Tuesday, December 20, 2016

EPA and farm groups, allied in Mississippi River nutrient case, win favorable ruling

Area designated as Mississippi Basin (USDA)
A federal court ruled last week that "Mississippi River Basin states should be given a chance to address nutrient pollution first, before the federal government steps in," Stephen Davies reports for Agri-Pulse. Environmental groups "sought an order from the court that would force the Environmental Protection Agency to adopt numeric water-quality criteria for nitrogen and phosphorus in the 10 Mississippi River Basin states." EPA and farm groups, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, were on the opposite side.

Environmental groups released a report "faulting EPA for failing to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in the 1.1 million-square-mile Mississippi River Basin," Davies writes. They said the agency "needs to use its authority under the Clean Water Act to force states to adopt numeric water quality criteria for rivers, streams and lakes."

U.S. District Judge Jay C. Zainey said the Clean Water Act takes a “state-driven approach” to water pollution, Davies writes. "Despite 'undisputed scientific data surrounding the serious nature of the nitrogen and phosphorous pollution in the nation's waters,' Zainey said he had to defer to EPA's approach 'to continue in its comprehensive strategy of bringing the states along without the use of federal rulemaking.'" He said, "Even if the court were to disagree with EPA's stance on rulemaking, the court cannot properly substitute its own judgment for that of the agency."

Ellen Steen, AFBF chief counsel, said they were "happy with the decision, in particular 'the court's strong language supporting the purposeful design of the Clean Water Act to leave states in the lead role when it comes to water quality improvement,'" Davies writes.

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