Dean Reich addresses Congress on stormwater management

Dean Peter Reich, speaking at the 2016 Southern California Stormwater Forum

Peter Reich, Whittier Law School’s Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, spoke earlier this month at the 2016 Southern California Stormwater forum in San Dimas. The forum was convened November 18 by Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-El Monte) for the U.S. House Subcommittee on Water, Power, and Oceans.

Dean Reich discussed the recent California Supreme Court decision in Department of Finance v. Commission on State Mandates, which addressed the question of who should pay for state environmental protection requirements for local storm drain systems—California or the affected municipalities.

Congressional Certificate of RecognitionIn a 4-3 decision, the majority held that under the California Constitution, the state is required to reimburse localities because it was imposing its own rules, including trash removal and site inspections, which are more stringent than those of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA). The dissenters considered that the CWA requires a variety of state implementation devices, and that here California was only enforcing federal law, so it should not have to repay the cities.

Dean Reich, along with 18 other California law professors, signed an amicus brief supporting the state’s petition for rehearing (reconsidering the case), arguing that the costs now demanded from state taxpayers might compel California to withdraw from the CWA’s permit program.

In the face of upcoming pressure to reduce federal regulatory oversight, states will be increasingly confronted with similar choices about how, or whether, to finance their own enforcement programs.

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