Washington, DC –
U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has written to the White House urging the federal government comply with the locality based impervious surfaces fee that funds cleaning up after polluters.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has indicated to the Department of Defense, and other federal agencies, that they are not required to pay the District of Columbia’s impervious surfaces fee, set to go into effect in 2011 to help control stormwater runoff.
“The federal government has a responsibility, as a good neighbor, to pay its fair share to clean up the very pollution that it is causing,”
said Senator Cardin, who also is chairman of the Environment and Public Works Water and Wildlife Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over storm water management issues.
“At stake is a fundamental issue of equity: polluters should be financially responsible for the pollution that they cause. That includes the federal government,”
Senator Cardin wrote in his letter to Nancy Sutley, Chairwoman of the Council on Environmental Quality.
The full text of the letter is below. CEQ has indicated a formal response is expected by June 10.
May 18, 2010
Ms. Nancy Sutley
Council on Environmental Quality
730 Jackson Place
Washington, D.C. 20503
Dear Chairwoman Sutley:
In recent weeks the issue of polluted stormwater runoff from federal properties has again gained significant attention. I continue to have grave concerns about the failure of the federal government to pay localities for reasonable costs associated with the control and abatement of pollution that is originating on its properties. At stake is a fundamental issue of equity: polluters should be financially responsible for the pollution that they cause. That includes the federal government.
Annually hundreds of thousands of pounds of pollutants wash off the hardened surfaces in urban areas and into local rivers and streams, threatening the health of our citizens and causing significant environmental degradation. A one-acre parking lot produces about 16 times the volume of runoff that comes from a one-acre meadow. These pollutants include heavy metals, nitrogen and phosphorous, oil and grease, pesticides, bacteria (including deadly
e.coli), sediment, toxic chemicals, and debris. Indeed, stormwater runoff is the largest source sector for many imperiled bodies of water across the country. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, stormwater pollution affects all types of water bodies including in order of severity; ocean shoreline, estuaries such as the Chesapeake Bay, Great Lakes shorelines, lakes and rivers.
Degraded aquatic habitats are found everywhere that storm water enters local waterways.
On October 5, 2009, President Obama issued a Federal Executive Order on Sustainability, which set goals for Federal agencies and focused on making improvements in their environmental, energy and economic performance. Among other requirements, the Order specifically requires the implementation of the stormwater provisions of the Energy Independence and Security Act of2007, section 438. As you know, I am the author of that provision, which requires the federal government to maintain the predevelopment hydrology “to the maximum extent practicable” of all new building sites or major renovations. This requirement echoed the provision in the President's Chesapeake Bay Protection and Restoration Executive Order issued on May 12, 2009. In the final
Strategy for Protecting and Restoring the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, issued on the one-year anniversary of the Executive Order , each federal agency is being called upon to implement “the stormwater requirements for new development and redevelopment in Section 438 of the Energy Independence and Security Act …'
These parallel federal stormwater management requirements are explicit recognition of the importance of controlling and managing stormwater pollution from federal properties. As EPA requires more communities to address stormwater pollution through Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System permits, these communities are responding
a variety of fee-based management systems that will allow them to mitigate, manage and prevent this type of pollution.
The EPA requires National Pollution Discharge Elimination Permits for municipal stormwater pollution. The President has issued two Executive Order s directly addressing this type of pollution “to the maximum extent practicable,” Clearly, these action s demonstrate that the Administration recognizes the importance of dealing adequately with stormwater pollution.
Given this recognition of the scope of the problem and this commitment to address this pollution source, does the Administration support the use of appropriate fees to treat, manage and prevent this type of pollution? If the Administration sees a constitutional problem in having the federal government pay such fees to local municipalities in jurisdictions in which it owns property, will the Administration agree to work with me to craft legislation making the federal government's responsibility clear and beyond legal challenge?
Please up-date me on the actions the Administration proposes to take to address this basic issue of equity. I am prepared to move quickly with a legislative remedy, should one be required.
Thank you for your time and consideration of this important matter. I look forward to hearing back from you at your earliest convenience.
Benjamin L. Cardin
United States Senator
The Honorable Eric Holder, Attorney General, Department of Justice
The Honorable Lisa Jackson, Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency
Preston Bryant, Chairman, National Capital Planning Commission
The Honorable Martha Johnson, Administrator, General Services Administration
The Honorable William Gates, Secretary, Department of Defense
The Honorable Tom Vilsack, Secretary, Department of Agriculture
Jack Potter, Postmaster General, United States Postal Service
Gene Dodaro, Acting Comptroller General, Government Accountability Office