Professor David Terrell
Warner Pacific College
September 14th, 2010
Environmental regulations and law play an important role in our society. In their basic intent, these laws provide our society with limitations on how we impact the environment and they also offer guidelines on how to treat the environment. However, the following simple fact is true, laws and regulations are developed by politicians who are swayed by political influences. A law that is pure in its intent may actually cause more harm than good in the actual implementation of it. This type of result can be in large part due to faulty science or political posturing (as we read in the science behind the story article “Fighting over Fire and Forests” Withgott & Brennan, 2008, pp. 344-345).
Laws such as the Clean Water Act were originally designed to address current and real problems with the pollution of our nations waterways via mainly toxic chemicals. Some political/environmental organizations use ambiguous criteria within laws such as the Clean Water Act in order to advance their own agenda. In the article “Oregon timber plans in doubt after appeals court says logging road runoff is pollution”, the author Eric Mortenson, describes how environmentalists have filed suit against logging operations in the Tillamook State Forest. This article highlights the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling which requires logging companies to have additional road building permits issued under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System in order to build temporary logging roads, as logging roads are now considered “Point Source Pollution”. The Northwest Environmental Defense Center claimed that roads built by logging companies redirected rain water and snow melt which in turn causes increased rock and dirt flows into nearby watersheds thus negatively affecting local wildlife.
In further research of the Clean Water Act and the CWA criteria for “Point Source Pollution”, it is clear that this portion of the law is clearly written to enforce “facility” discharges, not logging roads (“…industrial, municipal, and other facilities must obtain permits if their discharges go directly to surface waters” Clean Water Act, National Pollutant Discharge System). Criteria which was originally intended for industrial operations, has been reinterpreted to now apply to agricultural operations such as logging. Changing laws in order to appease environmental groups with misguided agendas only do harm to the greater community.
In the example of the Northwest Environmental Defense Center suit, we can observe a result of decreased economic activity, loss of jobs, and waste of taxpayer dollars due to extensive court battles (the suit was originally ruled against in favor of the Oregon Department of Forestry in a lower Oregon court, prior to the 9th Circuit appeal and reversal). The rainwater, snow melt and dirt that is now ruled as so environmentally damaging to wildlife, are the same exact substances that were washing into local watersheds prior to logging operations taking place. Rulings such as these damage the greater good by only establishing a new precedent which will allow for more negative “interpretations” of environmental law.
Moretenson, Eric (August 17, 2010). Oregon timber plans in doubt after appeals court says logging road runoff is pollution. Oregonian. Retrieves from
United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2010) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). Retrieved from http://cfpub.epa.gov/npdes/index.cfm
Withgott, J. & Brennan, S. (2008). Environment. The Science behind the stories. San Francisco, CA: Pearson Education, Inc.