Sen. Mary Jo White (R-Venango), Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, wrote to DEP Secretary John Hanger on Monday asking his agency to reconsider suspending the comprehensive West Nile Virus Program.
In the letter, Sen. White said, "As you know, West Nile virus is a potentially fatal disease that has been detected in over 20 counties so far this year. The first human case was confirmed earlier this month. As DEP has noted, the number of human West Nile virus cases has decreased substantially in recent years. No doubt, this reduction is in large part due to enhanced public awareness and an aggressive prevention and control spraying program. I strongly suggest that now – in the midst of higher temperatures and relatively high rainfall in much of the state – is the most inopportune time to discontinue funding for this program. Doing so only increases the public health risk facing Pennsylvanians.
"The Department has claimed that the program must be suspended until a final state budget is approved by the General Assembly. I strongly disagree with this assertion. For starters, Governor Rendell had before him recently Senate Bill 850, which appropriated $5.193 million for the West Nile virus program. Yet, the Governor chose to veto $3.610 million of this appropriation. This reflects a conscious decision by the Governor to reject spending authority for a critical and time-sensitive program."
(Click here to read entire letter. Click here to see DEP's announcement.)