Letter to US House and US Senate Leaders Regarding Stormwater Management Services

December 2, 2010

The Honorable Harry Reid
 Majority Leader
U.S. Senate
522 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Mitch McConnell
 Minority Leader
 U.S. Senate
361-A Russell Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House
U.S. House of Representatives
 H-232 U.S. Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable John Boehner
Minority Leader
U.S. House of Representatives
H-204 U.S. Capitol
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Majority Leader Reid, Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leaders McConnell and Boehner:           

            On behalf of the nation’s state and local elected officials, we urge Congress to consider legislation requiring the federal government to pay local fees for stormwater management services before Congress adjourns. S. 3481 and H.R. 5724 would ensure the federal government pays its fair share of these federally imposed mandates. 

Section 313 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act states, “Each department, agency of instrumentality…of the Federal Government… shall be subject to, and comply with, all Federal, State, interstate, and local requirements…including the payment of reasonable service charges.”   Unfortunately, many federal agencies have deemed stormwater management fees to be taxes that are subject to sovereign immunity claims and do not have to be paid.   For example, this past September the Government Accountability Office (GAO) determined that federal facilities located in the District of Columbia could claim sovereign immunity and avoid paying locally-imposed stormwater management fees.   Unless corrected, this interpretation will cost D.C.’s stormwater program approximately 20% or $2.64 million annually. 

GAO’s and other agencies’ interpretation that stormwater management fees are a tax is a distortion of Congress' intent in section 313 that will produce additional fiscal strains on local governments already suffering the effects of the recession. S. 3481 and H.R. 5724 would correct this problem and restore fiscal certainty to local stormwater programs. We strongly urge you to bring these bills up for consideration before the end of the year.                                   


Raymond C. Scheppach, Executive Director
National Governors Association

David Atkins, Executive Director
The Council of State Governments

William T. Pound, Executive Director
National Conference of State Legislatures

Larry E. Naake, Executive Director
National Association of Counties

Donald J. Borut, Executive Director
National League of Cities

Tom Cochran, CEO and Executive Director
The U.S. Conference of Mayors

Robert J. O'Neill, Executive Director
International City/County Management Association