D.C. & FEDERAL AFFAIRS
“Fiscal cliff” may jeopardize
support of the Chesapeake
Clean Water Blueprint.
Will Federal Help for Bay Restoration
Fall Off the Cliff?
DOUG SIGLIN/CBF STAFF
The District Enlists Market to Help
with Polluted Runoff
The federal government’s support of the
Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint will
almost certainly be reduced after Congress
and the President decide how to deal—or
not—with the coming “fiscal cliff.”
The District of Columbia is close to imple-
menting an innovative approach to manag-
ing polluted runoff in accordance with
the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.
finalized, developers “disturbing” any site of
more than 5,000-square feet—about one-ninth of an acre—will have a legal obligation
to retain 1.2 inches of stormwater from the
site’s hard surfaces through infiltration, storage for non-potable reuse, or evaporation
and transpiration. Moreover, renovation projects on buildings whose footprint is larger
than 5,000-square feet will need to retain
eight-tenths of an inch of stormwater if the
cost of the renovation exceeds 50 percent of
the structure’s value.
The “fiscal cliff” is shorthand for a number of
actions that will happen automatically at the
end of 2012 if Congress and the President
fail to take action. In that event, several temporary tax reductions will expire, and most
domestic spending will be cut an average of
8. 2 percent starting in January. The combined impact of the tax hikes and spending
cuts is over $500 billion.
Pollution generated by the District’s
620,000 residents, as well as its millions of
commuters and visitors, flows off its hard
surfaces—43 percent of D.C.’s land area—
into the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers, and
ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. Airborne
pollution from as far away as Ohio and
Kentucky also becomes part of the mix. The
widespread distribution of the pollution
makes control on both public and private
Many economists and business leaders
believe that the economy will suffer if the
United States hurdles over the fiscal cliff.
Congress and the President may try to work
out a more rational revenue and spending
deal in the post-election “lame duck” session
and will almost certainly take it up when the
new Congress reconvenes.
The District agreed to an aggressive
approach to controlling runoff in a plan
negotiated last year with EPA. One element
of the approach is increasing requirements
on private redevelopment projects to keep
most stormwater on site rather than run-
ning off through gutters and pipes and into
nearby streams. Once the new rules are
The innovative part of the new approach is its
encouragement of a private market for runoff
credits. Up to one-half of the legal obligations
noted above will be able to be met off site by
buying credits from other District retention
projects not subject to regulation, or that
have exceeded their requirements. By allow-
ing this regulatory flexibility, city environ-
mental officials hope to ease compliance and
also achieve other sustainability goals (envi-
ronmental, economic, and social), such as
increasing green jobs and providing green
infiltration space in poorer neighborhoods.
uVisit ddoe.dc.gov/proposedstormwaterrule or
contact Brian Van Wye at the D.C. Department
of the Environment ( Brian.Van Wye@dc.gov) for
more information on the District’s new runoff
Like other federal programs, federal agency
activities to support Chesapeake Bay restoration are likely to shrink under both the automatic cuts and a more targeted approach.
Federal agencies have some discretion in
dividing the automatic cuts among their programs, and they have developed contingency
implementation plans that have not been
made public. Important items such as the
Clean Water State Revolving Fund (which
helps to finance local water projects) and
National Restoration and Conservation
Service agricultural conservation staff and
programs will be affected. Smaller grant programs for community conservation efforts
and demonstration projects may or may not
be eliminated completely.
DOUG SIGLIN/CBF STAFF
Pollution generated by the District’s 620,000 residents flows off hard surfaces into the Potomac and
Anacostia Rivers. A new approach to controlling runoff includes a requirement that redevelopment
projects keep most of the stormwater runoff on site.
CBF will be working with friends in Congress
and the federal agencies to try to hold on to
as much federal support for the Chesapeake
Clean Water Blueprint as we can.
uFor more information on how CBF is working at
the federal level to protect and restore the Bay, visit
cbf.org/dc or call 202/544-2232.