Rep. Garth Everett (R-Lycoming), who represents Pennsylvania on the interstate Chesapeake Bay Commission, Tuesday introduced a bipartisan resolution-- House Resolution 908-- calling for a study of a new water use fee to fund water quality improvement programs.
The resolution was co-sponsored by Rep. David Millard (R-Columbia), Rep. Curtis Thomas (D-Philadelphia), Rep. Jeff Wheeland (R-Lycoming), Rep. Mark Rozzi (D-Berks), Rep. Michael O’Brien (D-Philadelphia) and Rep. Sandra Major (R-Susquehanna).
“As a member of the Pennsylvania Delegation of the Chesapeake Bay Commission and the Environmental Resources & Energy, Game & Fisheries and Appropriations Committees, I am acutely aware of the challenges facing our water resources and water quality here in Pennsylvania and the need to come up with innovative funding mechanisms to reinvest in our land and water and the programs and agencies charged with their stewardship,” said Rep. Everett.
“Pennsylvania is estimated to have more than 86,000 miles of streams and rivers, nearly 4,000 lakes covering 161,455 acres, and 80 trillion gallons of groundwater,” explained Rep. Everett. “The commercial demand for these waters continues to grow, with daily withdrawals of billions of gallons of the Commonwealth’s surface and groundwater.
“The water directly withdrawn from our streams, lakes and rivers is owned by the citizens of the Commonwealth and we are allowing this valuable asset to be utilized by commercial and industrial users at no cost,” noted Rep. Everett. “Some of this water is never returned to the water cycle and much that is returned is in a degraded condition from when it was withdrawn.”
Rep. Everett’s resolution directs the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to conduct a study of the establishment, implementation, and administration of fees for the consumptive use and the use and return of “waters of the Commonwealth” by industrial and commercial users.
The study would look at the establishment of both a royalty fee for the consumptive use of water and a royalty fee for water used and returned. It would examine proposed and successful attempts of other states to assess fees for the use of water; identify the uses to which the fees would apply; estimate the revenue generating potential of the fees; and evaluate how to assess, collect, and manage the proceeds of the royalty fees.
The study would also make recommendations on creating a new Water Quality Improvement Fund and on how the proceeds of the fees might be apportioned among the major watersheds in the Commonwealth and the departments and agencies involved in water quality efforts in Pennsylvania.
Examples might be funding for Growing Greener, water quality improvements to meet our Chesapeake Bay and other TMDL requirements and cleanup of our many impaired streams.
“Please join me in the pursuit of constructive solutions to meet our constitutional obligation to the citizens of Pennsylvania to provide pure water and to the preserve the natural values of our environment by co-sponsoring this Resolution,” said Rep. Everett in his co-sponsor memo to colleagues.
A sponsor summary is available.
The text of the resolution follows--
The resolution was referred to the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee for consideration.Rep. John Maher (R-Allegheny) serves as Majority Chair of the House Environmental Committee and can be contacted by sending email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Rep. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by sending email to: email@example.com.
The text of the resolution follows--
Directing the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to conduct a study of the establishment, implementation and a administration of fees for the use of water for the purpose of creating a Water Quality Improvement Fund.
WHEREAS, Pennsylvania is a water—rich state and is estimated to have 7 percent of the nation’s waterways with more than 86,000 miles of streams and rivers, nearly 4,000 lakes covering 161,455 acres and 80 trillion gallons of groundwater; and
WHEREAS, Residents of this Commonwealth rely upon clean water for drinking, a wealth of recreational activities, tourism and, for many, their livelihood; and
WHEREAS, Preventing pollution of the waters of this Commonwealth and reclaiming and restoring our waterways is essential to these purposes; and
WHEREAS, Pennsylvania’s ability to attract growing businesses and to provide a healthy environment for residents requires the prioritization of clean water infrastructure and funding to ensure the protection of clean water sources for residents of this Commonwealth; and
WHEREAS, Clean water provides greater health, stronger communities and thriving economies in all regions of our Commonwealth; and
WHEREAS, Article 1, section 27 of the Constitution of Pennsylvania provides in part that, “Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people.. .“; and
WHEREAS, The waters of Pennsylvania are one of these natural resources owned jointly by the residents of this Commonwealth; and
WHEREAS, The demand for water continues to grow with daily withdrawals of billions of gallons of this Commonwealth’s surface water and groundwater; and
WHEREAS, Of the water withdrawn, some is consumed and not returned to the watershed from which it came and more is used and discharged to the environment in a degraded condition; and
WHEREAS, The Commonwealth receives no compensation for the withdrawal and use of its water, whether for consumptive or temporary use; and
WHEREAS, Article 1, section 27 of the Constitution of Pennsylvania provides in part that, “The people have a right to clean air, pure water.. .“; and
WHEREAS, This Commonwealth has approximately 19,000 miles of rivers and streams that do not meet basic water quality standards as a result of water pollution from a variety of sources and has roughly 16% of the nation’s impaired waters; and
WHEREAS, Pennsylvania faces many water quality challenges including, but not limited to, Environmental Protection Agency imposed Chesapeake Bay mandates, acid mine drainage, urban and suburban stormwater runoff, sewage and industrial discharges, fertilizer and nutrient runoff from agricultural operations and other nonpoint source discharges; and
WHEREAS, Pennsylvania currently has no dedicated funding mechanism to address these water quality issues and instead relies on its General Fund; and
WHEREAS, Variability of funding through the General Fund from year-to—year and administration—to—administration and availability of funds due to economic conditions make it difficult to consistently and adequately fund water quality programs; and
WHEREAS, To meet its constitutional, statutory and regulatory obligations, Pennsylvania needs a dedicated source of revenue for a Water Quality Improvement Fund; therefore be it
RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives direct the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to study the establishment of a fee for both the consumptive use and the use and return of water; and be it further
RESOLVED, That the study examine how other states assess fees for the use of water; and be it further
RESOLVED, That the study examine how other states have directed the establishment and use of a dedicated fund for environmental and water quality protection to serve the regional needs of its residents and resources; and be it further
RESOLVED, That the study include an evaluation of any legislation introduced in the General Assembly that would impose a water use fee; and be it further
RESOLVED, That the study determine the practicality of assessing fees on water use by examining a fixed—fee scale classification based on per—gallon withdrawal, per—gallon use and other fee assessment methodologies; and be it further RESOLVED, That the study identify whether & minimum threshold or thresholds should apply to the assessment of a fee; and be it further
RESOLVED, That the study recommend whether the Commonwealth should consider any exemptions from the payment of the assessment of withdrawal fees; and be it further
RESOLVED, That the study estimate the revenue generating potential of various fee assessments and methodologies; and be it further
RESOLVED, That the study evaluate how best to collect any assessed fees; and be it further
RESOLVED, That the study recommend an appropriate administrative entity, new or existing, to administer a Water Quality Improvement Fund to receive and disburse revenue generated from water use fees for the purposes of water quality protection and restoration; and be it further
RESOLVED, That the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee be authorized to seek and employ contractors or consultants to assist in this study; and be it furtherRESOLVED, That the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee report all findings and conclusions on this issue to the House of Representatives within 12 months of the adoption of this resolution.