The Fight to Save the Blueprint

On February 29, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the request of the American Farm Bureau Federation and its allies to take up their case challenging the legality of the Chesapeake Bay clean-up plan known as the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.

That decision means that the ruling of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals will stand (see sidebar). That unanimous ruling found that EPA did not exceed its authority and that the efforts to restore local rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay are entirely legal.


Within weeks of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) establishment of a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) to clean up the Chesapeake Bay in 2010, the plan was attacked by special interests with enormous political influence, and by the attorneys general from 21 states (see sidebar 21 States Against A Clean Chesapeake).

The national agricultural and development industry groups working to derail pollution limits for the Chesapeake Bay (technically called the Chesapeake Bay "Total Maximum Daily Load," or TMDL) in federal court also spend more than $15 million a year on lobbying and political contributions, according to records on file with the U.S. House and Senate and Federal Election Commission. (More details can be found in our fact sheet)

21 States Against A Clean Chesapeake

Federal Court Ruling Affirming Chesapeake Bay Blueprint is Under Attack

On September 13, 2013, Pennsylvania Federal Judge Sylvia Rambo issued a ruling  affirming that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), working with the Bay states, has the authority to set science-based pollution limits. The decision rejected arguments made by the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Association of Home Builders, and other big agriculture interests contending the court should throw out pollution limits set for the Chesapeake Bay.

The American Farm Bureau Federation and its partners filed an appeal to the ruling on January 27, 2014. On February 4, 2014, 21 states joined the American Farm Bureau Federation and their allies in the effort to derail Bay cleanup. The 21 state Attorneys General filed an amicus (friend of the court) brief supporting the American Farm Bureau Federation’s position.

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Here are some numbers detailing the lobbying and political activities of these national organizations that are opposing the Clean Water Blueprint:

American Farm Bureau (including state subsidiaries)

  • The American Farm Bureau reported $5,584,814 in lobbying expenses in 2010, slightly more than the $5,194,042 in 2009, according to lobbying reports on file with the clerks of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.
  • The American Farm Bureau paid 48 lobbyists in 2010.
  • American Farm Bureau lobbyists opposed (among many other bills) the Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act and the Clean Water Restoration Act.
  • The American Farm Bureau has numerous political action committees (PACs) linked to affiliated state Farm Bureau offices, which have spent a total of $8,648,678 on campaign contributions and other political activities since 2005, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Note: It's important to remember that the American Farm Bureau does not speak for all farmers. Many farmers in the watershed are conscientious land stewards who are taking steps to reduce erosion and nutrient runoff. Click here to read a few of the many "Farmer Success Stories".

Fertilizer Institute

  • The Fertilizer Institute reported $1,485,254 in lobbying expenses in 2010, compared to $1,351,466 in 2009, according to forms on file with the clerks of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.
  • The Fertilizer Institute employed four lobbyists in 2010.
  • Among other subjects, Fertilizer Institute lobbyists have fought important environmental legislation—including the Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act of 2009. These lobbyists also supported legislation that would prohibit EPA from issuing any regulations to control greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The Fertilizer Institute also has a political action committee,called "Fert PAC," that has distributed $444,991 for political activities since 2005, according to the Federal Election Commission.

National Pork Producers Council

  • The National Pork Producers Council reported $1,126,549 in lobbying expenses in 2010, and $1,305,811 in 2009, according to forms on file with the clerks of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.
  • The National Pork Producers Council paid 31 lobbyists in 2010.
  • Among other bills, pork lobbyists fought the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009, and supported legislation that would prohibit the federal or state governments from issuing air pollution control permits for hog livestock businesses.
  • The National Pork Producers Council also has a political action committee, called "Pork PAC," which has distributed $728,966 for political activities since 2005, according to the Federal Election Commission.

National Corn Growers Association

  • The National Corn Growers Association spent $495,000 on lobbying in 2010, slightly more than the $485,000 it spent in 2009, according to according to forms on file with clerks of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.
  • The National Corn Growers Association paid 12 lobbyists in 2010.
  • The National Corn Growers Association opposed, among other bills, the Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act of 2009 and the Clean Water Restoration Act.
  • The National Corn Growers Association has a political action committee, called "Corn PAC," that has distributed $384,959 for political activities since 2005, according to the Federal Election Commission.

