Even with the recent increases in state funding, General Fund support for the departments of Environmental Protection and Conservation and Natural Resources still remains below where it was more than two decades ago.
While DCNR’s general operation funding has been made up with significant revenues from the Oil and Gas Fund, DEP’s funding has not.
DEP received about $164.4 million in 1994-95 from the General Fund and increased to a high of $245.6 million in 2002-03. In the 2014-15 budget, DEP’s General Fund total was $141.4 million, after bottoming out in 2012-13 at $126.8 million, less than half the highwater mark in 2002-03.
DEP attempted to make up for some of these cuts with over $30 million increases in permit review and administration fees and by charging more costs to special funds, but it still came up short.
DEP’s official staff complement is also below 1994-95 levels when DEP was split from DER. In 1995 DEP had an authorized complement of about 3,000, which increased to 3,211 by 2002-03. Now the authorized complement is down to about 2,681 or so, without the increases proposed by Gov. Wolf in 2015.
Click Here to view a table with Environmental Agency Funding 1994-95 to 2016-17.
Environmental Agency Funding 1994-95 to 2016-17
(figures in millions)
*Transition budget from split of DER into DCNR, DEP
**Budget so far as line-item vetoed by Gov. Wolf
Sources: Past budget documents are available on the Governor’s Budget Office webpage back to 1969-70.The total funding deficit for environmental programs since 2002-03 is now somewhere around $2.4 billion; not counting this year because the budget isn’t final. If you want a list of the cuts and diversions of environmental funds for other purposes, just Click Here.
These cuts in support for environmental protection has occurred during a time when the responsibilities of Agriculture, DEP and DCNR have increased, not decreased. No environmental laws or programs have been repealed to match funding cut, nor would many advocate repealing our environmental protection laws.
DEP, in particular, is expected to do the same job and more with less than half the General Fund support it had before.
Somewhere this math may add up, but not here.
Obviously, we are still better off now than we were in the 1969-70 budget, but that isn’t saying much.
In the 1969-70 budget, the Department of Agriculture received $7.7 million from all sources and had a staff of 94; the Department of Forests and Waters had a budget of $18.6 million and a complement of 1,138; and the Department of Mines and Mineral Industry had a $5.6 million budget and staff of 277.
Of course, there were few environmental protection programs beyond addressing some mining, air quality and waste issues.
Pennsylvania has been moving more backward, not forward in supporting its environmental programs, and huge challenges remain ahead of us.
Cleaning up our more than 19,000 miles of polluted streams and meeting the pollution reductions Pennsylvania agreed to in the Chesapeake Bay Agreement are just two of those challenges.
We still have almost 220,000 acres of abandoned mines that pollute more than 5,000 miles of streams.
To his credit, the current DEP Secretary John Quigley has been very direct about the funding and staffing issue.
At his Senate budget hearing last year, Secretary Quigley said his agency had been “hollowed out,” and its staff reduced by 14 percent rather than the 6 percent other state agencies were hit with.
He also said Pennsylvania is not going to meet its Chesapeake Bay cleanup commitments and a plan to reboot the program is in the offing.
There are also discussions going on about the next version of a Growing Greener Program and the possibility of including it in Gov. Wolf’s next budget address in February.
Pennsylvania has a long way to go to be back where we were, but we have to start somewhere.
Related Stories:DEP Secretary: Pennsylvania Will Miss 2017 Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Commitments