The annual meeting of the Chesapeake Executive Council has yielded four key legislative goals for the Chesapeake Bay, climate change, and clean and renewable energy.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan was joined by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and Virginia Delegate and Chair of the Chesapeake Bay Commission David L. Bulova, last Friday as well as regional leaders to discuss environmental issues.
“We have worked hard to make Maryland a national leader on climate change and environmental stewardship, which is why I am submitting a memorandum today to Maryland legislative leaders which lays out four key principles to guide further action,” said Hogan.
According to the official memorandum released by Hogan, they are:
- Chesapeake Bay: Financing For Tomorrow. “Now is the time to make a real down payment on our future environmental and restoration priorities by supporting a robust public-private funding mechanism. Let’s leverage the power of private capital for the public good — it will be good for the Bay and good for the bottom line.”
- A Climate for Clean and Renewable Energy. “We must continue working closely with the federal government and regional partners to advance the clean energy economy. This partnership includes the SMART-POWER agreement I signed with Virginia and North Carolina. Together we can position Maryland as a regional power player for the entire Atlantic Coast.”
- Outdoor Recreation: Access for All. “I urge the General Assembly to work with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Chesapeake Bay Cabinet to remove funding restrictions within state law so we can better manage and use existing revenue sources to accomplish our collective goals.”
- Equitable and Just Transition. “Managing state lands, working with local zoning officials, and incentivizing use of brownfields, waste sites, and other underutilized locations continues to offer great potential if we strike the right balance of responsible deregulation and reasonable incentives.”
He also reiterated the state’s goal to to be dependent on 50% renewable energy by 2030 and highlighted the “historic” $6.5 billion committed by his administration for a myriad of bay initiatives.
During the meeting, Northam also underscored how Maryland’s neighbors are joining the climate change fight and keeping their bay waters clean.
“We are making significant investments to meet the 2025 restoration deadline,” said Northam. “As someone who grew up next to the Chesapeake Bay, its restoration has been a priority for my administration. I am proud of the concrete actions we have taken in Virginia to help protect the bay.”
He added the watershed collaboration was an opportunity to invest in infrastructure and programming. Economically, Northam said cleaning the bay spurs economic activity, builds resilience, and protects this natural treasure and its waterways.
Ann Jennings, Virginia Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources, estimated “a clean bay” will generate more than $22 billion each year in new economic value from improved commercial and recreational fishing, reduced drinking water treatment costs, resilience to climate change and improved property values.
Rising sea levels
During the meeting, attendees toured areas along the bay already seeing the impacts of climate change, including Virginia Beach and the Hampton Roads region that have seen one of the highest rates of sea-level rise and coastal flooding on the East Coast.
The Virginia Coastal Resilience Master Planning Framework calculated sea levels in the region have experienced more than 18 inches of relative sea level rise in the past 100 years and are anticipated to continue to increase at an even faster rate in the future due to heavier rainfall and other extreme weather.
Among some short-term solutions are tree canopies, a living shoreline and an oyster restoration site.
The CEC noted the newly implemented Directive No. 21-1 Collective Action for Climate Change directs the Bay Program to prioritize marginalized communities in providing necessary resources, including a focus on wetlands, tree canopy and environmental literacy, to adapt to the impacts from a changing climate.
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“The Climate Directive we are signing today is the latest example of why this partnership is so important,” Bulova said. “Collective action allows us to apply the best science possible so that we can understand and mitigate the impacts of a changing climate and prioritize resources toward our most vulnerable communities.”
Points of contention
On the heels of the annual meeting, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation released a statement critical of the measures discussed by the council.
“Once again, the council ignored the failure of Pennsylvania to meet its commitments,” said William C. Baker, Chesapeake Bay Foundation president in a statement. “Worse yet, the EPA failed to hold the Commonwealth accountable, even as CBF, its partners, and the Attorneys General of Delaware, Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Virginia are suing EPA in federal court to do just that.”
Baker added the Climate Change Directive must do more to meet scientists’ findings. While Virginia has set a pollution-reduction goal that includes mitigating the damage from climate change, Maryland and Pennsylvania have not.
“If the Council and EPA refuse to exert leadership, bay restoration efforts are doomed to fail,” Baker said. “The Executive Council’s sole objective this year was to sign a Climate Change Directive. Sadly, that directive is only a start, taking small steps at a time when bold action is needed.”
Baker contended the 2025 Restoration Deadline is fast approaching. In 2016, success seemed possible according to the CBF. They regarded the last 40 years of Bay restoration efforts “have been littered with promises broken and commitments unmet.”
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