Stoel Rives, Oregon claim Supreme Court logging win
By Andy Giegerich
Sustainable Business Oregon editor
The Supreme Court ruling deems that runoff on logging roads shouldn't be treated the same as runoff on traditional industrial production sites.
Portland's largest law firm and Oregon's justice department are trumpeting yesterday's U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding private and public logging road regulations as a win for private and public interests.
The Supreme Court ruled 7-1 that logging roads not be subject to stringent industrial rules regarding stormwater runoff. The ruling reverses a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision that would have required Clean Water Act permits for stormwater that runs off logging roads.
Per Ramfjord, Leonard Feldman and Jason Morgan of Stoel Rives represented the Oregon Forest Industries Council that had fought the proposals. The rules would have required "enormous compliance and permitting costs while opening the door for administrative challenges and litigation following every permit approval," according to Stoel's team.
An Oregon Department of Justice release called the decision a win for the Oregon Forestry Department that's an "important affirmation of Oregon’s forest management practices." Doug Decker, Oregon's state forester, was a defendant in the case.
The Portland-based Northwest Environmental Defense Council had raised the issue in 2006 after arguing that such runoff posed threats to fish and other wildlife.
Essentially, the Supreme Court validated a recent Environmental Protection Agency interpretation of the runoff regulations. The EPA last year deemed that the stormwater permit regulation should extend only to traditional industrial buildings.
"The biggest win for us is that the ruling means we don't have to go ahead and get (National Pollutant Discharge System) permits to do the type of logging activity we've done in the past," said Ramfjord. "We're not going to have the extraordinary cost of getting those permits, the delays and litigation associated with that and potential job loss in the industry going with that kind of expense and delay in litigation."
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