Posted September 19, 2013
A federal judge upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to set and enforce nutrient standards in the Chesapeake Bay, according to an article by AgProfessional, available here.
U.S. District Court Judge, Sylvia Rambo, ruled that the EPA can enforce Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) nutrient standards on six states and Washington D.C., which have waters flowing into the Chesapeake Bay. The text of the opinion is available here.
Judge Rambo granted the EPA’s motion for summary judgment, stating that the plaintiffs failed to meet the “heavy burden of showing that the issuance of the Bay TMDL was arbitrary and capricious, and that EPA’s use of modeling and data bore no rational relationship to the realities they purport to represent.” Judge Rambo said that “the ecological and economic importance of the Chesapeake Bay is well documented” and that the EPA’s actions are consistent with the Clean Water Act and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). Judge Rambo continued, noting that as “the largest estuary in the United States, the Chesapeake Bay is essential for the well being of many living things.”
In 2010, the EPA began an “aggressive cleanup effort” that required Chesapeake Bay states to upgrade sewers to limit the amount of nutrient pollution that pours into the bay, according to a Washington Post article, available here. The EPA also required states to find ways to stop runoff from cattle feed operations, chicken houses, and other farms. This resulted in “plans for fences to prevent cattle from wading into streams, sheds to store animal waste and other conservation upgrades that many farmers said they could not afford.”
The AFBF filed a lawsuit in early 2011 in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania to stop the EPA’s enforcement of TMDL standards. Many organizations including the Fertilizer Institute, National Pork Producers Council, and National Chicken Council joined the lawsuit. The plaintiffs argued that the cleanup of the bay was the “sole responsibility” of states and the EPA lacked authority to establish a “pollution diet” costing “taxpayers and farmers billions by its full implementation in 2025.” Planitiffs also said that the EPA did not give adequate public notice for the plan, arguing that the 45-day comment period was too short.
In a statement made after the decision, the EPA said that the ruling was “a victory for the 17 million people in the Chesapeake Bay watershed” and that its partners can refocus on achieving clean-water goals, “building on the progress already happening.”
AFBF president Bob Stallman issued a statement responding to the court’s decision: “We believe the ruling is incorrect and has huge implications for farmers and many others in the Bay area and nationwide. Win or lose in this lawsuit, farmers care deeply about our natural environment and want to do our part to improve water quality.” The AFBF press release is available here.