The Supreme Court last week sided with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and timber interest in a dispute over the regulation of runoff from logging roads in western forests.
In a 7-1 vote, the court reversed a federal appeals court ruling, which held that muddy water running off roads used in industrial logging is the same as any other industrial pollution, requiring a Clean Water Act (CWA) permit from the EPA.
The case dates back to August 2010, when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned decades of precedent by siding with Northwest Environmental Defense Center and declaring that two logging roads in Oregon's Tillamook State Forest are point sources of water contamination.
That decision made the roads no longer exempt from obtaining National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits under the CWA.
The 9th Curcuit ruling sparked significant backlash from Congress and states, which previously took the lead in regulating logging roads when NPDES permits weren't required. Under EPA's silvicultural rule amended in 1980, most silviculture activities were not required to obtain NPDES permits, which are typically required for point sources such as industrial discharge pipes.