In a much-anticipated move, this week the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) unveiled its concepts for increasing water fees. The MPCA has been signaling this move for several years. It put out an original draft for comment more than two years ago and we have been actively engaged on this issue along with the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities ever since.
The MPCA proposes increasing fee revenue to cover program costs for each water quality program. This means that cities would see an increase in both wastewater and storm water fees. In addition, the cost to apply for variances will change from a single charge of $10,850 per application to a fee that depends on the flow of the facility in question. We are disappointed to see that the agency is planning to end the fee waiver that the previous MPCA administration had put in place for chloride variances.
The MPCA contends that the fees it collects through its water quality regulatory programs cover only 17% of their operational costs and they have not comprehensively increased fees across some programs in nearly 25 years.
We are evaluating the MPCA’s proposal and will likely submit comments on behalf of MESERB through the formal process. Our initial reaction is that we would prefer that the state pay for these programs through the general fund, as opposed to increasing the cost burden on cities, and that any increase in revenue should be accompanied by innovation in how water quality regulation is approached.
Comments are being accepted through March 13, 2020.