Today is Blog Action Day, when bloggers around the world will discuss one topic -- the environment.
On Friday I covered the biggest recent environmental news -- the Nobel Peace Price announcement for Al Gore and the IPCC.
So today I want to cover a local issue, which ties into some recent stuff by Steve Patterson.
Today's Post-Dispatch indicates that the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District (MSD) is finally, after many years of discussion, planning, and examination of aerial photography and the City and County property records, going to institute a charge for stormwater runoff based on the impervious surfaces on a plot of ground. Pending final approval by the MSD Board of Trustees, this plan would go into effect March 1, 2008.
Currently, each sewer service customer pays 24-cents monthly for stormwater service, in addition to the usage-based (in the County) or flat-rate (in the City) amount that is based on wintertime water consumption. Of course, this flat rate charge is incredibly unfair. A shopping mall or factory owner pays the same as a single-family homeowner.
While there will no doubt be (legal) challenges to this new plan, the basic idea is to drop the 24-cent charge, as well as the various MSD property tax rates. This will certainly simply the taxation structure in St. Louis County, where a variety of sewer-treatment subdistricts were put in place over the past 50 years to cope with the extra cost of extending or upgrading sewage treatment facilities in developing suburbs. Now, customers will pay 12 cents for each 100 square feet of impervious area. By 2014, that rate will increase to 29 cents.
I generally prefer incentives to punitive treatments for environmental concerns, but I think this is really about fairness. Yes, as the Post describes, it will impact non-profits and other governmental entities like school districts in a pretty big way at first. But for many of these organizations, capital expenditures are easier to finance than operating expenses, because they can issue bonds that don't always require a tax increase. So, when it comes time to put a new roof on a school, or resurface a parking lot -- why not try a Green Roof system or something like Grasspave? Yes, the initial costs are higher, and probably not realistic for the average homeowner. But for large organizations with large capital, physical plant, and utility costs, savings in one of those line items could more than make up for the costs.
Maybe, just maybe, some of these school districts, and for that matter the larger churches, would consider that they don't need quite so much empty surface parking, if they actually have to pay for it in the form of higher sewer bills! And the same could be said for New Life Evangelistic Center's proposed parking area at their Missouri Renewable Energy complex at 4716 Tennessee Ave. While grass-pavement technologies may be more costly, that could be wrapped into a capital campaign for the development of the center, and would actually be attractive to prospective donors to an operation such as that.