EPA effort to clean up Chesapeake Bay alarms industry
By TIM HEARDEN
Two national poultry organizations have joined a lawsuit aiming to block the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from adopting new water quality standards.
The National Chicken Council and U.S. Poultry and Egg Association signed onto the suit challenging the EPA's proposed "total maximum daily load" levels in the Chesapeake Bay, which farm groups fear could be expanded nationwide.
The American Farm Bureau Federation filed the suit in January, charging that EPA violated the Clean Water Act by usurping states' authority to regulate water quality.
Poultry producers feel particularly singled out by the new standards, considering their industry has a large presence in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and contributes over $1 billion annually to the region's economy, representatives say.
"Our concern is not only for the industry in that region but also for industries nationwide," said Richard Lobb, a National Chicken Council spokesman. "Every little chicken farmer is going to end up with an industrial-strength pollution permit telling him what he can do with litter and all types of things."
More than 40 farm groups, including the U.S. Cattlemen's Association and National Cattlemen's Beef Association, voiced opposition to the standards after they were proposed last September.
EPA seeks to reduce nitrogen levels by 25 percent, phosphorous by 24 percent and sediment levels by 20 percent in the Chesapeake Bay, which is almost entirely surrounded by Maryland and Virginia, by 2025.
Lobb said many Washington, D.C., officials vacation on the Atlantic coast, driving past chicken houses on the way.
"We're rather obvious," he said. "I think they tend to blame the poultry industry in particular even though we are not really situated where most of the water enters the bay."
The bay watershed also includes hundreds of municipal wastewater systems, "yet they're focusing on chicken farms," Lobb said.
National Chicken Council: www.nationalchickencouncil.com
U.S. Poultry and Egg Association: www.poultryegg.org
Chesapeake Bay TMDL: www.epa.gov/chesapeakebaytmdl