Court sides with EPA on Chesapeake cleanup plan

Court sides with EPA on Chesapeake cleanup plan
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A federal appeals court Monday upheld the Obama administration’s plan to cut water pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.

The three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit unanimously ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) properly used the authority under the Clean Water Act to set limits on pollution in the Chesapeake’s six-state watershed, a process known as Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).

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Groups representing agriculture and other business interests challenged the landmark cleanup plan, saying that it exceeded the EPA’s pollution-control authority.

“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,” Judge Thomas Ambro of the Philadelphia-based court wrote.

“The Chesapeake Bay TMDL 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.”

The Chesapeake plan is the largest and most comprehensive use of the TMDL process by the EPA. The Obama administration issued the plan in 2010 after three decades of failed attempts at cleaning the bay.

It limits the amounts of phosphorus, nitrogen and sediments that can be released into the Chesapeake.

The EPA welcomed the ruling.

“In rejecting the legal challenge to the Chesapeake Bay TMDL action, the court has affirmed a 2013 lower court ruling, a decision that is a victory for the 18 million people in the Chesapeake Bay watershed,” EPA spokeswoman Monica Lee said in a statement.

“We remain committed to revitalizing this national treasure through the collaborative federal-state framework with the six Bay states and D.C.,” she said.

Environmentalists were also pleased.

“This is a great day for everyone who cares about clean water and the Chesapeake Bay,” Chesapeake Bay Foundation President William Baker said in a statement. “In a case challenging EPA’s Clean Water Act authorities, the Third Circuit Court in Philadelphia has spoken. The Court affirmed the same, reasoned decision offered by the lower court.”