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The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved legislation (S. 1816) on June 30 (see above related story) requiring the federal government to pay local fees for treating and managing stormwater runoff. Initially introduced June 10 as a separate bill (S. 3481) by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), the legislation was rolled into the broader Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act of 2009 (S. 1816). In April, three federal agencies: General Services Administration, Defense Department, and Government Accountability Office told the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority they would not pay new fees set to take effect in 2011 because they considered them a tax, not a fee for services rendered. Water bills from the DC Water now include an impervious surface fee to pay for the costly replacement of the city's antiquated combined sewer/stormwater system with separate systems. The fee would apply to federal properties for the first time in 2011.


The Senate legislation states that reasonable service charges include any requirement to pay a reasonable fee, assessment, or charge imposed by any state or local agency to defray or recover the cost of stormwater management in the same manner and to the same extent as any nongovernmental entity. Section 5 of the bill states that such a fee, assessment, or charge “shall not be considered to be a tax or other levy subject to an assertion of sovereign immunity, and may be paid using appropriated funds”