BALTIMORE (April 12, 2021) — Today the Attorney General filed notice that the state would seek an appeal of the lower court decision in Montgomery County that reversed the 2020 Clean Water Act discharge permit issued by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE). The notice allows the state to move forward with a legal challenge that could ultimately be argued before the high court.
“We appreciate the Attorney General’s support in seeking to clarify the scope of our permit after the lower court’s decision,” said Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles. “Maryland continues to be a national leader on environmental compliance and regulation. We are committed to advancing the science, stewardship, and conservation practices that seek to reduce pollution from poultry houses. We are also committed to regulatory certainty in the wake of the unprecedented ruling in the lower court.”
MDE’s Animal Feeding Operations division helps protect the Chesapeake Bay, local waterways, and drinking water from nutrients from the state’s largest agricultural animal operations. The program’s effectiveness has been noted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Last year, MDE reissued its Clean Water Act discharge permit to control water pollution from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, often referred to as CAFOs. A petition for judicial review contended MDE was required to include in the permit limits to control gaseous ammonia emissions from chicken houses that may deposit in local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay. In March, a Montgomery County Circuit judge issued a ruling that reversed MDE’s final determination to issue the permit and remanded it to MDE to “mandate effluent limitations for ammonia and other water quality-based effluent limitations.”
In Maryland’s more than 30-year history of issuing discharge permits, MDE has been consistent in its interpretation of federal and state law, regulating air emissions under Clean Air Act permits and not Clean Water Act discharge permits. Under the Montgomery County Circuit Court ruling, MDE could be required to issue discharge permits for a broad variety of activities that generate air emissions, such as vehicles, landfills, and power plants, and could be required to modify existing discharge permits for facilities such as wastewater treatment plants.
The notice was filed in Montgomery County Circuit Court.