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Midwestern Clean Water Advocates Rally in Defense of the Chesapeake Bay

Chicago skyline ALLIANCE FOR THE GREAT LAKESClean water advocates across the country are rallying in support of the Chesapeake Bay cleanup effort, which is under attack by lawyers for the agricultural industry and their allies.

The Chicago-based Alliance for the Great Lakes, the Ohio Environmental Council, the Lake Erie Waterkeeper, and the Sierra Club are the most recent organizations to express their support for EPA pollution limits for the Chesapeake Bay and the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.

The EPA pollution limits have been challenged in federal court by the American Farm Bureau Federation, which recruited 21 state Attorneys General -– including in Michigan, Indiana, and Texas -– to join the fertilizer industry, developers, and others in a national crusade against pollution limits.  The opponents of the Chesapeake cleanup plan argue that the federal government should not be involved in setting pollution limits, and instead leave such issues to the states. “If this (Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan) is left to stand, other watersheds... could be next,” the opponents wrote in a court brief.

Lyman Welch, a director of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, said in a press release this week (February 25) that EPA’s collaboration with the Chesapeake Bay region states in setting pollution limits and creating a cleanup plan should be praised, not challenged in court.  He suggested that EPA should set similar pollution limits for Lake Erie, for example.

“When pollution crosses state lines, threatens drinking water and chases people away from the lakes, a partnership of states and EPA only makes sense,” Welch said.

 Melissa Damaschke, director of Sierra Club’s Great Lakes Program, said that Michigan, Indiana and other states in the Midwest should be focused on cleaning up their own serious water pollution problems, not helping out the Farm Bureau in its lawsuit against the Chesapeake Bay cleanup. “Great Lakes states should be learning from the Chesapeake Bay model, not meddling in its implementation,” Damaschke said.

Kristy Meyer, managing director of Agricultural, Health & Clean Water Programs at the Ohio Environmental Council, said  it is only a matter of time before more Ohio communities cannot drink their drinking water and more people in the Midwest become sick from toxic algal blooms.

“Michigan and Indiana residents would be better served by these two states focusing on reducing the nutrient pollution flowing into Lake Erie and learning from the Chesapeake Bay model about how they can achieve those reductions,” Meyer said.

The challenge of the Chesapeake Bay pollution limits by the Farm Bureau and allies was heard by U.S. District Court Judge Sylvia Rambo in September, and she ruled against the Farm Bureau’s claims.  But now the opponents have appealed the decision, with a hearing expected in upcoming months.

The Chesapeake Bay cleanup is not only working. It is a shining example to the nation, and should not be derailed.  

To learn more, click here.

By Tom Pelton

Chesapeake Bay Foundation



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