Farm groups file friend of the court brief in forestry case

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 7, 2012 - Stormwater runoff from tree harvesting and other forestry activities should not be subject to federal Clean Water Act permitting requirements, according to a friend-of-the-court brief filed with the Supreme Court by the American Farm Bureau Federation and other farm groups.

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AFBF explained that in 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit invalidated EPA's 1976 Silviculture Rule, concluding that logging roads and associated stormwater collection systems must be viewed as “point sources” of pollution regulated under the EPA's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program.

The farm groups argued that the lower court ruled incorrectly that harvesting trees is “industrial activity,” meaning that stormwater discharges from those activities must be authorized under an NPDES stormwater permit. The Supreme Court has agreed to review the decision.

In its news release Thursday, AFBF said forest landowners relied on the Environmental Protection Agency's Silviculture Rule for 35 years.

“Congress has never allowed EPA to be in the business of mandating particular forestry practices, any more than it allows EPA to regulate how crops are grown,” said Ellen Steen, AFBF's general counsel. “Congress has always recognized that stormwater runoff from these activities, whether it flows through a ditch or not, is best left to state and local authorities. And states have been very successful in designing their own programs to protect water quality,” she explained.

The National Pork Producers Council and the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives joined AFBF in asking the Supreme Court to reaffirm Congress' intent to exclude stormwater runoff from forestry activities requiring CWA permits.

In urging the Supreme Court to reverse the decision, AFBF and the other groups said that Congress confirmed in its 1987 Clean Water Act amendments that stormwater from both agriculture and forestry - whether harvesting crops, raising livestock or harvesting trees - has always been intentionally excluded from federal permit requirements.


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