Month: November 2015
Last week, I saw several Chesapeake Bay news stories referencing a Maryland Lawn Fertilizer Law. There has been a lot of discussion in recent months about agricultural application of fertilizer, and the harmful effects nutrient farm runoff has on the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Fertilizer is also frequently applied in nonagricultural settings, (with lawn fertilizer accounting for 44% of all fertilizer sold in Maryland), and can have just as harmful an impact on the Bay (but at a smaller scale).
I took a look into the Maryland Lawn Fertilizer Law, which went into effect in 2013. This law creates limits and restrictions for lawn fertilizer application across the state, in an attempt to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus runoff into the Bay Watershed. Before 2013, there were no Maryland state laws aimed at homeowners, and other non-agricultural consumers of fertilizer. Restrictions of fertilizer use for farmers has been in place since 2001. The Maryland Lawn Fertilizer Law targets fertilizer use by not only urban and suburban homeowners, but also owners of golf courses, parks and athletic fields, and businesses.
While the law does not forbid home and business owners from applying any fertilizer, it limits what can be laid down – limits that are created based on what is strictly necessary (and determined by the University of Maryland). Excess fertilizer results in stormwater runoff, depositing phosphorus and nitrogen into the Bay watershed, which is already heavily polluted with these nutrients.
This state law overrules any preexisting county legislation in Maryland that applied to nonagricultural fertilizer use.
-Lawn fertilizers with phosphorus (unless a soil test is taken, and shows that a particular lawn is in need of phosphorus)
-Lawn fertilizers with less than 20% nitrogen that is slow release
-The application of more than 0.9 pounds of total nitrogen per 1,000 square feet
-The hiring of lawn care professionals not certified by the Maryland Department of Agriculture (penalties apply: $1000 for the first violation, $2000 for every violation after that)
-The application of lawn fertilizers during “blackout dates” (November 15 – March 1)
-The application of lawn fertilizers to any impervious surfaces
-The application of lawn fertilizers before heavy rain forecasts
-The application of lawn fertilizers within 15 feet of waterways
The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) has taken their case against the EPA’s Clean Water Blueprint to the Supreme Court. The AFBF is appealing the most recent decision by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which, this July, upheld the EPA’s right to enforce the Clean Water Blueprint for the Chesapeake Bay. (See the full opinion from that case here). This most recent appeal, should the Supreme Court choose to take this case, will be the third time the AFBF has challenged the Clean Water Blueprint in court. AFBF originally sued the EPA in January 2011, following the 2010 announcement of the Blueprint. That challenge was dismissed in 2013.
The EPA Clean Water Blueprint sets Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs), which Bay states must enforce to meet Bay cleanup goals by 2025. While AFBF claims that these TMDL requirements are an overstep of federal authority, lower courts have upheld the EPA’s ability to enforce these pollution standards through the Clean Water Act.
The AFBF submitted their appeal to the Supreme Court this past Friday.
The Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) issued their decision on October 27 concerning the winter dredging of blue crabs in state waters. The VMRC has elected to close winter dredging for the seventh year in a row, to protect the Chesapeake Bay crab population.
The VMRC must decide on a year-to-year basis whether or not to open winter dredging, based on what they call ‘trigger values,’or crab population numbers deemed high enough for winter harvesting. Trigger values for juvenile abundance of crabs must be at 291 million or higher; crabs of spawning age, or female abundance must be at 125 million for winter harvesting to occur. However, estimates made earlier this year for juvenile abundance of blue crabs was only at 269 million, and crabs of spawning age at 101 million. Both juvenile and female crab abundance were well below trigger values, leading to the recommendation to close winter dredging again this year. The VMRC took this recommendation into account, and elected to restrict dredging once again.
The full audio recording of the VMRC meeting concerning crab management can be found here.