March 3 and 4, MACo Legal and Policy Counsel, Les Knapp, testified to the Senate Education, Health and Environment Affairs Committee and the House Environment and Transportation Committee to support with amendments SB 36, SB 42, SB 588, HB 481, and HB 874 all are Stormwater Management-Watershed Protection and Restoration Program-Repeals. This bill would repeal the 2012 legislation (HB 987) that required Maryland county jurisdictions to adopt a stormwater remediation fee.
The proposed amendments to SB 36, SB 42 and SB 588 would maintain the fee mandate but allow counties not to charge a fee if the county creates a reasonable alternative plan to meet its stormwater remediation requirement. This amendment creates maximum flexibility for counties to address the stormwater runoff pollution.
MACo’s position is 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 [credible] 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 change based on the types of best practices used, the actual effectiveness of those practices, and the adoption of better practices and technologies.
The proposed amendments also recognize the vastly different burdens faced by the affected counties. Harford County’s MS4 permit costs are estimated in the millions of dollars, Frederick County’s costs are in the tens of millions of dollars, and a large county like Montgomery or Prince George’s faces costs in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Certain counties cannot realistically meet their MS4 goals without the fee, and the alternative plan approach would allow those counties to continue to use the fee while giving other counties the ability to consider different options.
Oversight and accountability are currently part of the permit system and would also apply to counties seeking to adopt an alternative plan.
For more on MACo’s 2015 legislation, visit the Legislative Database.