Monday, July 30, 2018

PA’s Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act Is 30 Years Old; Where Will Future Funding Come From?

Pennsylvania’s Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act was signed into law 30 years ago on October 18, 1988 as a companion to the federal Superfund enacted in 1980 on the heels of finding 21,000 tons of toxic industrial waste in the Love Canal neighborhood near Niagara Falls.
In 1985 the first more comprehensive state hazardous sites cleanup bill was introduced by Rep. Robert Reber (R-Montgomery) followed by legislation sponsored by Rep. Bob Freeman (D-Lehigh) in 1986 which actually got out of Committee in the House.
It wasn’t until Rep. Bud George (D-Clearfield) introduced legislation backed by Gov. Bob Casey in 1987 that hazardous sites cleanup legislation saw real action.
One of the “bumps” along the way was a refusal by the Senate to take up the legislation.  In response, Gov. Casey threatened to hold up finalizing the state budget that year until the hazardous sites bill was enacted.
The bill ultimately went to a House-Senate conference committee where Senators Mike Fisher (R-Allegheny), Jim Greenwood (R-Bucks) and Ray Musto (D-Luzerne) again represented the Senate like they did on the Act 101 recycling law.
Representatives George (D), Freeman (D) and Reber (R) were on the conference committee for the House.
The final language was enacted in October using legislation sponsored by Rep. George.  (Senators Fisher and Musto sponsored the bill that became Act 101.)
The final Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act adopted in 1988 had three main purposes--
-- Established a process for the investigation, cleanup and monitoring of hazardous substance  contaminated sites the federal Superfund program could not;
-- Funding for the state-share of the federal Superfund Program cleanup costs; and
-- Funding to pay state costs for administering the federal Hazardous Waste Program.
The HSCA program was originally funded by a combination of a portion of the state Capital Stock and Franchise Tax paid by businesses ($20.2 milion), per ton fees on hazardous waste produced and disposed in Pennsylvania ($5.5 million) and an appropriation from the state General Fund ($15.6 million) totalling $41.3 million in 1988-89.
Following the model of the Municipal Waste Planning, Recycling and Waste Reduction Act (Act 101) enacted the previous July, the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act also included--
-- Host Municipalities Benefit Fee;
-- Host Municipality Inspection, information sharing and joint facility inspections; and
-- Additional water supply protections.
Act 108 also paid for DEP’s emergency response costs and for things like emergency water supply replacement where hazardous substances are involved.
Also included in the Act was a Hazardous Waste Facility Siting Commission and Team and a certificate of public necessity process for the siting commercial hazardous waste facilities as well as citizen suit provisions.
Since its enactment, the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Program has done investigations, cleanups and monitoring for a total of 1,271 sites-- 126 state investigations, cleanups and monitoring, 46 by responsible parties (not taxpayer funded) and 1,099 U.S. Department of Defense military site cleanups,
The Program also pays the 10 percent share of the cleanup costs for 96 federal Superfund sites in Pennsylvania, of which 76 percent have completed construction of remediation measures.
HSCA also pays 25 percent of the cost of personnel and operating expenses for 355 sites in Pennsylvania now under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) hazardous waste cleanup program.
The primary challenge for this program, in a word, is funding.
Of the original “three-legged stool” of funding sources, the biggest funding source-- the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax-- is now gone ($20.2 million), there is no General Fund appropriation and hasn’t been for some time ($15.6 million) and fees on hazardous waste are only expected to bring in about $1.6 million in FY 2018-19.
As a result, dedicated funding for the program has dropped from $41.3 million a year in 1988-89 to just $1.6 million in FY 2018-19.
As a temporary measure the last few years, the General Assembly took money from DCNR’s Oil and Gas Lease Fund, transfer it to the Marcellus Shale Legacy Fund created to Act 13 in 2012 so it could be transferred again to the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund.
For FY 2018-19, the transfer was $15 million.  Total funding for HASC this year is $16.6 million, a real drop from the original $41.3 million.
And, of course, the costs for federal Superfund, RCRA, emergency response, personnel, host municipality inspections and the rest are still piling up.
DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell as recently as his appearance before DEP’s Citizens Advisory Council on July 17 again said there needs to be a serious conversation with the General Assembly on how to permanently fund the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Program at adequate levels  into the future.
There has been no legislative activity on this issue, other than through the annual budget process.
Click Here for more details from DEP’s 2017 Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act Annual Report.
For more information on the existing program, visit DEP’s Hazardous Sites Cleanup Program webpage.
(Photo: Bishop Tube HSCA Site, Chester County.)
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