by Amelia Templeton
The House Transportation Committee has approved a bill exempting logging roads from federal storm water pollution regulation.
Dirt and gravel roads can alter the natural plumbing of a forest, channeling mud into streams. In the past, the EPA left it to the states to regulate sediment pollution from logging.
But the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Clean Water Act requires permits. The Supreme Court is reviewing that decision.
In the meantime House members have drafted a permanent Clean Water Act exemption for forest roads. Oregon Congressman Greg Walden is one of the bill's supporters.
"If we don't act, they're going to have to get permits under the clean water act, it opens them up to all kinds of lawsuits, and it puts another problem on top of an industry that is already facing a lot of challenges," he explained.
The effort has broad bipartisan support form Northwest lawmakers.
Environmental groups counter that Clean Water Act permits are a reliable and fair way to regulate pollution.