Ms. HERRERA BEUTLER. Mr. Chairman, I'm here today to join in the effort to promote this farm bill and request that my amendment be added to it.
I'm here to protect millions of jobs across the country, millions--110,000 in my home State of Washington alone--by doing something we don't hear much of in this Chamber, particularly on this side of the aisle. I'm here to say that I agree with the EPA. With respect to treating forest roads, the EPA has it right and has had it right now for nearly 40 years.
This bipartisan amendment that I'm very proud to offer with my colleague, Kurt Schrader, simply codifies the EPA's silviculture rule that says mud and rock runoff from forest roads should not be categorized the same as industrial parking lots or factories. It makes no changes to the Clean Water Act, nor does it restrict the EPA from enforcing current law.
In a recent Ninth Circuit Court decision, a judge--not the EPA--decided this rule needed to be changed and directed the EPA to require NPDES permits for all forest roads on public or private land. This ruling would have [Page: H3857]
cost private, Federal, and State and tribal landowners billions of dollars, and it would have helped kill thousands of jobs across the country.
Fortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately overturned this outrageous ruling and also believes the EPA treatment of forest roads is the correct approach.
However, extremist lawsuits continue to roll in, and all of them are threatening the viability of forests by potentially costing private and public landowners millions in unnecessary, unscientifically proven expenses.
Mr. Chairman, unless Congress acts, our forests will remain under the attack of baseless lawsuits that simply serve no purpose in protecting our rivers, streams, and waterways but are highly effective in killing real jobs. We're talking about jobs in wood product manufacturing: pulp, paper, forest harvesting, forest management, and the list goes on.
This provision enjoys a wide range of bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate. I urge my colleagues to stand with private landowners, job creators, Republicans and Democrats in Congress, the administration, and the Supreme Court in supporting this amendment.
I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. WALDEN. I thank my colleagues from Oregon and Washington for their work on this amendment, bringing it forward. Look, this is extraordinarily important to men and women who work in the woods in the Northwest and across the United States.
As you've heard, for nearly four decades the Environmental Protection Agency said that driving down a forest road was not the same as pumping raw sewage into a river. They're much different activities. This amendment would prevent the Federal Government from subjecting forested communities and businesses to further costly permits for everyday activities like driving down a road.
Rural forested communities in the Northwest have been hurting for a very long time. Those who live there, we know about all the high unemployment rate, we know about the high poverty rate, we know about the percentage of kids on free and reduced lunch because of burdensome Federal regulations that have shut down activity on our Federal forests. Now lawsuits threaten to do this on our private forests as well. The last thing we need is more costly and lawsuit-prone regulations that will further
impact rural communities and the good people who live there that simply want the opportunity to work in the woods, raise their families, and grow in the communities.
Passing this bipartisan amendment will provide some certainty moving forward for rural forested communities, forest managers, and the people who work in the woods. So I urge my colleagues to stand for jobs, stand for rural America, and vote for this bipartisan amendment.