Sierra Club’s deceptive attack on Sen. Wyden

Is Senator Wyden a Closet Conservative?

by John in Oregon

Upon occasion Oregon Senator Ron Wyden has reached beyond Democratic Party orthodoxy and Democratic lobbyists positions.  One example is a Wall Street Journal article, A Bipartisan Way Forward on Medicare that was authored by Senator Wyden and Representative Paul Ryan.

On another issue, Senator Wyden cosponsored S-1269, the Silviculture Regulatory Consistency Act (SRCA). According to an article in the Oregonian, the Oregon Sierra Club (OSC) launched a scathing attack – which would suggest that Senator Wyden is a closet conservative.

The Oregon Sierra Club call to action is titled “Wyden launches surprising attacks on Clean Air and Clean Water Acts”.  In that call to action the OSC tells us that “Senator Ron Wyden is taking a strong stand against enforcing the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act in order to protect the timber industry from having to address air and water pollution associated with some of their operations.”  With such claims a little fact checking is in order.  For sake of space, consider just one paragraph checking point by point.  First the full paragraph:

Wyden has introduced legislation to overturn an Oregon court decision which says that when clean water and salmon streams are being sullied with polluted runoff from logging roads, it requires a permit under the Clean Water Act and action by landowners to address the pollution and fix their roads to better protect water quality. The case stems from heavily used logging roads in Oregon’s Tillamook State Forest which discharge polluted water directly into key salmon streams. Oregon Congressman Kurt Schrader has introduced similar legislation in the House of Representatives.

Fact checking point by point.

Wyden has introduced legislation…

FALSE.  S 1369 was introduced by Senator Crapo.  Senators Wyden, Risch, and Begich cosponsored the legislation.  The Oregon Sierra Club language creates the impression that Senator Wyden embarked on a solo crusade.  In fact at least four Senators from both the Republican and Democratic sides of the isle support the legislation.

…legislation to overturn an Oregon court decision…

FALSE.  The Oregon District Court held in favor of the Oregon State Forester.  It was the 9th Circuit, which overturned the Oregon court decision.  The effect of S 1369 the SRCA is to restore the Oregon court decision.

…court decision which says that when clean water and salmon stream

are being sullied with polluted runoff from logging roads…

FALSE.  The 9th Circuit required EPA pollution discharge permits for any storm water near roads and most certainly did NOT use language such as “clean water and salmon streams are being sullied”.  No scientific pollution studies were used.

…polluted runoff from logging roads, it (the court decision) requires a permit

under the Clean Water Act …

PARTIALLY TRUE.  A permit is required. The Sierra Club implies permits are only required for polluted storm runoff.  The 9th Circuit simply imposed discharge permit requirements for all storm water runoff near roads, polluted or not.  By court ruling all runoff, including uncontaminated water, is effectively classed as pollution requiring a discharge permit.

… permit under the Clean Water Act and action by landowners to

address the pollution and fix their roads to better protect water quality…

MOSTLY FALSE. The OSC wants us to believe that a permit requirement will cause landowners to address pollution and fix roads.  When the added bureaucratic permit burden remains for uncontaminated storm water the true incentive here is to remove roads.  Permit denial and lawsuits will block roads. Which is consistent with the apparent Oregon Sierra Club goal, turning private forest-land into wilderness preserves

The case stems from heavily used logging roads in Oregon’s

Tillamook State Forest which discharge polluted water directly
into key salmon streams.

UNVERIFIABLE.  The lawsuit covered the Tillamook State Forest, and the Trask and Kilchis rivers.  The case had no study showing heavy logging road use.  Are these roads more used than others?  Does use change storm run off?

Such studies as may exist are non-scientific studies conducted by volunteer law students eager to find mud puddles alongside logging roads.  Worse, the students had easy access to logging roads and no study of natural erosion or landslides as a reference of natural silt conditions.  Frequent highway slide closures and high murky fishing in road less streams show natural erosion is common, yet the students studies provide none of that kind of information.  A natural erosion study would involve hiking away from roads during winter, and spring weather when hiking is a severe outdoor and safety challenge.

Worse yet, none of the examples of apparent pollution were analyzed for the presence of Clean Water Act priority pollutants.  No samples were tested for Carbon tetrachloride, Methyl chloride, Phenol, Aldrin, Dieldrin, Chlordane, DDT, PCB, Antimony, Arsenic, Beryllium, Copper, Cyanide, Lead, Mercury, or Selenium.

In the final analysis the Court and OSC don’t have the faintest idea what pollution is present.  Neither do we.

Oregon Congressman Kurt Schrader has introduced similar

legislation  in the House of Representatives.

FALSE. HR 2541 was introduced by Representative Beutler Alden. Representatives Schrader, Michaud, Mcmorris Rodgers, Pingree of Maine, and Walden cosponsored the bill.  Representative Schrader is not a lone wolf.

Overall the Oregon Sierra Club earns a deceptive rating, four Geppettos carving ever-longer noses for Pinocchio.

The Oregon Sierra Club used an Oregonian article as justification for the attack on Senator Wyden.  (Without any direct quotes from the article.)  A long established legacy news outlet, the Oregonian is not known as an advocate of the timber industry.  Never the less, consulting the Oregonian article is informative.

  • Gov. John Kitzhaber, a Democrat, also supports backing off increased regulation of logging roads.

While not a supporter of sustained yield cutting levels, and not seeking a high profile on this subject, the governor does oppose increased federal regulation. Kitzhaber is forced to balance his support of low logging levels against increased federal intrusion upon state authority.  In this instance retaining state authority has priority for the Governor

Timber groups — along with Kitzhaber and Wyden — say the court decision would result in a spate of lawsuits to stall logging.

The Oregonian correctly points out that the 9th Circuit decision will result in increased bureaucratic burdens, increased lawsuits, and reduced state authority to run our own affairs.  The Oregonian illuminates further:

Josh Kardon, Wyden’s chief of staff until January 2010, lobbied Wyden and other members of Congress on the issue this year on behalf of the National Association of Forest Owners.


Kardon, who worked for environmental groups in the past, said he took the lobbying job to prevent “the same flood of litigation” in private forests that has stymied logging in Oregon’s federal forests, reduced forest health and cut timber jobs.

“Riskedahl [Northwest Environmental Defense Center] and his deep-pocketed, politically powerful funder are using personal attacks to try to intimidate me into dropping my client, and it won’t work,” Kardon said.

The “funder” is Peter Goldman, director of the non-profit Washington Forest Law Center. Goldman is a Democratic donor whose family wealth strikes fear in timber interests.

Clearly the Oregonian coverage is more balanced, and thanks to the article we know that at least four Oregon politicians, including our Governor, oppose federal and court intrusion upon state authority.  With the intervention in court of 26 other States and industry groups we see that concern is wide spread, a natural apprehension when Courts drift from a neutral referee of disputes and become a tool of environmental policy manipulation.