Tax Dollars, Jobs at Stake at March 25th Hearing
On Monday, March 25, the State Water Resources Board has the opportunity to save cities in Los Angeles County, and the County itself, billions of dollars, or force them to choose between implementing questionable regulations which may be all or partially overturned later in the year, and vital public services.
The issue at hand is new stormwater rules recently adopted by the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board -- rules which have been challenged by the County and 48 Southland Cities as cost-prohibitive and environmentally ineffective. The State Water Resources Board will be considering the appeal later this year, probably in late summer or early fall.
"At stake here is nothing less than the economic health and physical security of our cities," said Bellflower Mayor John Pratt. "These rules will cost a bundle, and the only way we can pay for it is to raise taxes or cut back on essential services such as police and fire protection."
"We're hoping that the State Water Board will significantly amend these rules when it takes up our appeal," Pratt continued. "Until then, it doesn't make any sense to ask cities to spend millions on first-year programs that might not even be required under the Board's decision."
Downey Councilmember Keith McCarthy said, "We all want cleaner water, but the Los Angeles Board hasn't been able to give us a shred of evidence that these rules will get us remotely close to that goal. And with the enormous price tag, we had no choice but to appeal to the State for relief."
The price tag referred to is staggering, according to recent studies. Although the L.A. Board failed to conduct the state-required economic analysis prior to adopting the rules, a report prepared for the California Department of Transportation Environmental Program concluded "the full stormwater treatment system would require about $53.6 billion in capital improvement costs ... increasing the annual property tax bill by about 70 percent."
Aside from the direct impact on municipal budgets and services, the new regulations will be responsible for the loss of hundreds, if not thousands, of Southland jobs due to related cutbacks in construction projects. Additionally, major employers who would have provided jobs in other sectors are having second thoughts about locating in the area, where the high cost of compliance with the stormwater rules make investment extremely unattractive.
"We've been working hard at cleaning up our environment, and have been doing a good job so far, " said Mayor Larry Forester of Signal Hill. "All we're asking is that the L.A. Board figure out the costs and benefits ahead of time before making us throw our taxpayers' dollars -- pardon the expression -- down the sewer. The State Water Board can help us tremendously by putting a hold on these rules until the issues in the appeal are settled."
The State Water Resources Board hearing will be held on Monday, March 25 at the Metropolitan Water District Headquarters.