How Are Maryland Counties Going to Pay to Fix Stormwater Pollution?

By Bruce Gilmore, ANS Stormwater Advocacy Consultant In 2012 Maryland passed a first-of-its kind law enacting a new stormwater charge to manage stormwater pollution, improve water quality, and reduce flooding, etc. Unfortunately, last year the legislature overturned the statewide charge, but counties are still required to reduce the pollution. How will they pay for it?

10Mi3-10When focusing on how to reduce and end stormwater pollution, the issue of how to pay for it arises before us.  This question was answered by the Maryland General Assembly in the 2015 Legislative Session when Governor Hogan signed into law the elimination of the mandatory stormwater remediation fees assessed to businesses and residents. In place of the fees, legislation was enacted requiring larger Maryland counties to set forth how they would pay for stormwater managememt and implementation of federal stormwater permits. The required plans were called “Financial Assurance Plans” (FAP) and were to be prepared and submitted to the Maryland Department of the Environment by July 1, 2016, and every two years thereafter. These plans were to set forth whether the jurisdiction would use a fee to support stormwater pollution abatement efforts or whether it would budget specifically for it out of its general or capital funds over the course of the next five years. The legislature wanted the assurance that the actual stormwater management and restoration requirements would be met so that our waterways and Chesapeake Bay could be restored, and that counties were in compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) requirements. The law requires the Maryland Department of the Environment to:
  • Post financial assurance plans on its website within 14 days of receipt;
  • Provide an annual report to the Governor and the Maryland General Assembly by September 1 of every year; and
  • Make a decision regarding the adequacy of these plans within 90 days of receipt.
Each jurisdiction must be able to show the financial ability to pay for restoration practices over the next two years. Montgomery County’s FAP Prince George’s County’s FAP and WPRP Annual Report Thus far, most counties and Baltimore City have submitted their financial plans and ANS has joined other Maryland advocacy groups to review them carefully.  In August, we prepared and sent to MDE a letter which set forth our reaction to the draft FAP and made recommendations to improve them. See attached letter:  8_15_16_fap_letter_mde1 ANS’s recommendations:
  • That every FAP be reviewed by MDE and graded on whether the fees or appropriations are adequate to accomplish the stormwater management and permit implementation tasks
  • That the FAP set forth a match-up of required restoration projects and their true costs and source of funds
  • That the required public hearings on the plans be held by every jurisdiction
These steps may seem elemental, and they are, but they are also critical to the success of our waterway and Chesapeake Bay restoration.  ANS will continue its participation in the advocacy for strong waterway restoration efforts-and sufficient funding.
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