The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Latest News

May 16, 2013

Raleigh officials studying Virginia stormwater ruling

It’s unclear whether judge’s ruling could affect local fees

BECKLEY — Raleigh County authorities are examining a federal judge’s ruling in Virginia that held the Environmental Protection Agency exceeded its powers by trying to regulate stormwater runoff in a creek.

Before anyone gets hopes up that the special fees imposed on a specific region in this county are going to disappear, Jeremiah Johnson, operations manager for the Beckley Sanitary Board, said the case isn’t about stormwater charges.

“The ruling really has nothing to do with stormwater fees,” Johnson said Wednesday.

Beckley City Attorney Bill File agreed with that assessment.

“It was a fairly limited issue that was dealt with in that case that has absolutely no bearing on the city of Beckley’s stormwater law,” File said.

Beckley falls within the purview of the Clean Water Act which Congress enacted in 1987, directing the EPA to regulate urban stormwater, the attorney explained.

“This case in Virginia did not change any provisions of the section that we’re under,” File said.

“It didn’t deal with stormwater fees or anything of that nature. I don’t think that case would have any bearing really on the program in the city of Beckley.”

At the outset of the ruling, Bill Roop, attorney for the Raleigh County Commission, said residents served in the Piney Creek Watershed Association might be looking at smaller bills down the road, although he quickly acknowledged that he hasn’t had time to examine the decision.

“We believe that ruling — and I haven’t got a copy of the case — showed that the charges are inappropriate at this point in time,” Roop said.

In his decision, U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady ruled in favor of the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in their challenge of the EPA’s restrictions on the flow of stormwater into Accotink Creek.

“Stormwater runoff is not a pollutant, so EPA is not authorized to regulate it,” the judge said.

Yet, Johnson said the legal dispute in Virginia concerned the total maximum daily load (TMDL) and how those are written by the EPA. Under the Clean Water Act, he explained, a TMDL must be developed for the water quality of a segment of a stream affected by runoff.

In the Virginia case, the Department of Transportation filed a federal lawsuit, questioning the validity of the water quality improvement plan. The reason for the challenge is that the EPA used flow as a proxy or surrogate for the pollutant.

“It is easier to regulate flow than it is to regulate the pollutant,” Johnson said.

“Basically, the EPA’s hand was called, similar to their hand being called here in West Virginia on a number of things.”

Johnson said the stormwater runoff fees will remain in force.

“That case doesn’t set a federal precedent that would overturn any stormwater fees that many communities across the country, including Beckley, have in place to operate stormwater facilities,” he said.

On the other hand, Johnson pointed out, there are some legal cases pending on the legality of imposing stormwater fees.

Virginia’s own attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, said the judge’s decision would translate into an annual savings in excess of $300 million to taxpayers there.

Roop said the Piney Creek association serves residents in a large swath of the county, engulfing Crossroads Mall, Cranberry, Prosperity and Maxwell Hill.

Each quarter, residents and businesses there get a bill for stormwater which is separate from monthly sewage charges, Roop explained.

“Some people are struggling to pay that,” he said.

“People on fixed incomes. They live from month to month. That’s the big thing.”

The amount of stormwater charges in this region depend on how large an area is involved per customer. For instance, a business would pay far more assuming it has a parking lot and other amenities on its property.

Roop earlier said the Beckley Sanitary Board would have to scrutinize the federal court ruling and devise guidelines in accordance with what the judge said to see if such charges are improper.

“I should be able to talk more about it at the commission meeting (next Tuesday),” Roop said.

“I’m sure they’ll ask me for the record.”

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com

1
Text Only
Latest News
  • legion VIDEO: American Legion posts plan to merge

    To help deal with its decreasing membership numbers, Beckley American Legion Post 70 is planning a merger with Post 32.

    “We see the benefit for both of us and for Raleigh County,” Post 32 Adjutant Frank Cook said. “Right now Post 70 is having membership problems and with membership problems comes financial problems.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Tri-state coal interests rally before hearings

     More than 2,000 union workers and others organized by the coal industry in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia joined top state elected officials Wednesday to rally against proposed stricter federal pollution regulations for coal-burning power plants.

    July 31, 2014

  • legal Tort reform group brings message to Beckley

    How can West Virginia create more jobs and have a better business climate, at no cost to taxpayers?

    Greg Thomas, executive director of the West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (WV CALA), says legal reform is one of the answers to that question.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • ‘Biscuit guy’ makes his mark with anthem at TWV

    The old saying “being at the right place at the right time” couldn’t be more true for Calvin Alexander.

    Thanks to a salad dressing bottle (and some impressive vocal skills), Alexander was invited to sing the national anthem not once, but twice, at Theatre West Virginia before the opening of “Hatfields and McCoy

    July 31, 2014

  • Judge in W.Va. asked to delay gay marriage ruling

    Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has asked a judge to postpone ruling on a federal lawsuit challenging West Virginia's same-sex marriage ban until the U.S. Supreme Court reviews a ruling in a similar case in Virginia.

    July 30, 2014

  • Tri-state coal interests rally before EPA hearings

    More than 2,000 union workers and others organized by the coal industry in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia joined top state elected officials Wednesday to rally against proposed stricter federal pollution regulations for coal-burning power plants.

    July 30, 2014

  • Work continues on stand-alone Warrior Trail

    The executive director of the Hatfield and McCoy Trail Authority said Tuesday that officials are still working toward the creation of the stand-alone Warrior Trail in McDowell County.

    July 30, 2014

  • East River Mountain Tunnel repairs will continue for several weeks

    Motorists traveling Interstate 77 could see slight delays again tonight as repair work continues inside of the fire-damaged East River Mountain Tunnel.

    July 30, 2014

  • State leaders to attend coal rally in Pittsburgh

    West Virginia officials are set to join hundreds of coal miners and coal supporters at an electricity and energy jobs rally.

    July 30, 2014

  • Americans continue to be plagued by debt

    Credit card debt may have reached its lowest level in a decade, but according to a recent study on personal debt vs. income, just as more people are paying off their credit card debt monthly, nearly the same number of people are being reported for unpaid bills. 

    July 30, 2014