PHILADELPHIA — A court case is currently pending in the United States Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, Pa., that is challenging the legality of the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Loads.
The American Farm Bureau, backed up by attorney generals from 21 states, is appealing a September decision in a federal court case that upheld the legality of the federal and state efforts to restore water quality in the Bay.
The AFB and backing states wrote in the amicus brief filed in early February that the TMDL is “the culmination of (the Environmental Protection Agency’s) decade-long attempt to control exactly how states achieve federal water quality requirements under the (Clean Water Act), and marks the beginning of the end of meaningful state participation in water pollution regulation.”
Only one Bay state, West Virginia, is backing the farm bureau; the other states involved in the appeal include Kansas, Indiana, Missouri, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.
Obama’s executive order to restore Bay health was issued in 2009, and EPA began the Clean Water Blueprint in 2010, under the Clean Water Act, to enforce pollution limits on nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment.
The AFB and the 21 states claim the EPA’s enforcement of the Clean Water Blueprint strips “states of their traditional right to decide how to achieve federal water quality requirement.”
According to an EPA spokesman, last September, Federal District Court Judge Sylvia H. Rambo rejected a legal challenge by the AFB to the Chesapeake Bay TMDL.
The EPA spokesman said the judge ruled that the Bay partnership of EPA and the states with the Clean Water Blueprint “undertook significant efforts to preserve the framework of cooperative federalism, and that the EPA did not unlawfully infringe on the Bay states’ rights because the CWA is an ‘all-encompassing’ and ‘comprehensive’ statute that envisions a strong federal role for ensuring pollution reductions.”
The AFB and the 21 states are seeking an appeal of Rambo’s decision.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation intervened in the original lawsuit in support of restoration efforts.
In a statement released by the CBF, it said that the Bay states have worked with the federal government to develop a blueprint for clean water in local rivers, streams and the Bay, and it’s working.
“We say to Missouri, Indiana, Kansas, Alaska and the other 17 states, don’t tell us how to restore clean water in our backyard,” according to the CBF statement. “Each of the six Bay states and the District of Columbia — including hard working farmers, businesses and individuals — are cooperating. Together, we are well on our way to making our rivers and streams safer, improving habitat, protecting human health and strengthening local economics. Those are good things, at least here.”
Gov. Martin O’Malley released a statement last week in support of the EPA.
“While we have accomplished much, there is still more work to be done and it is imperative that we continue our efforts to ensure that our nation’s largest estuary, a true national treasure, will be protected for future generations,” O’Malley said in the statement. “As chair of the Chesapeake Executive Council, I am encouraging the other states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed to join Maryland and support the EPA in this effort.”