Saturday, October 26, 2019

Senate Appropriations To Consider Keystone Tree Fund Bill Oct. 28; PA Needs At Least $324 Million This Year

The Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to meet on October 28 to consider House Bill 374 (Everett-R-Lycoming) to establish the Keystone Tree Fund.  The bill allows driver and vehicle license owners to add $3.00 to those fees to support DCNR riparian buffer and tree planting programs starting in July 2020.
Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, sponsored identical legislation-- Senate Bill 108-- that is also in the Senate Appropriations Committee.
PennDOT said the new program would cost $150,000 the first year to set up.  Those expenses would come out of the Tree Fund.
While it’s difficult to estimate how much income would be generated by the new checkoff, it may be possible to put some boundaries on it.
A similar driver and vehicle license checkoff for the Gov. Robert P. Casey Memorial organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Trust Fund, created in 1994, is expected to generate about $709,000 in FY 2019-20.
The Wild Resources Income Tax Checkoff, created in 1982, is expected to generate about $50,000 in FY 2019-20.
So, income could be somewhere between $700,000 and $50,000 the first year of the program ending in July 2021.
The Appropriations Committee meeting will be held in the Rules Room, off the floor, meaning the meeting could happen at any time after the Senate convenes its session at 1:00 on Monday.
The Need
There is a tremendous need for additional state funding to address critical drinking water, wastewater and nutrient and sediment reduction issues all across Pennsylvania.
For the 43-county Chesapeake Bay Watershed alone, the need is $324 million each year for the next 6 years to implement the ground-up, stakeholder-driven plan submitted to EPA to meet Pennsylvania’s clean water obligations.
Funding needs to start in FY 2019-20, if Pennsylvania has any chance of meeting our  2025 cleanup milestones.  
If the funding is not provided, Pennsylvania will be subject to sanctions from EPA and additional legal actions by other states in the Bay Watershed.
And worst of all, Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams will not get cleaned up. Limping along with existing resources means meeting the 2025 milestones will be pushed back to 2044-- 19 years.
These are just the facts.
The General Assembly did provide $6 million in additional funding through the PA Farm Bill in July, but that still leaves the farm community tens of millions of dollars short-- $171 million to put a number on it-- to support putting cost-effective conservation practices on the ground just this year.
However, the General Assembly also cut $16 million from the Environmental Stewardship Fund which funded local, on-the-ground conservation practices.
In June, the Senate did pass Senate Bill 575 (Yaw-R-Lycoming) establishing a taxpayer-funded procurement program for nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment reduction that included a $20 million appropriation.
However, the way the bill is structured, it will guarantee taxpayers pay the highest cost per pound of nutrient reduction practices to support complicated technology because the individual farmers that can install the lowest cost practices-- planting stream buffers-- couldn’t afford to bid into the process.
This isn’t a surprise, because the bill was introduced with the support of the Coalition For Affordable Bay Solutions, an industry-led coalition of private companies promoting complicated and expensive manure treatment technologies and manure-to-energy processing plants.
Whether a $20 million appropriation for this expensive program survives is also in doubt.
Gov. Wolf’s Restore Pennsylvania infrastructure funding plan ran into significant Republican opposition because of the way it was funded-- a new natural gas severance tax.
Some Senate Republicans want to open DCNR’s state forest land to more gas drilling as an alternative-- Restore PA-lite proposal-- even though two-thirds of the existing leases haven’t been drilled yet-- an empty solution.
In addition, county, municipal governments and authorities have been stuck adopting stormwater management fees because the General Assembly has failed to provide them the financial support they need to meet their MS4 Stormwater Pollution Prevention obligations, in particular.
Of course, everything helps, like House Bill 374, and that should not be dismissed because the involvement of each Pennsylvanian is critical in cleaning up our rivers and streams.
But, where’s the rest of the $318 million we need this year just for our part of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed?
And where’s the funding for the rest of the Commonwealth?
The need is there, clearly.  The need for real solutions is critical.  
On January 24, 2017, the bipartisan Pennsylvania members of the Chesapeake Bay Commission dramatically wrote to all members of the Senate and House to spotlight the need for many more resources to address water pollution cleanup obligations across the state.
They highlighted the need for a new, dedicated Clean Water Fund.
The letter was signed by Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, Sen. Rich Alloway (R-Franklin)- now retired, Rep. Garth Everett (R-Lycoming), Rep. Keith Gillespie (R-York) and Rep. Mike Sturla (D-Lancaster).
They said in the letter-- "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.
“Our state and local governments have already spent significant dollars to upgrade wastewater treatment plants and farmers are implementing best management practices.
"Unfortunately, much more needs to be done, not just for the Bay, but more importantly for our own local waters.
"The good news is that these practices work, and much of the remaining effort can be achieved with some of the most cost-effective practices available. Investment in clean water directly benefits local governments and landowners, and provides local jobs.
"By taking care of our own local waters, we also reduce regulatory uncertainty that can arise from pollution of downstream neighbors, whether in the Chesapeake, Ohio, Delaware or Great Lakes watersheds.”
Time to follow their own words.
Just saying no or proposing empty or costly solutions doesn’t cut it or help the farm community or local governments meet their obligations.
Time to step up.  Time to do more for clean water than name the Eastern Hellbender the state amphibian; literally, the kids are depending on you.
The Senate has 9 voting days left this year and the House has 15.
Tick-tock, time is wasting.
Related Article This Week:
Related Articles:
[Posted: October 26, 2019]

No comments :

Post a Comment

Subscribe To Receive Updates:

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner