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Ranking Member Vitter Opening Statement for Chesapeake Bay Restoration Field Hearing
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works’ Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife Field hearing on the “Chesapeake Bay Restoration: Progress and Challenges”
September 3, 2013

Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank you for calling today's hearing. I would also like to thank our witnesses for testifying before the Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife.

It is no secret that taking on incredibly complex restoration efforts-whether in the Chesapeake Bay, Louisiana, or elsewhere-requires cooperative and trustworthy relationships between numerous parties, including local, state and federal officials, farmers, industry representatives, municipal utility interests, nonprofit organizations, and others. I am concerned, however, that federal officials and environmental groups are not holding up their end of the bargain.

For example, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wants the various Chesapeake states to work together on restoration issues, yet is at the same time undermining state and local environmental authority through various regulatory programs. EPA recently determined, without state input, that it will assess Bay Watershed states' animal feeding operation standards and has indicated that it will take "appropriate actions" if the state program isn't satisfactory to the agency. This type of veiled threat serves no one. It completely ignores the states' primary role in environmental regulation, and it does a disservice to restoration efforts by pitting the local jurisdictions against the federal government.

Likewise, environmental groups continue to pursue endless litigation against anyone who dares to use natural resources to provide food and jobs to our fellow Americans, often at the cost of real environmental progress. And we should all remember that one of the primary roles of our federal government is to facilitate commerce, not to frustrate it. I was disappointed to learn last week that farmers in Maryland will not be able to recoup $3 million in legal fees incurred in defending an outrageous Clean Water Act lawsuit filed by the Waterkeeper Alliance. It is well known here that the tactics the Waterkeeper Alliance used to persecute the farmers were dubious, but nonetheless the Alliance was not held to account. If environmental groups truly want improved restoration efforts, they should think twice before suing the very people who are putting food on our plates in an environmentally responsible manner.

I am pleased to have as the minority witness the County Executive for Anne Arundel County, Laura Neuman. She is a local official who understands the importance of a balanced approach to Chesapeake Bay restoration. Through her opposition to the so-called "rain tax" and other efforts, the County Executive has worked to ensure that those who want restoration to involve more than just environmental groups and government bureaucrats have a voice in Maryland.

Once again, I thank the Chairman for calling today's hearing.

 

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