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Melton says SB355 would leave cities in violation of Clean Water Act

By Gary Lloyd

MONTGOMERY — Trussville Mayor Gene Melton on Thursday spoke at a public hearing before the State Senate Committee on behalf of 22 cities concerning Senate Bill 355.

The bill would require local governments to be noncompliant with the Clean Water Act, Melton said.

A copy of the bill states, “This bill would allow the governing bodies of all counties and municipalities in the state which are now or may hereafter be specifically designated in 40 C.F.R. Part 122, including but not limited to, any revisions promulgated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in conjunction with any expansion of the agency’s municipal separate storm sewer system program or by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) pursuant to the authority delegated to it under the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. Section 1251 et seq., the authority to carry out the requirements of the municipal separate storm sewer system program.”

Trussville Mayor Gene Melton
file photo by Ron Burkett

An electronic filing of the proposed bill would provide the governing bodies with the option to establish “intercooperative public corporations for efficient compliance with applicable federal and state laws, rules, and regulations relating to storm water discharges into municipal separate storm sewers.”

The bill would “expressly limit the jurisdictional scope of certain local storm water management programs,” it states. This bill would permit regulation of only those sites discharging storm water into a program’s municipal separate storm sewer system. The bill would acknowledge EPA’s “maximum extent practicable” standard applicable to its municipal separate storm sewer system program.

This bill would require adherence by each county of the tenets of Section 111.05 of Article IV of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, and the limited authorities of self-governance conferred upon counties pursuant to Chapters 3 and 3A of Title 11 of the Code of Alabama 1975.

The bill would expressly limit the substantive scope of certain local storm water management programs. The bill would clearly delineate the type of fees, charges or assessments a governing body and/or certain public corporations levy and from whom such fees, charges or assessments shall be levied.

Kids race ducks in the Cahaba River at last year’s Cahaba River Fry-Down in Trussville.
photo courtesy of www.frydown.com

The bill would exempt discharges originating from any lands and/or facilities owned and/or operated by one or more entities under the jurisdiction and supervision of the Alabama PublicService Commission from regulation under any local storm water management program and declare that such discharges shall be regulated exclusively by ADEM.

Cahaba Riverkeeper Executive Director Myra Crawford said Sen. Cam Ward held a hearing on SB355 in Montgomery on Thursday. Crawford said Cahaba Riverkeeper found out about the bill “at the very last minute and if the Alabama Stormwater Partnership had not rallied the troops, it may have passed out of committee.”

Crawford said Melton was one of two speakers in opposition permitted to speak. Crawford said that Joel Gilbert from law firm Balch & Bingham spoke for the bill, saying that several cities had asked for help with a law that would give them a funding mechanism. The cities were not named.

Crawford said that Gilbert said the bill would expand the authorization that the Birmingham metro governments have to all small municipal separate storm sewer systems statewide, and that there are no added restrictions.

“We disagree,” Crawford said.

Crawford said the bill was carried over for additional “work.”

“We know that Auburn filed comments and that Birmingham reportedly had comments prepared but not delivered (Thursday),” Crawford said. “We will be working with other cities and counties to provide input.”

Contact Gary Lloyd at news@trussvilletribune.com and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.

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