Georgia-Pacific West, Inc. v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center & Decker v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Environmental Law
  • Date Filed: June 25, 2012
  • Case #: 11-347, 11-338
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Court Below: 640 F.3d 1063 (9th Cir. 2011).
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether the Ninth Circuit erred when it rejected the EPA’s position that runoff from forest roads does not require a permit and mandated that the EPA regulate such runoff as industrial stormwater subject to the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES).

Respondent brought a suit under the Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. § 1251 et seq.) in district court against forest products companies and the Oregon Board of Forestry. Respondent alleged that the companies were in violation of the Clean Water Act because they released pollutants into Oregon waters without a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. At issue was whether drainage ditches and other natural runoff should be considered a “point source” which require NPDES permits.

The district court granted Petitioners' motions to dismiss on the grounds that the discharge of stormwater from ditches was not a point source and thus did not require such a permit. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that discharge of natural runoff became a point source requiring a permit for discharge and was subject to the NPDES permitting process. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider the issues presented above.

Petitioner companies argue that the Ninth Circuit failed to give deference to the EPA’s longstanding definition of natural runoff as non-point source pollution to be addressed by best management practices. They also contend that the Ninth Circuit’s ruling is environmentally counterproductive because it diverts resources from other more effective means of addressing pollution.

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