U.S. Poultry & Egg Association

  • The U.S. Poultry & Egg Association spent $40,000 lobbying in 2010, and the same amount in 2009, according to according to forms on file with the clerks of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.
  • The U.S. Poultry & Egg Association paid one lobbyist in 2010.
  • Among other subjects, the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association lobbied EPA on its Chesapeake Bay strategy and the federal agency's rules for Confined Animal Feeding Operations or "CAFOs."

National Association of Home Builders

  • The National Association of Home Builders spent $2,410,000 lobbying at the federal level in 2010, and $4,935,000 in 2009, according to forms on file with the clerks of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.
  • The National Association of Home Builders paid 33 lobbyists in 2010.
  • The National Association of Home Builders opposed, among other legislation, the Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act of 2009, the Clean Water Protection Act, and the Clean Water Restoration Act.
  • The National Association of Home Builders has a political action committee, called "Build PAC," that has distributed $10,849,760 for federal campaign contributions and other political activities since 2005, according to the Federal Election Commission.

In the News

Supreme Court Allows Chesapeake Bay Blueprint to Stand
02.29.16 - CBF Press Release
The U.S. Supreme Court today denied the request of the American Farm Bureau Federation and its allies to take up their case challenging the legality of the Chesapeake Bay clean-up plan known as the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. That decision means that the ruling of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals will stand. That unanimous ruling found that EPA did not exceed its authority and that the efforts to restore local rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay are entirely legal. Read more

Farm Bureau Appeals Bay Cleanup Plan to Supreme Court
11.06.15 - Bay Journal
The American Farm Bureau Federation and other industry groups on Friday formally requested the U.S. Supreme Court to review the legality of the Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan which it called a "federally driven scheme" which threatens authority of states across the nation. Read more

Farm Bureau Prepares to Ask Supreme Court to Throw Out the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint
09.21.15 - CBF Press Statement
The American Farm Bureau Federation made it clear that they intend to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn two lower court decisions upholding the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint. The AFBF requested an extension of time to ask the Supreme Court to hear an appeal of their lawsuite challenging the Chesapeake Clean Water Bluprint. Read more

Will Corporate Lobbyists and Conservative AGs Kill a Model Environmental Cleanup?
11.17.14 - BillMoyers.com
Oral arguments will begin this week in a case that has the potential to determine how cities, states and the federal government work together to clean up America's most polluted bodies of water. After years of failed attempts, the Environmental Protection Agency has worked with states to devise a plan to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, America's largest estuary. But monied interests with huge lobbying budgets representing agriculture, fertilizer and construction — and supported by a collection of out-of-state legislators and attorneys general — are suing to stop the EPA plan from moving forward. Read more

A Conservation Story: Restoring the Chesapeake Bay
10.23.14 - Sustainable Business.com
This story illuminates the drama that enfolds when groups try to clean up the environment. In this case, it's about Chesapeake Bay - the largest estuary in the US - a project that's spanned decades and is nowhere near done. Read more

US Appeals Court Upholds EPA Plan to Clean Up Chesapeake Bay
07.06.15 - Associated Press
A U.S. appeals court on Monday approved a federal plan to limit pollution in the Chesapeake Bay despite objections from farmers, builders and others who accused the Environmental Protection Agency of a power grab. Read more

Will Corporate Lobbyists and Conservative AGs Kill a Model Environmental Cleanup?
11.17.14 - BillMoyers.com
Oral arguments will begin this week in a case that has the potential to determine how cities, states and the federal government work together to clean up America's most polluted bodies of water. After years of failed attempts, the Environmental Protection Agency has worked with states to devise a plan to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, America's largest estuary. But monied interests with huge lobbying budgets representing agriculture, fertilizer and construction — and supported by a collection of out-of-state legislators and attorneys general — are suing to stop the EPA plan from moving forward. Read more

A Conservation Story: Restoring the Chesapeake Bay
10.23.14 - Sustainable Business.com
This story illuminates the drama that enfolds when groups try to clean up the environment. In this case, it's about Chesapeake Bay - the largest estuary in the US - a project that's spanned decades and is nowhere near done. Read more

Saving America From a Clean Chesapeake
07.10.14 - Fly Rod + Reel Online
Recovery of the estuary that provides 75 percent of the Atlantic striped bass population is being fought by 21 states, only one of which is in the watershed..."What are they afraid of if we have clean water in the Chesapeake Bay?" inquires Chesapeake Bay Foundation president Will Baker. It’s an excellent question. Read more

