Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Who Pays For Clean Water?

A pair of bills in the state legislature could help clean up our groundwater. The Star-News says it's about time.

The local San Gabriel Basin Water Quality Authority, created by the state Legislature in 1993 to get the groundwater cleaned up, hasn't seen a penny from the state since 1999. Yet, state and federal laws require stringent standards for delivering toxin-free drinking water from the tap. This is as it should be - placing health and safety first. Only, the state is not done once it passes these laws; it must kick in the bucks.

The West Covina-based WQA is fighting such "unfunded state mandates." With some long-overdue help from a new crop of legislators who hail from the San Gabriel Valley, the WQA is taking its place in line for environmental and water bond financing.

Thank heaven for those bold legislators, fighting for "our place in line." This whole business, though, is a bit convoluted. The question here is finding funds for "local water cleanup," the latest target being the state treasury. But the list of funding sources for the San Gabriel Basin Water Quality Authority includes the "federal government, litigation against responsible parties and other creative financing methods."

The one that makes the most sense is suing the responsible parties: you make the mess, you clean it up. Of course, such messes often tend to be too large for the offending party to handle. But that hardly seems like a justification to appeal to the federal government. I don't want to be held financially responsible for mining tailings in West Virginia any more than West Virginians want to pay up to clean perc out of water.

Of course, in California, water issues really are a state issue, as opposed to just a local community question, so getting Sacramento involved seems reasonable. Of course, the Star-News hits the problem on the head in its opening lines of the editorial: "As is typical of Sacramento, the state is good at requiring some new program of local government but bad at funding it."

The farther away from the people the government is, the less responsive they tend to be to their needs. Humorously, the celebrated work of the new legislators entails creating the possibility that the region may receive some funding for groundwater cleanup in the future. Government is the only business where you pay up front and have to beg for something in return.

1 comment:

the Pirate said...

In making responsible parties pay, you have to first prove they did it, which takes time and money.