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Lebanon County Commissioners support PA Farm Bureau lawsuit

Written by John Latimer/Lebanon Daily News | Dec 2, 2015 9:31 AM
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(Lebanon) -- The Lebanon County commissioners have put their support behind the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau's battle against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The PA Farm Bureau, with the American Farm Bureau Federation and other agricultural organizations, has filed a federal lawsuit against the EPA, accusing it of overstepping its authority when enacting Chesapeake Bay erosion-sediment restrictions in 2009.

The restrictions are designed to limit the amount of nitrogen, phosphorous and other oxygen-choking pollutants flowing into the bay. But opponents claim that the EPA's "Total Maximum Daily Lode" regulations do not take into account best practices already being employed by farmers to limit nutrient run-off, and that it will take land out of agricultural production.

So far the lawsuit has been defeated in the lower courts but the farm advocates are hoping the U.S. Supreme Court will hear it on appeal.

A non-partisan organization with more than 61,000 members, the PA Farm Bureau is asking Lebanon County and other Pennsylvania counties in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed to show their support by signing on as Friends of the Court.

Doing so will not obligate the county in any fashion, administrator Jamie Wolgemuth said.

"There is no cost to that, being a friend of the court. And there is no necessity to create or file any (legal) brief or anything prepared by our solicitor," he said.

Solicitor Dave Warner said he does not expect the county to have any role or involvement in the case, other than to put its support behind the Farm Bureau's position, which he explained to the commissioners.

"The general summary is that the EPA has overstepped its boundaries and its ability to make rule-making and regulations," he said. "And it's gone too far in doing so by placing rules, burdens, restrictions and requirements upon the state and farmers, in particular, that really should be a job of the state and local governments in Pennsylvania and the other affected states and counties."

The vote was two to zero, with commissioners Bill Ames and Bob Phillips voting for the measure.

Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz said she agrees with the principal of the case, that the EPA has overstepped its bounds, but had questions about specifics of the appeal she wanted answered, and abstained from voting.

"I was wondering why they didn't come and present so I could ask them these questions. It was very awkward for me to just get handed this and say vote for it," Litz said. "I am not ready to vote on it. I'm sorry, I'll have to abstain. There's too much in here. I'm torn."


This article comes to us through a partnership between Lebanon Daily Record and WITF.

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