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Farm Bureau seeks summary judgment in bay suit against EPA

The American Farm Bureau Federation is asking a federal judge to toss out the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay restoration strategy before its suit challenging the effort goes to trial.

The federation filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania seeking summary judgment in its favor, arguing the EPA has overstepped its authority by mandating the states develop and stick to tougher pollution limits.

“The agency cannot usurp authorities reserved solely for the states, nor create new authorities with no statutory basis,” the federation argued in the motion filed Friday, saying the strategy is not authorized under the Clean Water Act.

The American Farm Bureau Federation sued the EPA last year over the stricter federally led effort and other groups have since joined the challenge. Critics say it is too far-reaching and will burden states with huge costs. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, other environmental organizations and associations representing sewer authorities have sided with the EPA.

The farm organization also argues the model used to develop the strategy is flawed and the public was not given enough time to comment on, or information about the new strategy.

Farmers and agriculture interests are concerned about the strategy because agriculture 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.

The strategy subjects the six states in the bay watershed to limits for how much sediment and runoff can come from each area. Pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizer, auto and power plant emissions cause oxygen-robbing algae blooms once they reach the bay, creating dead zones where sea life can’t live.

AFBF President Bob Stallman said his group supports bay restoration but not the EPA’s strategy.

“This lawsuit is about how we reach that common goal. Farm Bureau believes EPA’s new regulation is unlawful and costly without providing the environmental benefit promised,” Stallman said.