EPA Headed to Court Over Bay Policy

Two farmers’ organizations sued the federal government over a Chesapeake Bay clean-up plan, challenging the legality of its pollution standards and asking a judge to keep them from being enforced or applied. The American Farm Bureau Federation and the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau said in the complaint against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, filed in federal court in Harrisburg, that there are numerous flaws in recently enacted standards to reduce the flow of pollutants and sediments that have harmed the bay and its wildlife.

The lawsuit claims the EPA lacks authority to allocate limits on levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment, the standards are based on erroneous information, the agency used flawed computer models and the public did not have an adequate opportunity to weigh in. The farm groups argued that states, rather than the EPA, have the authority under the Clean Water Act to implement the standards. In a speech in Atlanta on Sunday, American Farm Bureau Federation president Bob Stallman warned the rules would devastate agriculture throughout the bay’s massive watershed.

The EPA issued a statement that clean water is a shared obligation and that the regulations will benefit local economies and recreation. Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future, an environmental group, called the action “shortsighted and foolhardy” and said it could delay efforts to clean manure and other waste from waterways.

In a December 29 news release, the EPA said the Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan established a “pollution diet” to achieve certain cuts in the levels of nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment. It said that if progress is deemed insufficient, in certain states the federal agency could impose additional controls on wastewater treatment, large animal feeding operations or municipal storm water.