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Supreme Court Clears the Waters on Stormwater Discharge from Logging Roads

March 20, 2013

This morning, the Supreme Court issued its decision overturning the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Decker v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center, concluding that ditches, culverts and channels diverting stormwater runoff from active logging roads do not constitute point sources regulated under the Clean Water Act.

Three days prior to oral argument in December 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued an amendment to the Industrial Stormwater Rule in an effort to clarify its position on discharge from logging roads. The Supreme Court found that this amendment did not render the case moot because discharges occurring prior to the amendment could still potentially be the subject of enforcement actions. The Court found that EPA’s amendment was consistent with its prior interpretation of the Clean Water Act and the Industrial Stormwater Rule. In deference to the agency, the Court found, consistent with EPA’s interpretation, that stormwater runoff associated with logging roads should not be regulated under the Clean Water Act as a point source. While it appears this decision should put the issue to rest, as noted in an Oregonian article, comments from the environmental groups suggest that they will continue to look at other avenues to bring this type of discharge under the Clean Water Act’s permitting system. You can also read further about this issue in this afternoon’s article in the New York Times.

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Links to related posts:

December’s oral argument

Supreme Court Takes Up Forest Roads Case

Ninth Circuit Decision

Appeal of Ninth Circuit Decision

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