Maryland Official Takes Aim At 'Rain Tax'
By Sara Jerome
"Raining In Baltimore" is more than just a Counting Crows song. It's cause for a contentious policy debate. That's because stormwater regulations are under fire in Maryland.
A prominent Republican official is calling for the repeal of what he calls the "rain tax," formally known as the "stormwater remediation fee." This rule requires metropolitan counties "to adopt fees on businesses and residences to pay for improvements to control storm-water runoff and reduce flooding," according to The Washington Post.
The regulation is aimed at lowering the amount of runoff from so-called "impervious surfaces" such as roofs and parking lots into the Chesapeake Bay, the report said. The EPA had directed the state to do more about runoff.
The rules are still relatively new in Maryland, and organizations are working to inform property owners about the new line in their bills. For instance, the Baltimore Department of Public Works is providing a "variety of information related to its implementation of the fee. The material includes details about the fee for individual properties, and explanations of credits to reduce the fee." The fee is based on the amount of impervious surface a property holds.
David Craig, county executive for Harford, wants the fee repealed. "Craig contends the fees are inconsistently applied and so steep in places like Baltimore that they'll drive businesses out," The Baltimore Sun reported.
He questioned the scientific basis for stormwater regulations, saying that the "impervious surface" does not play a role in the runoff problem.
"The rain is going to get through somewhere, somehow," he said, as The Sun reported.
Many scientists flatly disagree. "Mr. Craig's comment flies in the face of all available science on the issue, and more importantly, in the face of common sense," Andrew Elmore, an associate professor at the University of Maryland's Appalachian Environmental Laboratory in Frostburg, said in The Sun.
Hye Yeong Kwon, executive director of the Center for Watershed Protection in Ellicott City, also defended the science, explaining that rainfall "runs off pavement and roofs when in an undeveloped setting it would soak into the ground."
"These little streams are taking giant loads of water," she said in The Sun, noting that "the runoff surging into them picks up pollutants on the way, as impervious surface acts as both a collector and conduit of dirt, oil, fertilizer, pet waste and other pollutants."
The next step is to see if Craig gets traction among other officials despite the backlash from environmental groups. "Craig says he’ll introduce legislation in the Harford County Council to repeal the fees," WYPR reported.
Craig saw other stormwater regulations as problematic, as well. He called for the repeal of "a 2007 law tightening requirements for new development to limit stormwater runoff, and of a 1984 law limiting development near the shore of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries," The Sun said.
For previous Water Online coverage of EPA rules on stormwater, click here.
Image credit: "Raining in Baltimore," © 2010 andymangold, used under an Attribution-2.0 Generic license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en