Friday, June 22, 2018

Local stormwater utility bill approved in NJ Senate

                                                                                                                                 Credit: Project Every Drop

By Frank Brill
EnviroPolitics Editor

Legislation authorizing New Jersey municipalities, counties and certain authorities to establish stormwater utilities cleared the Senate yesterday on a 25-15 vote.

The bill is sponsored by Democrat Senators Bob Smith, Richard Codey, Linda Greenstein and Republican Christopher Bateman. 

"New Jersey faces extensive problems due to inadequate stormwater infrastructure and management. Rainwater runoff that flows into sewer systems and waterways contains bacteria and potentially hazardous chemicals, which can pollute our drinking water," said Smith (D-Middlesex / Somerset).

"With New Jersey as densely populated as it is, we need the proper infrastructure in place to handle contaminated stormwater in order to avoid our drinking water from becoming tainted. If we have this infrastructure in place, the health and well-being of New Jerseyans will improve."

The bill, S1073, would authorize municipalities, counties, and authorities to establish a stormwater utility for the purposes of acquiring, constructing, improving, maintaining, and operating stormwater management systems.

It also would allow governing bodies of municipalities and counties to enter into shared services agreements to provide for the construction, improvement, maintenance, or operation of stormwater management systems.

Any county, municipality, or authority that establishes a stormwater utility would be authorized to charge and collect  fees and other charges to recover the stormwater utility's costs. The fees would be charged to the owner or occupant of any property where stormwater runoff originates.

Business organizations fear higher costs

The legislation is opposed by business organizations representing owners of large properties, like shopping centers and chemical plants,that could face significant new costs.

The New Jersey Business and Industry Association lobbyist Chrissy Buteas testified at an earlier committee hearing that  "many facilities are already required to obtain costly stormwater permits from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Under these permits, companies are required to pay application fees and oversight fees that run in the thousands of dollars. These facilities are required to mitigate impacts to stormwater as a requirement under the permits.

“Under this bill, companies would be assessed a fee by a separate county or municipal authority, even if they already have a stormwater permit and are taking steps to accomplish the goal of the bill."

The fees would pay for the initial establishment of a stormwater utility and ongoing related administrative expenses, capital expenditures, including planning, design, engineering, acquisition, construction, and improvement of a stormwater management system, and operation and maintenance expenditures of a stormwater management system.

The bill sponsors sat that many municipalities lack the proper infrastructure to handle contaminated stormwater and this has led to health issues across the state.

The legislation has won widespread support from environmental organizations. 

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