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United States v. Cities of Vancouver and Renton


United States v. Cities of Vancouver and Renton

NACWA and its municipal clean water utility members won a major legal victory in May 2012 when a federal court in Seattle ruled that federal government facilities are responsible for payment of municipal stormwater fees, including fees billed prior to January 2011.  The decision in United States v. Cities of Renton and Vancouver embraces arguments made by NACWA in a supporting brief filed in February that a 2011 amendment to the Clean Water Act (CWA) clarifying federal responsibility for municipal stormwater charges also applies to fees billed prior to the amendment’s enactment.  The court cited heavily from the NACWA brief in finding that the amendment is a clarification of a pre-existing waiver of federal sovereign immunity for stormwater fees, requiring federal payment for pre-2011 unpaid amounts.

The decision is significant win for NACWA and its municipal stormwater utility members, clarifying in unambiguous legal terms the federal responsibility for stormwater fee payment.  NACWA played a critical role in securing Congressional passage of the stormwater fee amendment, and this court decision marks a continuation of the Association’s advocacy to ensure municipal stormwater utilities receive payment from federal government facilities.  Additional information on this decision is available in Advocacy Alert 12-09.

The case stems from an attempt by the City of Vancouver to collect approximately $100,000 in past due stormwater fees earlier this year from the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), a federal government agency with facilities in Vancouver’s stormwater service area.   BPA refused payment of the fees and in July 2011 DOJ, acting on behalf of BPA, filed a lawsuit against Vancouver and the City of Renton requesting a declaratory judgment that the stormwater amendment does not apply to past due stormwater amounts.



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