Midwestern Clean Water Advocates Rally in Defense of the Chesapeake Bay
MD Lawmakers Ask for Federal Help to Solve Dam Problem

American Farm Bureau Road Apples

As Bay Daily readers no doubt know, the national farm lobby has gone to court to oppose the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, the federal-state plan to restore the Bay (in EPA-speak, the Bay Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL).

In recently published reports, American Farm Bureau Federation attorney Ellen Steen contends, “Our appeal has nothing to do with stopping the ongoing work of restoring the Chesapeake Bay. We are fighting to preserve the careful balance of federal versus state and local power that Congress built into the Clean Water Act.

“It’s not about whether EPA can set a total pollutant load – it’s about whether EPA can dictate which land can be farmed, or where homes, schools and roads can be built. Those who claim otherwise are either failing to read our court papers or are intentionally misleading the public.”

A few weeks ago, the Farm Bureau recruited the attorneys general from 21 states across the country to jump on the bandwagon to fight the Bay cleanup. One of them, the Florida attorney general, echoed Steen’s claim about EPA in a recent op-ed in The Florida Times-Union newspaper:

“The best way to serve the cause of environmental protection is to recognize the states’ authority and be vigilant about EPA overreach. This brief is not about whether to protect the environment; it is about defending the role Congress gave states in protecting their own widely varying environments. I will remain steadfast in my efforts to stop the federal government from exceeding its authority and infringing on our rights.”

Bay Daily is here to say…BUNK!

Nowhere in the Bay Blueprint (TMDL) is EPA given the authority to dictate where farmers can farm or where homes, schools, and roads can be built. Nor does the Bay cleanup demand anything not already required by the Clean Water Act or that the Bay states haven’t agreed to or adopted themselves.

In fact, the reality of the Bay cleanup plan is quite the opposite: EPA collaborated closely with all of the Bay states to establish the pollution limits for the Bay, for each state, for each river basin, and in some Watershed.streamscases, for specific pollution sources. In many instances, EPA accepted the states’ own recommended limits. Overall, EPA left it to each state to determine how best to achieve its limits.

This EPA-state collaboration in the Bay Blueprint was specifically cited by U.S. District Judge Sylvia Rambo when she dismissed all Farm Bureau claims in a ruling last fall, a ruling the farm lobby and the 21 states are now appealing. Judge Rambo held up the process the Bay states and EPA used as an example of the “cooperative federalism” that Congress and the Clean Water Act intended.

“It would be misleading to say that EPA was the sole author" of the Bay pollution limits, Rambo wrote. “Rather, the allocations were devised largely by the states…The process included considerable back-and-forth between EPA and the Bay states.”

Of course there have been, and will continue to be, disagreements among the Bay cleanup partners. Creating and implementing a restoration plan for an incredibly complex, 64,000-square-mile watershed that includes parts of six states and more than 17 million people is difficult, sometimes even contentious.

But for the Farm Bureau and 21 attorneys general to contend EPA has overreached and seized rights from the Bay states is false and misleading. It ain’t so, and saying it in newspapers and legal briefs won’t make it so.

Chuck Epes

Chesapeake Bay Foundation

(If you agree the fight against the Bay cleanup is bunk, click here to help.)

Photo by iStock


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