Jan 29 2012

Opinion:Sewer Surcharge Opponent Agrees With EPA Letter in Post

Response to EPA Regional Administrator Jared Blumenfeld’s letter in January 25 Piedmont Post – 

Editor’s Note: The following open letter to Piedmont residents was distributed to local news outlets including PCA.  The letter, written by an opponent of Measure A, the Sewer Surcharge, has been edited slightly to comply with PCA guidelines:

Mr. Blumenfeld states he is writing to clarify recent articles regarding the City of Piedmont’s obligation to comply with a federal court order to 6 East Bay cities and a sewer district regarding their sanitary sewer systems. The article published by the Piedmont Post is misleading and false, as it asserts that Measure A opponents contend that Piedmont is not required to comply with the court order.  Nothing could be further from the truth. Measure A opponents have contended, without any refutation whatsoever, and with the written concurrence of the EPA, that the court order does not require Piedmont to rush to complete replacement of the last, and most sound, portions of Piedmont’s sewer mainlines. Mr. Blumenfeld’s letter is careful not to repeat the Post’s falsehoods which, sadly, are endorsed by Piedmont’s City administration. 

Mr. Blumenfeld agrees with opponents’ previous statements, that the 2011 federal court order requires all six cities and the sewer district to submit to EPA an Asset Management Implementation Plan (“AMIP”) by July 15, 2012.  Piedmont has not submitted an AMIP and there presently is none.  Piedmont has a choice: it can submit an AMIP which rushes replacement of mainlines by 2018-2020 and requires substantial new taxes, or it can submit an AMIP which provides for replacement on a more reasonable schedule and that requires no new taxes. Once an AMIP is submitted and approved, it then becomes an enforceable plan, subject to penalties for noncompliance.  The Post, lobbying on behalf of a City Administration that favors higher taxes, just assumes that the AMIP will provide for accelerated replacement, but, as the EPA has stated repeatedly in writing, that accelerated replacement assumption is not required by the federal court order.

In my January 12, 2012 presentation at the League of Women Voters  (LWV ) Forum, I detailed the critical AMIP process in the federal court order.  In its coverage of my presentation, the Post omitted all references to the AMIP.  City Staff gave the MTRC a single plan, which includes the completion of the remaining 40% of the mainline sewer by 2020, and staff misrepresented that plan as being  EPA-enforceable at that time. That plan is why Measure A is on the February ballot. Staff’s plan is, in reality, only a draft plan which will become enforceable only if is the plan incorporated into the AMIP which is yet to be filed.  If Measure A does not pass, a different plan may, and should be, incorporated into the AMIP.  Essentially City staff overloaded the sewer fund “cart” and wanted a bigger taxpayer “horse” to come by after the fact. By that misrepresentation, the City created an illusionary legal obligation to appear to force taxpayers to believe no option other than passage of Measure A exists. This is not the honest and comprehensive approach we deserve. Piedmont voters do have a choice, and can safely vote no on Measure A without any risk of violating any court order or suffering any penalties. 

Rick Schiller, Piedmont Resident

Editor’s Note:  The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Piedmont Civic Association.


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