Clearfield Commissioners Join Amicus Brief to Challenge EPA

The Clearfield County Board of Commissioners named John A. Sobel its chairperson. Commissioner Joan Robinson-McMillen will serve as the board’s vice chairperson. Pictured, from left to right, are Sobel, Commissioner Mark B. McCracken and Robinson-McMillen. (Photo by Jessica Shirey)

CLEARFIELD – Yesterday, the Clearfield County Commissioners ratified joining an Amicus, or a “Friends of the Court” Brief, to challenge restrictive regulations imposed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

In 2010, the EPA established a total maximum daily load (TMDL) for the entire 64,000 square mile Chesapeake Bay Watershed, making it the historically largest TMDL. This was in order for the EPA to address nutrient and sediment pollution.

In addition, the EPA imposed regulations on how state and local governments comply with the TMDL. The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and other agricultural-related organizations believe the EPA overstepped the boundaries of the Clean Water Act.

“Essentially, the EPA took it several steps further by micromanaging how the TMDLs were to be carried out by states and counties,” said Commissioner John A. Sobel, chair. “The EPA’s regulations were so restrictive that it would have a very negative impact on agriculture in Pennsylvania.

“The only way for Pennsylvania and its counties to effectively achieve the TMDL requirements under this restrictive EPA scheme would be by taking land currently in agricultural production and shutting it down. As you all know, agriculture is the No. 1 industry for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

This past fall, the Federal District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania ruled that the EPA’s additional regulations were not unlawful. The AFBF and the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and et al now want the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit to overturn the federal court ruling.

Last week, the Clearfield County Farm Bureau asked the commissioners to join the Amicus, or the “Friends of the Court” Brief, said Sobel. The Amicus Brief, he said, was initiated by Tioga, Perry, Lancaster and Cambria counties and joined the appeal being taken by the AFBF, the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and et al.

Sobel noted that New Castle County, Delaware, and Hardy and Pendleton counties in West Virginia also joined the Amicus Brief. The Amicus Brief, Sobel said, needed to be filed Monday, which prompted swift action by the commissioners over this past week.

The EPA’s restrictions, Sobel said, would prevent the state and counties from effectively implementing the TMDL, so that it has the least negative impact on agriculture. He said these EPA restrictions would also increase food prices and impact the local tax structure.

“We want to support this court action and stand up for the agricultural industry not just in Clearfield County, but also in Pennsylvania,“ said Commissioner Mark B. McCracken.

Sobel said it would not cost local taxpayers anything for the county to join the Amicus Brief. Although the county is not a litigant, he said it would be affected by the court’s decision on the Chesapeake Bay TMDL matter.

“And, we want the court to understand completely the effect its decision is going to have and all aspects of this case before rendering its decision,” said Sobel.

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