Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Homebuilders Association Sues EPA Over Chesapeake Bay Plan

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) is challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s strategy for restoring the Chesapeake Bay. The group claims in a lawsuit filed Friday in Scranton, Pennsylvania., that the EPA is circumventing the federal Clean Water Act by setting limits for how much pollution can come from farms, factories, lawns and other sources in each of the six bay watershed states. Pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizer, auto and power plant emissions spawn oxygen-robbing algae blooms once they reach the bay, creating dead zones.

Chesapeake Bay Watershed
The strategy is forcing additional pollution cuts on virtually all activity in the six-state watershed from farms to housing developments and sewage treatment plants. The EPA implemented the strategy in response to a presidential order after decades of state-led efforts failed to achieve restoration goals and led to suits by environmental groups.

The suit by the homebuilders group also claims the public did not receive adequate time or access to information on the strategy to comment effectively. The group wants the court to rule that the pollutant allocations in the strategy are not legally enforceable and block its enforcement. The lawsuit also criticized EPA models used to develop the pollution limits, saying they are based on erroneous information fed into computer models that would have been unsuitable even if the information was accurate.

NAHB says the strategy will make permits for residential and light commercial development in the watershed harder to obtain. The association said it represents more than 160,000 members in home building, remodeling, multifamily housing construction, property management, subcontracting, design, finance, manufacturing and other aspects of residential and light commercial construction. About 16,000 are in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, which covers Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware, New York and the District of Columbia.

The suit is the latest challenge to the restoration effort, which is also the subject of a lawsuit by the American Farm Bureau Federation. (The Daily Record, 6/28/2011)

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