Engaging in Democracy: Let Our Voices Be Heard

by William C. Baker, CBF President

A blue heron wades through a marsh.
Karen Jury

To save the Bay, participation in our democracy is critical.

In over four decades of working to restore the Chesapeake, I have never witnessed more setbacks to our nation’s fundamental environmental protections than what we have seen in the last four years. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reversed dozens of clean air and water regulations that were working. And it has repeatedly refused to enforce the Clean Water Act, despite broad bipartisan support in Congress and the public.

As the Bay’s watchdog, we are leading a concerted effort to require the federal government to hold up its end of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.

We sued EPA in September with the support of a historic coalition. The Maryland Watermen’s Association; Anne Arundel County, Maryland; and Virginia cattle farmers Jeanne Hoffman and Bobby Whitescarver are partners in our suit. The Attorneys General of Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, and the District of Columbia filed their own suit concurrently.

Why now?

The Blueprint is working. Underwater grasses are becoming more resilient. The Bay’s dead zone is getting smaller, and blue crab and oyster populations are rebounding. EPA’s inaction pulls the rug out from under Bay saving.

It’s not just about clean water. Taking action to reduce pollution supports local businesses, creates jobs, and provides significant public health benefits. Now more than ever, all watershed communities deserve no less, especially those that face systemic barriers to clean water, air, and a safe environment.

We congratulate President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris. As a senator from Delaware and as a vice president, Joe Biden has been a reliable partner in the decades-long effort to save the Bay. Kamala Harris is a leader on environmental justice issues. Their partnership is needed now more than ever.

With the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint’s 2025 deadline looming, there’s never been a more important moment for the Bay. We will be urging the Biden administration, and all our newly elected officials, to make saving our national treasure, the Chesapeake Bay, a priority once again. I encourage you to join us. If they don’t hear from us, only the voices of narrow self-interests will be heard — those who consistently deny science as they advocate against clean water and air.

The good news is that the Bay is resilient. By following the science, investing in regenerative agriculture, taking steps to mitigate climate change, and engaging in our democracy, we can leave a legacy of clean water to future generations.

Saving the Bay through restoration, advocacy, education, and litigation. www.cbf.org

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