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Clean Water Permit Fees

The Cost of Not Paying Fees: Clean Water Program in Jeopardy

On December 31st, 2010, the Missouri Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR) lost the ability to charge fees that covered about 30% of the costs involved in the research, writing, and enforcement of water pollution permits under the NPDES (National Pollution Discharge Elimination System). NPDES permits authorize discharges into the waters of the state. These permits govern the pollutants that can be discharged and the quantities of pollutants. Permits protect water quality by limiting discharges that would excessively pollute our waters, by requiring monitoring of discharges, and by setting clear standards.

For 10 years the Clean Water Permit Fees have stagnated despite increasing expectations from both the regulated and environmental communities to issue permits expeditiously, monitor them effectively, and move toward full compliance with Federal water quality standards designed to protect drinking water sources, industrial water users, agricultural production and recreational uses.

Without permit fees it is impossible for DNR to run an NPDES permitting, monitoring and enforcement program. Without a reinstatement of the permit fees there is a high likelihood that the EPA will remove Missouri’s authority to regulate water pollution. Neither the regulated community, nor environmental advocates are comfortable with this idea. However without an increase in permit fees, the threat of losing our delegated authority to regulate NPDES permits in Missouri.

In the meantime, we are seeing the decline in our state’s ability to protect water quality for all of those who rely on clean sources for our drinking water, and who enjoy swimming in and floating down our rivers, fishing and boating on our lakes, and waterfowl hunting and bird watching at our wetlands.

Clean Water is a Sound Investment

In 2008 the Joint Committee on Restructuring Fees of the Clean Water and Stormwater Program investigated the true costs of an effective NPDES permitting program in Missouri, completing an in-depth analysis of water quality monitoring, expeditious permit issuance, and the oversight necessary to ensure compliance with water quality standards that protect human health, commercial and agricultural uses, and aquatic ecosystems. This bi-partisan committee collected input from stakeholders, including the regulated community, environmental and conservation advocates. It concluded that an increase in permit fees and general revenue appropriation, as well as an annual adjustment to account for inflation, was necessary to provide efficient service for the regulated community as well as adequate protections for Missouri’s water resources and those who wish to use them.

HB 89 as it is now merely reinstates the water permit fees at 2010 levels. We support an amendment based on the recommendations of the 2008 Joint Committee Report on Permit Fees. Only this will ensure that Missouri retains control of the NPDES program. In addition, this bill provides protection for revenue from the State Parks Earning Fund by including a provision that keeps the interest earned by the fund invested in our outstanding state park system.