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Md. Threatens Carroll Co. With $10,000 A Day Fine Over ‘Rain Tax’ Dispute

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FREDERICK, Md. (AP) — The Maryland attorney general’s office is threatening to fine Carroll County up to $10,000 a day for failing to implement a fee on property owners to fight stormwater pollution draining into the Chesapeake Bay.

The state also has taken Frederick and Harford counties to task for implementing Watershed Protection and Restoration fee programs that the Maryland Department of the Environment says don’t meet the requirements of a 2012 state law.

The law requires Baltimore and the state’s nine largest counties — including Carroll, Frederick and Harford — to set fees to fund projects aimed at reducing pollution caused by rainwater runoff from impervious surfaces. Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Charles, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties have imposed fees ranging from $15 to $170 per home.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says urban and suburban storm water runoff is a growing source of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, which covers six states and the District of Columbia, even as pollution of other sources has been cut.

The Carroll County Commissioners voted in June to levy no fee — they called it a “rain tax” or “driveway tax” — and to instead set aside money from the county’s general fund for stormwater projects.

Assistant Attorney General Paul DeSantis wrote in an Oct. 25 letter to Carroll County Commissioners President J. Douglas Howard that failing to establish a fee is a violation that could result in a fine, civil action or corrective action order. He gave the county 10 days to pursue a settlement.

Carroll County Attorney Timothy Burke didn’t immediately respond to queries Monday from The Associated Press.

When the all-Republican county board voted in June not to impose a fee, Commissioner Haven Shoemaker called the requirement “idiotic,” “stupid” and “silly,” the Carroll County Times reported.

MDE Secretary Robert Summers wrote to Frederick County Commissioners President Blaine Young on Oct. 25, faulting the county’s decision to impose a token fee of 1 cent per eligible property for stormwater projects. Summers said the fee, which would raise $487 a year, isn’t enough to support necessary improvements. The projects under consideration would cost an average of $22 million annually over five years, The Frederick News-Post reported Monday.

Frederick County Commissioner Paul Smith told the newspaper the state was setting the county up for failure by establishing unachievable goals.

In an Oct. 22 letter to Harford County Council President William Boniface, Summers said Harford County’s decision to defer collection of all but 10 percent of a $125-per-home fee could result in fines and penalties of $32,500 a day.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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