ADEM Increases Fees on Users, BCA Seeks to Restore State Environment Funding

The Alabama Environmental Management Commission has increased fees 20 percent for most permits in response to the Legislature zeroing out all state funding except for animal feed lot support for the 2015-16 budget, which began Oct. 1.

The AEMC that oversees the Alabama Department of Environmental Management voted Dec. 18 to increase fees following the Legislature’s reduction in ADEM’s 2014-15 General Fund appropriation from $1.208 million to $280,000 this fiscal year. The $280,000 is earmarked for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. The Legislature also diverted nearly $1 million in collected fees to other state agencies.

The Business Council of Alabama has been a consistent supporter of adequate state funding for ADEM in order to eliminate the need for continued fee increases imposed on the backs of Alabama’s regulated industries.

All Alabamians benefit from environmental action, not just the industries that need fees to operate, fees which often cannot be passed on.

“Many businesses that use the environmental department operate on thread-thin margins and a fee increase can only add to the financial burden that many small businesses face,” said William J. Canary, president and CEO of the BCA. “The reality is since many will not be able to pass the increases on any fee increase will come from the businesses’ bottom line.”

Canary said the BCA will continue its efforts in the 2016 legislative session to restore adequate state funding to ADEM.

The fee increases, which will take effect in January, will produce about $2 million. ADEM’s entire budget this fiscal year is $153.8 million with most of it coming from federal tax dollars and other fees.

At the Dec. 18 AEMC meeting, ADEM Director Lance LeFleur said that without replacement funding, the Legislature’s action could lead to federal intervention, an action that would serve to delay the permitting process by injecting another level of bureaucracy into it.

The General Fund appropriation to ADEM was $7.3 million in 2009. The Legislature began cutting the state appropriation the next year and since 2011, fees have increased 19 percent in 2011, 50 percent in 2013, and 20 percent this year.

In comments filed with ADEM (link here), Canary said the BCA is concerned about the increasing burden of the huge increase in permit fees on Alabama businesses.

“Thus, in the aggregate, the regulated community will have seen its fees more than double since 2011,” Canary wrote. “We are particularly concerned with the proposal’s impacts on small businesses, which are less suited to absorb additional expenses.”

-Dana Beyerle