Chesapeake Bay TMDL
Agricultural Best Management Practices are Improving Water Quality
The Chesapeake Bay watershed includes parts of six states—Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia—and the entire District of Columbia. It is the largest watershed in the United States. Efforts to restore the Bay began in the early 1980’s with the creation of the Chesapeake Bay Program. Since that time, the water quality in the Bay has improved significantly. In fact, agriculture has made the biggest gains in improving water quality through the implementation of best management practices and environmental stewardship.
Environmental Protection Agency is Attempting to Regulate Agriculture Using Questionable Data
Under the President’s Chesapeake Bay Executive Order, EPA recently issued a proposed Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) rule covering nutrient and sediment discharges to the Bay for all six Chesapeake Bay states. The TMDL will make allocations of allowable loads of nutrients and sediments for specific industrial or other categories that may be either point or nonpoint sources. These allocations will be done by sector for each of the six states, and despite major scientific and statistical concerns that fundamentally call into question the validity and accuracy of EPA’s modeling and allocation methods, EPA will make the same allocations for each of these categories in each of the 92 tributary watersheds that make up the entire drainage to the Bay.
EPA has indicated in its review of each state’s Watershed Implementation Plans it expects the states to have “enforceable and accountable” measures applicable to all of agriculture, including row crop farmers. Agriculture organizations including The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) are concerned that the model EPA has used to determine load allocations for the Chesapeake Bay overstates agriculture’s contribution of nutrients and sediments to the Bay. This is primarily the result of inadequate data regarding voluntary practices farmers have implemented to reduce nutrient and sediment runoff.
- EPA’s data shows that since 1985 the agriculture community has reduced phosphorus loadings by over 21 percent, nitrogen loadings by 27 percent and sediment loadings by 24 percent within the Bay watershed. EPA’s TMDL fails to acknowledge these successes that have been accomplished largely by the efforts of the agricultural community and others. Moving forward, TFI is committed to improving water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and to that end, the fertilizer industry is working with its farmer customers to take action at the ground level to prevent pollutants from reaching waterways.
- TFI believes that EPA has made it difficult for policy makers and the public to understand the magnitude of the economic and social impacts of the Draft TMDL and this has prevented a meaningful dialogue about the costs, benefits, and trade-offs among various policy choices. Yet, even more troubling than EPA’s lack of transparency in proposing the TMDL is the flawed data the Agency is using to implement the rule.
- Finally, TFI believes EPA is stepping outside of the authority granted to it in the Clean Water Act and has joined the American Farm Bureau Federation in a court case challenging EPA’s authority to implement the Chesapeake Bay TMDL.