Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Budget Bills Kill Drilling Regs, Cut Growing Greener Funding, Delays Climate Plan

The Senate amended a series of bills in the agreed-to budget package Wednesday night, one of which would kill the conventional drilling regulations and force DEP to start the process over, reduce Growing Greener watershed restoration and related funding by $15 million next fiscal year and expands the time the General Assembly has to review any plan DEP develops to meet EPA’s Clean Power Climate Rule under Act 175 of 2014.
The budget package moving in the Senate has been agreed to by Senate Republicans and Democrats, House Democrats and Gov. Wolf.  The House Republicans are still holding out for their own budget.
Sen. Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) said Wednesday night said the budget is “a House drill now” because all the major budget bills will be in the House by the end of this week.
He said he understands the House has to go through a process, but he said he hopes some “sane people” come to the table and realize we’ve got to get a budget done.
To facilitate getting the bills to the House, the Senate will now be in session December 10.
Fiscal Code Bill
The Fiscal Code bill-- House Bill 1327 (Peifer-R-Pike)-- was changed in the Senate Appropriations with a single omnibus amendment.  Click Here for a copy of the amended bill.  Among the changes related to environmental programs were--
-- Kill Conventional Oil & Gas Regulations: Abrogate the conventional oil and gas regulations developed by DEP and declaring the rulemaking process used to propose the regulations invalid making DEP start the process over. [Section 1741.1-E, page 34]
-- Reduces Growing Greener Funding $15 Million: Reduces the monies deposited in the Environmental Stewardship (Growing Greener) Fund by the Marcellus Legacy Fund from $35 million to $20 million for FY 2015-16.  [Section 1608-E, page 8]
-- Extends General Assembly’s Review Time For EPA Clean Power Implementation Plan:  DEP is now required to submit its plan for implementing EPA’s Clean Power Climate requirements to the General Assembly for approval 180, not 100 days before it is submitted to EPA as required by Act 175 of 2014.  If no vote is taken by the General Assembly before August 22, 2016, the plan is deemed approved.  If one or both chambers disapprove the plan, DEP can evaluate the reasons for the disapproval of the plan, request an extension from EPA for submitting the plan. [Section 1723-E, page 27]
-- Funding Earmarked For Small Water, Sewer Projects: $22 million to the Commonwealth Financing Authority to fund water and sewer projects costing between $30,000 and $500,000. [Section 1774.1-A, page 12]
-- Individual Special Water Infrastructure Projects: $400,000 for a drinking water project in a county of the 4th class and $500,000 for upgrading a sewage pumping station in a city of the 3rd class in a county of the 5th class from DEP’s General Government Operations funds.
-- Create Special Fund To Promote Conversion To Natural Gas: Establishes a Natural Gas Infrastructure Development Fund at the Commonwealth Financing Authority transferring $12 million from the Alternative Energy Investment Act to facilitate the conversions of schools, businesses, municipalities to natural gas. [Section 1741-A.1, page 24]
-- Washington Crossing State Park: Allocates $2.2 million of DCNR State Parks Operations funds to the operation and maintenance of Washington Crossing State Park
-- Individual, Local Government Disaster Recovery Assistance: Creates a $3 million program in the PA Emergency Management to provide individual and local government disaster assistance. [Section 1735-L, page 66]
Administrative Code Bill
The Administrative Code bill--  House Bill 941 (Regan-R-Cumberland) was amended and reported from the Senate Appropriations Committee and is now in position for a final vote Thursday.  Click Here for a copy of the amended bill.   
Among the changes were--
-- Making DEP’s Citizens Advisory Council Independent: Specifically requires DEP’s Citizens Advisory Council to be an independent Council with the sole power to employ and fix the compensation of an executive director.  [Section 448, page 3]
General Fund Budget Bill
The Senate Tuesday amended the House Republican budget bill-- House Bill 1460 (Adolph-R-Delaware)-- to include the agreed-to budget language.  The bill is now in position for a final vote Thursday to send it back to the House.  
Here is a comparison of selected General Fund line items from last year’s budget bill-- House Bill 2328-- to the version of the budget passed by the Senate Monday-- Senate Bill 1073-- and the House Republican budget as approved by the House Appropriations Committee Monday in House Bill 1460 (Adolph-R-Delaware)--
-- Environmental Protection Agreed-To and [House Republican- HR]
DEP General Operations-- $13.1 million, slight increase [HR--$13.3 million] over last year $12.4 million
DEP Protection Operations-- $89.3 million [HR-- $87.1 million], slight increase over last year $84.4 million
DEP Program Management-- $29.5 million [HR-- $28.2 million], slight increase over $28.6 million
Conservation Districts-- $2.5 million [HR--same], same as last year
Transfer To O&M Trust Account -- $500,000  [HR-- none]
Black Fly-- $3.3 million [HR-- $3.3 million], same as last year
West Nile Virus-- $3.8 million [HR-- $3.9 million], slightly less than last year $3.9 million
Sewage Facilities Grants -- $610,000 [HR-- $900,000], slight less than last year $700,000
DRBC-- $750,000 increase [HR--$434,000] over $434,000 last year
SRBC-- $573,000 [HR-- $473,000], same as last year
ORSANCO-- $136,000 [HR-- same], same as last year
Potomac River Basin Commission-- $46,000 [HR-- $46,000], same as last year
Citizens Advisory Council-- $250,000, no line item in previous years [HR-- None].
-- Conservation and Natural Resources
DCNR General Operations-- $12.3 million [HR- same], (plus $5 million from Oil & Gas Lease Fund], increase over $5.8 million last year
State Parks Operations-- $33.2 million [HR- same] (plus $21.4 million from Oil & Gas Lease Fund [HR-- same]), decrease over $2.2 million last year ($45 million from Oil & Gas Lease Fund)
State Forest Operations-- $11.1 million [HR- same] (plus $10.5 million from Oil & Gas Lease Fund [HR-- same]), increase over $1 million last year (plus $17.5 million from Oil & Gas Lease Fund)
Heritage Parks-- $2.7 million [HR--$2.2 million], same as last year
-- Agriculture
Agriculture General Operations-- $28.4 million [HR-- $27.6 million], increase over $25.2 million
Conservation Districts-- $869,000 [HR-- same], same as last year.
Click Here for a Senate Republican staff budget spreadsheet for Senate Bill 1073.  Click Here for a House Democratic staff budget spreadsheet for Senate Bill 1073.
Click Here for a copy of the House Republican budget spreadsheet for the Republican budget that was in House Bill 1460.
Stay tuned…
PLS: Scarnati: Budget Is Now A House Drill

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