Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Joint Budget & Finance Committee Water Use Fee Report Lays Groundwork For Further Discussion

The Joint Senate-House Legislative Budget & Finance Committee Wednesday released a new report-- Feasibility of Establishing A Water Use Fee In Pennsylvania Report-- that lays the factual groundwork for discussing one funding option Pennsylvania members of the Chesapeake Bay Commission pointed to as possible source of funding for a new Pennsylvania Clean Water Fund.
The report outlines the basic facts of consumptive and nonconsumptive water uses in Pennsylvania as of 2015 by industry, business, agricultural and water supply sectors.
Pennsylvania withdrew 25.8 trillion gallons of water from surface and groundwater sources across 11 user sectors in 2015.
Three of those sectors, hydroelectric power, thermoelectric power, and public water supplies accounted for 98.4 percent of total water withdrawals. Hydroelectric power, alone, accounted for 92 percent of total water withdrawals.
Excluding hydroelectric power, the three largest sectors were thermoelectric power, public water supplies, and industrial use. These three account for 92 percent of the remaining total water withdrawals.
Three of those sectors, hydroelectric power, thermoelectric power, and public water supplies accounted for 98.4 percent of total water withdrawals. Hydroelectric power, alone, accounted for 92 percent of total water withdrawals.
Excluding hydroelectric power, the three largest sectors were thermoelectric power, public water supplies, and industrial use. These three account for 92 percent of the remaining total water withdrawals.
Of water use by sectors in 2015 was: hydroelectric 91.95 percent, thermoelectric 4.53 percent, public water supply 1.97 percent, thermoelectric recirculated 0.46 percent, industrial 0.89 percent, livestock 0.12 percent, mining 0.06 percent, oil and gas 0.01 percent, commercial and institutional 0.008 percent, irrigation 0.009 percent and wastewater treatment 0.0002 percent.
Also included is information on water withdrawals by county, by sector, by ground or surface water.
The report provides calculations of what fees sectors would be if there was a desire to raise $100, $300 or $500 million annually with no exemptions
Calculations were also done on the fee cost in House Bill 20 (Sturla-D-Lancaster) as another possible scenario.
Click Here for a copy of the full 203-page report.
Sen. Bob Mensch (R-Montgomery) serves as Chair of the Committee and Sen. James Brewster (D-Allegheny) serves as Vice Chair.
Fish & Boat Commission Comments
John Arway, Executive Director of the Fish and Boat Commission, provided written comments as part of the report which included this introduction--
“The establishment of a water use fee in Pennsylvania has been a professional and personal goal of mine for most of my 38-year career with the Commonwealth.
“Since becoming executive director of the PFBC in 2010, I have tried to bring attention to this issue and in 2011, I authored an article in the Pennsylvania Angler and Boater Magazine titled: Highway Robbery.
“In the article, I called attention to the uses and amounts of water that are withdrawn from Pennsylvania waters.
“Therefore, on  behalf of the Commonwealth’s anglers, boaters, fish, aquatic species and citizens, I thank you for a comprehensive LBFC Feasibility Study which examines, in great detail, the sources, uses, withdrawals and possible compensation rates.
“Your study assembled a significant amount of data and provides excellent materials to further inform and engage the public and lawmakers on this important topic.
“When water is withdrawn from a Commonwealth stream, lake, river or from beneath the ground’s surface and used by man for other purposes, it takes away a certain amount of water from other uses.
“Our Commonwealth’s water resources are “the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come.  As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.” (Section 27, Article I of the Pennsylvania Constitution).
“As perhaps one of the oldest Commonwealth agencies whose original charter was to restore American shad runs to the Susquehanna River and protect native brook trout from the sediment pollution occurring because of the large-scale logging of our landscape, the PFBC traditionally represents the Commonwealth as the trustee for our fish and aquatic life resources.
“These are the very resources which provide fishing and boating opportunities for over 1.1 million anglers and over half a million boaters.
“Our Commonwealth anglers spend over $12 billion annually in Pennsylvania’s economy and have a vested interest in how water is used and regulated since the growing demand for water has the potential to seriously affect the sports of fishing and boating.
“Water is truly a Commonwealth asset, should be regarded as a commodity of economic value, and not a Commonwealth good which is freely given away.
“It is important that all people understand the scope and scale of how various water uses and withdrawals impact the environment, as well as the species and humans which rely on water to live.”
Arway’s letter, which starts on page 194 of the full report, goes on to describe why compensation for water use should be provided to the Commonwealth and its regulatory and natural resources as trustees of what he called “Pennsylvania’s most valuable natural resource.”
Proposed PA Clean Water Fund
On January 24, 2017, all 5 Pennsylvania Senate and House members on the Chesapeake Bay Commission 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 noted water fee proposals were introduced in the 2015-16 session-- Senate Bill 1401 (Alloway-R-Franklin) and House Bill 2114 (Sturla-D-Lancaster)-- and now House Bill 20 (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 said--
“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.
Follow Up Action
Since January 2017, the House and Senate and the Governor’s Office have not identified and taken action on specific sources of funding for a PA Clean Water fund or other proposals to help Pennsylvania meets its statewide and Chesapeake Bay water pollution cleanup obligations.
Earlier this month, Sen. Yaw, Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne), Minority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, and Rep. Everett announced plans to introduce legislation creating a $3 Keystone Tree Fund checkoff on driver and vehicle registrations to support tree planting efforts statewide along impaired waters.
The initiative is designed to help support the Keystone 10 Million Trees Partnership which has a goal of planting 10 million trees along streams by 2025.
A PA Chesapeake Bay Watershed Planning Steering Committee is now in the middle of drafting a clean water plan to meet Pennsylvania’s obligations to reduce water pollution in the 43-county Chesapeake Bay drainage area of the state.
One Committee workgroup is looking at funding issues.  The workgroup is being led by Rep. Everett, Brion Johnson, Executive Director of the PA Infrastructure Investment Authority, and Marel King, PA Director, Chesapeake Bay Commission.
(Map: Groundwater withdrawals per day in millions of gallons by county in 2015.)
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