Another New Source Of Government Revenue at the Expense of Business

By Loretta Macktal, Executive Assistant to the Vice President, Government Relations

Capitol Update, May 9, 2003 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

AB 897 (Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara) greatly expands enforcement authority under the Water Code and redirects penalty revenue to a discretionary fund that may be tapped for purposes other than mitigating the detrimental effects of unauthorized discharges to waters of the state.

This legislation dramatically increases existing administrative penalty authority for failure to file a water quality investigation or monitoring report from $1,000 to $25,000 per violation. The bill would, for the first time, authorize regional boards to impose criminal penalties for reporting violations. In many cases, the reports required under Water Code Section 13267 subject to this new authority are unrelated to individual discharges and do not serve to assist the boards or the regulated entity to achieve compliance with discharge requirements. AB 897 would also result in the imposition of strict liability by relieving the boards of the obligation to prove that a discharger acted negligently or had knowledge of the alleged violation.

The bill would create a new Waste Discharge Permit Fund with revenue from penalties imposed on dischargers pursuant to the expanded authority in the bill. This provision overturns a long-standing statutory precedent that penalty revenue be deposited in the Water Code Cleanup and Abatement Account for the sole purpose of mitigating the water quality impacts associated with unauthorized discharges. Rather, AB 897 would allow the state to use this revenue for virtually any purpose, at a time when greater accountability for expenditures should be a central theme of agency budget proposals. CMTA is concerned that this provision would tempt the boards to backfill loss of General Fund money through excessive imposition of AB 897's expanded penalty authority.

AB 897 sends yet another negative signal to California businesses and potential investors.
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