The Renew Growing Greener Coalition today expressed disappointment in amendments made by the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee to legislation sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati (R-Jefferson)-- Senate Bill 1100-- which establishes an impact fee on natural gas drilling, but fails to include funding for key programs to protect the environment.
Coalition Executive Director Andrew Heath issued the following statement:
“The amended Scarnati impact fee legislation is an unfortunate step backward. By removing critical funding for key environmental programs, the legislation leaves the future of our natural resources, community vitality, and economy at risk.
“Without funding for farmland, forests, community parks, trails and green open spaces our children and grandchildren may never get to appropriately enjoy the wealth of our natural heritage, which has defined Pennsylvania as a great place to live and raise a family.
“Moreover, by failing to invest in Growing Greener the legislation fails to invest in our economy. Growing Greener projects have not only addressed millions of dollars in environmental legacy costs, they have generated billions of dollars for Pennsylvania in jobs, taxes, and tourism.
“In addition, by changing the existing funding mechanism for Growing Greener, the legislation raises real concerns about fairness and transparency. The current way of funding – vetted through public agencies that are experts in their fields – has worked since 1999. Why change something that isn’t broken?
“As this legislation moves forward, the Renew Growing Greener Coalition is counting on Legislators from across the great state of Pennsylvania to stand up for the environment, stand up for our children and grandchildren and restore funding for Growing Greener.”
Growing Greener is a bipartisan program established in 1999 under Gov. Tom Ridge and later expanded by Governors Schweiker and Rendell. Since its establishment, Growing Greener has created a legacy of success, preserving more than 33,700 acres of Pennsylvania’s family farmland, conserving more than 42,300 acres of threatened open space, adding 26,000 acres to state parks and forests, and restoring over 16,000 acres of abandoned mine lands.
In 2002, a dedicated source of revenue for Growing Greener was identified in an increase in the state’s “tipping fee,” the fee charged for dumping trash in Pennsylvania’s landfills. Those funds were supplemented by a $625 million bond approved by voters in 2005, called Growing Greener II. Unless action is taken, those funds will be largely exhausted as of June 30th, with most of the Growing Greener I tipping fees going to the debt service on the Growing Greener II bonds.
More than 80 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, Indiana 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 nearly organizations and government entities.