The American Farm Bureau Federation this week asked a federal appellate court in Pennsylvania to reverse a lower court ruling that upheld pollution limits for the Chesapeake Bay watershed imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Although restricted to areas surrounding the Chesapeake Bay, AFBF says the court's decision could have sweeping effects on states and could limit economic activity across the country.
Though EPA says its Bay limits were developed in cooperation with the Bay states, AFBF in a legal brief says: "if EPA can set federal limits and deadlines in a [total maximum daily loads], then it can do so with or without state cooperation: that is why 21 State Attorneys General have supported us as amici."
The 21 State Attorneys General's amicus brief, filed in February, also challenged EPA's authority over state authority. According to Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, the brief was filed to help head off attempts by EPA to expand regulations to other areas, like the Mississippi River Basin.
In June, 39 members of Congress also filed an amicus brief in support of AFBF's position.
The appellate court will decide whether EPA has the power to set only the "total" allowable pollutant load for waters, as AFBF suggests, or also to set individual limits for farming, construction or other activities across the landscape, as EPA claims.
AFBF maintains that Congress reserved such land use decision-making exclusively for the states.
According to AFBF, under EPA's view of its power, "EPA could assign nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment limits for each farm, home site, or even each acre of undeveloped land across the countryside."
AFBF also noted that because restoration of the Bay does not depend on the unlawful aspects of the TMDL before the court, cleanup would continue with a court ruling in AFBF's favor.
According to the AFBF brief, a ruling in its favor would not disturb the total pollutant limit set by EPA for each segment of the Bay. In addition, a ruling removing the challenged EPA source limits or "allocations" from the TMDL "would in no way impair the ability of any state to achieve those objectives. It would only allow them the freedom – as Congress intended – to set different allocations and deadlines, if they so choose."
News source: AFBF
MORE reading on the agriculture issues surrounding the Chesapeake Bay:
Congress Members Back the Farm Bureau in Chesapeake Bay Case
A Legal Case that Could Destroy American Agriculture
EPA's Attempt to Control Runoff from Your Farm
Counties Claim EPA is Destroying Agriculture
Chesapeake Bay Lawsuit Pits Environmentalists Against Farmers (Background)