NEW ORLEANS — It will be at least spring before there's a new ruling by a federal judge in a key lawsuit involving farm runoff and other pollution blamed for the Gulf of Mexico's annual oxygen-depleted "dead zone."
U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey had ordered the Environmental Protection Agency in 2013 to set limits on the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorous in U.S. waterways. Those elements feed huge algae blooms that contribute to loss of oxygen in part of the Gulf of Mexico every summer, killing or chasing away marine life.
However, an appeals court ordered Zainey in March to reassess his order.
A new order signed Friday says Zainey will base his ruling on written motions and responses from both sides. The schedule's final deadline for those filings is March 16.
Zainey says the motions and responses must focus on issues identified by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. A three-judge panel said Zainey must decide whether EPA gave adequate reasons, based on the Clean Water Act, for its original refusal to set the limits on the nutrients.
The appeals court said in April 2014 that Zainey was wrong to rule that the EPA could not simply decide against studying whether to set the standards.
EPA on nitrogen and phosphorus pollution: http://www2.epa.gov/nutrientpollution
Mississippi River Collaborative: http://www.msrivercollab.org/