Federal judge upholds tougher nutrient standards in Chesapeake Bay

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, SEPTEMBER 15, 2013 - Despite efforts by agricultural groups to stop the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from forcing new water quality standards, a judge ruled late Friday that the agency can advance plans to limit pollution from a variety of sources, including farms, from entering the Chesapeake Bay.

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“The EPA is within its rights under the Clean Water Act to partner with the six states in the bay watershed to cut the pollution that pours in from sewers and construction developments, and particularly chemical and biological waste from farms,” noted U.S. District Court Judge Sylvia H. Rambo. As part of the plan, states were required to find ways to stop nonpoint source pollution from agricultural sources.

The decision comes almost 2 years after the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and other organizations filed a lawsuit at the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania to stop the EPA from moving forward. Joining the plaintiffs: The Fertilizer Institute, National Pork Producers Council, National Corn Growers Association and the National Chicken Council.

Judge Rambo granted standing for Farm Bureau, but wrote that “plaintiffs are charged with the heavy burden of showing that the issuance of the Bay TMDL (total maximum daily load) was arbitrary and capricious, and that EPA's use of modeling and data bore no rational relationship to the realities they purport to represent. Having carefully considered Plaintiffs' arguments, and the applicable portions of the administrative record related thereto, the court concludes that Plaintiffs have failed to meet this burden.”

Judge Rambo also noted that the EPA is within its rights under the Clean Water Act to partner with the six states in the bay watershed to cut pollution.

Plaintiffs say they are reviewing the case and expect to comment soon.


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