EASTON — The head of a regional Riverkeeper group said a judge’s ruling allowing the EPA to establish pollution limits for the Chesapeake Bay means cleanup efforts won’t be “derailed.”
The president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, one of two groups to initially challenge the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDLs) developed by the Environmental Protection Agency, said the EPA’s actions circumvented state and local land use decisions.
A federal judge ruled Friday, Sept. 13, in favor of the EPA in a lawsuit against the agency regarding laws aimed to improve conditions in the Bay.
In December 2010, the EPA established the Clean Water Blueprint and pollution limits for the Bay, as required by the Clean Water Act for any body of water that didn’t meet specific water quality standards.
Less than two weeks after the pollution limits were established, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau filed a complaint in federal court to throw out the limits.
The allegations were that the establishment of the pollution limits exceed the EPA’s authority, weren’t based on sound science and that there wasn’t enough time to review and comment on the proposed limits.
The farm organizations were then joined by the National Association of Home Builders, the National Chicken Council, the National Corn Growers Association, the National Pork Producers Council, the National Turkey Federation, The Fertilizer Institute and the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association.
Five months after the original complaint was filed, six organizations filed motions to intervene in the case in support of the EPA. The organizations were the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy, Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future, Defenders of Wildlife, Jefferson County (WV) Public Service District and the National Wildlife Federation.
On Friday, Judge Sylvia H. Rambo, the presiding federal judge in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, ruled that the EPA had the authority to make the pollution limits, that the limits were based on sound science and that the litigants had ample time to review and comment.
President of the Maryland Farm Bureau Pat Langenfelder said the MFB is disappointed by the ruling, and that the MFB and the AFBF still take the position that the EPA doesn’t have the authority to set TMDLs; only the state should do that.
“Our farmers have been and always will be committed … to cleaning up the Bay, and currently with the TMDLS that are in place, we’re at 130 percent of our goal,” Langenfelder said. “We’re ahead of the game here in Maryland, and I’m very proud of that fact.”
Langenfelder said the TMDLs are both demanding of farmers’ time and resources, “yet we’re still willing to do it.”
Langenfelder said the AFBF and its lawyers are looking at the case to determine what its next step will be.
Tim Junkin, director of the Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy, which testified in favor of the EPA in October 2011, said the next step is one of continued conservation.
“We were pleased and gratified that the court ruled in favor of the EPA. This is an important new architecture that’s got real potential to help significantly improve ... our rivers and Bay,” Junkin said. “It’s an ongoing process, and we’re glad to see it’s not getting derailed.”
Junkin said there’s a lot of momentum behind the Clean Water Blueprint right now and efforts are being made to try to identify and create plans, while working with farms, landowners and whole counties, to create plans that will improve the Bay.
Junkin said he hopes that people will now “roll up their sleeves” and redouble their efforts under the Clean Water Blueprint and the TMDLs to come up with cost-effective solutions.
One example Junkin used and called an “innovative practice” is that the town of Easton is looking to put filters in 50 sewers on Harrison Street.
The filters would catch pollution, like carbon, phosphorus and solids, and a $150,000 grant for the project is “likely to be approved,” Junkin said.
Junkin said there are all kinds of new opportunities to improve the Bay’s pollution; people just need to be creative and thoughtful about it.
Another example Junkin used is the state’s fertilizer law, which goes into effect on Tuesday, Oct. 1.
The law includes new phased-in restrictions that affect all lawn fertilizer products sold and distributed in Maryland. The goal is to help lawn care professionals and homeowners maintain their lawns without applying unnecessary amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus, according to the Maryland Department of Agriculture.
“Now that we got this case behind us, it’s full steam ahead now,” Junkin said. “Let’s get it done and let’s do it smart.”