A coalition of environmental defenders rose to the challenge of opposing agricultural corporations who want to stop new regulations by the federal government that protect the Chesapeake Bay.
Officials from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) hosted a press conference on Wednesday announcing that they have filed a motion in federal court to halt actions currently under way by agricultural corporations to retract new federal regulations that limit pollution in the bay.
CBF President William Baker said his organization has joined forces with several environmental groups for a legal intervention to defend these regulations, in light of the federal court battle.
“We seek to stop the agricultural industries who want to derail bay restoration,” Baker said. “If it’s a fight they want, it’s a fight they will get.”
Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency set a limit on the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous pollution that’s allowed in the bay. The change was prompted by decades of lawsuits calling for more stringent controls, among them the CBF's own legal actions.
But shortly after the new regulations were set, they were opposed by a federal lawsuit filed by the American Farm Bureau Federation and the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau against the EPA.
They have since been joined by a host of agricultural organizations, including the Fertilizer Institute, the National Pork Producers Council, National Corn Growers Association, the National Chicken Council, the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association and the National Turkey Federation.
Baker said these special-interest groups want taxpayers to "suffer dirty, dangerous water" so corporations can profit more.
"Their motive is profit," he said. "Our motive is clean water and the protection of human health."
In the lawsuit, the AFBF claims the EPA is micromanaging the Chesapeake Bay's waterways, and circumventing the federal Clean Water Act by relinquishing states of their right to protect their own water quality. The suit they filed against the EPA in January claims the new standards are not legally enforceable, and seeks to have them invalidated.
Jon Mueller, the CBF’s vice president for litigation, said the AFBF’s claims are “without merit.”
“It is impossible to do what big agriculture is asking for, and we think the court will see right through that argument,” Mueller said.
A scheduling conference with the judge overseeing this case is set for June 28. On that date, the CBF and other organizations attached to the motion for intervention will receive more information on what will happen next.