Provision protecting logging companies passes U.S. House

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The U.S. House passed a provision on Thursday that would undo a 2010 federal court ruling that required logging companies to get discharge permits for water runoff on logging roads.

U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, added the provision to a bill that would overhaul the country's farm programs. The House's farm bill differs from the Senate's proposal, so lawmakers will still need to come up with a compromise before the measure can pass.

The forest roads provision would treat logging roads on private land as "nonpoint" pollution sources that do not require additional environmental permits. A 2010 federal court ruling ordered forestland owners to obtain a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit for runoff on forest roads. It's the same permit required for water runoff from pollution "point sources" such as factories and parking lots.

In 2011, Herrera Beutler succeeded in passing a similar regulatory exemption for forest roads, but that provision expired at the end of 2012. The provision in the farm bill would make that exemption permanent, Herrera Beutler's spokesman, Casey Bowman, said Thursday.