Another Legal Victory for Farm Bureau
In the second major legal victory for Fam Bureau in as many days, a U.S. District court in Florida rejected the EPA’s nutrient criteria for Florida streams and unimpaired lakes are unlawful because they are arbitrary and have no scientific basis. On Tuesday the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that landowners and not the state, own the land under rivers and streams.
The Florida ruling resolves several challenges to federal numeric nutrient criteria imposed by EPA on Florida waterways. The court upheld EPA’s ability to issue federal standards under the particular facts at issue in Florida and upheld some of the particular EPA standards. However, the court agreed with arguments raised by the American Farm Bureau Federation and its co-plaintiffs that two key types of restrictions were unlawful. This aspect of the ruling underscores that sound science must support such costly, federally imposed actions.
One of the key concerns of the court, and a central theme asserted by the AFBF group, was that EPA could not show that the streams criteria were needed to prevent harm to the environment, as required by Florida law.
“Aiming nutrient standards at levels designed to prevent harm to the environment is good policy and is required under Florida law,” said AFBF General Counsel Ellen Steen. “EPA attempted to impose standards that would prohibit any increase above naturally occurring nutrient levels in pristine waters. The court recognized that EPA was arbitrary in assuming that any increase above pristine nutrient levels is harmful.”
According to Steen, this ruling will help ensure that if EPA imposes federal numeric nutrient criteria on other states in the future, it must use scientifically valid methods that comport with state laws. Numeric nutrient criteria impose costly restrictions on agriculture and other activities, so any criteria, whether issued by EPA or a state, must be based on valid scientific principles.