First: The Fight Continues
The 2015 Fourth of July weekend was one
few of us at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation
will soon forget. It concluded with an event
On July 6, a unanimous Third Circuit
Court of Appeals opinion upheld a lower
court decision that affirmed the legal standing of the Chesapeake Clean Water
Blueprint, the multi-state effort to restore
good water quality to the Bay and the rivers
and streams throughout the six-state area
that drains into the Bay. Onward.
But first, let’s look back, just a little.
Before 2010, there had been three voluntary
interstate commitments to save the Bay—in
1983, 1987, and 2000. Public opinion was
strong and loud: People want safe water.
Each of these interstate commitments failed,
however, putting human health at risk,
destroying wildlife habitat, and weakening
local economies. In 2007, when the states
conceded they would not meet their 2000
commitment and a third failure was the fore-
cast, CBF took off the gloves.
With partners, we sued the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) in 2009 for its
ineffective enforcement of the Clean Water
Act, our nation’s then almost-four-decades-old promise to deliver “fishable, swimmable waters” to its citizens. After months of
negotiation, the parties in the legal action
settled with a binding agreement:
• Establish mandatory, science-based limits
for the pollution fouling the Chesapeake
Bay and its rivers and streams;
•Require incremental two-year pollu-
tion-reduction steps; and
• Promise transparency and accountability,
and impose consequences for failure.
EPA worked cooperatively with the states
to establish those limits, and the states
wrote and committed to their plans to
meet those pollution limits, with an
interim deadline of 2017 and a final deadline of 2025.
Together, the pollution limits and the
states’ plans comprise the Chesapeake
Clean Water Blueprint. The plans marked
a new day, one heralded as “The Moment
in Time” for the Chesapeake.
Before the ink was dry on the Blueprint,
however, the American Farm Bureau
Federation and others challenged EPA in
federal court. CBF joined the case as a
defendant and argued in support of EPA’s
Clean Water Act authorities.
The judge in that precedent-setting case
ruled decisively in favor of EPA. In her
September 2013 ruling, Judge Sylvia
Rambo even complimented the “
cooperative federalism” the states and EPA exhibited in developing the Chesapeake Clean
Undeterred by the reasoned lower court
decision, many of the original plaintiffs
appealed to the Third Circuit Court. And,
they persuaded attorneys general from 21
states, including Alaska and Texas, to file
friends of the court briefs.
THE STATE OF
The Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint