HARRISBURG – The House Environmental Resources and Energy and Local Government committees convened a joint public hearing recently to explore the stormwater requirements of the federal Clean Water Act and the impact on local governments.
The hearing came on the heels of an informational meeting held by the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee earlier this month on legislation sponsored by Rep. Karen Boback (R-Luzerne/Lackawanna/Wyoming) that would provide Pennsylvania counties with funding for stormwater management and bring relief to ratepayers.
House Bill 781
would give county governments the option of using impact fee funds derived from the Marcellus Shale industry under Act 13 for stormwater management.
“The meeting we had recently on Rep. Boback’s legislation drew a lot of interest in the General Assembly and from folks on the outside,” said Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler), chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. “There has been a growing concern in various parts of the state related to how to deal with stormwater management and what some people in her district are actually calling a rain tax.”
Officials from many Pennsylvania communities have complained that the stormwater requirements administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) under its Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System Program (MS4) are costly and overly burdensome to the municipalities required to implement them and the taxpayers who ultimately bear the cost.
Municipal officials from Dauphin, Elk, Fayette, Franklin and Lebanon counties testified before the committees about the issues each community encountered during the compliance process.
Lebanon Mayor Sherry Capello said the city had to alter its original plan when DEP established stricter guidelines for sediment pollution.
“This was a significant decrease and caused some stressful brainstorming and additional engineering costs to rewrite the plan,” said Capello. “Tax revenue alone is no longer enough to pay the costs of compliance, so a dedicated stormwater management fee became necessary.”
Perry Township Supervisor Andrew Boni testified about the impact of the federal stormwater requirements in Fayette County.
“Fourteen of the 23 townships are MS4 communities, and I’ve seen the burden that these requirements have placed on these communities,” Boni told committee members. “Frankly, I am glad that Perry Township does not have to comply with these requirements, but I’m fully aware that these mandates could be pushed onto smaller townships and the cost burden for this would be devastating.”
Currently, 953 small, urbanized areas across the Commonwealth are being forced to comply with the federal stormwater requirements. To do so they must prohibit non-stormwater discharges, have erosion and sediment controls, apply strict post-construction runoff controls from development and impose sanctions for non-compliance. These municipalities must also obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit to comply.
“The testimony we heard during the hearing only underscores the need to enact my legislation and provide municipalities with another way to fund stormwater management programs without having to impose these onerous fees on their citizens,” said Boback.
Representative Karen Boback
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Andy Briggs