Western United Dairymen (WUD) along with California Dairy Campaign and Milk Producers Council filed a suit on Thursday against the State Water Resources Control Board over recent sharp increases in water quality permit fees. In a complaint filed in Sacramento Superior Court, the trade groups allege that the Water Board violated a state law intended to protect dairies and other commodity groups from unfair fee increases, as well as a state constitutional provision intended to protect against illegal tax increases. The joint suit is asking the court to reverse the fee increases. The Water Board increased water quality permit fees sharply in each of the last two years, with a 27 percent increase in 2013, followed by a 33 percent increase in 2014, according to the lawsuit. This combined increase of nearly 69 percent in two years was part of a longer-term trend in which dairy fees have quadrupled since 2005. During the same period, more than 500 of the state’s dairy farms have gone out of business due to poor economic conditions. The lawsuit alleges that the 2014 increases violated a provision of the state constitution that requires a two-thirds vote of the state Legislature before taxes can be increased. The suit also alleges that the Water Board failed to comply with provisions of state law that prohibit state agencies from collecting any fee or charge in an amount that exceeds the reasonable cost of providing the service, and provisions of state law that require consideration of the “pricing mechanism of the commodity produced” when setting fees.
Jan. 12, 2015 WUD news