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Danielle Smith, Producer
Thursday, July 20, 2023
In Pennsylvania, environmental advocacy groups are awaiting the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision which could affect the future of Commonwealth-owned properties’ responsibility to pay stormwater fees as property owners do.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is urging the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to overturn a decision by the Commonwealth Court, which stated the Borough of West Chester’s stormwater fee is a tax as applied to West Chester University of Pennsylvania property within the borough.
Trisha Salvia, staff attorney for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said the Commonwealth Court ruled the fee should be treated as a tax when applied to the university and government entities, which under other circumstances do not have to pay a tax. She added stormwater is one of the fastest growing issues when it comes to water pollution, because of new development, population growth and more impervious surfaces being created.
“The Chesapeake Bay Foundation filed an amicus brief in support of the borough of West Chester’s argument that the Commonwealth Court misapplied the law and that it should be reversed so that they can apply stormwater fees and it’s not a tax,” Salvia explained.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation contended labeling the fee as a tax for the university property could potentially lead to broader implications for Commonwealth properties across the state, threatening the collection of stormwater utility fees and shifting the burden onto private citizen ratepayers.
Salvia pointed out the foundation and other organizations are interested in this case because it can have statewide implications. She added how the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decides is important, because across the state and country, a lot of townships, municipalities and authorities are instituting stormwater fees.
“Municipalities and local governments need to find a way to meet their permit requirements, help clean up the water, keep up with development, growth, but also upgrade their infrastructure,” Salvia outlined. “And that’s through stormwater fees.”
Salvia noted the case is currently under review by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and the ruling could potentially affect the future of stormwater management and water quality in the Commonwealth.
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