Obama Administration pulls fast one on Supreme Court re:case on salmon protection

A most astonishing gambit was played in Washington at the Supreme Court yesterday, as the Obama administration changed a rule in the EPA, apparently to get out of having the Supreme Court rule on whether the Clean Water Act should be applied to logging roads. It seems to be a give away to the logging industry to allow them to continue creating logging roads without significant environmental review. The EPA came out of left field yesterday, as the court was hearing the case (!), to say that they no longer would consider logging road runoff as “industrial waste” though it’s creation is clearly caused by industrial activity. Whether or not this runoff would or should be considered as covered by the Clean Water Act is now moot.

This is interesting in many ways, as the ruling was apparently held until the last minute, maybe until after the election, on purpose, by the administration. They had warned the Justices back in the spring that there was new rules coming that could affect the case, but chose to wait until now to roll them out. One can assume so as not anger their environmental supporters prior to election day. An explanation by the EPA and the Administration would seem in order.

Once again, those who are trying to protect the salmon habitat from ongoing destruction, find that even our ‘friends’ in Washington DC can decide to change the rules to favor the ongoing logging practices. These industrial made culverts have been the reason for hundreds of thousands of miles of sediment runoff, over many decades, that many people have considered to be one of the primary reasons that salmon numbers have fallen so much since the 60s. It is certainly questionable, given the court’s interpretation of the Clean Water Act in previous rulings, whether it would have found in favor of the environmental side, but this now forces a rethink of the tactic, let alone of Administration motives. I would assume additional lawsuits against the runoff rule, will be forthcoming. A good guess would be that this could trigger tribal interests to weigh in. They have been very vocal that the government is not helping to protect watersheds. This should provide fuel to their argument, and might get them to invoke Treaty protections. Just last month, at the NW Straits Marine Resources Committees Annual Meeting, Billy Frank Jr. was telling people that after his trip back to meet with President Obama and others in the administration and Congress, that he felt that “no one is in charge” of salmon recovery. Now it seems that the administration could be pushing Billy and the NW Indian Fisheries Coalition to weigh in and take action in the courts.

Read the interesting back and forth between an astonished Chief Justice Roberts and the government side lawyers, who can’t even agree among themselves as to the proper course of action after this ‘rabbit out of the hat’ move.




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