(Posted Thu. Nov 3rd, 2011)
Nov. 3: Today, the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy and Forestry held a hearing on the EPA’s Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for the Chesapeake Bay watershed. TMDLs are a common pollution control mechanism established by the Clean Water Act. The TMDL for the Chesapeake Bay watershed sets a firm limit on the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment that can be discharged in six states and the District of Colombia. Today’s hearing focused on state Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) and their impacts on rural communities.
EPA Region 3 Administrator Shawn Garvin testified on behalf of the Agency, and he was asked tough questions about the validity of the Chesapeake Bay computer model, which forms the basis for the TMDL. Members of the Subcommittee expressed concerns that EPA’s flawed model does not take into account many of the voluntary best management practices that are currently undertaken by farmers in the watershed. In addition, Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) stated that the cost of implementing the TMDL and WIPs could cost into the billions, yet a cost-benefit analysis has never been conducted for the regulation.
It was also noted by subcommittee members that this same regulatory approach might be considered for other watersheds across the country, including the Mississippi River Basin and Great Lakes, which is why the precedent causes great concern for all of American agriculture.
NCGA and other agricultural allies filed a lawsuit in federal court in Pennsylvania in January challenging the legality of the Chesapeake Bay TMDL, including the scientific validity of the computer modeling. I decision in the case is not expected until next year.