Friday, May 26, 2017

Rep. Sturla Reintroduces Water Use Fee Bill To Fund Clean Water Programs

Rep. Mike Sturla (D-Lancaster), who is one of  5 legislators who represent Pennsylvania on the interstate Chesapeake Bay Commission, Wednesday reintroduced legislation-- House Bill 20-- that would enact a water resource use fee on 5.6 billion gallons of daily water withdrawals in Pennsylvania that has the potential to generate $250 million annually, based on current usage rates.
The bill would exempt the 1.4 billion gallons of daily water withdrawals for agricultural and municipal water usages.
In January, the bipartisan Pennsylvania members of the Chesapeake Bay Commission put a spotlight on the need to invest more state resources into the state’s water pollution cleanup programs by creating a state Clean Water Fund.
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) wrote to all members of the House and Senate on the need for more funding.
They 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.”
One possible solution, they said, was creating a  Clean Water Fund financed by adopting a fee on water use.
“The Pennsylvania Constitution makes it clear that Pennsylvania’s public natural resources belong to the people of the Commonwealth. This bill ensures that entities that are currently using our water for free would pay a nominal fee that will be used to fund water-related programs and projects while freeing up money for the General Assembly to close structural deficits in the state budget,” Rep. Sturla said.
Water withdrawn from Commonwealth waterways in excess of 10,000 gallons a day is already required to be reported to the Department of Environmental Protection.
House Bill 20 would result in a charge of 1/100th of a cent per gallon if water is withdrawn for use and eventually returned to the source. Water withdrawn and not returned beyond 10,000 gallons a day would be charged 1/10th of a cent per gallon.
Revenue generated from House Bill 20 would be used to fund water-related programs and general governmental operations in the Department of Environmental Protection ($30 million), Department of Conservation and Natural Resources ($25 million), Department of Agriculture ($5 million) and Fish and Boat Commission ($5 million).
The remaining dollars would be allocated to the PA Water Infrastructure Investment Authority for water-related projects within Pennsylvania’s six major watersheds.
There is an additional option for PennVEST to use remaining funds to pay debt service on a $3 billion bond issue for environment projects, subject to ballot referendum.
A sponsor summary is available.
(Photo: Kettle Creek, Potter County.)
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