Friday, November 8, 2019

Governor Signs Keystone Tree Fund Bill Into Law; Where’s The Rest Of The $324 Million We Need This Year?

On November 7, Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law House Bill 374 (Everett-R-Lycoming) to establish the Keystone Tree Fund (Act 78).  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.
While it’s difficult to estimate how much income would be generated by the new checkoff, 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.
PennDOT said the new program would cost $150,000 the first year to set up.  Those expenses would come out of the Tree Fund.
Bills establishing the Keystone Tree Fund were first introduced in the General Assembly by Rep. Everett and Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, in May of 2018.
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 $324 million we need this year just for Pennsylvania’s part of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, let alone statewide needs?
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.
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.
Click Here for more background on water quality funding needs in Pennsylvania.
Visit DEP’s PA Chesapeake Bay Plan to learn more about what the state is doing to meet its Chesapeake Bay Watershed clean water obligations.
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[Posted: November 8, 2019]

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