Thursday, May 26, 2011

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

Guess who is the co-chair of the newly minted Chesapeake Bay Watershed Congressional Caucus? That's right! Our very own member of Congress, the honorable Andy Harris! Andy seems to think this is a great opportunity to come together with his "colleagues on both sides of the aisle on finding common-sense solutions to protect our Bay." Brings to mind a quote from George Carlin: "kinda makes you want to puke in your suit, doesn't it?"

You'll remember in my last blog that Andy voted to defund the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) during the FY2011 budget process. These were the plans that would have set real benchmarks for pollution reduction in each of the watershed states, and would have fostered meaningful cooperation between the states and the feds. It was exactly what Andy proposed on his campaign website, yet he still voted, lemming-like, with his Party. He sold out the Chesapeake Bay in the name of Republican solidarity. Rob Wittman, a Virginia Republican who, like Andy is a member of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Congressional Caucus, took a principled stand against his Party and for the Bay by voting against the funding limitation.

Not long after that vote, Andy signed a letter along with many Congressional colleagues that asked the EPA and the US Army Corps of Engineers to cease and desist from issuing Clean Water Act administrative guidance, a perfectly legal and appropriate Executive action. The guidance will restore federal protection to important waters and wetlands that are crucial to water quality in places like the Chesapeake Bay and Great Lakes. From 1972 to 2001, these waters had been protected by the Clean Water Act; Congress knew that you can't protect iconic systems like the Bay without safeguarding the upstream wetlands and tributaries that feed them. But a series of judicial decisions, and Bush-era guidance eroded the act in the name of polluting streams and filling wetlands. The Obama Administration moved forward with guidance (released for public comment on April 27) over the objection of clean water opponents like Andy Harris.

Then, Andy again voted against the Chesapeake Bay by voting to not only allow, but to mandate, drilling for oil off the coast of Maryland and Virginia. Barely a year after Deepwater Horizon crippled the Gulf seafood and tourism industry, and cost billions to clean up (a process that will be ongoing for a decade), Andy Harris decided that the chimera of cheaper gas was more valuable than the Chesapeake Bay and Maryland's coastal bays which would be hammered by any kind of spill. The Bush administration's own Energy Information Agency stated unequivocally in 2008 that no amount of drilling that the United States could possibly engage in would ever succeed in lowering gas prices in a meaningful way. Andy Harris sold out the Bay for a talking point.

And after all this, Andy Harris has the audacity, the gall, to join the the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Congressional Caucus. I would be frustrated, if I weren't so damn angry. We should all be so angry.

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