In a 7-1 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected increased regulation of logging road runoff. The decision reversed a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, which would have required that logging roads obtain National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits under the Clean Water Act, like those required of factories and other industrial activities. The Court had announced in late June 2012 that it would review the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision.
The SCOTUS decision now validates the Environmental Protection Agency's longstanding policy that logging is not an industrial activity subject to NPDES permitting. The EPA itself disagreed with the 9th Circuit's ruling, and in December 2012 issued revisions to its Phase I stormwater regulations to clarify that a NPDES permit is not mandatory for stormwater discharges from logging roads. The EPA has added language to existing stormwater regulations to clarify that, for the purposes of assessing whether stormwater discharges are "associated with industrial activity," the only facilities considered "industrial" include: rock crushing, gravel washing, log sorting, and log storage.
Although the SCOTUS ruling is considered a victory for the logging industry, the Supreme Court did not specifically address the question of whether forest roads constitute "point sources." This leaves the EPA free to pursue discretionary regulation of stormwater runoff from these roads. According to a press release from the National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAFO), "forest owners nationwide remain vulnerable to new litigation, such as a recently filed case in the Ninth Circuit challenging the EPA's December 2012 amendment. The best way to break the litigation cycle and resolve this issue is through legislation clarifying once and for all that forest roads are not point sources."
John Deere has partnered with customers and associations such as NAFO and ALC to advance the Silviculture Regulatory Consistency Act (H.R. 2541), which would reaffirm the EPA's treatment of forestry operations as non-point sources of pollution under the Clean Water Act, and exempt the conduct of silviculture activities from the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permitting requirements.
We encourage you to stay involved in this issue and we will update this page as developments are made.