FORESTVILLE – Prince George’s County is teaming up with a local church to demonstrate nonprofit organizations can participate in an alternative compliance program to help protect the environment while lowering the amount of money they have to pay to the county. Prince George’s County charges residents and businesses a stormwater runoff charge, dubbed by opponents […]
FORESTVILLE – Prince George’s County is teaming up with a local church to demonstrate nonprofit organizations can participate in an alternative compliance program to help protect the environment while lowering the amount of money they have to pay to the county.
Prince George’s County charges residents and businesses a stormwater runoff charge, dubbed by opponents as the “rain tax.” However, Prince George’s Department of the Environment (DOE) created and launched the county’s alternative compliance program which rewards nonprofits by lessening their charges if they make improvements to their properties.
“Nothing is free. Instead of taxing churches, you take those same monies and then make it a compliance mechanism in terms of doing what needs to be done in getting your property up to par,” said Reverend Nathaniel Thomas, senior pastor of Forestville New Redeemer Baptist Church.
“We’re being a part of the solution as opposed to being part of the problem and as far as educating through our ministries and keeping God’s Earth in terms of the waters, clean,” said Thomas. “It has helped our church in terms of the kind of things that we can do because a lot of the things we’ve been doing anyway is planting trees around our property for beautification.”
Forestville New Redeemer Baptist Church is the first faith-based organization selected to participate in this program. According to Adam Ortiz, director of DOE, the project at Forestville New Redeemer serves as a model so other organizations can see what can be done. Forestville New Redeemer was the first church to complete an application and they expressed a lot of interest in partnering and being a leader.
“Initially it was just going to be a fee, a tax to all churches which does not necessarily mean that it will be germane to that particular property; it would just have gone into a general fund as related to keeping water clean,” said Thomas. “We felt that it would have been far more objective if it was germane to the church’s property and then we as churches can work on keeping our properties at a point where we’re in compliance with doing what needs to be done to keep our waters clean.”
Nonprofit organizations can reduce and treat stormwater runoff by incorporating best management practices such as building rain barrels and gardens, starting a green team or ministry, coordinating tree plantings and directing community cleanups. The program is designed to improve water quality in local waterways.
“A lot of the pollution in our rivers comes from our developed land,” said Ortiz. “When it rains, it washes all that pollution, whether it is cigarette butts or nitrogen or phosphorus that comes from our developed areas. So with programs like this, we can capture and naturally filter that polluted water before it goes into our streams.”
Reverend Diane Johnson, of the Collective Empowerment Group, worked with Ortiz and the department to develop a program that would allow organizations to help the environment without having to pay a tax.
“I would like to say that as faith leaders, we are well aware of our responsibility to be good stewards of the earth and creation. So it’s not that we will not comply,” said Johnson. “The alternative compliance program gives us various ways to comply that will allow us to do so in a way that will not financially hurt the church.”
County residents may also participate in programs by improving their properties to get their stormwater charges reduced.
“There’s a very similar program called the Rain Check Rebate program that residents can participate in,” said Ortiz. “That program also provides funding for rain barrels and permeable pavement projects in people’s yards and they also get a reduction on their fee.”
Ortiz said there are currently 30 other churches set to participate in the program and there are another 50 applications from churches and nonprofits that have not yet been processed.
Churches of every denomination and nonprofits may apply for ACP by calling 311 or applying through DOE’s official website, http://www.princegeorgescountymd.gov/sites/environmentalresources/Pages/default.aspx .