WASHINGTON, DC, June 11, 2010 -- The National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) strongly urges Senate support for and enactment of S. 3481, legislation designed to clarify the Federal government's responsibility to pay reasonable fees for stormwater services provided by local utilities. The legislation was introduced yesterday by Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.). The legislation clarifies that fees charged for the control and abatement of water pollution, including stormwater management fees, shall not be considered a tax and therefore are required to be paid by Federal agencies pursuant to their obligations under Section 313 of the Clean Water Act (CWA).
The issue gained attention in April when the General Services Administration (GSA) delivered a preliminary announcement that federal facilities located in Washington, D.C. are not required to pay impervious area charges levied by the local municipal sewer authority claiming that these fees amounted to a tax on the federal government and therefore unconstitutional. NACWA opposed this decision and applauds Senator Cardin for his leadership to see it overturned. "We believe the refusal of the federal government to pay for a critically important local environmental service is not only legally unjustified but also significantly undercuts the Administration's commitment to improve water quality throughout the nation.," said NACWA Executive Director Ken Kirk. "We applaud Senator Cardin for his leadership and look forward to working with him in advancing this important legislative effort."
NACWA has long advocated that federal facilities are obligated to pay local stormwater fees. A recent NACWA survey found that while a majority of federal facilities currently pay for local clean water services, a growing number are contesting these charges as unconstitutional. Stormwater and wastewater utilities work hard to advance environmental stewardship goals in the face of significant financial challenges due to increased regulatory responsibilities and declining rate bases attributable to the ongoing economic downturn. On top of these challenges, clean water needs continue to grow as the recently released 2008 Clean Water Needs Survey (CWNS) indicates: a total of $298.1 billion in unmet clean water needs exists over the next twenty years, representing a 17% increase over the 2004 needs survey data. Faced with these costs, the federal government must be an active partner with local communities in meeting clean water challenges - not seeking ways to avert its financial responsibilities.
NACWA applauds Senator Cardin for his leadership on this important issue and pledges to work with him to advance the bill in Congress as swiftly as possible.
NACWA represents the interests of more than 300 public agencies and organizations that have made the pursuit of scientifically based, technically sound and cost effective laws and regulations their objective. NACWA members serve the majority of the sewered population in the United States and collectively treat and reclaim more than 18 billion gallons of wastewater daily.