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November 11, 2010

DCEN REPORT: Why the Federal Government Should Pay the District’s Stormwater Fee!

Thu Nov 11, 2010 at 11:21:46 AM EST

by Chris Weiss, Director, DC Environmental Network

“The agency’s acting director, Christophe A.G. Tulou, called it “a classic ‘polluter pays’ fee, which is premised on the assumption that the persons who generate pollution have to pay their share to fix the problem, even the federal government.””  Washington Post, October 18, 2010

DCEN LUNCHEON REPORT: Christophe Tulou, Director of the District Department of the Environment (DDOE) and John Krohn, Legislative Affairs Manager for the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) spent over 90 minutes with 50 environmental NGOs and other activists (in person and by phone) discussing why the federal government is unwilling to pay the Districts impervious surface fee and what we might be able to do about it. George Hawkins, General Manager of DC Water was unable to attend but provided the DC Environmental Network with a video explaining DC Water’s perspective on this very important issue.

ACTION: One important action item that came out of this discussion was a willingness by many environmental NGOs and others to work more closely with DDOE, DC Water and NACWA, to use our proximity to Congress more effectively and coordinate joint efforts to educate decision makers about the environmental needs of our nations capital city and secure more funding for important environmental programs and initiatives.



Recently the federal government decided not to pay their share of a charge levied by the District of Columbia against D.C. property owners to help manage and treat polluted stormwater caused by impervious surfaces. Impervious surfaces are those areas which prevent or impede the infiltration of stormwater into the soil as it entered in natural conditions prior to development. Much of this stormwater is polluted and is directed by aging infrastructure into our rivers and creeks.  Polluted stormwater is one of the biggest obstacles to healthy rivers in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States. The federal government is responsible for over 20% of the impervious surface area in the District and by refusing to pay lays the burden (and cost) of dealing with the millions of gallons of polluted stormwater that makes its way into our rivers on the backs of District residents.

The federal government argues that this charge is a tax and claim’s immunity from local taxes even as it pushes for the District to meet pollution control mandates required by the Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Water Act. Some environmentalists feel that the federal government has made this decision here in the District because it may have ramifications for similar charges and fees being considered by other jurisdictions with a sizeable federal presence throughout the United States.

There are numerous strategies the District might take to make sure the federal government pays for its fair share of the pollution created by its presence here in our nation’s capital city. Our panelists discussed some of these options and engaged in an open discussion with local environmentalists.

George Hawkins gives DC Water’s perspective on the impervious surface fee:

Christophe Tulou gives the District’s Department of the Environment’s views on why this issue is important to DC and other jurisdictions around the country who are looking for ways to get polluters to mitigate for their polluting ways:

John Krohn explains the National Association of Clean Water Agencies efforts to come up with a legislative fix to the federal governments reluctance to pay the District’s fee:

Anyone interested in working with DCEN and others to fix this problem should contact

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