MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp offered amendments to an Administration bill on septic systems before the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee on February 13, 2018. The amendments would cancel a proposed shift in funding from the septic system account within the Bay Restoration Fund (BRF) to the cover crop program.
In MACo’s written testimony, Knapp briefly addressed each of the bill’s components:
SB 314 has three primary components. First, the bill exempts a septic system owner from paying the BRF if: (1) the owner has a [best available technology nitrogen removal (BAT)] septic system; and (2) the owner did not receive a state or federal grant or income tax subtraction modification for installing the BAT septic system. The exemption could apply to about 3,800 BAT systems, resulting in an annual decrease of $230,000 in BRF fees. MACo has no issue with this provision given the relatively small fiscal cost and equity principles involved.
Second, the bill would allow BRF septic system account money to be used by eligible homeowners for the reasonable cost of pumping out a septic system once every 5 years. In order to be eligible, the homeowner must reside in a local jurisdiction that has developed a “septic stewardship plan.” MACo supports the potential flexibility this voluntary program could provide. It is MACo’s understanding that counties would be able to continue to prioritize connecting failing septic systems to public sewer and upgrading systems to BAT over pumpouts.
Finally, the bill would alter the funding distribution ratios between septic systems and cover crops. The bill would change the current 60% septic system/40% cover crop allocation to a 50/50 split. MACo is opposed to this change, as it would reduce available BRF septic system monies by $2.97 million annually. The BRF septic system account is one of the only State funding sources to address the needs of the septic system sector and this funding should not be reduced. Consequently, MACo supports an amendment to delete the bill’s proposed 50/50 split and retain the 60/40 allocation under current law.
Governor Larry Hogan’s Deputy Legislative Officer Mathew Palmer and Maryland Secretary of the Environment Benjamin Grumbles testified in support of the bill. The Maryland Realtor’s Association supported the bill with the same amendment as MACo. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Clean Water Action, and the Maryland Onsite Wastewater Professionals Association (MOWPA) all opposed the bill.
Most members of the Committee did not appear receptive to the bill.
HB 361 is the cross-file of SB 314 and is set to be heard on February 23 by the House Environment and Transportation Committee.