What’s happening at the Chesapeake Bay watershed matters to states in the Southeast.  Attorneys general from 21 states have joined an American Farm Bureau Federation appeal against the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to dictate the management of nutrient runoff around the bay.

AFBF in January asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit to reverse a September 2013 federal court ruling that upheld the EPA’s total maximum daily load for the Chesapeake Bay watershed. 

The court will decide whether EPA exceeded its Clean Water Act authority by mandating how nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment runoff should be allocated among farms, construction and development activities, as well as homeowners and towns throughout the 64,000-square-mile Chesapeake Bay watershed.

“This case involves whether EPA can assume authority over land use and water quality policy decisions that Congress specifically reserved for state and local levels of government,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “Last year the district court ruled that EPA can dictate how and when states and localities must restrict land uses, even to the point of banning development or demanding that specific areas be taken out of agricultural use.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange is one of the 21 attorneys general supporting the AFBF stance, which asks that the Clean Water Act divide authority between EPA and the states, leaving the states in the driver’s seat to determine how business owners and residents will share the costs and responsibility to achieve clean water goals.

“Alabama, along with the other states, have a significant interest in protecting our right to manage lands within our borders and protect our states’ natural resources,” Strange says in a Feb. 12 statement. “The Environmental Protection Agency continues to exceed its authority by trying to micromanage the states, and this case gives the court an opportunity to tell the EPA ‘enough is enough.’”

The amicus brief filed by Strange and other states addresses concern about the level of involvement the EPA is granted by the Clean Water Act in regard to the management of runoff from farm fields, construction sites and other activities normally regulated by states. 

“We appreciate our attorney general for standing up for state’s rights and pushing back against the overzealous EPA," says Mitt Walker, AFF national legislative director. “It’s critical to fight EPA’s overreach now to protect farmers and prevent other watersheds across the nation from being regulated in this manner.”

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt led the effort to file the brief supporting AFBF. Other states that signed onto the brief were Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.