Recovery of the estuary that provides 75 percent of the Atlantic striped bass population is being fought by 21 states, only one of
which is in the watershed.
In February 2014, Florida joined a lawsuit to
stop the Environmental Protection Agency’s
belated effort to render Chesapeake Bay
clean enough to be taken off the EPA’s
“impaired waters” list by 2025. If this action
seems inexplicable, rest assured that it is not.
Columnist and novelist Carl Hiaasen has
unearthed the answer: Because Florida
Attorney General Pam Bondi and Florida
Governor Rick Scott are “complete tools”
and “pimping” for polluters.
Florida has no monopoly on tools and pimps.
They abound in 20 other states whose attorneys general signed on to the same action.
The amici curiae brief was filed to seek judi-
cial relief from alleged hardships a clean
Chesapeake would inflict on people who live
not just in Florida but also Alaska, Kansas,
Arkansas, Utah, Wyoming, Michigan,
Montana, Texas, Missouri, Nebraska, North
Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Indiana,
Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana,
South Carolina, and West Virginia. Only one
of these states—West Virginia—is (partly) in
the Chesapeake watershed.
As Hiaasen notes, “You can’t make this
The original suit was brought October 8,
2013 by nine of the nation’s most brazen
and intractable polluters: the American
Farm Bureau Federation (worst of the lot
and lead plaintiff), Pennsylvania Farm
Bureau, National Association of Home
Builders, Fertilizer Institute, US Poultry and
Egg Association, National Pork Producers
Council, National Corn Growers
Association, National Chicken Council, and
National Turkey Federation.
The reason EPA is finally attempting to
enforce the Clean Water Act on the
Chesapeake is because in 2008 it was successfully sued by the nonprofit Chesapeake
Bay Foundation and partners who value
things like striped bass, black sea bass,
speckled trout, tautog, shad, white perch,
yellow perch, Atlantic croaker, sheepshead,
spot, summer flounder, oysters, crabs, water
birds, and federal law.
Previously the cleanup had been voluntary—and therefore not sufficient to get the
bay off the impaired list. In 1983 a pollu-tion-control agreement was hatched by
Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, the
District of Columbia and EPA. In 1987, they
set a voluntary 40-percent reduction goal for
nitrogen and phosphorus by 2000.
When it became apparent that this goal
would be missed these players set a volun-
tary goal for taking the Bay off the impaired
list by 2010. Even by mid-decade it was
clear that this goal would also be missed. So
D.C. and all six Bay states—Pennsylvania,
Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware,
and New York—agreed that EPA should
write and enforce a [pollution limit—a cal-
culation of the maximum amount of pollu-
tants that a water body can receive and still
safely meet water-quality standards]. The last
three states did so reluctantly and under
pressure from President Obama, who had
issued an executive order to clean up the
Bay. The [pollution limit] would be the
biggest in history, covering the six-state,
64,000-square-mile watershed. It came out
in December 2010.
The Farm Bureau and its fellow polluters
were aghast. A region-wide [limit] would
require farmers; home builders; and chicken, turkey, and pig producers to suffer such
indignities as keeping at least some of their
vile effluent out of the public’s Bay and tributaries. So in January 2011, they sued EPA,
losing on September 13, 2013, when U.S.
District Judge Sylvia Rambo, in a strongly
worded decision, upheld EPA’s authority
under the Clean Water Act to impose the
[pollution limt]. Less than a month later the
plaintiffs appealed. And on February 3,
2014, they were joined by the 21 states.
“What are they afraid of if we have clean
water in the Chesapeake Bay?” inquires
Chesapeake Bay Foundation President Will
Baker. It’s an excellent question. And here’s
the answer: They’re afraid of other region-wide [pollution limits], especially for the
Mississippi watershed. What they are fighting for is freedom to keep polluting and to
keep creating bacteria-infested, algae-clogged, anaerobic dead zones like the one
in the Gulf of Mexico.
That dead zone, courtesy of most of the
amici curiae states, was bigger than
Connecticut in 2013. A witches’ brew of
their chemical poisons, silt, and soil runs
down the Mississippi. And the pollution is
made worse by rampant conversion of grasslands, native prairie, and prairie potholes to
corn, which requires more insecticides, herbicides, fertilizers, and tilling than any other
food crop. A federal law, rammed through in
2007 by the Farm Bureau and its agribusiness allies, is expanding the Gulf dead zone
by requiring the amount of corn ethanol in
gasoline to be increased from 4. 7 billion gallons in 2007 to 36 billion by 2022. This
from a Clean
By Ted Williams
This article from the Summer 2014 issue of Fly Rod
& Reel was reprinted with permission.