In 2010, President Obama used executive powers to enforce the Clean Water Act within the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Under Obama’s approval the EPA created the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blue Print, which established Total Maximum Daily Load or TMDL, limits towards nitrogen, phosphorus and sediments. The EPA set these limits within each of the six states in the watershed; combining water quality monitoring data and scientific knowledge regarding acceptable pollution levels for the Bay’s ecosystem. Chesapeake’s size and denomination as impaired led the EPA to make a timeline allowing the watershed to improve or governmental actions would commence. The threshold wasn’t met and the EPA had to limit nutrient and sediment runoff as the basis of improving water quality and restoring the Bay’s ecosystem.
The EPA’s Blue Print calls for reduction of nitrogen runoff by 25 percent, phosphorus by 24 percent and sediment by 20 percent by 2025. The EPA plan includes a list of procedures and policy’s that state government agencies and actors can use to improve infrastructure or target associated polluters. Examples involve stream fencing or buffer zones, animal waste management systems, poultry phytase, cover crops and improvements to storm and wastewater treatment. Famers and construction firms opposed these enforcements and stipulations upon their businesses and declared it wasn’t the government’s jurisdiction.
The Farm Bureau and National Association of Home Builders took head of the complaints and sued the EPA. The conglomerate of Farm Bureau and NAHB appealed their case against the EPA, over enforcement of Total Maximum Daily Load or TMDL within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, to the Supreme Court. The original ruling, from 2013, was unanimously upheld in 2015 in the Circuit Court, that the EPA’s actions were legal and justified to protect communal waters as they are important to the regions communities and economies. Many conservation groups and environmental law firms, as well as business groups weighted in on the argument as it suggested issues with governmental role of land use. American Farm Bureau et al v. EPA, brought three complaints to the Supreme Court: “that the pollution limits or TMDL exceeded EPA’s authority, that they were based on faulty science, and that the plaintiff did not have adequate time to participate in the comment process”. Further, the Farm Bureau argued the issue of state versus federal enforcement of natural resources; the EPA shouldn’t decide how the goals of water quality are to be met. Filed in 2015, and received in February 2016, the appeal was rejected from discussion within the Supreme Court; therefore the matter is settled with the justifications of the 2013 circuit court trial.
This event marks a victory for the Chesapeake Bay and those dedicated managing its resources. The Clean Water Blue Print will continue as planned, with formal updates at 2 year intervals and continued cooperation between VA, MD, DE, PA, WV, NY and the EPA to mitigate pollution from development and farming.