MDE Alleges Power to Fine Counties for Failure to Adopt Stormwater Management Fees

The Maryland State Bar Association hosted its 2013 Land Use Institute on April 26 and included presentations from the Maryland Department of Planning, Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), and MACo.  Among the topics discussed was the implementation and policy challenges raised by HB 987 of 2012, which requires 10 counties to adopt a stormwater management fee by July 1, 2013.

During a MDE presentation entitled “State Environmental Management of Growth and Development for the Bay,” Principal Counsel Steven Johnson stated that MDE believes it has the authority to fine counties that fail to adopt a fee under HB 987, but that it would be unlikely for MDE to exercise that power.  Mr. Johnson’s assertion is derived from the fact that the provisions of HB 987 are located within the same stormwater management subtitle as § 4-215 of the Environment Article.  That section outlines potential criminal, civil, and administrative penalties for stormwater violations.  Section 4-215(c) allows MDE or the Department of Natural Resources to bring a civil action against any person for any violation of the subtitle, with fines of up to $10,000 a day (no cap) and § 4-215(d) allows MDE to impose up to $1,000 a day in administrative penalties (with a total cap of $20,000).

MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp also discussed the impacts of recent state environmental initiatives, including the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load and the Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012 (SB 236 – the septic system legislation), on local land use.  Queen Anne’s County Planning and Zoning Director Steve Cohoon discussed whether local governments can still actually plan.  Amanda Conn, Assistant Attorney General for MDP, outlined the key components of SB 236.

MACo’s MSBA Presentation

MDE Stormwater Fee FAQ