By DANIEL A. HIMEBAUGH
The U.S. Supreme Court recently handed down a victory for forest land owners by rejecting an environmental group’s effort to bring logging road runoff under a federal permitting program. The court ruled 7-1 in Decker v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center that logging road runoff is not stormwater “associated with industrial activity,” and therefore does not require a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit. In other words, millions of property owners dodged a regulatory bullet.
In 2011, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that channeled stormwater running off logging roads must be regulated as “industrial” pollution. This kind of regulation would have created several problems. Property owners would have faced staggering costs, possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars, to obtain stormwater permits for logging roads. Moreover, the Environment Protection Agency does not have a logging road stormwater permit program in place. It could have taken years before the required permits would have been available, meaning road owners and operators would be required to get a permit that does not exist while the agency struggled to put a program together. Owners would have then faced a difficult choice — continue with business as usual and risk becoming a defendant in an environmental lawsuit, or stop using the roads.
Fortunately, the Supreme Court’s Decker opinion recognizes that putting an additional layer of regulation on logging road stormwater is unnecessary. KEEP READING >>