As you can read in previous posts on this blog (here, here, here, and here) the issue of potential water quality permits on forest roads is extremely important to woodland owners and the forests they own and use. Two developments have occurred since the case was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on December 3, 2012. First, the Supreme Court has asked for further legal briefs from both sides regarding the previously detailed new rules issued by the Environmental Protection Agency that came out one business day before the case’s oral argument. The court recognized that the new rules that indicate EPA has no intention to require logging, including road building, to obtain permits require further studying. These briefs are due by both parties by January 22. What the court does with those briefs is anyone’s guess. The court could issue a ruling related to only on the merits of the case before the EPA rule was issued, they could issue a ruling on the case including the new EPA rules, or they could even ask for another oral argument later this year.
Second, those same new rules recently issued by the EPA have already had a lawsuit filed against them. The same environmental group that has pursued the current case all the way to the Supreme Court, the Northwest Environmental Defense Center, has filed another suit with the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Yes, you’ve read that correctly. Now there are two lawsuits related to the same issue! The suit alleges that the new rules that reinforce what EPA has been doing for 35 years in regards to non-point source pollution generated by forest roads actually violates the Clean Water Act. The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the original case might stop this new case in its tracks. But again, who knows what the specific issues the court will take on let alone their actual decision?
Whatever the outcome of the either of these cases, UK Forestry Extension will continue to monitor the legal proceedings and will keep you posted through this blog and our e-newsletter.