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EQB Approves Nearly $22 Million In Proposed, Final Permit Fee Increases To Offset Cuts In General Fund Appropriations

On December 18, the Environmental Quality Board approved nearly $22 million in proposed increases to Air Quality permit and NPDES and Water Quality permit fee increases and a change to the final noncoal permit fee increase language.

The fee increases are necessary to pay for the administrative costs of these programs as the result of the failure of the General Assembly to provide adequate General Fund appropriations to DEP.

The proposed increases will be published for public comment and the change to the final noncoal mining fee increase will be returned to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission for its review.

Proposed Air Quality Fees

DEP is proposing a total increase of $12.6 million in Air Quality fees for the federal Title V-- $5.9 million-- and state non-Title V-- $6.7 million-- permit fees.

The proposal includes a new annual maintenance fee for both kinds of permits, a new fee for asbestos notifications and an increase in the existing operating permit fees.

There is no proposed increase of the Title V per ton emission fee, beyond the annual increase based on the Consumer Price Index.

These are the first general Air Quality fee increases since 2013.  DEP budget cuts have resulted in eliminating more than 30 percent of its staff or about 100 positions.

DEP is projecting a $4.359 million deficit in the non-Title V permit account in FY 2019-20 and a zero returning balance in the federal Title V account by FY 2022-23 with the current fee structure.

Without the proposed fee increases, DEP would have to cut its Air Quality staff by 30 percent or 80 positions.

Failure to adopt proposed fee increases for the federal Title V program will result in action by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to penalize Pennsylvania for failure to maintain adequate funding for this federal program.

The Board approved the proposal which will be published for public review and comment and review by the House and Senate and the Independent Regulatory Review Commission.

Proposed Water Quality/NPDES Fees

DEP is proposing a total increase of $8 million in Chapter 92a NPDES-- $7 million-- and Chapter 91 Water Quality-- $1 million-- permit fees.

The NPDES permit fee increases would cover approximately 4,000 facilities and the Water Quality permit fees from 500 to 600 applicants annually.

Chapter 91 wastewater facility fees have not been increased since 1971 and NPDES permit fees were last increased in 2010.

Since 2007, DEP’s Clean Water Program staff has been reduced by 25 percent due to cuts in state General Fund appropriations.

DEP believes 25 additional staff are necessary in the Bureau of Clean Water to adequately carry out its responsibilities.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has told DEP several times since 2010 the agency does not have adequate resources to carry out its federally mandated responsibilities for the NPDES Program, including the MS4 Stormwater Pollution Prevention Program.

The Board approved the proposal which will be published for public review and comment and review by the House and Senate and the Independent Regulatory Review Commission.

DEP said it would increase the public comment period to 45 days with the addition of a public hearing on this proposal.

Final Noncoal Mining Fees

In response to a concern expressed by the Independent Regulatory Review Commission, DEP withdrew the final regulation adopting an increase in noncoal mining permit fees to return it to the Environmental Quality Board to add clarifying language.

The IRRC asked DEP to add language to the regulation making it clear the fees adopted in the package do not exceed the cost of administering the program as required by the Noncoal Surface Mining Conservation and Reclamation Act.

The language would not change the timing or amount of the phased-in fee increases adopted in the package.

Returning the regulation to the EQB to add the clarifying language will delay finalization of the regulation, however, the fee increase was not set to go into effect until January 1, 2020 anyway.

With the change approved by the EQB, the regulation will be returned to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission for their review.

Other Agenda Items

Also approved by the EQB were--

-- Proposed changes required by EPA to requirements for the control of fine particulate matter under the New Source Review Program for nonattainment areas.

-- Proposed changes to Class A Stream designations for multiple streams in Berks, Cambria, Cameron, Carbon, Centre, Clearfield, Clinton, Columbia, Crawford, Elk, Erie, Indiana, Lackawanna, Lycoming, McKean, Potter, Schuylkill, Somerset, Susquehanna, Tioga and Wayne counties.

These proposed regulations will be published for public review and comment and review by the House and Senate and the Independent Regulatory Review Commission.

The next scheduled meeting of the EQB meeting is February 19 and will be held in Room 105 of the Rachel Carson Building starting at 9:00. 

Click Here for available handouts on each of the actions at the December 18 meeting.  For more information on 2019 meetings, visit the Environmental Quality Board webpage.  Questions should be directed to Laura Edinger by calling 717-772-3277 or send email to: ledinger@pa.gov.

NewsClips:

Legere: Air Pollution Fee Hike Planned For 1,000s Of Facilities As DEP Account Runs Dry

Op-Ed: Giving Carbon Pricing Program Revenue To People Can Calms Angst

Op-Ed: Gov. Wolf’s Next Budget Must Properly Fund Our Environmental Needs - Rep. Vitali

Op-Ed: PA Can’t Keep Underfunding Environmental Protection - Rep. Vitali

DEP Announces $1.6M Grant For Farm Conservation Projects In Centre County

DEP Announces $1 Million+ Grants For York County Stream Restoration Projects

Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority Sets Appeal Process For Stormwater Fees

Luzerne Flood Authority Airs Grievances Over Stormwater Fee Project

Hampton To Tackle Flooding With Creative New Tool To Finance Green Infrastructure

AP: Court Again Rules Against General Assembly’s $200M Raid On Insurance Fund

Editorial: Praise For New Federal Farm Bill

U.S. Senate Fails To Renew Federal Land & Water Conservation Fund

Related Story:

House Democrats Say More DEP Funding A Priority For 2019-20 Budget

[Posted: Dec. 18, 2018]


12/24/2018

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