On April 21, 2023, EPA issued public comments on a proposed settlement agreement with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF). The settlement is the latest development in CBF’s 2020 lawsuit filed with Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. The lawsuit claims EPA failed to meet its Clean Water Act (CWA) duty to ensure the state of Pennsylvania met its nutrient loss reduction targets established under the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). Under the proposed settlement, EPA would agree to “take several steps regarding EPA oversight and funding of Pennsylvania’s efforts under its CWA programs to reduce nutrient and sediment discharges within Pennsylvania’s portion of the Bay watershed.”
EPA neglected to issue a press release regarding the CBF case. In contrast, press releases from other parties signaled that EPA intends to take significant enforcement actions against agricultural producers within the state. Those anticipated actions include enforcement inspections by the EPA of small, medium and large concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) where manure and manure nutrients reach surface waters and the Bay. If true, such actions represent a significant step up of federal involvement and would make enforcement of the law a state responsibility. UEP and other agricultural organizations continue to hold that EPA’s position is unlawful under CWA, regardless of rejection by federal courts in the Chesapeake Bay region. Comments on the proposed settlement agreement are due on May 22, 2023. UEP will monitor any developments and file comments accordingly.
PA AFO inspections
EPA has conducted five site visits to unpermitted animal agriculture operations in Lancaster County to determine if avoidable manure nutrient losses occurred. EPA did so in compliance with its criteria and provided advance notice to the producers and coordinated those visits with the State Department of Environmental Protection and Agriculture, the State Conservation Commission, and the local Conservation District.
Pennsylvania agriculture responded proactively to meet the challenges of reducing nutrient losses from state agricultural lands and crop farmers across the state have adopted many best management practices to achieve TMDL’s goals.