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EPA Can Go Forward with Plan to Limit Pollution in the Chesapeake Bay

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A federal judge on Friday upheld the Environmental Protection Agency's sweeping plan to limit pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, derailing the farm lobby's attempt to stop one of the largest efforts to clean a waterway in the nation's history.

In a long-awaited decision, U.S. District Court Judge Sylvia H. Rambo wrote that "the ecological and economic importance of the Chesapeake Bay is well documented" and that the EPA is within its rights under the Clean Water Act to partner with the six states in the bay watershed to cut the pollution that pours in from sewers and construction developments, and particularly chemical and biological waste from farms.

"As the largest estuary in the United States, the Chesapeake Bay is essential for the well-being of many living things," Rambo wrote. While noting attempts to "protect this important resource" without strong federal coordination for several years, Rambo wrote that "nutrient pollution and sedimentation remain a critical concern."

The EPA embarked on an aggressive cleanup effort in 2010 that required Chesapeake Bay states, including Virginia and Maryland, as well as the District, to upgrade sewers to limit the amount of nutrient pollution that pours into the bay.

States also were required to find ways to stop agricultural runoff from cattle feed operations, chicken houses and other farms. That resulted in plans for fences to prevent cattle from wading into streams, sheds to store animal waste and other conservation upgrades that many farmers said they could not afford.   
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