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High court rules for timber industry over road runoff

High court rules for timber industry over road runoff | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday endorsed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's long-standing decision not to require Clean Water Act permits for stormwater that runs off logging roads.

The nine-member court ruled on a 7-1 vote, with Justice Stephen Breyer recused, that the EPA's conclusion was a reasonable interpretation of the law.


The dispute - centering on two cases that the court consolidated - has attracted intense interest from the timber industry, which is keen to be exempt from Clean Water Act permitting. A total of 31 state attorneys general weighed in to support Oregon, which also opposes permitting.

The case arose when the environmental group, the Northwest Environmental Defense Center, challenged EPA's interpretation of the law as it applied to two roads in the Tillamook State Forest in Oregon by suing logging road operators in federal court.


In Wednesday's opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, said that it was reasonable for EPA to conclude that runoff from logging roads did not fit within the definition in the Clean Water Act and associated regulations of the term "industrial activity."


Kennedy also noted that states already regulate logging roads, meaning the EPA "could reasonably have concluded that further regulation in this area would be duplicative or counterproductive."


Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a dissenting opinion in which he disagreed with the majority's view that the EPA interpretation of the law was reasonable.

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The forest roads legal quagmire is now here

The forest roads legal quagmire is now here | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

As expected, the new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule clarifying that logging is not an industrial activity under the Clean Water Act (CWA) has precipitated a legal quagmire.  Last Friday the Northwest Environmental Defense Center (NEDC) filed a new lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, challenging the EPA rule.  This comes just ahead of the Supreme Court’s order today inviting further briefing on the impact of the EPA’s rule on Decker v. NEDC currently pending before that Court.


Since the EPA rule applies nationwide, the new round of litigation initiated by NEDC will have nationwide implications.  In other words, whatever the Ninth Circuit ultimately decides will apply not only on the West Coast, but also on the East Coast and every state in between.  This is precisely why we urged EPA not to finalize a rule ahead of the Supreme Court proceedings. The result could be another round of costly litigation for forest owners.

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