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Northwest Environmental Defense Center v. Brown

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
640 F.3d 1063 (2011)


Facts

Northwest Environmental Defense Center (NEDC) (plaintiff) brought suit under the citizen-suit provision of the Clean Water Act (CWA), 33 U.S.C. §§ 1251 et seq., against the Oregon State Forester, members of the Oregon Board of Forestry in their official capacities, and various timber companies (defendants). NEDC alleged that the defendants had violated the CWA by not obtaining permits from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for stormwater runoff flowing from logging roads into systems of ditches and channels and then into forest streams and rivers, transferring sediments into those streams and rivers. The CWA prohibits the discharge of any pollutants, including rock, sand, and other sediments, from a point source into the navigable waters of the United States without a permit issued under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). NEDC argued that the defendants’ discharge into the forest streams and rivers were from “point sources” within the meaning of the CWA and therefore the defendants were required to obtain permits. The defendants argued that this discharge was exempted from the NPDES permit requirement by the Silvicultural Rule, 40 C.F.R. § 122.27, a regulation promulgated under the CWA. The defendants argued that the Silvicultural Rule categorically exempted all discharges resulting from silvicultural activities resulting from natural runoff. The district court held that the defendants’ discharge was exempted from the permit requirement by the Silvicultural Rule. NEDC appealed.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Fletcher, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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