The bipartisan Pennsylvania members Pennsylvania of the Chesapeake Bay Commission Tuesday wrote to all members of the Senate and House to outline the need to address the state’s water pollution cleanup problems and propose a potential solution - a dedicated Clean Water Fund for Pennsylvania.
The letter proposes, as one solution, a water use fee to finance Pennsylvania’s water pollution cleanup effort that would raise an estimated $245 million. They note water fee proposals were introduced last session in Senate Bill 1401 (Alloway-R- Franklin) and House Bill 2114 (Sturla-D-Lancaster).
The letter to members was signed by Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, Sen. Rich Alloway (R-Franklin), Rep. Garth Everett (R-Lycoming), Rep. Keith Gillespie (R-York) and Rep. Mike Sturla (D-Lancaster).
Their cover note to colleagues says--
“Clean water is fundamental to public health and our economy. Unfortunately, almost one quarter of Pennsylvania’s streams and rivers are not safe for either drinking, swimming, fishing or aquatic life.
“The enclosed report, Water Rich & Water Wise, describes the extent of the impact and potential solutions.
“As legislative members of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, we know that practices to improve water quality are not without cost. Our state and local governments have already spent significant dollars to upgrade wastewater treatment plants and farmers are implementing best management practices.
“Unfortunately, much more needs to be done, not just for the Bay, but more importantly for our own local waters.
“The good news is that these practices work, and much of the remaining effort can be achieved with some of the most cost-effective practices available. Investment in clean water directly benefits local governments and landowners, and provides local jobs.
“By taking care of our own local waters, we also reduce regulatory uncertainty that can arise from pollution of downstream neighbors, whether in the Chesapeake, Ohio, Delaware or Great Lakes watersheds.
“Please take a moment to read the enclosed report. We hope that you will join us in a thoughtful conversation about legislation to address this important issue.”
A Clean Water Fund For Pennsylvania
Here’s the discussion of funding water pollution cleanup from Water Rich & Water Wise--
In Pennsylvania, a water use fee has been proposed.
It would support water protection programs across the Commonwealth, in every part of the state, including the Ohio, the Genesee, the Susquehanna, the Delaware, the Erie and the Potomac watersheds.
Currently, 5.9 billion gallons of the commonwealth’s water are used each day, statewide, without compensation. By instead charging only one-hundredth of a cent per gallon for all withdrawals over 10,000 gallons per day, and one-tenth of a cent for all consumptive uses over 10,000 gallons per day, an estimated $245 million per year could be generated.
This is even after municipal water systems and agricultural production are exempted and existing fees charged by the Susquehanna and Delaware River Basin Commissions are deducted.
The average individual uses only 100 gallons a day, so a 10,000 gallon threshold would include only large-scale commercial uses. At least 12 other states have some form of water fee, providing for both the oversight and protection of their water.10 Funding water quality is a good investment.
Studies of the Chesapeake Bay, Great Lakes and Everglades have estimated at least a 2:1 benefit to cost ratio for water quality restoration.11 In other words, for every dollar spent on water quality improvement, two dollars of benefit, such as economic activity, ecosystem services and increased property values are realized.
The jobs created by restoration activity are often in the high-value STEM professions,12 and the quality of life in healthy watersheds helps to attract employers and retain employees.
Pennsylvania is at a turning point. A robust investment in clean water today will help Pennsylvania comply with its current federal mandate for the Chesapeake Bay.
It will also prepare the Commonwealth for any future regional efforts such as Great Lakes or Gulf of Mexico restorations. Most importantly, it will help the Commonwealth meet its own constitutional duty, as a trustee of natural resources for the benefit of all,13 by investing in the prosperity of Pennsylvania citizens and communities.
Establishing a Pennsylvania Water Fund makes sense. It provides a logical approach to protecting local water quality while addressing regional concerns. It will help to make the Commonwealth both water rich and water wise.A copy of Water Rich & Water Wise is available online. Click Here for a copy of the cover letter.