On August 1, the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee voted unanimously to approve a very slightly modified version of Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler’s (R-Washington) Silviculture Regulatory Consistency Act (HR 2541), which would essentially overturn the 2010 Ninth Circuit Court decision that threatens to subject “forest roads”—however defined—to regulation under the Clean Water Act’s “point-source” rules.
· This vote is important, but it does not mean “Forest Roads” reform will go directly to the House floor.
· Its main significance is to place a bipartisan consensus in favor of overturning the Ninth Circuit decision in a strong light.
· It leads the way to introducing a similar provision in a larger legislative vehicle—for instance, as an amendment to the forthcoming Farm Bill—later this year.
· The current moratorium on EPA’s authorizing a forest roads permitting program remains in place but is set to expire on September 30, 2012.
On July 26, FRA submitted letters to 20 House T&I members who had not yet confirmed support for the legislation, expressing the wood supply chain point of view. We are very gratified at this strong validation of our, and many others’, effort.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court will hear an appeal of the Ninth Circuit decision this fall. FRA is participating in an amicus brief in support of the appeal, and oral arguments are anticipated in late November or early December. Our legal advisors state that legislative action in the meantime is unlikely to affect the Supreme Court’s proceedings.
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