Builders group sues EPA over Bay cleanup plan

A national home builders' group has gone to court to block the Environmental Protection Agency's plan for cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay.

The lawsuit filed Monday by the National Association of Home Builders in U.S. District Court in Scranton, Pa., accuses the federal agency of overstepping its legal authority and relying on flawed computer modeling in ordering Maryland, the five other bay watershed states and the District of Columbia to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution by 20 to 25 percent over the next 14 years.

The complaint was combined with a similar lawsuit filed earlier this year by the American Farm Bureau Federation and joined by several other agricultural industry groups. Both suits seek to require EPA to withdraw its "total maximum daily load," more commonly known as a "pollution diet," and redraft the plan, leaving more discretion with the states and allowing more time for public review and comment.

"We're not against cleaning up the bay, but we are against bad science and bad rulemaking, and that's what we want them to go back and fix,'' said Tom Ward, a lawyer for the national builders group. John E. Kortecamp, executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of Maryland, said his group was not consulted on the lawsuit and declined to comment.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, representing local wastewater treatment plant operators, as well as a Pennsylvania utility association, have moved to intervene in defense of EPA's bay cleanup plan. William C. Baker, president of the Annapolis-based foundation, called the builders' lawsuit "yet another attempt by a special interest to avoid responsibility for their part of the total pollution loading."