Thursday, November 03, 2011

States, farmers say EPA model for cleaning up pollution in Chesapeake Bay may be flawed

The computer model used by the Environmental Protection Agency to monitor nutrient and sediment pollution flowing into the Chesapeake Bay may be flawed, say some farm groups and federal and state officials. Agri-Pulse reports that recent runs of the model show farmers in Maryland with high concentration of poultry production are meeting total maximum daily loads (TMDL) of pollutants allowed in the Bay and its tributaries, but farmers in neighboring counties with crop, forest and pasture land can't meet standards "even if they do every best management practice imaginable."

Officials from Pennsylvania and Virginia wrote letters to their EPA regional administrator, Shawn Garvin, and expressed concern with new TMDL standards. They said that in most cases, "the new model shows that best management plans, designed to reduce runoff of fertilizer, increase nitrogen and phosphorus pollution instead of reducing it." The Virginia secretary for natural resources wrote: "We have found the model, as currently constructed, is not appropriate for use in assigning loads in permits, developing local load targets, or measuring reduction progress. It is especially not appropriate for imposing consequences." They attempted to reveal discrepancies in the model during a modeling summit in September.

The American Farm Bureau Federation filed a federal lawsuit in January to halt the EPA's plan for cleaning up Chesapeake Bay alleging that "the TMDL rule unlawfully 'micromanages' state actions and the activities of farmers, homeowners and businesses within the six-state Chesapeake Bay watershed," Agri-Pulse reports. Said Don Parrish, Farm Bureau's senior director of regulatory relations: "The EPA has some real substantive, scientific problems on their hands and I don’t know how they are going to deal with them. There is nothing about their model that works. We think the courts will have to sort this out.” (Agri-Pulse is subscription-only, but a free trial is offered on its website.)

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