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March 20, 2013

LITTLE ROCK - Attorney General Dustin McDaniel applauded the U.S. Supreme Court's decision today in a case that had the potential to force burdensome federal regulations on state environmental agencies and the timber industry.

In a 7-1 ruling, the Court overturned a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision that, if left in place, would have required states to implement rigorous and costly new guidelines for stormwater runoff on forest roads.

In September, McDaniel led a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general from 31 states in filing an amicus brief with the court, saying the lower court incorrectly interpreted the federal Clean Water Act as it applied to longstanding federal regulations of forest-road runoff.

"I am grateful to the Court for reversing a decision that would have imposed onerous and expensive regulations on the Arkansas timber industry, which is struggling to rebound from the recession," McDaniel said. "Our existing regulatory framework already allows us to protect our State's water. This ruling provides certainty to states as they move forward with the successful programs they already have, rather than being forced to implement complex, unfunded mandates."

The Supreme Court today ruled that federal Environmental Protection Agency rules in place for 35 years were sufficient to manage stormwater runoff from forest roads. The lower court had said the runoff should be considered as "point source" pollution, similar to that of factories and municipal sewer systems. States would have been required to issue thousands of new permits as a result, applying further regulation to controlling storm water discharge into ditches and culverts along forest roads.

McDaniel and the other attorneys general, as well as the federal government, maintained that existing Best Management Practices to control storm-water discharge are effective. State programs are subject to EPA approval already, and are managed by trained forestry professionals.

The case is Decker v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center, 11-338.