Changing rules for logging road runoff
Under a recent bill passed by the U.S. Senate, water runoff on logging roads will fall under the jurisdiction of the states, and not fall under the preview of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
In May, A group of House and Senate members introduced a Silviculture Regulatory Consistency Act, reaffirming the EPA’s 37-year-old policy toward regulation of runoff from forest roads.
The bill was introduced to aid efforts to increase timber harvests and add forestry jobs by preventing unnecessary litigation on a question that the U.S. Supreme Court settled in the EPA’s favor in late 2012. The bill upholds the EPA’s existing policy, which does not require water discharge permits for forest roads.
The legislation was brought fourth because the EPA had added language to its original storm water regulation that said that storm water discharges are “associated with industrial activity,” and facilities considered industrial included: rock crushing, gravel washing, log-sorting, and log storage.
Under the new EPA standard, groups opposed to logging were using this (and the Ninth Court of Appeals ruling that favored the new language) to shut down loggers where they could, citing logging roads as “point sources” for runoff water.
The Supreme Court’s decision reversed a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, which would have required that logging roads obtain National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits under the Clean Water Act. It did not say, however, that logging roads are not “point sources” for runoff water, so some groups have said they will continue to litigate logging sales where they can.
On July 9, U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-Minn) joined with a group of other senators in signing the Silviculture Regulatory Consistency Act.
After signing the bill, Senator Franken stated, “Minnesota’s ability to independently regulate our forests is important to the survival of the state’s timber industry and to the jobs and rural communities that depend on it. This bipartisan legislation will clarify that the Clean Water Act was not intended to regulate storm water runoff on forest roads and allow state and local governments and private landowners to continue successfully managing Minnesota’s forests.”