Pennsylvania’s General Fund budget might be $2 billion in debt, but the Commonwealth’s basic environmental programs have a $2.4 billion deficit accrued over the last 12 years thanks to cuts and diversion of environmental funding to balance the state budget or to fund programs that were not funded on their own.
Over the last 12 years, DEP’s authorized complement has been reduced by about 548 positions since FY 2002-03 or 17 percent. DCNR has not suffered as much because cuts in General Fund money has been made up by income from upfront payments and royalties from Marcellus Shale gas development on State Forest land.
But a lawsuit now in Commonwealth Court has challenged these diversions from DCNR’s Oil and Gas Fund as unconstitutional and illegal. A decision on the issue is expected at any time which could further complicate funding issues for DCNR and the state budget.
On the plus side of the ledger in recent years, DEP and DCNR have received an additional $30 million a year as a result of the transportation funding package for the Dirt and Gravel Road Program, the $45 million in additional funding for State Park and Forest infrastructure investments in the Enhance Penn’s Woods initiative and additional funding provided by the Act 13 drilling impact fees.
DEP also received the first significant increase in General Fund monies in the FY 2014-15 budget in the last 12 years-- about $12.4 million-- while the number of authorized complement continued to fall.
This year’s budget also included the $10 million in continued funding for the Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) farm conservation tax credit program for the fourth year in a row.
With a new Governor being sworn in on January 20 and Gov. Wolf set to offer his first budget in March, now is the time to stop all the cuts and diversions that hurt basic environmental protection programs and stem the bleeding of DEP staff positions that has occurred every year for the last 12 years.
It is also time for additional resources to be invested in environmental restoration programs-- watershed improvement, abandoned mine drainage abatement and other programs that make a real, measurable difference in environmental quality.
Nearly 20,000 miles of Pennsylvania’s streams are polluted to the point they do not meet federal Clean Water Act standards.
A good start would be to use a major portion of revenue from any new natural gas severance tax to support restoration efforts, including our commitments to clean up our rivers and streams across the state and in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
The fact is, Pennsylvania has a legal obligation under the federal Clean Water Act to clean up our our rivers, streams and lakes to meet minimum water quality standards and we have the experience and the award-winning programs, like the original Growing Greener, to do just that.
Now is the time for a more thorough debate on these issues and to show the kind of leadership Pennsylvania has had in the past to deal with our most pressing need-- clean water.
Itemized List Of Cuts/Diversions
Here's an itemized list of the cuts and diversions of environmental funding over the last 12 years--
-- $635 million in Act 339 grants intended to support wastewater plant operations over the last nine years were eliminated to balance the budget ($52 million or so each year);
-- $143 million diverted from the DCNR Oil and Gas Fund to balance the FY 2008-09 budget;
-- $79 million cut from the DEP and DCNR General Fund budget during FY2009-10;
-- $60 million diverted from the DCNR Oil and Gas Fund to balance the FY 2009-10 budget;
-- $100 million in 2002 from the Underground Storage Tank cleanup insurance fund to balance the budget (although this is slowly being repaid over 10 years);
-- $52.7 million “one-time” diversion from the Keystone Recreation, Parks and Conservation Fund in 2006 to balance the budget;
-- $50 million in 2007 and 2008 from the Environmental Stewardship Fund, which supports mine reclamation and watershed restoration, to fund the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Program because there was no agreement on how to fund that program;
-- $285.7 million in FY 2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13, 2013-14, 2014-15 from the Environmental Stewardship Fund to pay debt service on the Growing Greener II bond issue and taking funding away from restoration projects each year for the next 25 years – reflecting a pattern of only environmental programs being required to address their own bond debt service;
-- $15 million from the Recycling Fund in to balance the FY 2008-09 budget;
-- $18.4 million put into budgetary reserve in 2008-09 from the Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Conservation and Natural Resources;
-- $5 million reduction in Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) farm conservation tax credit program in FY 2009-10;
-- $102.8 million cut from the DEP and DCNR General Fund budget in FY 2010-11 budget;
-- $180 million diverted from the DCNR Oil and Gas Fund to General Fund in proposed FY 2010-11 budget;
-- $5.5 million reduction in Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) farm conservation tax credits in FY 2010-11;
-- $5 million in additional cuts to the agencies to balance the FY 2010-11 budget;
-- $3.9 million in across-the-board cuts to help fill gaps caused by reduced federal Medicaid appropriations-- $2.4 million from DEP, $1.5 million from DCNR;
-- $669,000 from the Safe Water line item in DEP's budget;
-- $102.8 million cut continued from the FY 2010-11 DEP and DCNR General Fund budget in FY 2011-12 budget;
-- $8.3 million Mid-year budget freeze cuts additional resources for environmental programs: Agriculture: $2.6 million; DCNR: $1.5 million; and DEP: $4.2 million;
-- FY 2012-13 budget eliminates $11.8 million in General Fund monies from DEP, and $2.5 million from DCNR;
-- FY 2012-13 budget continues the $102.8 million cut made by Gov. Rendell beginning in FY 2010-11;
-- FY 2012-13 budget for the State System of Higher Education zeroes out funding again for the PA Center for Environmental Education ($368,000) and McKeever Environmental Center ($213,000);
-- FY 2013-14 budget continues the $102.8 million cut made by Gov. Rendell beginning in FY 2010-11;
-- FY 2013-14 budget for the State System of Higher Education zeroes out funding again for the PA Center for Environmental Education ($368,000) and McKeever Environmental Center ($213,000);
-- FY 2013-14 budget diverts $106.5 million from the Oil and Gas Fund to support DCNR operations;
-- FY 2014-15 budget diverts $73 million from the Oil and Gas Fund to support DCNR operations. [While still funding environmental programs, this transfer takes funds away from supporting long-term investments in the environment to funding day-to-day operations. It also raises a concern over whether it is sustainable without forcing additional leasing of state forest lands for natural gas drilling.]
-- FY 2014-15 budget diverts another $95 million in royalties and payments from the Oil and Gas Fund to balance the state budget;
-- FY 2014-15 budget diverts $20 million from State Forest Timber operations to balance the state budget;
-- FY 2014-15 budget diverts $6.2 million from the Alternative Fuels Incentive Grant Fund to balance the state budget;
-- FY 2014-15 budget continues the $102.8 million cut made by Gov. Rendell beginning in FY 2010-11;
-- FY 2014-15 budget for the State System of Higher Education zeroes out funding again for the PA Center for Environmental Education ($368,000) and McKeever Environmental Center ($213,000); and-- FY 2014-15 budget cuts $500,000 for Delaware River Basin Commission.