Councilmember Brandon Todd (D-Ward 4) introduced bills to alleviate the crushing burden of water fees on District cemeteries and to create tax-free holidays that incentivize the purchase of energy and water-efficient appliances.
The “D.C. Cemetery Private Road and Parking Lot Exemption of Clean Water Fees Amendment Act of 2017” comes in response to the dire financial situation of St. Paul’s Rock Creek Church Cemetery in Ward 4, and 17 others like it across the District. In order to finance the Federally-mandated Clean Rivers Project – an extensive infrastructure project designed to reduce the amount of Combined Sewer Overflows into our waterways — DC Water has implemented the Clean River Impervious Area Charge (CRIAC). This fee attempts to charge District property owners for their individual contributions to stormwater management and fund a much-needed environmental project. However it also has the unintended consequence of threatening to run DC cemeteries out of business. In Ward 4, St. Paul’s Rock Creek Church Cemetery saw their annual water bill increase from approximately $3,500 to $200,000 – most of which is Clean River fees.
“I understand the necessity of the Clean Rivers Project, yet it is unacceptable to fund the project in a way that is overly burdensome to our cemeteries, threatening to run them out of business,” said Councilmember Todd. “This narrowly-tailored legislation would only exempt private roads and parking lots in District cemeteries from being included in DC Water’s assessment of their Clean River fee obligations. Cemeteries would still contribute funds to the Clean Rivers Project, but at a sustainable level in keeping with their narrow margins. Our cemeteries are historical resources and provide much-needed green space to our communities. We cannot stand by and let them close their gates due to exorbitant water fees.”
Councilmember Todd also introduced the “Energy-Efficient and Water Efficiency Sales Tax Holiday Amendment Act of 2017.” This bill would institute two tax-free holidays for the purchase of Energy Star and WaterSense certified products. This would improve the District’s environmental performance and reduce leakage of District tax revenue to Maryland and Virginia, both of which have these tax holidays in place.
“We should make it easier for District residents to purchase environmentally-friendly home appliances,” said Councilmember Todd. “These two tax holidays would help the District increase its use of Energy Star and EPA WaterSense certified products, which will reduce our energy and water consumption and stop the flow of tax dollars to Maryland and Virginia during their similar tax holidays. Additionally, this measure will make it easier for residents to access the savings of these high-efficiency appliances. The average Energy Star appliance uses 30% less electricity than its traditional counterpart – and that’s money back in our pockets.”