Today, the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision affirming U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's legal authority over states regarding enforcement of the agency's total maximum daily load specifications.
The historic ruling found in favor of EPA, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and other interveners. "This is a great day for everyone who cares about clean water and the Chesapeake Bay," responded CBF President William Baker. "In a case challenging EPA's Clean Water Act authorities, the court has spoken.
EPA established science-based TMDL limits on the pollution fouling the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams, he added. In addition, the states developed individual plans on how to achieve those limits and committed to two-year milestones that outline actions to achieve those limits.
EPA promised consequences for failure. Together, the limits, plans and milestones make up the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, more broadly known as the Chesapeake Bay model..
The court's opinion stated: "The Chesapeake Bay TMDL will require sacrifice by many. But that is a consequence of the tremendous effort it will take to restore health to the Bay – to make it once again a part of our "land of living," Robert Frost, The Gift Outright line 10 – a goal our elected representatives have repeatedly endorsed. Farm Bureau's arguments to the contrary are unpersuasive, and thus we affirm the careful and thorough opinion of the District Court."
How it came down
Within weeks of EPA's announcement of pollution limits, American Farm Bureau Federation and others challenged EPA's action in Philadelphia's federal district court. In that precedent-setting case, Judge Sylvia Rambo ruled in favor of EPA. She rejected the plaintiffs' complaints, affirmed the blueprint's legal standing, and complimented the "cooperative federalism" that the states and EPA exhibited.
Many eyes around the country are watching this case. The dead zones, harmful algal blooms and human health risks caused by nitrogen and phosphorus pollution occur in waters across the country.
Attorneys General from 21 states, many in the Midwest, sided with the Farm Bureau. Weighing in with EPA and CBF were cities from New York to San Francisco; Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia; plus environmental and conservation groups from Florida to the Great Lakes.
"It is now critical that the governors of the Bay states and the EPA Administrator exert leadership to fully implement the Blueprint," noted Baker. "U.S. Department of Agriculture must provide additional technical and financial assistance to Pennsylvania in order to accelerate efforts to reduce pollution from agriculture."
American Farm Bureau Federation and its allies have 90 days to seek an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
More on the Chesapeake Bay clean-up story:
Chesapeake Bay regs would 'flood' Midwest farms
Chesapeake Bay water clean-up model: What Midwest farmers learned.
Chesapeake model: Who'll pay for Mississippi River's clean-up?