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Quick Reference Guide - "The Clean Water Act on Trial"

About the case:

  • Began in Oregon on Tillamook State forest
  • Formally known as the Decker vs. Northwest Environmental Defense Center and Georgia-Pacific West Inc. vs. Northwest Environmental Defense Center consolidated case
  • Has now been brought to the U.S. Supreme Court

Central Issues:

  • Whether logging road operators should have to obtain Clean Water Act (CWA) discharge permits for ditches, drains and culverts that channel runoff similar to industrial storm water
  • Where should forestry activity fall on the regulatory scale when it comes to permitting
  • Does the Clean Water Act apply to runoff from logging roads?
  • Before oral arguments were heard before the Supreme Court, the EPA announced a new rule stating that permits were not required for runoff of this kind

Following that announcement:

  • Government asked for the case to be dismissed
  • Lumber companies asked for the case to continue to a decision on provisions in CWA underlying the case, but this element has not previously been ruled on
  • Environmental groups suggested dismissing the appeal and letting lower courts decide, noting that the new rule adds more complications and ambiguities