(Harrisburg, PA) – Pennsylvania routinely refuses to pay stormwater management fees owed on dozens of state-owned properties, leaving local taxpayers to foot the bill of millions of dollars, said Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Bradford / Tioga counties).
“The optics of this for the Commonwealth are horrible,” Sen. Yaw said. “We passed laws that require municipalities to safely manage stormwater runoff only to leave taxpayers on the hook for our share of the bill.”
Officials from Capitol Region Water told the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee last week that the state owes them nearly $387,000 for stormwater fees calculated on 22 state-owned properties since October 2020.
Across the Susquehanna River in Cumberland County, the Hampden Sewer Authority said the state owes more than $1.2 million for stormwater management fees assessed since October 2015.
It’s a similar story in local municipalities across Pennsylvania, add Yaw.
Local officials told the committee both state and federal laws require Pennsylvania’s 2,500-plus local municipalities to manage stormwater runoff, but only the federal government pays its share of the fees. The Commonwealth’s failure to pay its debt delays critical upgrades to stormwater infrastructure.
And the problem isn’t limited to properties. Horace Strand, executive manager of the Stormwater Authority of the City of Chester, said his attempts to negotiate payment from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) for runoff and flooding damage on state highways running through the city has been unsuccessful.
“Our response from PennDot has been a long letter that they consider these fees to be taxes rather than fees, and they have no intentions of paying these fees,” said Strand. “Since we are a small growing authority, these fees are much needed to help us maintain our operations and provide the services we provide the City of Chester daily.”
PennDOT maintains nearly 40,000 miles of roadway throughout the Commonwealth, meaning many other municipalities could be facing the same struggle, Yaw said.
“We will see what we can do about getting someone’s attention and putting our money where our mouth is,” Yaw said.