(CN) – The U.S. Supreme Court will hear an appeal of a case pitting Oregon’s timber industry against the state’s large and active environmentalist community.
Characterizing the sediment that runs off logging roads in the Tillamook State Forest as industrial pollution, the Northwest Environmental Defense Center says timber firms should be required by the Clean Water Act to get permits if that muddy water is ultimately found to flow into local streams.
The timber industry – and the state of Oregon, for that matter – argue that issuing permits for hundreds of roads isn’t practical. Further, they say, such an action isn’t required by law.
In 2010, the 9th Circuit ruled against the industry, finding that the road runoff was that same as any other industrial pollution, and as a result timber companies are required under the Clean Air Act to secure permits from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The ruling reversed a federal judge’s ruling that the stormwater runoff is exempt from federal environmental regulations under 1987 amendments to the Clean Water Act.
In its reversal, the 9th Circuit explained that the logging roads constitute a pollution “source point,” thus triggering the permit requirements.
The Circuit declined to take another look at its decision in May 2011, paving the case’s route to the high court.
The Obama administration petitioned the Supreme Court not to take the case. It says that Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency are taking steps to address the issue, even though they disagree with the appellate court’s finding. In fact, in May 2001, the EPA formally proposed revising its stormwater regulations to exempt logging roads from the permit requirement.