Monday, February 29, 2016

House Budget: DCNR To Finalize $40 Fee For Natural Diversity Inventory Permit Reviews

DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn told the House Appropriations Committee her agency will finalize a $40 “convenience fee” for providing receipts for PA Natural Diversity Inventory online permit reviews in the coming year.
[Note: DCNR published notice in the March 5 PA Bulletin the $40 PNDI fee policy was finalized.]
Otherwise most of the questions asked by House Committee members were duplicates of the questions asked Secretary Dunn in the Senate.
Those duplicate issues included: zeroing out the PA Heritage Areas Program; using Oil and Gas Lease Fund revenue to support DCNR day-to-day operating costs; the status of submerged lands leasing to oil and gas companies under rivers and streams owned by the Commonwealth; the decline in natural gas royalties paid into the Oil and Gas Lease Fund; questions related to acquiring 25,000 additional areas of state forest land as noted in the Executive Budget book; general questions on the Green Ribbon Task Force On Forest Products; the status of DCNR’s Trail Cap Study; the status of DCNR’s State Forest Management Plan; the proposed state waste tipping fee increase by $1.75/ton to be deposited in the Oil and Gas Lease Fund to make up for lower natural gas royalties; use of ATV funds for trails and ATV safety (actually the near exact same words to the questions were used); and the PA Conservation Corps proposals.
Here is a quick summary of questions and answers for issues not raised in the Senate--
-- Increasing Sequestering Carbon In State Forests: Rep. John Maher (R-Allegheny), Majority Chair of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, asked for clarification of the goal to sequester more carbon by growing more trees.  Secretary Dunn said the goal is to sequester an additional 750,000 tons (annual accumulation) of carbon in state forests.  In 2015, she said, DCNR sequestered an additional 150,000 tons.
-- Study of South Newark Natural Gas Shales: In response to a question by Rep. Jeff Pyle (R-Armstrong), Secretary Dunn said the agency is on track to complete its report on the South Newark natural gas shales in Bucks and Montgomery counties in 2018 as required by an amendment to the 2012 Fiscal Code bill.
-- Status Of Fee Increases: Rep. Jeff Pyle (R-Armstrong) asked if the agency plans any fee increases in the coming year.  Secretary Dunn said DCNR will be proposing a $40 “convenience” fee for its PA Natural Diversity Inventory online permit review receipts and some increases in some State Park usage fees.
-- Position On Pipelines: Rep. Marguerite Quinn (R-Bucks) asked if DCNR has taken any position on proposed pipelines going through the state.  She noted one pipeline is proposed to go through the Delaware Canal State Park in her district.  Secretary Dunn said they do provide comments on specific pipeline proposals to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that involve DCNR-owned lands.  In addition, she noted DCNR was part of the Governor’s Pipeline Infrastructure Pipeline Task Force and made recommendations to the group based on experience DCNR had in overseeing natural gas leases on State Forest land.
-- Increasing Diversity In DCNR Employees: Several members asked about increasing diversity in DCNR’s workforce and a proposal to recruit staff from out-of-state.  Secretary Dunn said only 4 percent of DCNR’s workforce is nonwhite and they recognize they have an issue.  She said the agency has stepped up recruiting of minority candidates to fill positions.  One of the goals of out-of-state recruiting is not only to attract employees from other forestry schools with different education programs, but also to increase diversity.  Civil service rules, she noted, require workforce candidates to be Pennsylvania residents.
A copy of Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn budget testimony is available online.
This concludes Senate and House budget hearings on the proposed FY 2016-17 DEP and DCNR budgets.
A video of this House Budget hearing will be posted on the House Republican website. The Senate budget hearings are available on the Senate Republican website.
Related Stories:
DEP Tells House Committees Chesapeake Bay Program Faces Inadequate Resources, Data

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