The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has formed a stakeholder group to create a new fee for water appropriation permits. Currently, there is no fee associated with the permits and the stakeholder group will be focusing on those permit holders that use more 10,000 gallons per day or more. Affected permit holders include power companies, farmers, municipal water plants, mining operations, commercial businesses, industrial uses, and residential subdivisions. The total number of affected permits is estimated to be around 2,500 to 2,700.
Legislation was introduced during the 2012 Session that would have authorized MDE to set a fee to cover “the cost of the Department of regulation and monitoring the activity for which the permit was issued; and support the needs of the Department for program development activities…” MACo opposed the legislation, citing that the fee would constitute a new cost on county governments at a time where the State was already transferring a share of teacher pension costs to the counties. The Senate passed an amended form of the bill that created a workgroup to study the issue but the bill died in the House Environmental Matters Committee.
Despite the failure of the bill, MDE decided to constitute a workgroup under its own authority. As part of its justification, MDE noted that the 2008 Final Report of the Advisory Committee on Management and Protection of the State’s Water Resources (also known as the Wolman Commission) recommended the creation of a fee to handle future water resource planning and enforcement demands.
The stakeholders group held its first meeting on September 10 and considered several different combination of new fees, including permit application/renewal fees, annual usage fees, and annual compliance and monitoring fees. All of the proposals were estimated to raise about $3.5 million annually for MDE, with the majority of the annual costs being borne by the electric utilities. Participating stakeholders include MDE, the Maryland Department of Planning, MACo, the Maryland Municipal League, the Maryland Farm Bureau, electric utilities, golf course managers, and others.
At the meeting, representatives from MDE stressed that the Department would only consider legislation if the stakeholders group could reach a consensus on a fee proposal. However, the MDE representatives also stated that the Department could not control the actions of individual legislators and that the sponsors of the 2012 legislation could be reintroduced in its original form.
Attached below are handouts from the stakeholder group’s first meeting. If you have any question or concerns regarding the group, please contact MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp at 410.269.0043.