Late last week a federal judge ruled in the Gulf Restoration Network vs. EPA lawsuit which sought to force the Environmental Protection Agency to establish strict water quality standards for nutrient runoff for all states in the Mississippi River Basin. The National Corn Growers Association intervened in the suit with the American Farm Bureau Federation, The Fertilizer Institute, National Pork Producers Council and other farm groups in 2012.
In a win for the plaintiffs, the judge ruled that the EPA failed to answer the central question in the environmentalists' 2008 petition about whether federal Numeric Nutrient Criteria are "necessary" under the Clean Water Act. The agency must now craft a new response within six months. However, in a win for agriculture, the judge also stated that nothing in the Clean Water Act prohibits EPA from allowing states to take the lead in responding to nutrient challenges.
"We were pleased that the court agreed with EPA's rationale for giving states the flexibility to craft their own nutrient reduction strategies," NCGA President Pam Johnson said. "We urge the Agency to continue this policy of cooperation with states as we work together to improve water quality throughout the Mississippi River Basin."
The Gulf Restoration Network lawsuit alleged that the EPA violated both the Clean Water Act and Administrative Procedures Act by not adequately responding to their 2008 petition to establish Total Maximum Daily Loads for nitrogen and phosphorus for the Mississippi River and its tributaries. The petition also stated that Numeric Nutrient Criteria should be created for the 31 states in the Mississippi River Basin and Northern Gulf.