What an unfunded EPA mandate means for Oklahoma City

Storm Water Quality | City of OKC


Critics of federal government overreach often cite “unfunded mandates” forced upon states and local municipalities.

One such unfunded mandate is one from the Environmental Protection Agency which forced Oklahoma City to implement a monthly drainage fee beginning in 1995.

As a result, every month, when water bills are sent to Oklahoma City residents, part of the bill is a monthly charge of $5.69 for a “drainage fee.” The bill refers to it as Unfunded EPA Mandate.

The unfunded portion of this reflects that the EPA required certain major cities to permit their storm water discharges without any federal or state level funding.

Lisa Greene, a Unit Operations Supervisor at the city of Oklahoma City explained the unfunded mandate was necessary to avoid what she called “crippling fines” for not complying with EPA floodwater rules and regulations.

Formally called the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System program, the mandate was approved by the City Council in June of 1995 and implemented on city water bills a month later. The revenue funds the required planning and implementation of strategies of the city to improve the quality of storm and other runoff waters.

It also forced Oklahoma City to create and fund a Storm Water Quality Management Division

The fee generates operating revenue, billed monthly, along with water, wastewater and solid waste. A recent permits annual report indicated the budget for fiscal year 2023 was about $1.8 million just for stormwater quality permitting.

Heavy Rains In Oklahoma City Area Lead To High Water Rescues

“This fund is the primary funding source for the Public Works Department’s Storm Water Quality Management Division,” further explained, Jennifer McClintock, of the Public Information Office at the Oklahoma City Utilities Department.

In 2016, a study performed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce found that the cost of new EPA regulation issued each from 2004 through 2015 “has significantly and continually increased.” It found that states are responsible for implementing more than 96% of environmental programs, yet the amount of aid in the form of federal grants “has not been keeping pace.”

As a result, the study concluded, “Many states will have no choice but to make up the shortfall through greatly increased fees or by appropriating additional taxpayer dollars.”