The stormwater fee issue continues to generate discussion both inside and outside the legislative halls of Annapolis. This article collects three separate news items from this week and last week, including: (1) comments by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller indicating that no legislation to amend the stormwater fee may pass; (2) a briefing by county governments on their stormwater fee implementation to a Senate committee; and (3) a new stormwater fee jingle!?
Legislation from 2012 required 10 counties that hold a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Phase I Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit to adopt a stormwater mediation fee and create a fund that would be used for stormwater projects and retrofits. The General Assembly’s stated purpose in passing the fee was to provide those counties with a revenue source to help them meet their significant stormwater mitigation costs under their MS4 permits and the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).
Miller Thinks Changes to Stormwater Fee “Not Going to Happen”
A January 22 Capital Gazette post reported on recent comments made by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller that despite his personal belief that the 2012 stormwater fee law should be amended to create more uniformity among the 10 counties required to adopt the fee, he does not think that will happen. As previously reported by Conduit Street, the President has previously stated that the General Assembly will not repeal the stormwater fee. From the Capital Gazette post:
Miller said he thinks a bill passed by the General Assembly in 2012 that requires the state’s 10 largest jurisdiction to assess stormwater fees needs to be modified so funds raised through stormwater fees cannot be used for existing programs and nonprofits aren’t paying a lot in one county and nothing in another.
Miller also said he thinks there should be uniformity in how much counties are charging residents. …
But the Senate president said he did not believe lawmakers would come together to pass that type of bill during the current 90-day session.
“I personally (think there should be uniformity) but I think it’s politically not going to happen,” Miller said.
Senate Committee Stormwater Fee Briefing
Representatives from the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), Department of Legislative Services (DLS), and county governments testified before the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee on stormwater fees on January 14. The briefing discussed the different approaches taken by counties, the offsets and exemptions available under State and local law, county efforts in funding stormwater treatment.
A fiscal analyst for DLS summarized key points from a November 2013 DLS report on the status of stormwater mediation fees. The analyst noted how each county chose to implement the 2012 legislation and stated that all counties devoted great effort to identifying stormwater costs and that most have creditable plans in place to address these costs. The analyst also noted that no county has adopted a fee that will completely cover their costs – all have other revenue sources in place.
Secretary of the Environment Robert Summers testified on behalf of MDE that stormwater was the last major growing water pollution sector and needed to be addressed. He also noted that all counties have implemented offset provisions required by State law.
The Committee also heard from representatives of four counties testify: (1) Baltimore City; (2) Carroll; (3) Frederick; and (4) Howard. MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp was asked to stand in at the last moment for the Frederick representative. The county representatives testified on the process their county went through to create a stormwater fund and establish a fee and described their overall stormwater funding efforts. Most also stressed that the stormwater costs placed under the counties by the new Phase I MS4 permits were significant.
Stormwater Fees Get a Theme Song?
A January 22 Baltimore Sun B’More Green Blog Post reported that an environmental coalition has launched a series of radio ads in defense of the 2012 stormwater fee legislation:
The Clean Water, Healthy Families coalition, including more than a dozen different green groups and the National Aquarium, began running 60-second radio ads Wednesday defending the fees on four stations in Baltimore, Annapolis and Washington. …
Bills have been introduced in Annapolis to repeal the law, delay its enforcement or exempt certain localities. Legislative leaders have ruled out repeal, but modifying the law remains a possibility.
Additional January 23 Capital-Gazette coverage offered viewpoints of stormwater fee supporters and opponents:
We’ve got a game plan to clean up this pollution now,” said Dru Schmidt-Perkins, executive director of 1000 Friends of Maryland. “We can’t let election-year politics threaten the progress we are making.” …
Del. Cathy Vitale, R-Severna Park, a co-sponsor of the bill to repeal the stormwater law, laughed when she heard the jingle. …The new ad, she said, was a refreshing approach and better than some of the coarse emails she had received on the issue. “It certainly is a catchy little tune that should draw attention to (the issue).”