Policy Brief: Keeping the Clean Rivers Impervious Area Charge (CRIAC) Affordable and Equitable

The Council of the District of Columbia’s Office of the Budget Director is pleased to issue a new policy brief on Keeping the Clean Rivers Impervious Area Charge (CRIAC) Affordable and Equitable: Nine Strategies for Managing the CRIAC’s Cost While Ensuring the Clean River Project’s Financial Viability. This report was prepared at the request of Councilmember Mary Cheh and Chairman Phil Mendelson.

 D.C. Water’s Clean Rivers Project is an infrastructure initiative aimed at reducing 96% of the District of Columbia’s combined sewer overflows by 2030. The project is federally mandated, but the costs have largely fallen on District utility customers through a fee called the CRIAC.  This policy brief examines nine strategies that the D.C. Council could take to reduce the financial strain that the CRIAC has placed on ratepayers while ensuring that the infrastructure project is adequately funded.

  1. Protect financially vulnerable utility customers by extending the CRIAC Residential & Nonprofit Relief Programs

  2. Alter the CRIAC rate structure to include a water and sewer volumetric component

  3. Increase progressivity by subjecting public rights-of-way to the CRIAC

  4. Promote green solutions by raising the value of CRIAC Incentive Program

  5. Lower customers’ costs by reducing or eliminating D.C. government’s pass-through fees from D.C. Water’s monthly bills

  6. Ensure that the Blue Plains Intermunicipal Agreement requires all jurisdictions pay their fair share

  7. Lobby Congress for regular and significant support from the federal government to solve a problem that it helped create

  8. Improve accountability by re-examining D.C. Water’s governance structure

  9. Reduce ratepayer costs by re-negotiating the Consent Decree

 Some of the choices would provide immediate relief, while others have the potential to address the underlying challenge of providing clean and affordable water and sewer services but would take many years to implement. Several of them are entirely within the control of the District government; others require participation from regional partners or the federal government. Each of these proposals offers benefits and trade-offs.

 We drew together these options by consulting D.C. Council, agency staff, and stakeholders; considering choices made by other jurisdictions; and conducting a literature review. The authors selected these policy proposals because they would raise enough revenue to meet the Consent Decree’s terms, promote an equitable funding scheme, incentivize stormwater retention, protect the CRIAC’s legal status as a fee, and be easily understood and feasible to implement.

 We will present this report to Councilmembers at a Legislative Breakfast and hold staff briefings.  We would be happy to schedule individual meetings with Councilmembers or their staff to review the report’s findings.

Thank you very much! Jen Budoff

Policy & Economic Research in the Office of the Budget Director

The Office of the Budget Director conducts policy and economic research for the D.C. Council. It produces issue briefs on matters of ongoing concern and releases in-depth reports on substantial policy and legislative matters. The Office has previously published two Economic and Policy Impact Statements that examine providing a minimum income and paid family and medical leave.   We invite you to visit our website at www.dccouncilbudget.com to learn more.