By Darryl Fears
Tuesday, January 11, 2011; B07
A major farmers group filed a federal lawsuit Monday to block the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's most aggressive effort yet to clean the polluted Chesapeake Bay watershed, saying that the costs of the cleanup will devastate farms and possibly drive them from the region.
The complaint was filed by the American Farm Bureau Federation and one of its members, the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, in a federal court in Harrisburg. It says that the EPA's plan cannot be legally enforced because its methods of determining the bay's pollution from nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment are flawed.
The groups also said that states, not the EPA, can enforce a "pollution diet" and that the agency's process for determining a pollution diet for the bay moved too quickly and did not allow for public participation.
The EPA has worked for years to improve water quality in the bay and only recently moved more aggressively to limit pollutants that run off from cities and farms, threatening oysters, crabs and fish.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which monitors pollution levels, blasted the farmers group, saying that it was a "disappointing example of . . . a high-powered lobbying group intent on misrepresenting the facts and frustrating the process of cleaning up the bay and its rivers."