ShareThis Page

Chesapeake Bay pollution plan approved

| Monday, July 6, 2015, 9:48 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA — A U.S. appeals court on Monday approved a federal plan to limit pollution in the Chesapeake Bay despite objections from farmers, builders and others who accused the Environmental Protection Agency of a power grab.

The ruling by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld restrictions on farm and construction runoff and wastewater treatment, and has the support of environmentalists and officials in the six states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

“The Chesapeake Bay (plan) will require sacrifice by many, but that is a consequence of the tremendous effort it will take to restore health to the Bay — to make it once again a part of our ‘land of living,' a goal our elected representatives have repeatedly endorsed,” Circuit Judge Thomas Ambro wrote, quoting American poet Robert Frost.

The bay, the nation's largest estuary, serves a growing population in nearby cities and towns, and supports commercial ventures that include fishing, farming, shipping and tourism. The resulting pollutants have led to dead zones with opaque water and algae blooms that make it difficult for aquatic life to survive, environmentalists argued.

The judges called pollution in the bay a complex problem with clear winners and losers that affects 17 million people.

“The winners are environmental groups, the states that border the Bay, tourists, fishermen, municipal waste water treatment works and urban centers. The losers are rural counties with farming operations, nonpoint source polluters, the agricultural industry and those states that would prefer a lighter touch from the EPA,” Ambro wrote in his unanimous opinion.

The American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Association of Builders, the Fertilizer Institute and others have fought the restrictions, arguing that the EPA's comprehensive plan usurped state authority to regulate waterways. However, the three-judge panel found their arguments “unpersuasive.”

“Congress made a judgment in the Clean Water Act that the states and the EPA could, working together, best allocate the benefits and burdens of lowering pollution,” the ruling stated.

Animal waste and fertilizer that moves from streams into the Chesapeake is the single largest source of bay pollution, according to the EPA. Scientists have said the bay absorbs too much nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment to maintain a healthy ecosystem. The decision upholds a September 2013 decision by U.S. District Judge Sylvia Rambo in Harrisburg.

“This is a great day for everyone who cares about clean water and the Chesapeake Bay,” said William C. Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. “In a case challenging EPA's Clean Water Act authorities, the 3rd Circuit Court in Philadelphia has spoken.”

The EPA expects 60 percent of the plan to be implemented by 2017, with the rest in place by 2025.

The six watershed states that previously agreed to the pollution limits and support the plan are Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, along with Washington.

The farm bureau plans to review the ruling for several days before deciding whether to appeal or take other actions, spokesman Will Rodgers said.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me