Farmers’ groups are suing the federal government over the Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan, saying its pollution standards aren’t legally enforceable.
The American Farm Bureau Federation and the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau filed the complaint against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in federal court in Harrisburg Monday.
The lawsuit says individual states, rather than the EPA, have the authority under the Clean Water Act to set maximum daily loads for pollutants in the bay.
Conservation groups such as the Chesapeake Bay Foundation have applauded the “pollution diet,” which seeks to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment in the bay by 20 to 25 percent.
But some farmers say it will just increase regulation and add to operational costs when they can little afford it.
Gary Warren, the president of the Delaware Farm Bureau, is afraid increased federal regulations won’t allow him to use as much fertilizer as he needs, or will force him to plant more buffer crops.
“There’s a lot of frustration over the Chesapeake Bay,” said Warren,who raises corn and wheat. “I just want to make sure that we, and I, are not overburdened because I think we’re doing our share to prevent pollution and clean it up.”
The American Farm Bureau said the plan does not recognize some steps toward conservation that farmers are already implementing.
The Chesapeake Bay diet requires six states and the District of Columbia to impose new controls on waste-water and agricultural runoff. In Delaware and three other states, the federal government might step in with mandatory controls if agricultural pollution isn’t reduced enough by 2013.
The EPA stands by the legality of the pollution diet. Representatives say the agency will work with farmers and all other stakeholders to implement the diet.