News Feature | March 18, 2014

Farmers, States Push Back On EPA's Chesapeake Nutrient Standards

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


Florida, Texas, and Alaska have taken a keen interest in the EPA's Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts —in spite of the many miles between them and the bay.  

That's because they are concerned about how the federal effort could affect farm interests in their own backyards. 

Last month, attorney generals from 21 states filed court documents in support of the American Farm Bureau Federation, which opposes the EPA's approach to cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. 

"The Farm Bureau argues that the EPA exceeded its authority in regulating the amount of pollutants flowing into the bay, which the federal agency says is severely contaminated," MSNBC reported

The states said in their brief to the court: "The Court should reject EPA’s attempt to expand its authority at the expense of States’ traditional control over land management decisions without a clear statement from Congress."

MSNBC described the dilemma: "At question is how far the EPA can go in setting limits to the maximum amount of pollution a body of water can receive and still meet state water quality standards. According to the Farm Bureau, the EPA exceeded its legal authority by trying to determine how much individual polluters would have to cut back, instead of just setting an overall so-called Total Maximum Daily Load and allowing the states to determine how it would be parceled out."

Opponents argue that every state should be wary of receiving similar input from the EPA if the court sides with the agency. 

 “These are uniquely local decisions that should be made by local governments,” Bureau President Bob Stallman said in a statement. “That is why this power is specifically withheld from EPA in the Clean Water Act.”

How do environmentalists see the issue? “The Clean Water Act says the states have to do it, and if they don’t do it then the EPA has to do it,” said Scott Edwards, an attorney with the nonprofit group Food and Water Watch, in the MSNBC report. “And in this case, the states didn’t do it for year after year after year, and finally someone sued the EPA.”

In its document on Chesapeake Bay pollution limits, the agency called its effort "a historic and comprehensive 'pollution diet' with rigorous accountability measures to initiate sweeping actions to restore clean water in the Chesapeake Bay and the region’s streams, creeks and rivers." 

Image credit: "Chesapeake Bay Bridge," © 2010 JoshuaDavisPhotography, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license:

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