The American Farm Bureau Federation this week asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit to reverse a September 2013 federal court ruling that upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s total maximum daily load (TMDL) for the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
The court will decide whether EPA exceeded its Clean Water Act authority by mandating how nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment runoff should be allocated among farms, construction and development activities, as well as homeowners and towns throughout the 64,000 square mile Chesapeake Bay watershed.
“This case involves whether EPA can assume authority over land use and water quality policy decisions that Congress specifically reserved for state and local levels of government,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “Last year the district court ruled that EPA can dictate how and when states and localities must restrict land uses, even to the point of banning development or demanding that specific areas be taken out of agricultural use.
“These are uniquely local decisions that should be made by local governments,” continued Stallman. “That is why this power is specifically withheld from EPA in the Clean Water Act.”
AFBF argues that the Clean Water Act divides authority between EPA and the states, leaving the states in the driver’s seat to determine how business owners and residents will share the costs and responsibility to achieve clean water goals.
“Farmers, builders, homeowners, and towns have made significant changes to protect water quality in the Bay and the results are just starting to come in,” said Stallman. “Farmers will continue to do their part to improve water quality regardless of whether we win or lose this appeal.”
AFBF’s goal with this litigation is to maintain an important balance of power under the Clean Water Act that leaves states in charge of the land and water resources within their borders.