This Week’s Headlines
Supreme Court stiff-arms AFBF challenge
By JONATHAN CRIBBS
WASHINGTON (March 8, 2016) — The U.S. Supreme Court declined last week to hear a challenge of the Chesapeake Bay’s mandated cleanup, dealing a final blow to a years-long effort from farming and construction interests to resist the federal environmental regulations.
The court’s Feb. 29 decision ends a lawsuit by the American Farm Bureau Federation to roll back the Environmental Protection Agency’s Total Maximum Daily Load plan, which has limited the application of fertilizer and manure on regional farmland and is designed to improve water quality within the Bay watershed.
“EPA has asserted the power to sit as a federal zoning board, dictating which land can be farmed and where homes, roads and schools can be built,” said Zippy Duvall, AFBF president, in a statement. “We remain firm in opposing this unlawful expansion of EPA’s power. We will closely monitor the agency’s actions in connection with the Bay blueprint as well as any efforts to impose similar mandates in other areas. The lawsuit has ended, but the larger battle over the scope of EPA’s power is not over.”
The federation appealed to the Supreme Court following a ruling from a three-judge panel last year in the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld a 2013 U.S. District Court ruling that said the EPA acts within its authority under the Clean Water Act to work with states within the watershed to reduce pollution and runoff from farms, sewers and commercial and residential development. That ruling now stands.
The TMDL was created in 2010 and requires Bay watershed states to develop plans to meet pollution reduction goals by 2025.
“Now that all of the legal challenges have been denied, we hope those who have opposed the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint will devote their time, expertise and money to working with all of the clean water partners to help save the Bay,” said Will Baker, Chesapeake Bay Foundation president, in a statement.
Organizations ranging from the National Association of Home Builders and various agricultural groups including the National Chicken Council and the National Corn Growers Association, joined the federation in the lawsuit. Twenty-two states and several congressmen also supported the suit.
Maryland Farm Bureau officials declined to comment on the lawsuit.
The suit was among several hundred the high court declined to hear as it recovers from the Feb. 13 death of Justice Antonin Scalia, leaving the court with just eight members. President Barack Obama said he intends to nominate a successor though Senate Republicans have vowed to block any nomination and say they believe the country’s next president should choose.