Tuesday, September 18, 2018

DEP: Hazardous Sites Cleanup Program Faces Fiscal Cliff In FY 2020-21

DEP Deputy Secretary for Waste, Air, Radiation and Remediation George Hartenstein told the Citizens Advisory Council Tuesday the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Program faces a significant drop off in funding in FY 2020-21 that threatens to cut the pace of site cleanups and the related remediation response program in half.
Hartenstein noted expenditures to keep up with state and federal hazardous sites cleanup and response obligations have run about $52 million a year.  
However, revenues are only projected to continue at about $23.7 million through FY 2020-21 at which time the remaining balance in the hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund would be drastically reduced.
The practical reality, Hartenstein said, is “You cannot open a cleanup of a hazardous waste site, if you don’t know if you have the money.”
The primary source of funding for the program was the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax which expired at the end of 2015.
The program is now funded through a combination of temporary transfers from the Act 13 unconventional drilling impact fees-- $19 million, hazardous waste fees -- $1.7 million and penalties, interest and cost recovery-- $3 million-- totalling about $23.7 million in the current year.
DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell told the Council on July 17 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.
Hartenstein said one of the other challenges faced by DEP’s Environmental Cleanup Program are emerging contaminants like PFAS in drinking water which he said may be more widespread than previously thought.
With respect to the Storage Tank Program, Hartenstein said one of the challenges faced by the program is the age of tanks now in use in Pennsylvania.
He noted 68 percent of the underground tanks-- 14,984-- are now more than 20 years old and 24 percent-- 5,361-- are more than 30 years old.
DEP regulates 22,144 underground tanks and 17,712 aboveground tanks.
There have been over 17,000 confirmed underground and aboveground tank releases and DEP has overseen over 15,700 tank cleanups.  There are currently 28 state-led underground cleanups now going on funded by the Underground Storage Tank Indemnification Fund.
DEP's Environmental Cleanup and Brownfields Program oversees assessment and cleanup of contaminated land and assures the safe operation of storage tanks. DEP partners with economic and industrial development associations, local governments, communities and businesses to foster the cleanup of Pennsylvania's brownfields and other industrial sites.
DEP provides brownfields redevelopment and economic development assistance through our award-winning Land Recycling Program. DEP manages the cleanup of storage tank releases and state and federal superfund sites under Site Remediation programs.
DEP's Storage Tank program permits, registers and establishes operating requirements for above and underground storage tanks.
Click Here for a copy of Hartenstein’s presentation to Council.
The next scheduled meeting of the Council is on October 16 in Room 105 of the Rachel Carson Building in Harrisburg starting at 10:00.
Don Welsh, former EPA Region III Administrator, President of the PA Environmental Council, DEP Deputy Secretary for State/Federal Relations, among other positions, serves as Chair of the Citizens Advisory Council.
For more information, visit DEP’s Citizens Advisory Council webpage.  Questions should be directed to Keith Saladar, Executive Director, ksalador@pa.gov or call 717-787-8171.
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