Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Choose CleanWater Coalition Opposes Environmental Riders In Tax, Fiscal And Admin Code Budget Bills

A group of 25 Choose CleanWater Coalition member organizations sent a letter to Gov. Wolf, Senate and House Leaders on August 24 opposing the environmental riders added to the Senate-passed Tax, Fiscal and Administrative Code budget bills.
The groups point out elected officials have an obligation under the Environmental Rights Amendment to the state’s constitution to protect the thousands of miles of beautiful, ecologically vibrant, and economically vital rivers and streams.
The actions the Senate and the Governor took to propose higher taxes in exchange for “dismantling environmental protections” is not only contrary to the constitution it acts “against the public’s best interest.”
"It's troubling to see this type abandonment of environmental protection and the Delaware River Basin Commission," said Maddy Urbish, director of the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed. "We know investing in common sense protections for our water and natural resources yields major returns, both economically and in quality of life."
“With the current threats we face to clean water on the federal level, it is important now more than ever that Pennsylvania be a strong leader for our environment,” said Chante Coleman, director of the Choose Clean Water Coalition. “Residents deserve clean water and healthy communities, and we ask the state legislature to make this a priority in their budget.”
The full text of the letter follows--
The undersigned members of the Choose Clean Water Coalition and the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed request you oppose harmful environmental provisions included in the state budget code that will be detrimental to Pennsylvania’s waterways.
The Choose Clean Water Coalition and the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed are coalitions of conservation, sportsmen, faith, and environmental groups working to restore and conserve clean water throughout the 64,000 square mile Chesapeake Bay watershed and the 13,500 square mile Delaware River Watershed.
Pennsylvania is home to thousands of miles of beautiful, ecologically vibrant, and economically vital rivers and streams.
As elected officials and under the Environmental Rights amendment, the Pennsylvania legislature and the governor have a constitutional responsibility to act in the best interest of their constituents and to conserve and maintain the state’s natural resources.
This includes protecting our waterways, which provide drinking water to millions of Pennsylvanians, boost local economies, support tourism and recreation, and more.
The legislature is acting against the public’s best interest by proposing higher taxes in exchange for dismantling environmental protections.
We are particularly concerned with provisions in the Tax and Administration codes that would dramatically change environmental permitting and directly inhibit environmental protection in Pennsylvania.
These provisions will cut millions from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (DCNR), and would gut DEP’s permitting authority on coal mine pollution, pipelines, and gas wells.
Additionally, we oppose the proposed provisions to force the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) and Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) to pay for unnecessary and costly audits by the Pennsylvania Auditor General. Independent audits of the DRBC and SRBC are conducted each year and these audits are made available to the public.
Forcing the commissions to undergo and pay for duplicative audits wastes their dwindling resources and the resources of the Commonwealth.
This, coupled with Pennsylvania’s historic and detrimental divestment from the commissions this year would be a major blow to their ability to fulfill their duties.
More than half of the state of Pennsylvania is in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Pennsylvania contains two major rivers that are a part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed: the Susquehanna, with 21,000 square miles, and the Potomac, with 1,600 square miles. Together, they total 40 percent of the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed.
The Susquehanna River Basin is the largest tributary of the Chesapeake Bay. The budget only provides $237,000 to the SRBC.
Pennsylvania makes up the largest portion of the Delaware River Basin and is the beneficiary of its resources, including supplying drinking water to 43 percent of the state’s population and supporting $8.6 billion in annual economic activity.
This budget provides only $217,000 to the DRBC, representing less than 25 percent of Pennsylvania’s fair share contribution, significantly undercutting the commission’s resources.
Further raiding the DRBC’s funds to pay for a redundant and needless audit is irresponsible.
Over a decade of declining DEP budgets has already hindered Pennsylvania’s ability to meet clean drinking water standards, jeopardizing the health of its residents and industries and putting the state at risk of losing important federal funding.
We cannot afford to further obstruct the DEP’s ability to carry out its most basic functions. Nor can we rely on trying to work out these environmental provisions once they are passed.
The end result will be a protracted battle with the legislature over permits well into 2018 and 2019, with potentially worse outcomes.
We urge you to oppose the harmful environmental provisions included in the budget approved by the Pennsylvania budget. If you have questions, please contact Chante Coleman, colemanc@nwf.org, or Maddy Urbish, at madeline.urbish@njaudubon.org.
American Rivers; Audubon Pennsylvania; Aquashicola/ Pohopoco Watershed Conservancy; Clean Air Council; Clean Water Action-PA; Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania; Delaware Highlands Conservancy; Eastern PA Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation; Friends for the Abbott Marshlands; Green Valleys Watershed Association; Guardians of the Brandywine; Lackawanna River Conservation Association; Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper; Mehoopany Creek Watershed Association; National Parks Conservation Association; Nature Abounds; PennEnvironment; PennFuture; Pennsylvania Council of Churches; Penns Valley Conservation Association; Sierra Club PA Chapter; Susquehanna Heritage; The Environmental Justice Center at Chestnut Hill United Church; Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership, Inc.; and Western Pocono Trout Unlimited.
Click Here for a copy of the letter.
For more information on programs, initiatives and upcoming events, visit the Choose CleanWater Coalition website.

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