A few months ago I told you about the United States Forest Service's decision to resolve a citizen suit accusing it of violating the Clean Water Act by obtaining a Federal permit and as many as 47 State permits authorizing it to continue fighting fires from the air (https://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/this-isn-t-an-early-april-fools-joke-1959508).
At the time I wrote that I would like to have coffee with anyone who, with a straight face, argues that in prohibiting a discharge of a pollutant to a Water of the United States without a permit Congress intended to subject fire fighters to criminal and civil penalties for fighting fires from the air.
Apparently some Members of Congress found the suggestion as ludicrous as I did.
Inside EPA, which broke the news of the Forest Service's decision to settle the citizen suit, is reporting that the head of the Forest Service now "is willing to work with Congress on legislation to allow the service to continue airborne sprays of firefighting chemicals" without the need for a multitude of Federal and State permits.
The Chair of the House Agriculture Committee’s panel on forestry would like to oblige. He is from California which has more than its share of forest fires.
It remains to be seen whether Congress can and will solve the Forest Service's problem. Whether or not that happens, it also remains the case that we continue to face monumental environmental challenges, our Federal and State regulators are still under-resourced to meet those challenges, and that regulators would be spending the next two and a half years permitting the fighting of forest fires under the Clean Water Act still doesn't make any sense.
The head of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) told a recent House hearing that he is willing to work with Congress on legislation to allow the service to continue airborne sprays of firefighting chemicals despite a lawsuit that says such releases require Clean Water Act (CWA) permits, though he emphasized a pending GOP-backed bill is not “supportable.” During a May 16 hearing of the House Agriculture Committee’s panel on forestry, USFS chief Randy Moore told subcommittee Chair Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) -- a sponsor of pending legislation to permanently waive CWA limits on the service’s fire retardants -- that he is not supporting the bill in its current form but is open to negotiations.