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California Farm Bureau Fed'n v. State Water Resources Control Bd.

ELR Citation: 37 ELR 20019
Nos. No. C050289, (Cal. App. 3d Dist., 01/17/2007)

A California appellate court reversed state agency legislation implementing emergency regulations and imposing new annual fees on holders of water right permits and licenses under California Water Code §1525. As applied through the emergency regulations, the annual fees are unlawful taxes in violation of the state constitution. The State Water Resources Control Board failed to demonstrate how charges allocated to a payor bore a fair or reasonable relationship to the payor's burdens on or benefits from the regulatory activity. In addition, the formula for allocating annual fees under one of the emergency regulations violates the Supremacy Clause by requiring federal contractors to pay for the entire amount of annual fees that would otherwise be imposed on the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The court thus reversed the judgment below in part and remanded with directions regarding the adoption of new regulatory fee schedules and refund of annual fees unlawfully imposed.