Thursday, May 6, 2021

We Could Fund 4 To 6 TIMES The Number Of Local Environmental Projects We Do Now With The $200+ Million Senate & House Surplus

In February, the Legislative Audit Advisory Commission reported the Senate and House now have a surplus in their legislative accounts of over $200 million.  It grew by over $30 million in FY 2019-20 alone. 

And Senate and House leaders said they want it to stay there.  Read more here.

With the next state budget due in just six weeks, and some legislators looking all over the place for ways to fund more community-based watershed restoration, land conservation and recreation projects and many questions about using the federal American Rescue Plan stimulus funds for these purposes [Read more here]--they could make a quick downpayment by looking in their own pockets.

What Voters Say

A poll released last September by the Growing Greener Coalition found 90 percent of voters in Pennsylvania want lawmakers to invest MORE money in critical environmental and conservation programs. Read more here.

91 percent of voters said we have a moral obligation to take care of our natural environment.

Another poll released in January found 86 percent say parks, trails and the outdoors were “essential” to their physical and mental health during the pandemic. Read more here.

The Need

The Growing Greener Coalition laid out just a few of the conservation funding needs--

-- 25,468 miles of Pennsylvania rivers and streams are unsafe for drinking, swimming, fishing, and boating [and $324 million a year is needed for Pennsylvania’s part of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed alone];

-- More than 200,000 acres of abandoned mine lands and thousands of brownfield sites pollute our water and threaten human health and safety; and

-- State parks and forests require nearly $1 billion in necessary repairs. Read more here.

What Would $200 Million Buy?

The fact is, the $200 million the Senate and House have is just laying around could fund FOUR TO SIX TIMES the number of local environmental, recreation and conservation projects we do now.

$200 million would fund--

-- Fund NEARLY SIX TIMES the community-based Growing Greener projects to restore watersheds, reclaim abandoned mines, reduce flooding and damage from stormwater-- over 875 projects.  The last round of $34 million in Growing Growing grants funded 149 projects.  Read more here. OR

-- Fund NEARLY FOUR TIMES the community-based DCNR Conservation Partnership - Keystone Fund projects to expand local recreation opportunities and trails, protect farms and open space and for riparian forest buffer projects-- 1,041 projects. The last round of $52.2 million in Conservation Partnership grants funded 274 projects; OR

-- Fund over FOUR TIMES the maintenance and safety infrastructure projects by DCNR that would help reduce the $1 billion in state park and state forest backlog in projects.  DCNR invests about $47 million annually in state park and forest infrastructure projects.  Read more here. 

Or, divide the $200 million equally among these three broad categories, which would still double and triple the number of projects funded now.

The demand for these funds is there. There are always way more farm conservation, watershed restoration, mine reclamation, recreation and land conservation grant applications than available funds.

So why not prime the pump with the Senate and House surplus and see where the rest goes?

And by the way, investing this funding will result in creating new-- local-- jobs and buying services, materials and supplies from local contractors and suppliers will all be an economic shot in the arm for communities all over the Commonwealth.

Let’s put our people back to work-- the money is just laying there.

Grant Rounds Now Open

DEP is now accepting applications for Growing Greener Plus and EPA Section 319 watershed restoration, mine reclamation grants.  The deadline is June 25.  Read more here.

The Commonwealth Financing Authority is now accepting applications for Act 13 watershed restoration, mine reclamation, sewage, flood mitigation and recreation grants. The deadline is May 31. Read more here.

Related Articles:

-- 90% Of Voters Want MORE Funding For Critical Environmental, Conservation Programs & Local Projects-- Whose Budget Proposal Does That?

-- PA Farm Bureau Calls On Senate, House To Pass And Fund Legislation To Support On-Farm Conservation Efforts To Improve Water Quality

[Posted: May 6, 2021]  PA Environment Digest

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