Renton wins federal case over collecting storm-water fees from BPA

The City of Renton has won a major case against the federal government that will allow it to collect up to $30,000 in storm-water fees owed by the Bonneville Power Administration.

The ruling was handed down last week by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle.

Doug Johnson, a BPA spokesman, said Tuesday the agency is "studying the ruling and we're considering our options."

The federal government stopped paying its storm-water fees for the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) electricity site in Renton, and later sued Renton, claiming that it did not have to pay its storm-water fees, according to a City of Renton news release. The federal government also wanted to recover the fees that it had previously paid Renton.

The U.S. District Court agreed with Renton and ruled that under Congress’s intent and the Clean Water Act of 1977, the federal government has to comply with all state and local requirements regarding reducing water pollution, including the payment of reasonable service charges, according to the city.

“Payment of these reasonable service charges will give Renton, and every other state or local government, the authority to make the federal government accountable for their fair share of storm water abatement costs,” said Mayor Denis Law.

There are several federal buildings in Renton, including BPA, two post offices, the Federal Reserve, and potentially an FAA site, that generate storm water and would be responsible for costs to help control, abate or treat the storm water.

“This case has national implications,” said City Attorney Larry Warren. “Every jurisdiction in the United States that has a federal facility will be impacted by this decision today.”

Storm-water charges are used for reducing or eliminating flooding and for cleaning or reducing the amount of contaminates and pollution that are discharged into waterways, according to the city. The fee is based on how much impervious or hard surfaces cover the property and the amount of runoff.

The court also rejected the defense argument that the service charges for storm water are taxes, instead ruling the federal government is responsible to pay reasonable service charges for storm-water control and abatement under the Clean Water Act.


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