democrats. The bill was passed and reported out of Committee on a totally party line vote - 26 Republicans for, and 20 Democrats against. 

The bill still has to go to the full House for a vote on the Floor, and that might happen the week of May 7.

The vast majority of the $867 billion package goes to food and nutrition programs - e.g., Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP - also known as food stamps). H.R. 2 included strict and expanded mandatory state workfare programs. Democrats expressed grave concerns about the process and the substance of the bill and refused to offer any amendments and all voted against the bill.

 

A few quick observations about the Conservation Title of this bill.

All in all the Conservation Title of the bill is better than many expected, but it still has issues. We have been concerned about the shortfall in funding for the Chesapeake under the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) for the past five years. Those concerns led to the introduction of a House and Senate bill (Chesapeake Bay Farm Bill Enhancements Act - H.R. 4420 & S. 2139) targeting changes to the RCPP that would likely lead to more RCPP funding in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The major changes outlined in the Chesapeake Bay bill were not included in the House bill, but that was not a surprise. We have recognized that our major opportunity to forward the changes needed to better help the Chesapeake region rested in the Senate, and they have not acted yet. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) are strong supporters and both serve on the Senate Committee on Agriculture - unfortunately, Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) gave up his seat on the Committee a few months ago, but he is still heavily involved in efforts to coordinate Senate strategy.

The House bill has a baseline cut of conservation programs of $790 million over 10 years, although most of that comes from eliminating the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). The bill puts some of CSP's current funding into the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and eliminates the rest of CSP.

  • EQIP funding:

    • FY19 $2.0 billion

    • FY20 $2.5 billion

    • FY21 $2.75 billion

    • FY22 $2.935 billion

    • FY23 $3.0 billion

  • Agriculture Conservation Easement Program (ACEP)

    • FY19-FY23 - $500 million annually

  • Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)

    • FY19 - 25 million acres

    • FY20 - 26 million acres

    • FY21 - 27 million acres

    • FY22 - 28 million acres

    • FY23 - 29 million acres

 

The bill contains some funding switches for RCPP - increasing its mandatory funding from $100 million annually to $250 million, but it eliminates the 7% carve out from donor programs (e.g., EQIP).  This should keep RCPP funded at about the current level. There is a nominal improvement for RCPP to clarify guidance on reporting conservation outcomes.

There is a provision under conservation compliance that requires USDA to promulgate a rule for wetland compliance, which could weaken existing protections - though its focus is on the Prairie Pothole region. 

And all of that ignores some very bad environmental riders sprinkled throughout the bill, concerning the Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act and pesticides/Clean Water Act, among others.

The House is looking at bringing the Farm Bill to the floor in early May - possibly the week of May 7, and the Senate Agriculture Committee is also looking at marking up a 2018 Farm Bill at around the same time. There is not yet a public version of a  “chairman’s bill” that will be the basis of the Senate mark up. And the House is unlikely to bring the bill to the Floor if they are not confident they have the votes to pass the bill. At this time, we are working on getting stronger RCPP language in the Senate version of the Farm Bill.  

 

Peter Marx is a federal contractor at Choose Clean Water.

 

Federal Update - April 2018

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The Choose Clean Water Coalition held our annual Chesapeake Bay Day on Capitol Hill (aka Lobby Day) on March 21. The strategy of waiting until spring to hold our Lobby Day proved to be a poor choice - we had the biggest snow of the year in the DC area, and the Federal gov’t shut down. But luckily for us, Congress was still open - at least partially, and a surprisingly large and determined crew of Coalition Members came to Washington to lobby Congress. We still pulled off about 20 Congressional office meetings and we had 10 Members of Congress come by and speak to us at lunch. A lot of our lobbying was about the FY19 funding that begins on October 1, 2018.

 

And later that day we got the good news as to what the final FY18 appropriations were – and that Omnibus funding bill passed Congress and became law on March 23. The bill included many of the Coalition’s exact “asks” for the Chesapeake, and other good news –

