Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Sen. Yaw Asks For Specific Plan On How Pennsylvania Will Meet Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Obligations

In comments at the Senate Appropriations Committee hearing Monday on the Department of Agriculture’s budget, Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, expressed concerns about whether the state was doing enough to meets its obligations to cleanup the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
He asked Agriculture, and will ask DEP and DCNR, for a specific plan on how Pennsylvania is going to meet its Chesapeake Bay cleanup commitments.
Sen. Yaw noted a recent Penn State study found Pennsylvania should be spending more than $378 million a year to meet its federal mandate to cleanup the state’s rivers and streams flowing into the Chesapeake Bay, mostly in assistance to farmers.
Under the best circumstances, Sen. Yaw said, Pennsylvania is spending about $140 million a year to help meet Pennsylvania’s obligations.
Pennsylvania is way behind where we should be in meeting our Chesapeake Bay commitments, said Sen. Yaw, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is now “breathing down our necks” to meet our commitments.
“If you don’t meet them, something bad’s going to happen,” said Sen. Yaw.
[In response to a question at the House budget hearing Monday, Acting DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said the possible federal actions for not meeting Chesapeake Bay requirements include withholding federal funding, which EPA has done in some cases, having EPA overseeing individual permit actions and having EPA set its own permit requirements in Pennsylvania.]
In response to Sen. Yaw’s comments, Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding explained the Governor’s budget has a 3-year, $45 million initiative in the proposed budget funded by a bond issue to address Pennsylvania’s water quality cleanup obligations, including $15 million over 3 years for the Chesapeake Bay cleanup specifically.
[Note: The bond funding initiative proposed by Gov. Wolf is not going over well with Senate and House Republicans.]
Sen. Yaw requested Secretary Redding to provided a list of specific things his agency and DEP and DCNR want to accomplish in terms of water quality improvement related to the Chesapeake Bay.  He said he wants to know what is being done over the next year, how Pennsylvania is going to do it and how many miles we’re going to cleanup and where.  
He said he will ask DEP Acting Secretary McDonnell the same question.
Sen. Yaw said Pennsylvania needs to tell EPA specifically what we’re doing, as well as other states in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, like Maryland and Virginia.
Secretary Redding said he welcomed the discussion, because everyone recognizes Pennsylvania is behind and said Sen. Yaw’s suggestion was timely.
Redding reminded the Committee “we will need your help” in terms of funding.
In January, Sen. Yaw and the other House and Senate members representing Pennsylvania on the interstate Chesapeake Bay Commission wrote to all members of the Pennsylvania 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 a year.  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), Sen. Rich Alloway (R-Franklin), Rep. Garth Everett (R-Lycoming), Rep. Keith Gillespie (R-York) and Rep. Mike Sturla (D-Lancaster).
Click Here to watch the Senate budget hearing.  This exchange is at about 67 minutes into the hearing.
For information on Pennsylvania’s initiatives, visit DEP’s Chesapeake Bay Office webpage.
For more on Chesapeake Bay-related issues in Pennsylvania, visit the Chesapeake Bay Foundation-PA webpage.  Click Here to sign up for Pennsylvania updates (bottom of left column).  Click Here for a copy of CBF-PA’s most recent newsletter.
Related Stories:
CBF-PA: Wolf’s Budget Lacks Adequate Investments To Meet PA’s Clean Water Commitments

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