Georgia-Pacific welcomes US Supreme Court's decision on runoff from forest roads as 'significant victory' for forest product-dependent communities, says ruling protects jobs, ensures environmentally responsible forest road management
March 20, 2013
– The U.S. Supreme Court has overturned the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court's decision in the case of Georgia-Pacific West, Inc. v. NEDC, Sup. Ct. No. 11-347, commonly referred to as the "forest roads" case.
In a ruling announced this morning, the decision overturns a 2011 ruling by a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court that reversed 35 years of regulation governing management of rainwater runoff from forest roads. Originally, the Ninth Circuit Court had rejected the Environmental Protection Agency's longstanding interpretation of the Clean Water Act and would have required forest road operators in the states under its jurisdiction to obtain Clean Water Act discharge permits for ditches, drains and culverts that channel rain runoff from their roads ― treating rain runoff from forest roads used for logging the same as industrial sources.
"The court's ruling is a significant victory for the 2.5 million people and thousands of local economies that depend on forest products for their livelihood," said Mike Adams, Georgia-Pacific senior vice president of sourcing and fiber supply. "Today's decision helps protect jobs and ensures that regulating forest roads through state forestry best management practices continues as the most environmentally responsible way to oversee management of the nation's forest roads.
"By overturning the Ninth Circuit, the Supreme Court has helped keep private and public resources focused on implementing state forestry best management practices, which are sensitive to local conditions, rather than requiring costly permitting that likely would have resulted in wasteful litigation without serving the environment or the economy. We are pleased the Supreme Court recognized the serious errors in the Ninth Circuit's ruling," Adams said.
The case has been closely watched not only by the forest products industry, but also by other impacted industries, with numerous groups banding together to file 15 amicus briefs, including a brief filed by 31 state attorney generals supporting Georgia-Pacific's position.
Timothy Bishop, the lead appellate attorney for the forestry industry, said of today's ruling: "During the course of the lawsuit, EPA adopted a new regulation that reiterated its intention that forest road discharges should be regulated at the state level and not by federal permitting. Because the court's decision today means that new rule is legally unassailable, it brings certainty to the industry nationwide on this important issue of environmental protection."
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 nearly 35,000 people worldwide. For more information, visit www.gp.com.