The state Legislature sent Gov. Phil Murphy a proposal allowing municipalities to create their own stormwater utilities – a move praised by environmental activists as a way to aid the state’s aging stormwater systems and reduce flooding, but decried by businesses as a potentially frivolous tax.
Senate Bill 1073, which the Assembly approved in a 49-27 vote at their Thursday session, would allow municipalities and county governments to establish their own stormwater utilities to collect and manage runoff and excess rain, funded by fees imposed onto property-owners where the runoff originates.
The larger the property and the more runoff produced, the higher a fee to the owner.
But the bill does allow for credits against the fee for property owners that adopt “stormwater best management practices that reduce, retain, or treat stormwater onsite,” according to the legislation.
“The lack of regulation and management of stormwater has caused extensive problems for New Jersey,” S1073 sponsor Assemblyman John McKeon, D-27th District, said in a statement. “Rainwater run-off carries with it debris, bacteria, and chemicals which can lead to pollution of our waters and drinking water sources.”
Business advocates decried the proposal as a “tax on stormwater,” and several Republican lawmakers, such as Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, R-21st District, likened the proposal to a “rain tax.”
“Why should a homeowner pay a higher fee just because they have a driveway or a pool in the backyard?” Bramnick said Thursday in a statement.
“Many facilities are already required to obtain costly stormwater permits from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection,” said Tony Bawidamann, vice president of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association.
“Under these permits, companies are required to pay application fees and oversight fees that run in the thousands of dollars,” Bawidamann added. “We continue to urge our policymakers to recognize the cumulative impacts that are being heaped upon New Jersey businesses through new laws and proposals.”
But supporters of the measure said the bill is a right step towards fixing the stormwater infrastructure statewide, which would control flooding and reduce pollution.
“The biggest source of pollution we face is from stormwater runoff. This legislation is an important step forward to help clean up our waterways and protect us from flooding. The bill will allow towns to have a funding mechanism to establish stormwater utilities,” Jeff Tittel, director of the environmental advocacy group the New Jersey Sierra Club, said Thursday in a statement.
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