Major DEQ Fee Increases

Public water supply systems will be faced with significant fee increases if, as expected, a proposed rule is adopted by the DEQ Board on Friday, February 24, 2012.  ***UPDATE: The DEQ Board approved the rule on Feb. 24.  These increases are similar in magnitude to those unsuccessfully proposed last year.  Under a revised formula, the impact on different public water supply systems will vary but the range is in the order of 3 times, 7 times, 12 times and higher.  Despite assertions by DEQ staff, there was no agreement on fees by municipal officials or OML.  You can find your municipality’s specific increase by checking the DEQ story and chart posted here on our web site.

Under last year’s HB 1044 by Rep. Faught (R.Muskogee) and Sen. Sykes (R.Moore), any fee adopted by the DEQ Board must be approved by adoption of a joint resolution in both the House and the Senate in order to go into effect.  At the same time, the rule is submitted to the governor, who has 45 days to approve or disapprove the adopted rule.  We urge you to contact your legislators and the governor and ask them to disapprove this rule.

Following your successful opposition to high fee increases last year, the League offered to enter into discussion with DEQ to attempt to arrive at an agreement on fees.  Unfortunately, DEQ was not available for these discussions until August but thereafter municipal officials, OML staff, rural water district representatives and other stakeholders met with DEQ 6 times over a 3 month period.  This resulted in a consensus on a general methodology for applying a fee schedule to a particular water supply system after a specific fee schedule is developed. 

As a prerequisite to actually developing a fee schedule, municipal officials sought information about costs of the regulatory program to be supported by fees but were not provided tangible evidence to support DEQ’s fee proposal.  Therefore, there was no agreement on fees.  In the face of municipal objection, the Water Quality Management Advisory Council (WQMAC) voted to recommend that the DEQ Board should adopt the fees as unilaterally proposed by DEQ staff.

The municipal position was presented to the WQMAC by Dan Blankenship, Stillwater Utilities Authority Administrative Director.  As an illustration, he told the Council that Stillwater’s fees would increase from $5,000 to $28,000.  Many cities and towns will see similar increases.

We wish to thank those municipal officials who gave their time and expertise to this project.  They are:  Dan Blankenship, Bartlesville City Manager Ed Gordon, Guymon City Manager Ted Graham, Woodward City Manager Alan Riffel, Oklahoma City Utilities Director Marsha Slaughter, and Muskogee City Attorney (now retired) John Vincent.

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© 2012 Oklahoma Municipal League, Inc.