After many long months of preparation and over seven years of litigation, our case on the Clean Water Act has been briefed and submitted to the Supreme Court. The work started in the beautiful landscape of the Tillamook State Forest, where each fall, around this time, native runs of coho salmon return to their spawning grounds. Those rivers and streams are often choked with silt and mud from the logging roads that criss-cross the steep slopes of the Coast Range.
Because of the impacts on native fish and clean water, river advocates have been working for almost the entire 40-year history of the Clean Water Act in an effort to get the pipes, ditches and channels along logging roads covered by the Act’s “point source” permitting program. Although taxpayers are spending billions of dollars per year to recover native salmon, EPA has allowed the timber industry to pollute our rivers and streams while evading the reach of the Clean Water Act.
The latest twists and turns in this long story played out this past week in Washington, D.C. For many years, our case has been about whether the pipes, ditches and channels used by the timber industry are “point sources” and whether logging is “industrial.” If the answer to those two questions is yes, then the logging companies must get Clean Water Act permits when they collect and channel polluted stormwater directly to a river or stream.
But, in a unique twist, EPA amended the central regulation at issue in the case late last Friday afternoon. The Monday morning argument before the Supreme Court therefore led off in a direction that was very different from the issues that had been briefed by the parties. Our counsel, Jeff Fisher, did an excellent job of adapting to a changing landscape and thinking on his feet.
I’ll let you be your own judge as to what the Court should do next. You can read the transcript here. There were also several interesting stories written about the argument, including:
Thank you to everyone who offered encouragement and support. Your positive energy and well wishes powered us out to Washington, D.C. and back. Most of all, I want to thank Paul Kampmeier and Jeff Fisher for their dedication and hard work and the Northwest Environmental Defense Center for its tireless efforts on behalf of our natural legacy. It has been a privilege to work with all of you, and I hope that work will continue.