PLF joins broad opposition to judicial expansion of Clean Water Act

September 05, 2012 | By BRIAN HODGES

PLF attorneys recently filed an amicus brief supporting Oregon state officials and several timber companies in the U.S. Supreme Court case Decker v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center.  This is the case in which the Court is being asked by the environmental group Northwest Environmental Defense Center to overturn a decades-old rule that exempts forest road runoff from permitting under the Clean Water Act’s National Pollution Discharge Elimination System.  I have been writing about this case at each stage of litigation—see here and here.

PLF’s latest brief urges the Court not to overlook or downplay the destructive consequences that will follow if the Court holds that forest road runoff must be made subject to NPDES permitting.  Our brief shows that requiring NPDES permits for forest roads will interfere with successful state programs that currently establish pollution control practices for logging.  We also demonstrate that requiring EPA to develop a permitting program for forest road runoff will cause the NPDES to grow beyond manageability, to the detriment of millions of individuals and small businesses that harvest trees on their property.

In addition to our brief, the petitioners enjoy a wide range of support in 13 other briefs filed by local and state governments and public officials; law professors; timber industry, business, and agriculture groups; conservation organizations; foresters; home builders; and even the United States government.  Gaining the United States’ support is noteworthy—the federal government filed a brief urging the Court not to grant review when the petition for certiorari was pending.  But now the United States argues, like the petitioners and PLF, that the Court should hold that rainwater running off forest roads is not subject to NPDES permitting.

It is NEDC’s turn to respond.  They have their work cut out.