Legislators move to address fees and regulations of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission

Legislators move to address fees and regulations of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission

Author: Kyle Maguire/Monday, June 12, 2017/Categories: News and Views

The House State Government committee and other legislators who are involved with related issues held a hearing at Susquehanna University to investigate the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) and its fees and regulations in Pennsylvania.

All but one testifier identified problems with the fees and regulations that the SRBC creates on public and private large water sources in the commonwealth.

The SRBC was created in January 1970 through the legislatures of New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and the Federal Government to maintain and conserve the Susquehanna River basin through a compact.

Department of Environment Protection Sec. Patrick McDonnell is the current representing chair from Pennsylvania on the SRBC.

SRBC is currently encouraging sustainable regulation, but according to testifiers the lengthy tests and fees associated with wells and water withdrawal are impacting local businesses. SRBC encourages water consumers to pull from the larger Susquehanna River instead of the smaller streams and creeks in the area, a practice defended by the commission Monday.

 “The purpose of our withdrawal rule is simple. It is to ensure that communities have sustainable, reliable sources of water to provide to their homes, businesses, and industries,” said SRBC executive director Andrew Dehoff. “To us, sustainable and reliable means that their sources can continue to provide needed water even during times of drought and can do so without conflict.”

Public and Private sources are able to withdrawal water from local resources to be able to supply the community, but SRBC helps in creating regulations for withdrawals. Dehoff said this not only creates healthier options for rivers and streams, but acts as an incentive to local businesses with a discount from the SRBC.

“It’s the funds that we are getting from Pennsylvania now, on an annual basis, allow us to allow that discount,” said Dehoff on sustainability and incentives. “We’ve been focused on where the sourcing of the water to make sure it is sustainable. Our focus has been directing the industry to more sustainable sources like the Susquehanna River itself as opposed to small trout streams.”

As the testifiers mentioned, fees and regulations are impacting the way businesses operate in regard to water usage. Several small businesses could face heavily reapplication fees and testing fees to be able to keep their respective wells operational.

The high costs of renewing and regulating a well water system could range anywhere from $5,100 for a waiver to upwards of $100,000 for pump tests and annual renewal costs to keep intact for the local business.

All facilities are subject to the same fee structure of the SRBC fees and regulations regardless of the size of the docket, but some differ between public and private business.

Some wells have been previously registered through the Department of Environmental Protection and are now facing new charges from the SRBC to continue use of wells.

“The commission has instituted an overwhelming amount of regulations, fees, fines, and permitting otherwise called dockets,” said first testifier Rep. Dan Moul (R-Adams). “I sincerely hope we can work together with the SRBC to legislatively bring them back to what the original compact mission statement was meant to be.”

Testifiers agreed that regulations and fees were necessary to creating a healthy water system in the commonwealth, but many disagreed with the repetitive fee structure that the SRBC is using.

“We are paying three times for the same gallon of water,” said Pete Ramsey, Agronomist for Range End Golf Club. “We are not looking for a free pass when it comes to water. We all believe in monitoring. We all believe in regulation. We are just asking for something reasonable and something that is not redundant. We all report our water usage to DEP.”

Legislators have taken action through reducing the funds that go to the SRBC in the General Fund budget.

“Thank you for exposing the ludacris nature of what is going on,” said Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) told testifiers. “It does concern me that we have an entity that doesn’t come under our independent regulatory review act.”

Another hearing on the matter will occur on Monday June 26th.