It’s not often we win big in the Chesapeake region, but we did last week.  Federal Judge Sylvia Rambo ruled in favor of the Environmental Protection Agency, keeping the pollution limits (or TMDL) for the Chesapeake Bay intact and moving forward.

While the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay is regularly held up as an example of the best science and water policy in the country, it hasn’t been an easy road.  When almost thirty years of voluntary clean up didn’t work, pollution limits were created for the Chesapeake Bay in 2010.  They were based on the best-available science, provided accountability for each of the states and were equitable and strategic in their approach.

chesbaymapIn early 2011 the American Farm Bureau Federation, several other national agribusiness companies and the National Homebuilders, sued EPA claiming the agency used flawed science and infringed on states’ rights in developing the Chesapeake Bay pollution limits. In a 99-page decision, Judge Rambo rejected those claims, stating the Chesapeake Bay Partnership undertook significant efforts to preserve the framework of cooperative federalism as envisioned by the Clean Water Act and did not unlawfully infringe on the Bay states’ rights.

There is lots of discussion about what the ruling means and whether the Farm Bureau will appeal. The bottom line is that we don’t have the results we want or deserve: clean water, fishable rivers and streams, and the economic and environmental benefits that they bring.  The Chesapeake Bay pollution limits are essential because they provide a clear roadmap to return clean water to the region.  All of us who work daily toward this vision can take a moment to enjoy the ruling.  And then it’s time to get back to work.