Yesterday, as the Executive Council for the Chesapeake Bay Program held its annual meeting, President Obama issued an Executive Order on Chesapeake Bay Protection and Restoration (a first), declaring the Chesapeake Bay a national treasure and signaling that EPA will play a strong role in leading Bay cleanup. For years, federal leadership on the Bay has been missing in action. President Obama's move is dramatic, and we dare to hope that this could be a turning point.
Among other things, the order:
We have long advocated for many of these actions. Last fall, we issued a memo to the Principals Staff Committee for the Bay Program outlining a series of options for an independent entity to improve Bay Program accountability, and also proposed metrics for the entity to use to monitor Bay cleanup progress. This spring we worked with an emerging coalition of 40 environmental groups, who wrote a letter last week to Administrator Jackson advocating for her to exercise EPA’s authorities to the fullest to protect the Bay and calling for the creation of an independent evaluator for the Bay Program.
As Rena Steinzor noted here recently, EPA is the only Bay partner with the legal clout to make the states in the Bay watershed toe the line – its leadership is crucial if we want a clean Bay. The Executive Order on the Bay is a welcome and critical step in establishing EPA’s leadership role. Now it’s time for EPA, the Federal Leadership Committee, and the states to respond to the President’s order with decisive action.