On February 3, Attorneys General for the 21 states, many in the in the Midwest and South, joined the American Farm Bureau Federation and development industry lobbyists in their legal appeal of EPA pollution limits for the Chesapeake Bay and the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. The opponents are worried that if the Bay pollution limits are successful they might have to reduce their pollution, too.
Governor O’Malley, chair of a regional alliance called the Chesapeake Executive Council, responded by calling on all of the member states to join Maryland in supporting EPA in court. “As we continue to make great strides in restoring and protecting the Chesapeake Bay, it is critical that we protect our hard-won progress,” O’Malley said. “As a result, I have asked the Attorney General to submit an amicus brief to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in support of the Environmental Protection Agency's defense of the Chesapeake Bay (Clean Water Blueprint).”
In December 2010, EPA created pollution limits for the Chesapeake Bay after two voluntary agreements between the regional states (in 1987 and 2000) failed to make adequate progress toward restoring the health of the nation’s largest estuary.
The Farm Bureau, Fertilizer Institute, National Chicken Council, National Pork Producers Council, National Association of Home Builders and other lobbying groups sued to overturn the limits. They argued that the EPA had exceeded its authority, had not allowed enough time for public comment, and that the science behind the pollution limits was unsound.
On Sept. 13, 2013, Judge Sylvia Rambo of the U.S. District Court in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, ruled against the Farm Bureau and its allies. In a thorough and meticulous 98 page opinion, Rambo concluded that EPA was well acting well within its legal authority, had provided ample time for review and comment, and had utilized the best available science in an appropriate way. Despite the setback, the farm and development lobbying groups appealed the decision. They were recently joined by the 21 states, including Texas, Alaska, and Kansas.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation President Will Baker praised Governor O’Malley for jumping into the debate and firmly taking the side of clean water.
“We can’t let states from Texas to Alaska who have been recruited by Big Agriculture prevent us from cleaning up our rivers, streams and the Bay," Baker said. "We thank Governor O’Malley and Attorney General (Douglas) Gansler for stepping up. We call on all the Bay states to demonstrate their commitment to a healthy environment by joining Maryland as friends of the court to fight this outside interference.”
By Tom Pelton
Chesapeake Bay Foundation