Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Going, Going, Gone... Senate, House Have Little Time To Act On Funding For Local Flood Prevention, Watershed Restoration, Recreation Projects

On October 25, the Senate and House return to session with only nine voting days left in 2021.

In June when the FY 2021-22 state budget was passed, House Republicans said $5 billion in American Rescue Plan relief money was “preserved” to spend in future budgets  [Read more here]. 

Now, the AP is reporting only $2.4 billion in American Rescue Plan money is left [Read more here.] 

Before it all slips away-- time and money-- now is the time for the Senate and House to allocate at least $500 million from the American Rescue Plan money to fund local flood prevention, environmental and recreation improvement projects.

The Growing Greener Coalition, hunting and fishing, farm and other environmental groups have vigorously and repeatedly urged legislators to invest American Rescue Fund monies to prevent flooding, for local watershed restoration, recreation, open space and farm conservation projects.  Read more here.

In March, a bipartisan group of Senators including John Gordner (R-Columbia), Bob Mensch (R-Montgomery), Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia) and Carolyn Comitta (D-Chester), Minority Chair of the Senate Environmental Committee,  proposed legislation-- Senate Bill 525-- was introduced in June to allocate $500 million from the federal American Rescue Plan to fund Growing Greener watershed, farm conservation, mine reclamation and recreation projects.  Read more here.

On September 28-- nearly a month ago-- the bill was reported out of the Senate Environmental Committee and has been sitting on the Senate Calendar ever since.

The House has not considered any legislation.

Mine Reclamation Funding

On September 30, the federal Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fee that funds the state’s abandoned mine reclamation program expired leaving Pennsylvania without the primary source of money to deal with the Commonwealths #1 water pollution problem-- acid mine drainage.

Pennsylvanians across the state have been working since October of 2016 to get Congress to reauthorize the fee and the program.  Read more here.

In August, the U.S. Senate passed the bipartisan infrastructure bill that includes an $11.3 billion investment in abandoned mine reclamation over 15 years and the legislation reauthorizes the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fee for 13 years at 80 percent of its level.  Read more here.

But the U.S. House has not taken final action on this legislation leaving the issue in limbo.

Neither the Pennsylvania House or Senate have taken any action to even urge Congress to extend this critical source of environmental funding this year.  Read more here.

For Over A Decade

Since 2010, the Growing Greener Coalition, hunting and fishing, farm and local government groups have been urging the General Assembly and the Governors to come together to provide significant funding to protect people from flooding, restore watersheds, support the installation of green infrastructure, improve our parks and trails and preserve open space.

Those calls have been ignored except for the adoption of the Act 13 drilling per well impact fee in 2013-- eight years ago-- after the General Assembly and Gov. Corbett repeatedly rejected proposals for a severance tax on natural gas production.

Nearly five years ago in January 2017, Pennsylvania members of the Chesapeake Bay Commission wrote to all House and Senate members outlining the need to address the state’s water pollution cleanup problem and propose a potential solution-- a dedicated Clean water Fund for Pennsylvania.  Read more here.

And nothing happened until August of 2020 when a proposal was introduced in the Senate and still sits on the Senate Calendar with no action.  Read more here.

Nearly two years ago in January 2020, the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee held a hearing putting the spotlight on resources needed to implement Pennsylvania’s Plan to clean up its portion of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.  Read more here.

And nothing happened.

In fact, the politicians who run the Senate and House have actually taken away money from environmental programs.

Over $3 billion in environmental funding over the last 18 years has been taken from the Environmental Stewardship-- Growing Greener-- Fund and other sources that support local flood prevention and watershed restoration projects to non-environmental restoration purposes.  [FY 2021-22 - FY 2020-21]

They made these cuts even in years with good state revenues and when billions of federal aid was available.

They also made these cuts and raids on funds set aside for environmental restoration in the face of overwhelming voter support.  Polls have repeatedly shown 90 percent or more of voters want more funding for critical environmental and conservation programs.  Read more here.

Hurricanes and tropical depressions and micro-storms have repeatedly lashed out at communities and caused significant damage and deaths in Pennsylvania over the last 10 years.

Yet, there has been no action.

Time For Action

Will the people who run the Senate and House continue their ‘Do Nothing’ record?

I guess we’ll find out.

Related Articles:

-- Growing Greener Coalition: American Rescue Plan For Water & Green Infrastructure

-- DCNR Secretary: American Rescue Fund Dollars One Option To Address $1 Billion State Parks, Forests Maintenance Project Backlog, Paying Back Oil & Gas Fund

-- WPCAMR: Federal Mine Reclamation Fee Expired Sept. 30 - Congress Considers The Future Of Mine Reclamation Program [PA’s #1 Water Pollution Problem]

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

-- New Poll: 86% Say Parks, Trails, Outdoors Are Essential To Their Physical, Mental Health During Pandemic; State Parks Saw 26.6% Increase In Visitors

-- Green Infrastructure Offers Triple Benefits, Cost Effective Solutions To Stormwater Pollution, Reducing Flood Damage

[Posted: October 20, 2021]  PA Environment Digest

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