Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Georgia-Pacific v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center

Jun 25: The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of Georgia-Pacific (GP) West, Inc. v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center (NEDC), Sup.Ct. No. 11-347, commonly referred to as the "forest roads" case. The case asks the Supreme Court to overturn a 2011 ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court which GP says reverses 35 years of law governing how rainwater runoff from forest roads is managed [See WIMS 12/14/12]. The Ninth Circuit's ruling said forest road operators in the states under its jurisdiction will be required to obtain Clean Water Act discharge permits for ditches, drains and culverts that channel rain runoff from their roads -- treating rain runoff the same as industrial sources.

    Mike Adams, Georgia-Pacific senior vice president of sourcing and fiber supply said, "We are pleased for the 2.5 million people and thousands of local economies that depend on forest products that the Supreme Court has decided to hear our appeal in this critical case. Today's decision is a significant step forward in protecting these jobs, especially in those states under the Ninth Circuit's jurisdiction. We along with numerous experts continue to believe the long-standing practice of regulating forest roads through state forestry best management practices is the most environmentally responsible way to oversee management of the nation's forest roads. We look forward to arguing our case before the Supreme Court in its next term."

    According to a release from GP, the U.S. Forest Service has estimated that, if the Ninth Circuit ruling were applied nationally, it alone would have to obtain 400,000 permits. Oregon counties estimate the decision will cost them $56 million to secure permits for their 20,000 culverts. Federal and state regulators will have to completely redesign forestry programs that have been in place for a generation. In the states of the Ninth Circuit -- Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Alaska and Hawaii -- the timber industry employs a million people. Nationally, it supports 2.5 million jobs and $87 billion a year in wages.
   Timothy Bishop, lead appellate attorney for the forestry industry said, "The Ninth Circuit's decision changing 35 years of law was a mistake in law as well as a mistake for jobs and the environment. EPA has said for 35 years that the most effective approach to managing rainwater runoff from forest roads is through state forestry best management practices designed for local conditions. In place of this long-standing and successful regulatory method, the Ninth Circuit substituted the rigid and costly national permitting scheme used to regulate discharges from factories, chemical plants, mines and other industrial facilities. The circuit's decision is contrary to the plain meaning of the law. And its requirements make no economic or environmental sense when applied to tens of thousands of miles of remote and dispersed roads -- roads that are used for multiple purposes including fire-fighting, recreation and intermittent logging.
    NEDC had advised the Supreme Court not to take on the controversial logging pollution lawsuit that began in Oregon. Mark Riskedahl of NEDC said, "If there was regulation of pollution coming off of highways and off of even residential streets, why shouldn't there be regulation of pollution coming off of industrial logging roads." Federal lawyers filed a brief to the court saying the court should leave it to Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency, to sort the issue out.
Access the SupCt docket for the case (click here). Access a release from GP (click here). Access a release from NEDC and link to the Federal brief (click here). [#Water, #Land]
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