Tuesday, June 26, 2012

High court to decide whether EPA should regulate water runoff from logging like factories

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a federal appeals court ruling on regulation of water runoff from logging roads. The ruling states that logging-road runoff should be regulated the same as water discharges from factories, which changes the practice of treating it like runoff from farm fields. The ruling in Oregon could apply to roads on state, private and national forest land in the jurisdiction of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers most of the West.

Scientists have found that sediment in salmon streams, which has been clogging areas where the fish lay eggs, is coming from industrial logging roads, and is a leading cause of habitat loss, reports Jeff Barnard of The Associated Press. The Northwest Environmental Defense Center in Portland, Ore., brought the case against the state Department of Forestry. The appeals court ruled in 2010 that muddy water from logging roads requires a Clean Water Act permit from the Environmental Protection Agency. The Supreme Court was asked to take up the case from Oregon and 25 other states.

The EPA proposed revised storm-water regulations that would not require logging roads to get the same permits as factories, and regulate them under a less strict system known as "Best Management Practices," in which guidelines for design and maintenance of roads would be set up by the states. The agency has started review of these practices, and plans to issue new rules for logging roads in September. (Read more)

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