  • $73 million for the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program, which also includes:
  • $6 million for the Chesapeake Small Watershed Grants Program
  • $6 million for the Innovative Nutrient & Sediment Reduction Program
  •  $1.694 billion for Clean Water State Revolving Fund (& $1.163 billion for Drinking Water SRF)
  •  No cuts to Farm Bill conservation programs – the first time that has happened in a decade
  • $2.02 million for Chesapeake Gateways & Trails Program (this also included “authorizing” the Program for FY19, which makes getting the next year’s appropriation a bit easier)
  • The bill includes language requiring EPA to keep the Chesapeake Bay Program Office in Annapolis and to keep all of the Federal agencies working on this effort co-located in the same area.
  • The final bill also stripped out the “Goodlatte amendment” that would have prevented EPA from enforcing the Bay TMDL.
  •  Land & Water Conservation Fund - $25 million increase - $400m to $425m – this includes $6 million for two acquisition projects under the Rivers of the Chesapeake Collaborative – Grace Furnace in the George Washington and Jefferson Nat’l Forests (VA) and the Blackwater Nat’l Wildlife Refuge (MD).
  • We’re still trying to determine the exact funding amounts for the U.S. Geological Survey Chesapeake Bay Studies – this funding comes from five different “mission areas” within USGS, and the total funding is determined by the agency.
  • A similar situation exists for some of the National Park Service Chesapeake programs that are managed out of their Chesapeake Bay office – we are awaiting the final numbers.
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To keep your scorecard up to date, FY18 is the budget in which the Trump Administration recommended zero funding for Bay restoration - so we gained $73 million in that fight. The FY19 Trump Budget calls for $7.3 million (a 90% cut) - so we are fighting to restore $65.7 million and will be working with Congress to do so over the next year. This really showed the power of our Coalition and our many diverse members.  We have to continue this fight - and we will.

Peter Marx is a federal affairs contractor here at Choose Clean Water

Understanding How State Environmental Rights Amendments May Help Protect the Bay

Understanding How State Environmental Rights Amendments May Help Protect the Bay

Environmental rights provisions in state constitutions have previously provided few advocacy tools to protect the Chesapeake Bay. A recent Pennsylvania court case has significantly expanded the scope of Pennsylvania’s Environmental Rights Amendment and will likely have far reaching impacts on environmental protection. Pennsylvania’s state government now has a clear constitutional mandate to act to protect the environment. Environmental groups will also potentially have new tools to further water quality protection. This presentation will review Bay state’s environmental rights amendments and explore what the recent Pennsylvania court decision means for preserving and protecting environmental resources in Pennsylvania and throughout the watershed.

Register here.

Webinar: (Farm) Land for Water: Stories of success from Chesapeake land trusts

Thursday, May 3, 1:00 -2:00 pm: Register Here

Conservation TKO: How to Punch Above Your Weight (Cecil Land Trust)

Think you need a big staff and budget to pull off big projects? Think again.

With the right partners, land trusts with smart, creative leadership, deep and trusting local roots, and a lot of passion can really punch above their weight in the water quality world. More than 20 years ago, Cecil Land Trust punched above its weight in successfully protecting Garrett Island, the sentinel of the Susquehanna Valley. More recently, leveraging the right relationships in the right places, Cecil Land Trust found the right partners and funding to help restore streams draining thousands of acres of farm and forest land in Little Elk and North East Creeks in Cecil County.…all while still hiring its first ED.

What’s Good for the Goose is Good for the…Water (Piedmont Environmental Council)

Ever wonder how we’re going to truly restore clean water? One land trust has an answer: Relentless. Incrementalism. That is, the simple principle of stick-to-it-ive-ness. (Ok, admit it: it’s sexier than it seems at first). Learn how a sustained effort in Virginia’s Goose Creek watershed, evolved strategically and responsively over years, has become increasingly savvy about protecting and restoring water—and how it has achieved a staggering amount of success, with more on the horizon.

Registration is free, but required. For questions or more information, contact Jennifer Miller Herzog, jmillerherzog@lta.org.

This webinar series is hosted by Choose Clean Water Coalition and the Chesapeake Bay Land and Water Initiative, a partnership of the Chesapeake Bay Funders Network and the Land Trust Alliance.

 

Thursday, May 3:

 

Bill Kilby – Board President, Cecil Land Trust

A life-long dairy farmer, Bill Kilby has been involved for more than 20 years in land and water conservation with Cecil Land Trust and the Cecil Conservation Partnership. In recent years, Kilby Farms has formed a partnership with a neighboring private school to promote land and water conservation and farm-to-table food use, and STEM/outdoor/environmental educational activities. In 2017, Bill’s leadership and innovation, and commitment to community partnerships and education garnered him the fifteenth annual Aileen Hughes Award for conservation excellence—an award given by Maryland Environmental Trust to recognize exceptional contributions of leaders in the Maryland land trust community.

