Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Choose Clean Water Coalition Urges Action Now On Water Quality Cleanup Issues

House members Garth Everett (R-Lycoming) and Mike Sturla (D-Lancaster) and representatives of the Choose Clean Water Coalition Monday urged lawmakers to pass legislation to address Pennsylvania’s critical water quality and Chesapeake Bay cleanup issues.
This action follows a letter sent by members of Pennsylvania’s delegation to the Chesapeake Bay Commission to all House and Senate members in January urging the creation of a Pennsylvania Clean Water Fund.
The letter was signed by Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, Sen. Richard Alloway (R-Franklin), Rep. Garth Everett (R-Lycoming), Rep. Keith Gillespie (R-York) and Rep. Mike Sturla (D-Lancaster).
Rep. Everett, who chairs the interstate Chesapeake Bay Commission, said all stakeholders need to work together to clean up the streams and rivers in our own backyards to improve water quality in the Bay, pointing to the Loyalsock Creek in his home area of Lycoming County.
“We drink the water; we bathe in the water; we use it in our industrial and commercial processes; it’s our lifeblood. We need  to take better care of it,” said Rep. Everett.  “I believe we need to find a dedicated fund to address water quality in the Commonwealth.”
Rep. Sturla noted one potential source of revenue is a new fee on using water owned by the Commonwealth which currently is given away for free to commercial and industrial water users.
Reps. Sturla and Everett co-sponsored House Bill 2114 last year to assess a fee on water use, except by agriculture and municipal water suppliers.  The bill has not yet been introduced this session.
Marel King, Pennsylvania Director of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, said Pennsylvania is facing “some critical mandates” in cleaning up the Susquehanna River because it plays in the Bay’s water quality.
She noted Pennsylvania has a large number of streams-- over 19,000 miles-- that are deemed impaired enough they do not meet one or more of the federal standards for drinking, swimming, fishing, or aquatic life.
Legislative Initiatives
King said the Coalition supports actions in at least 4 areas--
-- Adopt A Water Use Fee: Pennsylvania should enact a fee on major water withdrawals to fund Bay-related restoration projects and other statewide water quality initiatives.  Currently, the Commonwealth, which owns the water, levies no fee for the commercial and industrial use of billions of gallons of the public’s water.  Sen. Richard Alloway-- Senate Bill 1401-- and Rep. Sturla-- House Bill 2114-- both introduced different versions of water use fee proposals last session and plan to introduce fee bills again this session.
-- Restore State Environmental Agency Funding For Clean Water, Infrastructure Programs: The budget for the Department of Environmental Protection has been cut for the last decade and these cuts have reduced the ability of Pennsylvania to enforce federal clean drinking water standards in the Commonwealth.  Due to the cuts,  hundreds of staffing positions have been lost and DEP can only address fewer than half of the state's water critical pollution issues.
The budget for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has shrunk, resulting in the agency having to cut vital state park and forest maintenance budgets to continue providing basic conservation services, like park rangers.  Increased funding will help the agency address nearly a billion dollar maintenance backlog as well as work on critical water pollution issues, like expanding forested riparian buffers.
The budget for the Department of Agriculture has also been cut dramatically.  Increased funding to Conservation Districts is needed to support more technical assistance for farmers and landowners to meet their obligations to properly conserve and manage their land.  Increased funding should also support shovel-ready projects for best management practice implementation in the agriculture sector.
-- Landowners Getting State Tax Breaks Should Also Do Conservation: The Clean and Green Program is a state program providing tax breaks and financial support to landowners to preserve agricultural and forest land. House Bill 1053, introduced by Rep. Sturla, would require landowners getting this state financial support to comply with at least the minimum conservation requirements state law now requires.  Many now do not.
-- Lawn Fertilizer Education: Legislation to be reintroduced by Sen. Alloway would require additional labeling and education requirements for the application of lawn fertilizers by homeowners to avoid over use that pollutes local streams and rivers.  The legislation last session was Senate Bill 563.
Click Here for a more complete description of these initiatives.
For more information on water quality issues, visit the Choose Clean Water Coalition  website.
Related Stories:
EPA: DEP Lacks Resources To Enforce Minimum Federal Safe Drinking Water Regs

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