A leading Pennsylvania legislator has proposed charging for water taken from state waterways to help fund the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay’s largest tributary as well as the commonwealth’s other streams and rivers.
Legislation introduced Monday by Rep. Michael Sturla, a Democrat representing the city of Lancaster, would raise $245 million a year, based on current water withdrawal rates.
“According to the (state) constitution, the water in Pennsylvania is actually owned by the citizens of Pennsylvania — unlike our other natural resources, which are held by private property rights,” Sturla said. The bill would make commercial and industrial entities now withdrawing water for free pay “a nominal fee,” he said, with the revenues to be spent on water-related projects around the state.
Anyone using more than 10,000 gallons of water daily is already required to obtain a permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection. The Pennsylvania Water Resource Act would levy a charge of one-hundredth of a cent per gallon on withdrawals that are eventually returned to their source. Any water withdrawn and not returned would be charged a fee of one-tenth of a cent per gallon.
By way of comparison, it costs our local water co-op about a penny a gallon (maybe a little less) to pump and deliver a gallon of water to a customer. A 0.1 cent a gallon tax on our water use, for 800 homes, which use some 50 million gallons per year would come out to be something on the order of $50,000 per year. However, from the article, it's not clear whether groundwater from wells would be covered, the same as surface water.
The bill would exempt the 1.5 billion gallons of water withdrawn daily for agricultural and municipal water uses, but would raise revenue from an estimated 4.4 billion gallons taken by commercial and industrial users. Power plants, which pull water from rivers for cooling, are the state’s largest water consumers, Sturla said.
Of course, a bill by a city legislator would exempt municipal water. I surprised he thought of farmers. I'm sure some of his rural colleagues reminded him. So really, this is just a tax on business uses of water.
"It starts to recognize that in order to make sure we have clean water in the state of Pennsylvania, that we actually have to pay for it somehow," Sturla said at a Harrisburg press conference. "It doesn't just come for free."
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