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October 11, 2012

AFBF Fights EPA in Court

For more information on Newsline, contact: Kari Barbic, Media Specialist, American Farm Bureau Federation, karib@fb.org.

The nation’s largest farm organization faced off against the Environmental Protection Agency in a court case involving regulations for the Chesapeake Bay, but AFBF General Counsel Ellen Steen says they would affect the entire country. AFBF’s Johnna Miller has the story.
Miller:Lawyers for the American Farm Bureau argued before a U.S. District Court that the Environmental Protection Agency has violated the Clean Water Act and exceeded its authority with its Total Maximum Daily Load regulations for the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Those regulations are basically a pollution diet for that watershed.
Steen:What EPA did here was not to set a total load, but to define how that load ought to be allocated, split up, shared among agriculture, forestry, even individual plants and factories and facilities. And EPA would claim it could literally go throughout an area and assign nutrient limits, sediment limits on an individual home-by-home or farm-by-farm basis.
Miller:American Farm Bureau General Counsel Ellen Steen says Congress never gave the EPA that authority.
Steen:The heart of it is about EPA’s power to control state and local land use and development decisions. EPA has set a pollution diet for the Chesapeake Bay that micromanages what are really local decisions about agriculture versus forestry versus development versus municipalities. These are local decisions. They affect local jobs. They affect local economies.Congress wrote the Clean Water Act to leave that power in state and local hands, so that the people most affected would have the power to make those decisions
Miller:Steen says the EPA based its conclusions on bad science that may lead to bad consequences.
Steen:One of the consequences of the way that EPA sliced up the pie in the Chesapeake Bay, for example, was to impose such drastic limits on agriculture that it would force 20 percent of agricultural land out of production. The consequences can be severe. They don’t pertain just to the Chesapeake Bay. These are the issues that, depending on the way the law develops on this issue, affect how much power EPA has to control state and local decisions on land use and economic development nationwide.
Miller:Johnna Miller, Washington.
Miller:We have two extra actualities with AFBF General Counsel Ellen Steen. In the first extra actuality she talks about some of Farm Bureau’s claims against EPA’s Chesapeake Bay regulations. The cut runs 19 seconds, in 3-2-1.
Steen:The scientific modeling that EPA used was badly flawed. So the numbers that they came up with are essentially meaningless. Second, they didn’t allow the public an adequate opportunity to participate because they held back key documents until after the diet was finalized. So the public never had an opportunity to check EPA’s numbers and see if they were valid.
Miller:In the second extra actuality Steen says the EPA approach will lead to unnecessary problems down the road. The cut runs 12 seconds, in 3-2-1.
Steen:It ties the states’ hands so that they have to go back and say “Mother may I?” to EPA to adapt to new information. It creates an inflexible system that’s reliant on federal approval to make what are really local decisions.
Miller:Newsline is updated Mondays and Thursdays by 5pm Eastern time. Thank you for listening.

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