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Decker v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center

United States Supreme Court
568 U.S. 597, 133 S. Ct. 1326 (2013)


Under the Clean Water Act (CWA), 33 U.S.C. § 1342(p), National Pollutant Discharge Elimination (NPDES) permits were not required for industrial discharges consisting solely of stormwater, but were required for discharges of stormwater runoff “associated with industrial activity.” This phrase was defined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the Industrial Stormwater Rule (Rule), 40 C.F.R. § 122.26, as only those discharges that were “directly related to the manufacturing, processing or raw materials storage areas at an industrial plant.” The EPA had interpreted the Rule as not applying to runoff from logging roads. Georgia-Pacific West, Inc. and several other companies (companies) (defendants) constructed and used logging roads to carry timber away from their logging sites in Oregon’s Tillamook State Forest. Stormwater runoff containing sediment flowed from these logging roads into nearby rivers, posing a threat to marine life. Northwest Environmental Defense Center (plaintiff) filed a citizen suit in district court against the companies, Oregon State Forester Doug Decker, and other state and local officials (defendants), alleging that the companies had violated the CWA by failing to obtain NPDES permits for the stormwater runoff from their logging roads. The district court dismissed the case. The court of appeals reversed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider whether the EPA’s interpretation of the Rule was entitled to deference. Three days before oral argument, the EPA issued an amended version of the Rule, which clarified that NPDES permits were required only for logging operations that involved rock crushing, gravel washing, log sorting, and log storage.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Kennedy, J.)

Concurrence (Roberts, C.J.)

Concurrence/Dissent (Scalia, J.)

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