Friday, November 22, 2019

Bill Did NOT Pass: Bill Authorizing Local Stormwater Pollution Prevention Fees By First Class Townships Did NOT Pass; Funding Needs Remain

Due to an error on the General Assembly’s website early on November 22, it listed  House Bill 473 (Everett-R-Lycoming) to authorize Townships of the First Class to adopt fees to support local stormwater pollution prevention and MS4 projects as passing the House on November 21.
In fact, no action have been taken on the bill.
PA Environment Digest regrets passing along this error in a story published this morning.  
The fact remains, however, local governments have a significant need for funding to deal with stormwater management issues.
Local governments and authorities have to adopt stormwater fees to support their programs because funding is not available from the state or federal government at the levels needed to provide these services.
At a hearing held in June by the House Local Government and Environmental Resources and Energy Committees, representatives of local governments asked for more resources from the General Assembly to support their stormwater programs.
None was forthcoming.  In fact, the FY 2019-20 budget adopted in June cut $16 million in funding from the Environmental Stewardship Fund that would have helped fund stormwater and other watershed restoration projects.
Funding Needs
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.
The General Assembly did provide $6 million in additional funding to farmers 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 farm conservation practices and municipal stormwater best management practices.
The bipartisan Restore Pennsylvania Infrastructure Plan proposed by Gov. Wolf was introduced in June in bill form with nearly enough co-sponsors in the House and Senate to pass the bills-- House Bill 1585 and Senate Bill 725-- but the bills haven’t moved. 
The proposal would provide significant financial assistance to get farm conservation, stormwater and green infrastructure on the ground, recreation facilities repaired and land protected. A poll in August found the Restore PA proposal has broad public support-- 69 percent. 
The hang-up? It would be funded by a new severance tax on natural gas production not supported by Republican leadership in either the House or Senate.  Click Here for more.
Senate Republicans introduced a Restore PA-Lite proposal in June-- Senate Bill 716 and Senate Bill 717--  that would establish a Green Infrastructure Fund to address some of the funding needs. 
The hang-up?  It isn’t real. It would be funded by authorizing more natural gas drilling in State Forests. The facts are no one is clamoring to lease more State Forest land for drilling, only 35 percent or so of the existing drilling leases have been developed and it probably unconstitutional.  It’s an empty proposal.
Other possible funding sources have been suggested include eliminating the Sales Tax exemption for bottled water and teas that could bring in $75 to $80 million a year and a fee on water use.
Click Here for more background on water quality funding needs in Pennsylvania.
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[Posted: November 22, 2019]

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