Farmers Appeal To Supreme Court On Bay Plan

BERLIN — Farmers across the Eastern Shore this month joined a growing coalition of farmers and developers in lobbying the U.S. Supreme Court to review a lower court ruling that allows the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to micromanage land-use decisions along the Chesapeake Bay.

The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) last week added its name to a challenge of the EPA’s proposed Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, which encourages Eastern Shore counties and other counties in Maryland and throughout the watershed to closely follow guidelines to set pollution limits that would restore water quality in local rivers, streams and other tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay.

While environmental advocacy groups call the blueprint a pathway to a restored Chesapeake, farmers, developers and some local jurisdictions view it as an attempt by the federal government, through the EPA, to micromanage local land use and development decisions under the guise of the Clean Water Act. The AFBF, a coalition of local farming advocacy groups in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, along with the National Association of Homebuilders, has challenged the EPA’s blueprint for the Chesapeake Bay and has been denied at different levels of the federal court system. Last week, the coalition petitioned the Supreme Court to review the lower court’s decision on the blueprint, which it believes “opens the door for dramatic expansion of federal power and must be overturned.”

“It’s about whether the EPA has the power to override local decisions on what land can be farmed, where homes can be built, and where schools, hospitals, roads and communities can be developed,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “This is nothing less than federal super-zoning authority. As much as we all support the goal of achieving a healthy Chesapeake Bay, we have to fight this particular process for getting there.”

Meanwhile, environmental advocacy groups fired back in opposition to the coalition’s appeal.
“The Farm Bureau and Homebuilder’s decision to seek a Supreme Court review of their challenge to the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint was both predictable and sad,” said Chesapeake Bay Foundation President William Baker this week. “For years, the agricultural and lobbying groups have opposed efforts to restore the bay. We believe the Supreme Court will reaffirm the significant factual and legal support for bay restoration efforts and deny this petition.”

It remains uncertain if the Supreme Court will take up the case.