Members of Congress join legal challenge to Bay cleanup plan
06.25.14 - Bay Journal
Thirty-nine members of Congress last week sought to join agricultural and homebuilder groups in their legal challenge to the Bay cleanup plan, saying the EPA went "far beyond" its authority when it set limits on Bay pollution and required states to develop plans showing how they would meet those limits. Read more

Court battle rages over blueprint to clean up the Chesapeake Bay; states as far as Alaska weigh in
05.27.14 - ABC2 News
There's a court battle brewing over the Chesapeake Bay and how to clean it up. On one side is the Environmental Protection Agency and numerous conservation groups. On the other, major players from the farming and construction industries. Now, states that aren't even in the watershed have joined the fray. Read more

Six Major Cities Add Their Support To Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Plan
04.24.14 - ThinkProgress.org
The Environmental Protection Agency has won some supporters in the fight over the agency’s plan to clean up the heavily polluted Chesapeake Bay, helping to push back against the argument of 21 outside states that the plan constitutes EPA overreach. Read more

Chesapeake Bay Needs the EPA
04.21.14 - The Virginian-Pilot
Attorney General Mark Herring's brief supporting the Chesapeake Bay cleanup represents the kind of common sense Virginians hope to see from the state's lawyer. Read more

Herring Joins Fight to Protect the Chesapeake Bay
04.10.14 - WVEC ABC13
In a brief filed Thursday, Attorney General Mark Herring highlighted the economic impact and environmental significance of protecting the Bay. Read more Video

AG Herring Defends Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Plan
04.10.14 - The Virginian-Pilot
"I will not let go unanswered the attacks of others on our plan to protect our waters," said Attorney General Mark Herring at a news conference. Read more

The Farm Bureau Had It Wrong on Chesapeake Bay Clean-up
03.11.14 - The Patriot-News
EPA is not "micromanaging" activities in the watershed. Rather, Pennsylvania is implementing the plan the Commonwealth developed and there is nothing in the TMDL that dictates where farming may occur or where homes can be built. Read more

A Clean-Water Plan Worth Fighting For
03.02.14 - The Virginian-Pilot
As Virginians thrilled with recent progress and concerned about the future of our Chesapeake Bay, we should be outraged that Alaska, Texas, Florida and 18 other states want to derail the promising prospects of our blueprint. Read more

American Farm Bureau Road Apples
02.28.14 - Bay Daily
“It's not about whether EPA can set a total pollutant load—it's about whether EPA can dictate which land can be farmed, or where homes, schools and roads can be built." Bay Daily is here to say...BUNK! Nowhere in the Bay Blueprint (TMDL) is EPA given such authority. Read more

Support of Chesapeake Lawsuit Draws Thousands of Petition Signatures
02.27.14 - DelmarvaNow
Three weeks after 21 states signed on to a lawsuit challenging the Environmental Protection Agency's Chesapeake Bay pollution limits, more than 25,000 people have signed a petition condemning the suit. Read more

AG Zoeller Co-Authors Amicus Brief Challenging Chesapeake Bay Cleanup
02.26.14 - Indiana Law Blog
Although Attorney General Zoeller is concerned about Asian Carp in the Wabash, he is challenging a plan crafted by US EPA and the Chesapeake Bay watershed states to save the Bay. Read more

Why Are MI and IN GOP Trying to Wreck Cleanup of Chesapeake Bay?
02.26.14 - RedGreenandBlue.org
The Chesapeake Bay is worlds away from the freshwater Great Lakes, yet that hasn't stopped the attorneys general of Michigan and Indiana from inserting themselves into a legal battle there and siding with opponents of a plan to clean up the Chesapeake. Read more

Indiana Joins Suit Seeking to Halt EPA-led Plan to Clean Up Chesapeake Bay
02.26.14 - The Indiana Lawyer
If Indiana and other states without a direct stake in the Chesapeake Bay have their way, the cleanup hashed out between bay states and the Environmental Protection Agency will be stopped. Read more

Clean Water vs. 21 Dirty States
02.26.14 - The Virginian-Pilot
It's not enough that 21 states have polluted their creeks and rivers—their political leaders now want to keep other states from cleaning up their own waters. Read more

Midwest States Fighting Successful Bay Efforts Lest They Have to Clean Up Their Waters
02.23.14 - Bay Journal
Twenty-one state attorneys general filed a "friend of the court" brief in a federal appeals court seeking to derail the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort. While that is absurd, it is also a tribute to the decades of work that has led to the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. Read more

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