On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from groups challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, letting stand an earlier decision of the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
The lawsuit and subsequent appeal, filed by the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), related members of the farming industry, and joined by the National Association of Home Builders, concerned the legality of the federal plan to control water pollutants in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. AFBF and allies argued that the clean-up plan exceeded the scope of EPA’s authority.
EPA’s Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint consists of EPA regulations designed to lessen pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, and plans released by six states and the District of Columbia to meet those federal regulations.
In November, 2015, the Third Circuit disagreed with AFBF’s assertions, unanimously upholding the EPA’s authority to develop and implement the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) as part of the Clean Water Act.
The TMDL, first adopted by the EPA in 2010, describes the maximum amount of pollutants a waterway can receive while still meeting quality standards under the Clean Water Act. The TMDL dictates the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment that may be allowed into Chesapeake Bay waterways.
In petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to review the determination of the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, AFBF President Bob Stallman stated, “It’s about whether EPA has the power to override local decisions on what land can be farmed, where homes can be built, and where schools, hospitals, roads and communities can be developed.” He continued, “This is nothing less than federal super-zoning authority. As much as we all support the goal of achieving a healthy Chesapeake Bay, we have to fight this particular process for getting there.”
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