EPA names Pennsylvania official to lead Chesapeake Bay cleanup

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has hired a Pennsylvania environmental official to lead the program dedicated to cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay’s pollution.

Dana Aunkst, deputy secretary for water programs at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, will take over later this month as director of the Chesapeake Bay Program, the agency said in a statement.

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The program works with six states and Washington, D.C., on a number of efforts related to the iconic bay and its watershed, like its major “pollution diet” and a pollution enforcement strategy.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to build upon the accomplishments to date by EPA and its partners,” Aunkst said.

“I look forward to working collaboratively with our stakeholders in protecting our nation’s largest estuary and the local waterways throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.”

Aunkst has worked in Pennsylvania’s environment agency for 33 years, including senior roles like acting director and deputy director.

Nicholas DiPasquale, the previous head of the program for six years, retired in December 2017.

While environmentalists and states in the Chesapeake’s watershed have cheered the program as a national model for cleaning up major water bodies, the Trump administration has sought to slash its funding.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpJoint Chiefs chairman denies report that US is planning to keep 1K troops in Syria Kansas Department of Transportation calls Trump 'delusional communist' on Twitter Trump has privately voiced skepticism about driverless cars: report MORE’s first budget request for fiscal year 2018 would have eliminated the Chesapeake Bay program and other similar local programs, like those for the Great Lakes and Washington’s Puget Sound.

The second budget proposal would have cut their funding by about 90 percent.

The Chesapeake Bay program is based in Annapolis, Md., and is administered as part of the EPA’s Mid-Atlantic office in Philadelphia.