A Baltimore law firm is asking rural counties to band together to challenge the new federally led Chesapeake Bay restoration strategy, something a foundation dedicated to the bay’s health called one of the most serious attacks on clean water it has seen in Maryland.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation said Tuesday it sent a letter to Gov. Martin O’Malley asking him to fight the effort. Dorchester County has hired the Funk & Bolton law firm to go to rural parts of the state asking counties to collectively challenge the federal plan, the foundation said.
“They are preying on the fears that counties have over how to pay for clean-up efforts,” the letter to the governor said.
O’Malley posted the law firm’s letter on his blog, calling it disturbing and saying it “threatens to undermine our collective actions to restore the health of the bay.”
Attorney David Funk said his firm is representing local governments that are trying to determine how they will pay to help restore the bay.
“Local governments have budgetary issues with respect to some of the environmental requirements and are trying to engage in a public policy debate as to what is the most cost-effective way to achieve the result that we all want, which is cleaning up the bay,” Funk said.
The new strategy being led by the federal Environmental Protection Agency puts everyone in the six-state bay watershed on a “pollution diet” with daily limits for how much sediment and runoff can come from each area. Pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizer, sewage, auto and power plant emissions cause oxygen-robbing algae blooms once they reach the bay, creating dead zones where sea life can’t live.
Farmers and agriculture interests are concerned about the strategy because agriculture runoff is the single largest source of bay pollutants, according to the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay model. While agriculture has made gains in reducing bay pollution, the strategy calls for even more reductions from all sectors. County officials have also expressed concerns about the cost of the effort.
The restoration is also being challenged in a federal court in Pennsylvania by groups including the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Association of Home Builders.