Apparently, Delaware Governor Jack Markell’s proposal to impose a water TAX , or “fee” on Delaware property owners has resurfaced. It was first revealed in his 2014 State of the State Address. It was subsequently incorporated in the Governor’s Clean Water for Delaware’s Future Initiative. On Thursday, November 19, 2015, a draft of the Clean Water for Delaware Act was distributed and discussed at a Clean Water and Flood Abatement Task Force meeting.
The official purpose of the proposed legislation is to provide the State of Delaware with a new revenue stream to raise Delaware’s natural and drinking water quality levels. According to the latest USEPA’s 303-(d) list, 90% of Delaware’s natural waterways are impaired as they fail to meet their designated uses for swimming, fishing and drinking.
Under the proposed “Clean Water for Delaware Fee”, Delaware residential property owners would pay an annual “fee” or tax (based upon assessed valuation) family residential property owners would pay between $45 and $85 annually. Farmers could pay up to $15,000 per year for agricultural parcels. Commercial and industrial properties — including apartment complexes — would be liable for up to $25,000 annually under the proposed legislation. Even tax exempt nonprofit organizations sucha as churches, schools and hospitals would have to pay a fee, based on 50 percent of assessed value, capped at $12,500. Under the proposal, the residential property assessment fee would be automatically raised once every 10 years, based on the regional Consumer Price Index over the preceding decade.
Advocates of the proposed legislation say that it will raise approximately $30 million annually for Delaware and enable further leveraging of $120 million in total financing, including bond sales. Furthermore, the measure would establish a permanent state water pollution control fund.
Critics of the proposal have stated that the proposed water tax would further undermine agriculture in Delaware by creating the “final straw” incentive for farmers to sell their land to developers, ultimately creating more pollution via increased population densities, raises rents and discourage business development in Delaware.
It is fair to note that effective environmental quality strategy is integrally linked to an effective technological assessment policy. Current state wastewater treatment policy favors large high-cost central sewer systems or exorbitant septic systems over low-cost innovative/alternative small-flow wastewater treatment systems such as the BIOCEL process that would have output water at a recyclable quaternary treatment level (suitable for car washing and lawn or garden watering). Given this management scenario, throwing more money at the problem in the context of a larger environmental bureaucracy may not solve the problem.
Another low-cost profitable environmental strategy, currently overlooked in current state policy is that of duckweed (lemna minor) as a natural means of water pollution control of nutrient and industrial toxic waste that produces butanol as a profitable end product. Accordingly, some environmental economists have stated that the time has come to seriously re-evaluate the implied governmental philosophical assumption of pollution as a public burden in favor of pollution as a potentially economically recoverable wasted resource, given favorable technology and economics.
Other critics have charged that a water tax, on top of already high water rates is unjust and would set the precedent for future taxes on air, food and sunshine, essential to human survival.
Still, Delaware’s natural waterway and drinking water supply pollution problems are complex and widely ranged from industrial pollution to non-point source residential and agricultural nutrient loading as well as legal and illegal toxic waste dumping.
It is interesting to note that under the current special interest controlled and directed Delaware political environment such specific measures as a tax on environmental point source pollution or toxic chemicals is not even considered in favor of a of another general perpetual tax on an essential human need. It is time for a more enlightened, creative innovative and effective approach.
The Clean Water for Delaware Act could be introduced as early as December 10th in a scheduled House pre-file. Citizens may contact their state legislators to voice their opinions in this matter.