Farm groups appeal Chesapeake Bay pollution controls to Supreme Court

By Philip Brasher

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WASHINGTON, Nov. 6, 2015 - Farm organizations and home builders have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to consider blocking the Environmental Protection Agency's pollution limits for the Chesapeake Bay. 

In their petition to the court to hear the case, the groups warned that the “cost of State compliance is staggering - tens of billions of dollars.” The groups argue that the EPA exceeded its authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA) by including deadlines and pollutant allocations in the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) plan.

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The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in July upheld the TMDL, while acknowledging that the pollution limits were likely to harm farmers economically

The American Farm Bureau Federation, the lead plaintiff in challenging the TMDL, was joined in the appeal by the National Association of Home Builders, National Chicken Council, National Corn Growers Association, National Pork Producers Council, National Turkey Federation, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, The Fertilizer Institute and the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association.

The appeals court said the Farm Bureau's argument would put the entire the burden of the bay's cleanup of the bay onto point-source polluters, leaving out non-point agricultural and construction runoff.

The case is being closely watched by states in the Midwest and elsewhere that could be subject to similar regulations. Twenty-one states sided with the Farm Bureau.

“EPA's interpretation of the CWA to authorize a vast federal regulatory scheme micromanaging State water quality programs bears no meaningful resemblance to the words that Congress used,” the groups told the Supreme Court. 

“It upsets Congress's carefully crafted balance of power between the States and the federal government, particularly regarding land use and other non-point sources."

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which supports the EPA, said it was time for the agriculture groups and their allies to give up. 


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“Their continued reluctance in the face of overwhelming public support stands in stark contrast to the efforts of thousands of farmers and homeowners who have taken action, many at their own expense, to move the Bay clean-up efforts forward,” said William Baker, the group's president. 

The farm groups argue that the Clean Water Act clearly limited EPA to setting a total limit for pollution in the bay, instead of individual limits for farming, construction and other activities as EPA insisted on doing.

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