The Renew Growing Greener Coalition today recognized Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati (R-Jefferson) for expanding critical environmental, conservation and recreation programs in his proposed Marcellus Shale Impact Fee legislation, but reiterated concerns over the amount of revenue generated, programs still not being funded, and funding the existing programs through the Commonwealth Finance Authority as the current legislation provides.
“After listening to concerns voiced across the Commonwealth, Sen. Scarnati has expanded his legislation to fund critical environmental programs, which we applaud,” Andrew Heath, RGG Executive Director, said. “This more detailed proposal is a positive step forward, and a marked improvement from the initial concepts released two weeks earlier. Similar to Growing Greener, these environmental programs benefit all Pennsylvanians because they preserve and protect our resources for future generations. Growing Greener is a national model for communities to protect our water, air and land while still growing local economies.”
Sen. Scarnati’s proposal does not provide funding for the Environmental Stewardship Fund, Growing Greener’s source of revenue, while three other Severance Tax proposals being considered do. Other proposals being discussed also project to generate higher levels of revenue.
“The Commonwealth is facing a serious situation with the depletion of funds in the ESF. Sen. Scarnati’s proposal would allow many programs funded under Growing Greener to continue, but does not cover them all. Adding a portion of the revenue to the ESF would strengthen the legislation by providing funds for programs not covered, such as farmland preservation, the state’s parks and forests and environmental education. These programs are essential and benefit all Pennsylvanians and our shared economy,” said Heath.
The Coalition is also concerned about changing the funding mechanism for these programs. Since 1999, Growing Greener funds have been distributed through the various state agencies; primarily DCNR, DEP, AG andPennVest. Senator Scarnati’s legislation proposes to distribute the environmental programs via the Commonwealth Finance Authority.
Heath stated, “I have significant concerns with the CFA administering the funds. More details and safeguards will be needed to ensure a fair distribution of the funds across the spectrum of environmental, conservation and recreation programs. The current merit based way of funding these programs works – and has worked since 1999. Why try to fix something that is not broken?”
Heath concluded, “I see the current legislation as an improvement. We are making progress and that is what matters. The Renew Growing Greener Coalition urges citizens to get involved and voice their views so that the process may continue forward. Sitting on the sidelines is no longer a viable option.”
More than 60 Pennsylvania municipalities and counties have passed resolutions urging the Governor and legislature to renew Growing Greener funding. Counties passing resolutions include: Blair, Cambria, Erie, Fayette, Greene, Lackawanna, Lawrence, Lehigh, Luzerne, Lycoming, Monroe, Philadelphia, Pike, Somerset, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Washington, Westmoreland, Wyoming and York.
The Renew Growing Greener Coalition is the Commonwealth’s largest coalition of conservation, recreation and environmental organizations representing over 260 organizations and government entities.