MACo on Stormwater Fees: Drop Mandate If County Has Alternative Means

MACo has taken a position on the proposed repeal of the 2012 legislation (HB 987) that required the 10 Maryland counties subject to a federal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Phase I Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit to adopt a stormwater remediation fee (also called the “rain tax” by the fee’s opponents).

MACo’s position is that that a county should not be subject to the fee mandate if that county chooses to go through a certification process with the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and shows that it has a creditable alternative plan or method to meet the stormwater pollution reduction goals required under its MS4 permit.  The certification would be performance based rather than tied to a specific amount of funding as funding estimates for all of the affected jurisdiction have changed over time based on the types and actual effectiveness of remediation strategies chosen by the counties.   Recognizing the vastly different burdens and challenges faced by the affected counties, MACo would also oppose efforts to limit the ability of counties with a stormwater fee to set the terms and conditions of that fee.

MACo believes this position acknowledges the responsibility counties have under their permits to address stormwater runoff pollution while also providing counties with the maximum flexibility possible to meet those goals.  MACo’s position was adopted by its legislative committee, which comprises representatives from all 24 member jurisdictions, with specific input from the 10 jurisdictions subject to the fee requirement.

Currently, there are two bills before the General Assembly calling for a repeal of the stormwater fee mandate – SB 36 and SB 42. MACo also expects similar or identical repeal legislation to be sponsored by the Administration of Governor Larry Hogan. MACo will support the two Senate bills with amendments so that the bills mirror MACo’s position and will likely take the same position with the Administration’s bill.

The NPDES MS4 permit system was created by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1990.  The permits are required for certain local governments (counties and municipalities) and the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) and dictate the water quality standards the permitted entity must comply in treating and preventing stormwater runoff.  The stormwater runoff requirements are based on water quality standards set under the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) and the permits have a 5-year term.  In Maryland, MDE sets individual permit requirements and issues the permits, subject to EPA sign-off.

MS4 permits are divided into Phase I and Phase II categories.  Phase I permits apply to “large” local governments (those with a population greater than 250,000), and “medium” local governments (those with a population between 100,000 and 250,000), and SHA.  The permit requires them to treat or prevent pollution in stormwater runoff to the maximum extent practicable (MEP) in order meet federal water quality standards under the Clean Water Act (CWA).  In Maryland, the following entities are subject to a Phase I permit:  SHA, Baltimore City, and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Charles, Frederick, Harford, Howard, Montgomery, and Prince George’s Counties.

For further information please contact Les Knapp at MACo ( or 410.269.0043).


note: The details of this position were edited on February 26, following additional direction from MACo’s Legislative Committee.