WASHINGTON, DC, June 25, 2012 (PRNewswire) -The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of Georgia-Pacific West, Inc. v. NEDC, Sup. Ct. No. 11-347, commonly referred to as the "forest roads" case.
The case asks the Supreme Court to overturn a 2011 ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court that reverses 35 years of law governing how rainwater runoff from forest roads is managed. The Ninth Circuit's ruling said forest road operators in the states under its jurisdiction will be required to obtain Clean Water Act discharge permits for ditches, drains and culverts that channel rain runoff from their roads -- treating rain runoff the same as industrial sources.
"We are pleased for the 2.5 million people and thousands of local economies that depend on forest products that the Supreme Court has decided to hear our appeal in this critical case," said Mike Adams, Georgia-Pacific senior vice president of sourcing and fiber supply. "Today's decision is a significant step forward in protecting these jobs, especially in those states under the Ninth Circuit's jurisdiction.
"We along with numerous experts continue to believe the long-standing practice of regulating forest roads through state forestry best management practices is the most environmentally responsible way to oversee management of the nation's forest roads. We look forward to arguing our case before the Supreme Court in its next term."
The U.S. Forest Service has estimated that, if the Ninth Circuit ruling were applied nationally, it alone would have to obtain 400,000 permits. Oregon counties estimate the decision will cost them $56 million to secure permits for their 20,000 culverts. Federal and state regulators will have to completely redesign forestry programs that have been in place for a generation. In the states of the Ninth Circuit -- Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Alaska and Hawaii -- the timber industry employs a million people. Nationally, it supports 2.5 million jobs and $87 billion a year in wages.
"The Ninth Circuit's decision changing 35 years of law was a mistake in law as well as a mistake for jobs and the environment," said Timothy Bishop, lead appellate attorney for the forestry industry. "EPA has said for 35 years that the most effective approach to managing rainwater runoff from forest roads is through state forestry best management practices designed for local conditions. In place of this long-standing and successful regulatory method, the Ninth Circuit substituted the rigid and costly national permitting scheme used to regulate discharges from factories, chemical plants, mines and other industrial facilities. The circuit's decision is contrary to the plain meaning of the law. And its requirements make no economic or environmental sense when applied to tens of thousands of miles of remote and dispersed roads -- roads that are used for multiple purposes including fire-fighting, recreation and intermittent logging.
"The Ninth Circuit's decision to regulate forest roads runoff the same as pollution discharge points coming neatly out of an industrial pipe makes no sense from an environmental perspective or from an economic perspective. If left intact, the ruling would divert significant resources from implementing state forestry best management practices that are sensitive to local conditions and that serve the environment and the industry well to costly permitting that doesn't fit the circumstances and that is likely to result in wasteful litigation. We are glad the Supreme Court has recognized the importance of stepping in to deal with the Ninth Circuit's serious errors."
Headquartered at Atlanta, Georgia-Pacific is one of the world's leading manufacturers and marketers of building products, tissue, packaging, paper, cellulose and related chemicals. The company employs approximately 40,000 people at 300 locations in North America, South America and Europe.