Supreme Court sides with timber industry in runoff dispute, dealing blow to environmentalists

In a defeat for environmentalists, the Supreme Court on Wednesday sided with the U.S. timber industry in a dispute over whether loggers should have to get special EPA permits because of gravel and dirt falling into nearby waterways.

In a 7-1 vote, the court reversed a lower-court ruling which said the run-off from logging sites is the same as any other industrial pollution, requiring a Clean Water Act permit from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Supreme Court justices said the logging companies did not need to get the permits. During the arguments, the timber companies had said a ruling against them would put the U.S. timber industry out of business -- and that it would cost millions for every single logging project to get EPA permits.

The EPA itself disagreed with the lower-court ruling. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy said for the court that the agency's reading of its own regulations is entitled to deference from the court.

In any event, the agency has since issued a new regulation that removes any doubt that water from logging roads is the same as runoff from a farmer's field, not industrial pollution.

Justice Antonin Scalia dissented, saying that the court gives EPA and other agencies the authority to say what their rules mean "for no good reason."

Justice Stephen Breyer did not take part in the case because his brother, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, was appointed to sit on the appeals court panel that issued the ruling overturned Wednesday.

Fox News' Shannon Bream and The Associated Press contributed to this report.