Friday, January 27, 2012 4:14 pm | By Paul Petrick
Last year the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals once again used the Clean Water Act to bludgeon industry and property owners. In Georgia-Pacific West, Inc. v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center, the nation’s most infamous appellate court held that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had been misinterpreting its own regulations for more than three decades. The EPA has traditionally considered the cultivation of trees to be an agricultural activity. The jurists of the Ninth Circuit have determined that they have the expertise to overrule decades of regulatory precedent and deem forestry a manufacturing activity. Unfortunately for the two and half million Americans employed by forestry, this ruling poses an existential threat to their livelihoods.
The Clean Water Act stipulates that runoff from manufacturing concerns be strictly regulated by the EPA. If the Ninth Circuit decision is upheld, storm runoff from forest roads would require a permit and be subjected to a myriad of new regulations. If the increased compliance costs do not decimate foresters, the litigation will. The Clean Water Act has long been utilized by well-funded environmentalists as justification for bringing industry to court.
The Ninth Circuit’s ruling has been appealed and the Supreme Court will decide whether or not to grant the appeal at the end of its current term. Last December, the Court asked the Solicitor General to file a brief detailing the position of the Obama Administration. As the nation struggles with stubbornly high unemployment, the Obama administration should consider the needs of the twenty-six states that have filed amicus curiae briefs petitioning the Supreme Court to hear this case. If not overturned, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will once again have burdened job creators with millions of dollars in lost time and money. The reigning Supreme Court justices should not let the regulation of rainwater rein in economic growth.