Bay Journal to lose EPA funding

Citing ‘shift in priorities,’ agency cancels multi-year grant for 27-year-old nonprofit news outlet covering the Chesapeake.

It’s always awkward to become the news rather than simply report it, but here goes:

Today, we learned that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has decided to cut off a multi-year grant awarded to the Bay Journal by the EPA two years ago, effective Feb. 1. If the cut is upheld, it’s a big loss, as EPA funding covers about a third of our budget.

But it’s not the end of the Bay Journal — not even close.

The Bay Journal is currently in the second year of this six-year grant from the EPA, disbursed in annual installments. We were slated to receive $325,000 in February.

Needless to say, we’re baffled by the EPA’s decision. The notice informing us attributed the withdrawal to a “shift in priorities” at the EPA, without elaborating.

Karl Blankenship, the Bay Journal’s editor, issued the following statement:

“We are disappointed that political appointees in the EPA have made an unprecedented decision to cut short a multi-year grant to the Bay Journal with no clear explanation.

For 27 years, the Bay Journal been an important source of news and information for those who care deeply about the Chesapeake. In surveys, our readers tell us they consider the accurate, independent reporting by our small, award-winning staff their most trusted source of information about the effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay, and for related trends and events throughout the six-state watershed.

We will be exploring next steps regarding the EPA funding, as well as other potential funding sources.”

The Bay Journal began in 1991 as an EPA-funded newsletter published by a nonprofit group, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, to inform people about what was going on with the then-new effort to restore the Bay. Karl Blankenship converted that newsletter to a newspaper and eventually took it independent of the Alliance. (See Bay Journal has covered ebb, flow of Chesapeake issues for 25 years.)

The Bay Journal is an editorially independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to reporting all sides of an issue, thoroughly. The EPA funding has been a constant, though declining, share of our budget as we have successfully grown and diversified our sources of grants and other donations. The EPA has never told us what to publish or not publish. Subscriptions are free, and our news reaches a wide variety of readers, from teachers, students, kayakers and anglers to policy makers, elected officials, scientists, business executives, farmers and watermen.

Over the years, our staff has grown from two to 11 so that we could enhance coverage of North America’s largest estuary and the ambitious, heavily taxpayer-funded effort to restore it. Our reporters not only cover core issues related to Chesapeake Bay restoration, but have also tackled controversies over natural gas “fracking” boom in Pennsylvania, the pipeline push in the Virginia highlands, the expansion of poultry operations on the Eastern Shore, the water-quality impacts of power plants’ coal ash disposal and the conundrum of dealing with built-up sediment behind Conowingo Dam. They’ve also reported first news that you read elsewhere later, such as the unexplained firing earlier this year of Maryland’s veteran crab fishery manager after watermen complained to the governor about catch limits.

Along the way, we’ve become widely recognized as a reliable source of comprehensive news and information about the Chesapeake and its six-state watershed. Our readers — nearly 100,000 a month in print and online — look to us to keep them abreast, and we don’t intend to let them down.

We hope you’ll keep reading and, if you like what you read, share it with others. And if you believe, as we do, that the Bay region deserves a publication devoted to covering the many facets of its environment, please show your support by making a donation, however small.

This column was originally published here.

“Bay Journal is published by Bay Journal Media to inform the public about issues and events that affect the Chesapeake Bay.”

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