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Assateague Coastkeepers v. Maryland Department of the Environment

ELR Citation: 41 ELR 20291
Nos. 471, (Md. Ct. Spec. App., 09/06/2011)

A Maryland appellate court held that the state's general discharge permit for animal feeding operations complies with the CWA and state law. The general permit authorizes certain discharges but imposes requirements regarding the management of manure and its application as fertilizer. Environmental groups acknowledged that there were some benefits to the permit. Nevertheless, they argued that it still was not stringent enough to protect state and U.S. waters, including the Chesapeake Bay. But there is a substantial basis for the state's decision that the permit would not cause or contribute to a violation of water quality standards. Because the permit imposes restrictions on concentrated animal feeding operations that discharge to surface water as well as feeding operations that only discharge to groundwater, including farms that previously were not subject to regulation, a reasoning mind could conclude that these conservation practices would reduce, overall, the pollutants introduced to waterbodies. Thus, even with some new discharges, there would be a net reduction in pollutants to state waters. Nor is the permit less stringent than federal law. Rather, because the permit regulates facilities not subject to regulation under the CWA, it is broader, not less stringent, than federal law.