Federal Court Upholds Chesapeake Bay
Posted September 13, 2013, 5:31 P.M. ET
By Amena H. Saiyid
A federal court in Pennsylvania upheld the federal plan to clean up and restore the Chesapeake Bay, saying the court found no evidence the Environmental Protection Agency relied on flawed data when it wrote the plan in 2010 (Am. Farm Bureau Fed'n v. EPA, M.D.Pa., No. 11-00067, 09/13/13).
In a decision handed down Sept. 13, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania said the American Farm Bureau Federation was unable to show that EPA had developed the baywide total maximum daily load (TMDL) plan based on “flawed science” and insufficient public participation. The plan was designed to address the nitrogen and phosphorus pollution that has led to poor water quality, low-oxygen in bay waters, and fish kills.
In a decision handed down Sept. 13, the federal court said the American Farm Bureau Federation was unable to show that EPA had developed the bay-wide total maximum daily loads plan based on “flawed science” and insufficient public participation.
Moreover, the court said it found no evidence that EPA intruded on states' rights in writing the plan.
The court said it would give the EPA's interpretation of the Clean Water Act and its use of scientific models and data “due deference” in light of the agency's scientific and technical expertise.
“The court concludes that the framework established by the Bay Partnership in developing the Bay TMDL is consistent with the provisions of the Clean Water Act and the Administrative Procedure Act,” the court said.
The six states that make up the Chesapeake Bay are under a baywide TMDL to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment from waters that flow into the bay. A TMDL plan calculates the maximum level of pollutants that each point source, such as wastewater utilities and nonpoint source, such as farms, may discharge while still meeting water quality standards.
In January 2011, the American Farm Bureau Federation challenged EPA's authority under the Clean Water Act to implement the Chesapeake Bay TMDL. During oral arguments, the bureau's lawyers said the EPA interfered with states' statutory authority under the Clean Water Act when it established the TMDL.
The farm bureau was supported by agricultural associations and the National Association of Home Builders, while EPA was backed by environmental groups and the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, which represents publicly owned wastewater treatment plants.
9/13/13 decision: http://image.exct.net/lib/fe651570766002797017/m/1/AmFarmbureau_TMDL_091313decision.pdf