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Feds to be forced to pay for storm-water pollution

Maryland Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin may have lost one big fish - his Chesapeake Bay cleanup bill - amid partisan wrangling as Congress wraps up for the year. But he did succeed with another, less sweeping environmental measure he sponsored that will require the federal government to pay local fees for controlling storm-water pollution.

The bill, which now heads to the president's desk, was prompted by recent legal decisions that failed to require federal agencies to pay for efforts to reduce pollution washing off the roofs and pavement of their facilities.   Courts have routinely held that federal property is exempt from state and local taxation.

But Cardin noted that communities across the country are being stuck with the costs of treating pollution from civilian and military federal buildings and land.   The biggest dispute is in Washington, D.C., seat of the federal government, where unpaid local storm-water fees have piled up to $2.4 million.

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The Maryland Democrat's bill drew bipartisan support, and one of its cosponsors was Sen. James M. Inhofe, R-OK, with whom Cardin had sparred early on over his Chesapeake bill.  In this case, though, Democrats and Republicans alike seemed to agree.

"At stake has been a fundamental issue of equity," Cardin said in a statement, which went on. "polluters should be financialy responsible for the pollution that they cause, including the federal government."

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(Baltimore Sun photo by Jed Kirschbaum)

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