Mike Kane – Director of Conservation, Piedmont Environmental Council

Mike became Conservation Director of PEC in 2015 after 10 years of service as PEC’s Land Conservation Representative for Loudoun and Northern Fauquier counties. Mike has been intimately involved in conservation work in the Goose Creek watershed since 2005, having worked with Goose Creek landowners to facilitate numerous easements, as well as development and implementation of a land restoration plan in the watershed that includes stream exclusion fencing and rotational grazing at a working livestock farm. Mike has more than 15 years of experience working with landowners, local jurisdictions, State and Federal agencies, and other allied organizations to foster the conservation of rural lands and promote vibrant rural economies in the Mid-Atlantic region. Mike's professional experience includes working as the Program Manager of the Loudoun County Purchase of Development Rights Program (2001-2004), and the Coordinator of the Bucks County (PA) Open Space Program (1997-2000).

Lobby Day Registration

Registration is now OPEN for the 6th Annual Chesapeake Bay Day on Capitol Hill, which will take place Wednesday, March 21, 2018 in Washington, D.C.

To register, click here.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, each year the Coalition organizes a day for our members to meet with their members of Congress. This gives you an opportunity to speak up for Bay funding and other issues impacting your watershed, state, and the Chesapeake Bay. Last year we had over 100 members join us for 37 congressional meetings – Let’s do more this year!

The day will get started with a 9 a.m. welcome and orientation in the cafeteria in the basement of the Longworth House Office Building. Meetings with members of Congress and staff will begin at 10 a.m. and end by 4:30 p.m.

There will be a lunch briefing where we will be joined by members of Congress from 12 to 1:30 p.m. in 2044 Rayburn House Office Building. Lunch will be provided to registered participants.

When you register, you will be asked which members of Congress/staff you would like to meet. Some meetings will be popular, especially Senate meetings, so please understand if only one staff person from an organization can attend certain meetings and/or you do not get assigned all of the meetings your sign up for.

Prior to the Bay Day on the Hill, the Coalition will host three webinars to review lobbying tips and our legislative requests.

For folks who are interested in learning more about the rules of lobbying for 501c3s, the difference between advocacy and lobbying, and what it means for your organization to participate in lobbying, click here

On Monday, March 12 at 1 p.m. and Friday, March 16 at 10 a.m. the Coalition will host informational webinars on day of logistics for those who have registered. Please mark your calendars to attend one. 

March 12 – https://web.telspan.com/go/ccwc/lobbyday20181

March 16 - https://web.telspan.com/go/ccwc/lobbyday20182
Call-in: 1-800-944-8766 Pin: 74389

If you have any questions about whether your organization based on its filing status is allowed to/able to participate in Lobby Day, please contact Peter Marx.

Thanks and see you on March 21!

Lobby Day Sign On Letters

House Interior Appropriations
House Agriculture Appropriations
NOAA Appropriations

Are you concerned about the Trump Administration’s proposed 90 percent cut in funding for Chesapeake Bay restoration? How about the Administration’s assault on science and environmental protection across the board? Well, if you are, here is a chance to do something about it. The threat to all of the progress that has been made for clean water in our region has never been greater than it is now.

Attached are the Coalition’s annual Congressional Appropriation Request Letters - which are mostly requesting level funding for conservation programs that have been successful in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. 

The Interior Appropriations letter is requesting that Congress retain the $73 million funding level for the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program as well as the funding level for the Chesapeake Stewardship Grants (aka NFWF grant programs), the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, National Park Service and U.S. Geological Survey programs in the Bay watershed as well as some key land acquisitions under the Land and Water Conservation Fund..

The Agriculture Appropriations letter asks for full funding for Farm Bill conservation programs, and calls out the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program as two key conservation programs for our region. 

The Commerce, Justice, Science letter focuses on restoring funding for specific programs run by NOAA in the Chesapeake Bay region. The NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office has seen its funding eroded rapidly over the years and we are seeking to restore the traditional funding and work they do on oyster restoration in the Bay, the B-WET environmental education program throughout the Bay watershed and fisheries science and management in the Bay. 

We have attached the House version of the three appropriation letters - identical versions of these three letters will also be sent to the Senate appropriations subcommittees.

These letters will also form the basis of our “legislative asks” for Lobby Day on March 21, and we urge all Coalition members to sign ALL of these letters, even if you don’t work on all of the specific issues involved. This is where the Coalition can really make a difference in Washington and we are at our best when we speak loudly with one voice - the more groups that sign these letters means the louder our voice is.

Please email Peter Marx, peter@choosecleanwater.org, to sign your organization on to this letter (we just need the name of your organization) by COB on Monday, March 12. Also, feel free to email or call me with any specific questions. Thank you.