The Department of Environmental Protection this week announced more than $16.5 million in Growing Greener funding for projects to cleanup waterways, restore stream banks, prevent flooding, reclaim mine-scarred lands and reduce pollution.
These are the last projects to be funded by the Growing Greener II bond issue and there are no plans by the Rendell Administration to propose a continuation of the program.
Several bills have been introduced by Sen. Ray Musto (D-Luzerne)-- Senate Bill 905, Sen. Andrew Dinniman (D-Chester)- Senate Bill 997 and Rep. Bud George (D-Clearfield)-- House Bill 1489, to use a new natural gas production severance tax to re-establish the Growing Greener Program and fund other initiatives.
There is also competition to use the severance tax for other purposes as well like balancing the deficit-ridden state budget, providing additional property tax relief and increasing education funding.
A report issued at the end of March by the Joint Legislative Budget and Finance Committee confirms virtually all of the $625 million in Growing Greener II bond funds have already been committed to projects, significantly reducing project funding for abandoned mine reclamation, watershed restoration, farmland preservation, recreation and other projects for the future. (see 3/29/10 Pa Environment Digest)
Funding available from the Environmental Stewardship Fund for these projects will drop from $54 million to just $15 million once all the Growing Greener II bond funds are spent, the report said. In addition, debt service payments will increase from $30 to more than $50 million a year, cutting further into available Environmental Stewardship project funding.
The report was issued by the as a result of House Resolution 17 sponsored by Rep. Kate Harper (R-Montgomery).
“During the past seven years, Pennsylvania’s Growing Greener program has delivered more than $237 million to local communities to improve the quality of our waterways, address serious environmental problems at mine sites and make communities more livable,” said DEP Secretary John Hanger. “Growing Greener has also sparked economic redevelopment by providing the tools and funding needed to tackle tough environmental issues and restore the state’s natural resources.”
The funding includes $12.6 million in Watershed and Flood Protection grants and $3.9 million in federal funding for Non-Point Source Pollution Control grants. The funds are distributed to non-profit organizations, watershed groups and county and municipal governments to address local and regional water quality issues.
Grants range in size from $6,145 to the Cameron County Conservation District to address invasive species and repair riparian buffers along the Sinnemahoning Creek to $664,500 to the Schuylkill Headwaters Association to design and construct a system to treat the 1.7 million gallon-per-day discharge of mine drainage from the Mary D Borehole into the Schuylkill River.
DEP said a complete list of grants awarded will be available online. A database of Growing Greener Projects supported by DEP since the beginning of the program in 1999 is available online.