Monday, August 29, 2011

Loggers lose Clean Water Act exemption; lawyer-farmer says farmers could be next target

An Illinois lawyer-farmer says farmers with drainage systems may be the next type of business required to get a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit for storm water run-offs under the federal Clean Water Act.

Gary Baise, a trial attorney, writes in Farm Futures that a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco will require loggers and counties to apply for NPDES permits for storm water from logging roads that is "collected in a system of ditches, culverts and channels and is then delivered into streams and rivers." He says that describes the tubes and tiles that drain millions of acres in the Midwest.

The decision came in a lawsuit involving an environmental plaintiff, the Oregon Board of Forestry, private foresters and Tillamook County, Oregon. Loggers had been protected through an exemption similar to the agricultural exemption.
Farming operations are currently exempt from needing an NPDES permit for storm water runoff, but Baise believes the latest ruling will soon draw attention to Midwest farmers. "My guess is we will see either EPA or environmental groups asserting in the near future that our farm tile systems and roadside ditches and culverts are point sources," which need NPDES permits, Baise writes.

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