Supreme Court declines to review Chesapeake Bay case

Agricultural groups have no further avenues to defend their view that EPA has overreached its federal power on state and local land use decisions.

The U.S. Supreme Court has decided not to review a lower court ruling allowing the Environmental Protection Agency to micromanage local land use and development decisions under the Clean Water Act.

While this action relates to the EPA’s “blueprint” for restoring the Chesapeake Bay, agricultural groups have challenged it has national implications related to the power and reach of the federal government. The case, AFBF vs. EPA, was backed by several commodity groups because of the concerns over EPA’s expanded power.

Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), said he was disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision not to examine the lawfulness of EPA’s Chesapeake Bay blueprint. He noted, “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. We remain firm in opposition this unlawful expansion of EPA’s power.”

The total maximum daily load (TMDL) is an unlawful overreach of federal regulatory power, the National Corn Growers Assn. (NCGA) claimed.

 “The EPA has consistently pushed the legal limits of the Clean Water Act, with the Chesapeake Bay blueprint and the waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule being two of the most recent examples,” said NCGA president Chip Bowling, who farms on the Chesapeake Bay watershed in southern Maryland.

“When Congress passed the Clean Water Act, their intention was to create balanced, practical policies to protect America’s water resources with a clear division of power between states and the federal government. In both of these cases, the EPA’s actions represent an unlawful expansion of their authority. That’s why we joined this petition on the Chesapeake Bay TMDL, and we are party to a lawsuit challenging the WOTUS rule,” Bowling added.

Dave Warner, spokesman for the National Pork Producers Council, also expressed disappointment in the court’s decision, adding, “We can’t help but believe that had Justice Scalia still been on the bench, we would have gotten our day in court.”

Warner said the rule is going to cost taxpayers and farmers billions of dollars by the time it’s fully implemented in 2025.

Both Bowling and Duvall said their organizations support the goals of the Clean Water Act and remain committed to working with EPA and other stakeholders to protect water resources.

“Farmers are justifiably proud of their successes in reducing agriculture’s impact on water quality in the Chesapeake Bay, and they remain committed to further improvements. We will continue to support state and local programs to improve agriculture’s environmental performance, and we will continue to oppose EPA overreach,” Duvall said.

Similar nutrient "diets" have been feared in regions, such as the Gulf of Mexico, that would impact the majority of Midwest and South Central states. Duvall said AFBF will be closely monitoring 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 batter over the scope of EPA’s power is not over,” he said.

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