Supreme Court denies Chesapeake Bay TMDL appeal

The Chesapeake Bay2The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) announced on Monday, Feb. 29, 2016 its denial to hear the American Farm Bureau and allies appeal regarding the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). The denial of American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), et al. v. EPA, et al. by the high court affirms the ruling of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania and subsequent unanimous ruling of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Chesapeake Bay TMDL for sediment, nitrogen, and phosphorus — otherwise known as the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint — was approved Dec. 29, 2010. The Chesapeake Bay TMDL established pollution limits for the bay and its tributaries. The TMDL marked a change in the historical baywide restoration effort in that it moved away from a largely voluntary restoration effort and includes greater accountability mechanisms tied to meeting pollution reduction goals.

Critics of the TMDL state the federal government overreached its regulatory authority. Shortly after its approval, the American Farm Bureau and the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau filed their legal appeal. They were joined by the National Association of Home Builders, the National Chicken Council, the National Corn Growers Association, the National Pork Producers Council, the National Turkey Federation, The Fertilizer Institute, and the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association. In response, a number of advocacy groups and organizations representing public utilities joined EPA in supporting the TMDL. No state in the bay watershed opposed the TMDL and several provided filings supporting EPA and the TMDL.

District Court Judge Silvia Rambo issued a 99-page ruling on Sept. 13, 2013, supporting the Chesapeake Bay TMDL, stating “…EPA’s role is critical to coordinating the Bay Jurisdictions’ efforts to ensure pollution reduction. In short, the court concludes that the framework established by the Bay Partnership in developing the Bay TMDL is consistent…” with the Clean Water Act and Administrative Procedure Act. The subsequent 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a unanimous ruling also rejecting the challenges made against the TMDL.

The unsigned order issued by the high court today denies the petition for a writ of certiorari without comment. (A writ of certiorari is the legal function that enables a higher court to order a lower court to send all case documents so the higher court can review the lower court’s decision.)

The Supreme Court denial concludes a legal challenge that has been ongoing for more than 5 years.

For more information, contact Chris French, WEF Director of Stormwater Programs.

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