“Rain Tax”

October 2, 2014


BW photograph of a parking lot grassy area.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

In 2013, Maryland passed into law HB 987, which is the Stormwater Management-Watershed Protection Program.  It took not long for this to be referred to as the “Rain Tax”-especially by those not in favour of its passage and implementation.  It is significant that the Maryland Department of the Environment uses the word “fee” in its description of the program.

As discussed many times in this blog, words often have multiple meanings, not to mention differing connotations.   The use of the word “tax” conjures up many thoughts and reactions, with not many of them being positive.  Perhaps that was one of the reasons for that particular word choice.  On the other hand, referring to a “fee” may create a different response.

Dead fish among debris in water

Copyright 2010 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Focusing on which word to use actually appears to obscure the main point of the legislation:  with the increasing development and population density in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed area, instead of having the opportunity to soak into the ground, rain water runs off the built environment and carries with it trash and toxins into the storm drains and then into the Bay.  (Two asides:  One, I have written about this aspect of the issue before and two, this problem is magnified given the number of abandoned buildings in the city of Baltimore-also a subject of earlier posts.)  The increased pollution levels have an adverse effect on water quality, which in turn impacts the biological organisms living in and near the water.  This type of sequence is referred to as  the “domino effect”, which is defined as “a situation in which one event causes a series of similar events to happen one after the other.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

The photograph that leads this post is of a newly re-designed and re-paved parking lot at a local strip mall where grassy areas have replaced some of the asphalt.  I have been unable to determine if this is a result of the aforementioned Stormwater Management-Watershed Protection Program, but these are the kind of efforts being made to reduce the amount of run-off in other communities.  Putting aside the issue of tax vs. fee and/or governmental intervention, there are many ways in which individuals can capture and make use of storm water and they are worth investigating.  The second photograph is from Fells Point, which is near Baltimore’s Inner Harbour.

One last reference to politics, though:  this is an election year and Maryland will have a new governor and perhaps some different representatives come November, so it will be interesting to see what happens with this program and similar initiatives.  One outcome is certainly clear:  the longer we individually and collectively continue to argue semantics rather than address the substance of the issues, environmental degradation in this case, the faster we all continue in the race to marginalization.

Take care.



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