Thursday, April 8, 2021

Wildlife, Environmental Groups Unveil New Underfunded and Polluted: Solutions to Fund Clean Water In PA Report

On April 8, wildlife, conservation and environmental groups
unveiled a new report outlining the challenges and solutions to fund clean water in Pennsylvania.

The groups include the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, Trout Unlimited, Lackawanna River Conservation Association, PennFuture and the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

The new report-- "Underfunded and Polluted: Solutions to Fund Clean Water in Pennsylvania and the Chesapeake Bay Watershed"-- lays out the scope of the problem, the policy tools that can address it, and how we go about implementing them.

Specifically, the report recommends policy solutions and funding amounts that would result in the reduction of pollution from its major source—agriculture lands—as well as stormwater runoff and forestry-related practices. 

It also recommends state agencies are funded properly and operating with sufficient capacity to carry out the programs and assistance needed to accomplish state pollution goals.

The report also identifies funding mechanisms that are available to state legislators to help  achieve these policy goals, including a severance tax on natural gas extraction, eliminating the sales tax exemption for bottled water, levying a fee on single-use plastic bags, and establishing a water use fee for large commercial operations in Pennsylvania, among others. 

The pathways spelled out in our report complement efforts already underway in the state Capitol, as two bills with bipartisan support could soon come up for a vote in Harrisburg. 

The first is Senate Bill 251 (Yaw-R-Lycoming, Comitta-D-Chester) which seeks to implement new standards and regulations on lawn fertilizer application across Pennsylvania [Read more here], while Senate Bill 465 (Yaw-R-Lycoming, Comitta-D-Chester) would create a statewide Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program to help more farmers and landowners implement practices to combat nonpoint source agricultural runoff to our streams, creeks, and rivers [Read more here]. 

The groups will be watching these bills closely and doing our part to support them. 

The groups said what policymakers in the Keystone State do—or more importantly, what they do not do—over the next five years will determine not only the fate of many of the Commonwealth’s rivers and streams in the Susquehanna and Potomac River Basins, but also the fate of America’s largest estuary and third largest in the world.

The Susquehanna River provides half of all the freshwater that flows into the Chesapeake Bay, and there are more than 15,000 miles of polluted streams within Pennsylvania’s portions of the Susquehanna and Potomac River Basins alone. [Read more here]

Our water pollution problem has become so severe that Pennsylvania is required to reduce its load of pollution into the Susquehanna River by 34 million pounds of nitrogen and 756,000 pounds of phosphorus by 2025. 


The makes a series of policy recommendations for Pennsylvania to meet the 2025 milestones.  The cost of implementing those recommendations is $521 million a year (page 5 of report).

The recommendations include increasing staffing for county conservation districts, agricultural cost-share programs, the Reserve Enhancement and Protection Farm Tax Credit Program, municipal stormwater assistance, riparian forest buffer grants, county clean water implementation fund and allocations to the Environmental Stewardship and Keystone Recreation, Parks and Conservation funds and more.

[Note: Stakeholder groups convened by DEP to develop the Phase 3 Implementation Plan for Pennsylvania’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed estimated the funding gap for implementation of the plan they recommended is $324 million a year.  Read more here.

[EPA and other groups have noted Pennsylvania’s implementation plan comes up about 25 percent short of meeting the 2025 obligations.  Read more here.]

Economic Benefits

It’s estimated that the economic benefits provided by clean water improvements, such as increases in real estate and recreational opportunities, will increase by $6.2 billion annually in Pennsylvania’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed compared to an annual investment of $521 million.  [Read more here]

Unfortunately, Pennsylvania’s history in attaining these results has been murky to date. Political leaders have lent support to plans for years to achieve clean water, but haven’t found the mechanisms to fully implement them. 

The hope is the report will be the missing link to bridge that gap toward clean water. 

“Our report is intended to get Pennsylvania back on track toward meeting its clean water goals and, ultimately, saving the Chesapeake Bay,” said PennFuture President and CEO Jacquelyn Bonomo. “Each one of us benefits by having access to clean water, yet the Commonwealth continues to fall short of its obligations to reduce water pollution. We know the path forward. Now it is incumbent upon the General Assembly to invest in our communities and provide the funding needed to clean up our rivers and streams.”

"For far too long, Pennsylvania's legislature has failed to properly invest in our waterways," said PennFuture Campaign Manager Renee Reber, who authored the report. "Today, PennFuture is changing that narrative. Our new report shows that making the necessary investments is possible and we provide legislators with the tools to do so. State investments in clean water are investments in our economy, farmers, towns, and public health. The time to act is now."

