Ag Policy Blog

Groups, Members of Congress Push SCOTUS to Review TMDLs

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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The American Farm Bureau Federation's efforts to convince the U.S. Supreme Court to review the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's use of total maximum daily loads, or TMDLs, to force watersheds including states in the Chesapeake Bay region to reduce nutrients runoff, received a jolt of support Wednesday as members of Congress, states and others filed friend-of-the-court briefs with the high court in an effort to spark a review by the high court.

Briefs were filed by 92 members of Congress, 22 states, forestry groups represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation and "a broad cross-section of the U.S. economy represented by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the National Federation of Independent Business," according to an AFBF news release.

AFBF wants the high court to review whether EPA's use of TMDLs strips states' powers to decide how they regulate water quality.

"The fact that so many voices are being raised in support of Supreme Court review shows the broad and severe threat that EPA's action here poses nationwide," AFBF President Bob Stallman said in a news release. "EPA has asserted powers that do not appear in any law written by Congress, and it has done so in the context of an iconic national treasure, hoping that will inoculate its power grab in the courts. We have faith that the nation's highest court will see this for what it is and hold EPA accountable to stay within its statutory authority."

AFBF said in the news release, "Despite aggressive new commitments and water quality achievements by the six states in the bay watershed in the mid-2000s, the EPA asserted federal control over the Chesapeake Bay recovery in its 2010 'blueprint.' The new federal plan effectively gives EPA the ability to function as a super-zoning authority over local and state governments -- dictating where homes can be built, where land can be farmed, and where commercial development can occur.

"The plan will impose tens of billions of dollars in direct costs -- with unknown economic impacts on local communities and economies. It also denies state and local governments and businesses the flexibility to adapt to new circumstances, instead locking in limits that can quickly become outdated but can only be revised by EPA. The lower courts upheld EPA's blueprint on the theory that it furthers the water quality goals of the Clean Water Act -- despite the absence of words in the statute authorizing such federal action. A significant issue presented for the Supreme Court is the degree to which courts should defer to broad agency interpretations of their statutory power."

AFBF General Counsel Ellen Steen said in a news release statement the broad support for the group's petition indicates "deep concerns" about EPA's efforts.

"Members of Congress, states and business groups recognize that this illegal framework will be imposed throughout the country unless the court intervenes," she said. "Given the enormous social and economic consequences, not to mention the grave questions about federalism and deference to agency overreaching, this is a case that cries out for Supreme Court review."

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12/11/2015 | 8:10 AM CST
Give them a little bit of time and they won't have to worry about the pollution from ag. The land in that area will be under houses, buildings and parking lots. Never hear anything about how much land there goes under construction every year.