Chesapeake Runoff Case Dismissal Sought

Dismissal Clears Way For EPA Runoff Crackdown on Farms in Seven Pennsylvania Counties

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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Plaintiffs led by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation asked for dismissal of a lawsuit filed against the EPA in 2020. (DTN file photo)

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) -- The Chesapeake Bay Foundation and other plaintiffs dropped a lawsuit against EPA on Wednesday after a settlement agreement was reached with the agency to reduce nutrients runoff into the Chesapeake Bay.

The foundation, along with Anne Arundel County, Maryland Watermen's Association, and attorneys general for Delaware, Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia, announced the dismissal in a filing with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Wednesday.

The motion was filed after a settlement was reached in April that will require EPA to crack down on runoff pollution from farms in seven Pennsylvania counties.

The foundation sued EPA in 2020 for a lack of progress in slowing nutrient runoff, and in particular the lawsuit focused on the agency not holding accountable Pennsylvania and New York for not cutting runoff as part of the total maximum daily load, or TMDL, program for the bay.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation President and CEO Hilary Harp Falk said farms in the bay region are a reason for ongoing nutrients runoff challenges.

"A recent report from leading bay scientists identifies several reasons that efforts to reduce pollution from agriculture and urban/suburban stormwater have not met expectations including the lack of targeting investments to the most effective places," Falk said.

"This settlement takes a step forward with a focus on specific problem areas. And while we are encouraged by recent investments from the commonwealth and leadership from EPA, we still have a long way to go."

EPA will now set its sights on farms in Lancaster, York, Bedford, Cumberland, Centre, Franklin, and Lebanon counties in Pennsylvania. The agency will be looking at farms currently not required to have federal permits and are in proximity to rivers and streams, according to the settlement.

If EPA determines whether certain farms are significant contributors of pollution from runoff, the EPA would then consult with state officials in Pennsylvania about designating farms as point sources of pollution subject to permits.

Last December the state of New York resubmitted its TMDL plan to EPA and the agency accepted it, removing New York from the legal action.

In addition, EPA will be studying whether pollution runoff from stormwater in urban and suburban areas that currently are not subject to federal regulations is contributing nutrient runoff to rivers and streams.

That evaluation could lead to requiring permits for certain point sources of pollution.

In addition, in the settlement, EPA commits to expanding compliance and enforcement efforts.

That includes increasing compliance-assurance activities in the counties to assess whether federally permitted sources are complying with existing permit requirements.

EPA also will determine whether there are any general permits or individual permits within the Pennsylvania portion of the Chesapeake Bay watershed that have been administratively extended. EPA will work with Pennsylvania authorities to develop a permit reissuance strategy designed to bring permits up to date and reduce the number of administratively extended permits.

In 2010, EPA issued a TMDL for the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries with jurisdictions in the District of Columbia, Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.

The states adopted caps on discharges of nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment in the bay region.

EPA is tasked to oversee and evaluate progress by each jurisdiction and to act to ensure plans are implemented.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation argued in its September 2020 lawsuit EPA's lack of action would lead to the continued degradation of the bay.

In 2014, EPA and the states signed an agreement that requires all practices to be in place to reduce pollution in the bay.

Read more on DTN:

"EPA Settlement to Pressure Pa. Farmers,"…

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Todd Neeley

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