“Trout Unlimited is dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring Pennsylvania’s wild trout fisheries and their watersheds, a mission that begins with protection of waters in our own backyards. Pennsylvania’s outdoor recreation economy depends on clean water, yet without adequate state funds, many waters remain polluted, robbing citizens of the opportunity to enjoy our aquatic resources. We can significantly increase the pace of on-the-ground restoration through projects like riparian buffers and other initiatives that decrease pollution to our local waterways and eventually to the Chesapeake Bay. This report contains key recommendations for funding, resource agency needs, and legislative initiatives that are key tools to be used in reaching the goal of cleaner, healthy waters throughout the Commonwealth.” Jennifer Orr-Greene, Eastern Policy Director, Trout Unlimited

“Investing in the Commonwealth’s waterways is key to a healthy environment and a prosperous economy. Northeastern Pennsylvania has seen rivers, like the Lackawanna, degraded to an almost unrestorable condition at the hands of industry and poorly managed stormwater runoff, but thanks to the assistance of properly executed environmental programs and funds, these rivers have the chance to persevere. A properly executed WIP3 program has the potential to protect and enhance the tributaries to the Susquehanna River and ultimately save the Chesapeake Bay from further degradation.” Bernie McGurl, Director of the Lackawanna River Conservation Association.

"Funding the Phase 3 WIP is imperative for healthy streams and rivers in Pennsylvania and protecting the economic vitality of our Pennsylvania farms. Through our Turkey Hill Partnership, we estimate the average cost of farm improvements to protect water quality is $150,000 per farm. This is a cost that our producers simply cannot afford. As an alliance of communities, companies, and conservationists, we urge the Pennsylvania legislature to make a long-term investment in Pennsylvania's economic sustainability through the Phase 3 WIP as PennFuture recommends." Jenna Mitchell, PA State Director and Agriculture Program Director at the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay.

“With 86,000 miles of streams, Pennsylvanians are surrounded by a unique and precious resource. But for far too long, efforts to protect and restore Pennsylvania’s waterways have suffered from a crippling lack of investment by the state legislature. And this failure is felt downstream, as efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay are futile unless Pennsylvania makes significant strides reducing pollution entering its waterways. We urge Pennsylvania’s legislature to make the necessary investments to realize clean water and the multitude of benefits it provides.” Mariah Davis, Acting Director, Choose Clean Water Coalition.

"Pennsylvania’s rivers have shaped the history of this country. They are critical to healthy people and ecosystems across the Commonwealth and beyond. It is time to treat and invest in them accordingly. The recommendations in PennFuture's report create a clear roadmap for healthier rivers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and benefits to clean water statewide.” Jen Adkins, Director of Clean Water Supply for American Rivers.

Now is a critical time for state leaders to uphold our right to clean water, and to strongly support Pennsylvania's recreation businesses and farmers. Now is the time to invest in our waterways.

Click Here for a copy of the report.

[For more on Pennsylvania’s efforts, visit DEP’s PA’s Chesapeake Bay Watershed webpage.

[How Clean Is Your Stream?

[DEP’s Interactive Report Viewer allows you to zoom in on your own stream or watershed to find out how clean your stream is or if it has impaired water quality using the latest information in the draft 2020 Water Quality Report.]


-- Senators Yaw, Martin, Laughlin Seek $250 Million Clean Water, Environmental Improvement Funding Thru Federal COVID Stimulus Appropriation

-- Senators Gordner, Mensch Seek $500 Million Growing Greener Funding Thru Federal COVID Stimulus Appropriation

Don Hopey: State Needs To Prioritize Water Pollution Prevention Programs, Advocacy Report Says 

YorkDR: Killing The Chesapeake Bay: Report Says It Will Cost PA $521 Million A Year To Cleanup PA Waters

Related Articles This Week:

-- Farm, Conservation Groups Applaud Bipartisan Senate Bill Setting Up Cost-Share Program To Support Clean Water Efforts By Farmers - If Funded 

-- Agriculture, Conservation, Wildlife Groups Advocate For Robust Funding For Federal  USDA Conservation Programs 

-- U.S. Senators From Maryland, Virginia, Delaware Urge EPA To Ensure Pennsylvania's Compliance With Chesapeake Bay Pollution Reduction Standards

-- Senate Committee Meeting Provides Overview Of Chesapeake Bay Restoration Efforts 

-- Chesapeake Bay Program 2019-2020 Bay Barometer Shows An Ecosystem In Mixed Recovery 

Related Articles - Chesapeake Bay:

-- DEP Chesapeake Bay Implementation Plan Update: 86% Of Phase 3 Milestones Are On Track

-- New Poll Shows 90% Of PA Voters Want Senate, House Members To Address Environmental, Conservation Priorities, Provide More Funding For Critical Programs

-- Senate Committee Unanimously Reports Out Bill To Control Overuse Of Fertilizer On Turf

-- Chesapeake Bay Foundation: It Takes A Shared Commitment To Stop Killing The Susquehanna And Local Waters

-- CBF: Pennsylvania's Budget Proposal Does Little To Address Chronic Underfunding For Cleaning Up Water Pollution

-- Chesapeake Bay Commission Recommends Increasing Federal Funding For Chesapeake Bay Watershed Cleanup

-- Funding Flashback 2017: PA Chesapeake Bay Commission Members Spotlight Need For Clean Water Fund In PA

-- Funding Flashback 2020: Senate Environmental Committee Puts Spotlight On Funding Needed To Implement PA Clean Water Plan At Chesapeake Bay Briefing

[Posted: April 8, 2021]  PA Environment Digest

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