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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has said that it would exempt
the timber industry from meeting new regulations aimed at reducing water
pollution on private lands. The proposed runoff rule would require landowners
to obtain discharge permits if the EPA found they were contributing to nearby
water quality problems. Landowners would also need permits if their state
failed to win approval from EPA for a plan to improve water quality. The
timber industry, including loggers, tree farmers and other forest product
groups, lobbied hard against the new rule, saying it would force small forestry
owners out of business. In public meetings and some 30,000 postcards sent
to EPA, the industry argued that the rule would require EPA permits for
planting or cutting down any trees on private lands.
Charles Fox, assistant EPA administrator for water, said the EPA will propose
a new rule this fall to cover just forestry practices. The original rule
is expected to be finalized in about a month. It would affect farmers and
other private landowners. Under the rule proposed last August, states must
submit plans to clean up every waterway that fails to meet federal standards
for fishing, drinking and swimming. EPA estimates that more than 20,000
streams and lakes do not meet water quality standards. That accounts for
about 40 percent of all lakes, rivers and streams in the U.S. Under their
draft plans, states must address the amount of pollution they will allow
from indirect sources like runoff from private lands.