Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Supremes Reject Bay Farmer Suit

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ended a five-year legal challenge to the Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan, rejecting without comment the American Farm Bureau Federation’s request that the court hear its argument that the federal government is effectively seizing land use authority from state and local governments.

The decision removes any legal cloud from the pursuit of the Bay pollution reduction strategy imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency. It leaves in place a ruling last year by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that said the plan “is reasonable and reflects a legitimate policy choice” by the EPA and the states in the Bay watershed.

In a statement, the EPA said it was pleased with the high court’s decision, which it said confirms that the agency’s action in imposing the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL, on the 64,000-square-mile Bay watershed is in keeping with the Clean Water Act.

“We can now continue to build on the progress made in restoring local waters and the Chesapeake Bay,” the statement said.

William Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which had sided with the EPA in arguing the case. called the decision “a historic day for the Bay…Now the Supreme Court has ruled and we can finally move on.”

Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall issued a statement saying critics of the TMDL were disappointed with the court's refusal to consider the case.

"We remain firm in opposing this unlawful expansion of EPA's power," Duvall said. "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. This lawsuit has ended, but the larger battle over the scope of EPA's power is not over."
It's hard to make a case for federalism when the states involved are all in favor of having EPA write the rules so they don't have to (it costs too many votes).

Tim Henderson, a partner at the environmental law firm Rich & Henderson, P.C. in Annapolis, said he wasn't surprised the court did not hear the case.

"(Total Maximum Daily Load) is a big deal for the bay, but there have been TMDLs imposed in smaller watersheds across the country," he said. "It's hard to characterize that as unique and novel enough to get the Supreme Court to take it."

Henderson said the decision may have gone differently a few weeks ago.

"Had (Justice Antonin Scalia) been alive, it is the kind of issue he was inclined to take," he said.
He will be missed.

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