The League undertook an extensive deliberative process to consider weighing in on SB 231, including multiple discussions over several months. Between March and June, two of the League’s policy committees considered this bill: the Environmental Quality and Transportation, Communications & Public Works policy committees. This process culminated in recommendations to support by substantial majorities of both policy committees and a vote by the League’s board of directors to support the bill last week.
As storm water washes down city roads, parking lots, lawns and buildings it picks up major pollutants including sediment, oil and grease, metals and other toxins. State and federal clean water laws combine to require cities, counties, and other local governments that own storm water systems to reduce the level of pollutants discharged. This is established under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) and California’s Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s) permitting program.
Compliance with the state and federal requirements is costly, with local governments facing annual funding shortfalls. In 2015, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) estimated the funding gap at approximately $500-800 million annually. Failure to comply with state and federal requirements can result in fines of up to $10,000 per contaminant per day. However, options available for cities to pay for such clean-up efforts are limited. SB 231 provides a needed tool to assist cities in complying with federal and state storm water requirements.
There is a recognized potential for litigation on the meaning of “sewer” and the League recognizes that an important function of the court is to interpret law. Should this issue come before a court, this bill offers the Legislature the opportunity to further clarify the meaning of the term “sewer”.
SB 231 will next be heard on the Assembly floor.