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Update on the US Supreme Court suction dredging appeal

February 8, 2020

by Scott Harn, Editor/Publisher
ICMJs Prospecting and Mining Journal

As we've mentioned several times in our monthly publication, miners in Oregon have petitioned the US Supreme Court to review a lower court decision in Eastern Oregon Mining Association v. Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

The main contention is that Oregon DEQ has been forcing suction gold dredgers and other in-stream miners to obtain a Section 402 EPA permit under the Clean Water Act when the Clean Water Act clearly states that there must be the addition of pollutant to trigger the need for such a permit. The Oregon State Supreme Court let the 402 permit requirement stand, and the miners appealed to the US Supreme Court.

The appeal is being handled by the Pacific Legal Foundation. This property rights group does not take on cases unless there is a very strong chance of prevailing in court.

We just received word that the US Supreme Court has specifically requested a response from the Oregon DEQ; the agency has been ordered to respond. The agency had previously waived its right to file a response to the miner's petition. This is good news; this means the US Supreme Court is seriously considering accepting this case. 

We'll keep you posted if there are any new developments.

On a related note, Clark Pearson (Public Lands for the People) and I will be returning to Washington, DC at the end of March. We plan to meet with the EPA over this very same issue and will seek clarification from the EPA regarding the requirement of an addition before a 402 Clean Water Act permit is needed.

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