Last week, U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey in New Orleans gave the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) six months to decide whether to set Clean Water Act standards for nitrogen and phosphorous in U.S. waterways or explain why these standards are not needed.

The Associated Press reports that the move is hailed as a win by environmental advocates in states along the Mississippi river in their fight toward a long-term goal of having federal standards to regulate farmland runoff and other pollution blamed for the oxygen-depleted “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico.  Read more here.

The lawsuit was filed 18 months ago and challenged the EPA’s denial of the Mississippi River Collaboratives 2008 petition to the EPA, asking it to establish quantifiable standards and cleanup plans for nitrogen and phosphorous pollution, according to the Lane Repot.

The Des Moines Register reports that EPA officials did not respond to a request for comments on Monday. Experts say the EPA could appeal the order.

While environmentalists may see the ruling as a win, farm groups suggest that the order leaves the door open for the EPA to retain its current stand.

“The court clearly signaled that EPA can give the same answer,” said Christina Gruenhagen, government relations counsel for the Iowa Farm Bureau.

Gruenhagen adds: “Setting a ‘one-size-fits-all’ numeric standard isn’t necessary to determine whether the Gulf of Mexico has a problem, and it doesn’t actually do anything to fix it.”

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