News | July 7, 2015

Pollution limits for Chesapeake Bay upheld by U.S. Court of Appeals

SELC, representing Defenders of Wildlife, applauds the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit upholding a critical federal program to reduce pollution affecting the Chesapeake Bay. 

For decades, science has shown that nitrogen and phosphorus pollution are responsible for the dead zones, fish kills, and harmful algal blooms that annually plague the Chesapeake Bay. Under the Clean Water Act, and as the result of numerous court cases, EPA had previously set a scientific limit, known as a TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load), to help restore the Chesapeake Bay. The Bay TMDL, as it is known, requires that all pollution control measures needed to fully restore the Bay and its tidal rivers must be in place by 2025, with at least 60 percent of the actions completed by 2017.

SELC and Defenders of Wildlife were part of a coalition of environmental groups defending the Bay TMDL that included the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the National Wildlife Federation, among many others. National agriculture trade associations (the Fertilizer Institute, National Chicken Council, National Pork Producers Council, American Farm Bureau Federation, and others) led a challenge to these science-based protections for the Bay. 

With this decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals has unanimously rejected industry’s challenge, explaining, “Although Farm Bureau claims that the Chesapeake Bay will be cleaned up without EPA intervention, the contention defies common sense and experience. The Clean Water Act sought to eliminate water pollution by 1985, but by 2010 62% of the Bay had insufficient oxygen to support aquatic life, and only 18% of the Bay had acceptable water clarity.”

Click here for the full text of the U.S. Court of Appeals ruling.