Tuesday, we were back in court defending the Bay from yet another attack by Big Agriculture and their allies.
We now have a binding, bipartisan federal/state partnership, called the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, in place. Hard-working farmers, businesses, and local governments from all six Bay states and the District of Columbia are working together to reduce pollution. And it's working: Underwater grasses are rebounding; "dead zones" are shrinking; and oyster harvests are up.
But Big Ag is desperate to yank the teeth out of the Blueprint. They would rather protect their bottom lines than ensure clean water for future generations.
The irony is that cleaning up our Bay and rivers and streams means we'll have more productive and efficient farms, an increase of roughly $1.2 billion a year. Now that's something we can sink our teeth into!
Many of you will recall that in early 2011, just days after EPA established science-based limits for the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution the Bay can accommodate, the American Farm Bureau Federation and others sued EPA to derail those limits. We intervened in the case.
In September of 2013, Pennsylvania Federal Judge Sylvia Rambo rejected Big Ag's first attack on the Blueprint even complimenting it as a model of "cooperative federalism." But in short order, the American Farm Bureau Federation and its partners filed an appeal, recruiting 21 state Attorneys General to support their efforts to derail Bay cleanup.
Tuesday was the big day: We presented oral arguments to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia again defending the Blueprint and telling the story of watermen having to leave their chosen vocations because pollution has limited their ability to catch crabs and oysters.
We don't know when the latest decision will be handed down. In the lower court, the ruling was 11 months in the making. But when it comes, we will be ready. This is the moment in time for Bay restoration, and a case we have to win.
We won't let Big Agriculture, who put their profits ahead of clean water, undermine what could be our last chance to save the Bay. Not now, just when the Bay's recovery is picking up speed!
--Will Baker, CBF President