Friday, March 17, 2023

Hearings Start March 21 For DCNR, DEP, Agriculture FY 2023-24 Budget Requests

The Senate and House Appropriations Committees will begin agency by agency hearings on Gov. Shapiro’s FY 2023-24 budget proposal on Monday, March 20.

The key environmental agency budget hearings are set for--

-- March 21: Senate Budget Hearing - DCNR 9:30 a.m.  Click Here to watch live.

-- March 22: Senate Budget Hearing - DEP  9:30 a.m.  Click Here to watch live.

-- March 22: House Budget Hearing - Agriculture 1:00 p.m.  Click Here to watch live.

-- March 23: House Budget Hearing - DCNR 10:00 a.m./ DEP  1:00 p.m. Watch live.

-- March 28: Senate Budget Hearing - Agriculture 1:00 p.m. Click Here to watch live.

Click Here for the full House Schedule Click Here for House Committee.

Click Here for the full Senate ScheduleClick Here for Senate Testimony/Summaries.

Refresher On Proposed Budget

On March 7, Gov. Shapiro unveiled his first proposed state budget that includes $5.75 million for the Department of Environmental Protection to speed up permit reviews and expand the agency’s oversight inspections, conduct more responsive air sampling, increase the number of dam safety inspections and implement the CO2 Budget Trading Program.

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is proposed to receive an additional $56 million from the Oil and Gas Lease Fund doubling investments to $112 million in State Park and Forest infrastructure improvements, $2.8 million for new staff to support its mission and $442,000 for expanding the Office of Outdoor Recreation to promote economic development.

The proposed Department of Agriculture budget includes $2.5 million to support county Farmland Preservation Programs and $1 million for a new Organic Center of Excellence to certify organic agricultural products.

Overall, the proposed budget includes agency General Fund increases of 9.06% for DEP, 8.9% for DCNR and 2.11% for Agriculture.

Protecting The Right To Clean Air & Pure Water

The budget brief describes the proposals for “Safeguarding Pennsylvania’s Environment And Protecting Pennsylvanians’ Rights To Clean Air And Pure Water” this way--

“From the Chesapeake Bay Watershed to the Appalachian Mountains, Pennsylvania is home to some of America’s great natural treasures. 

“The Commonwealth is a proud steward of this rich environment, a role that is more important than ever as the evolving threat of climate change strains our environment. 

“Rising temperatures and changing weather patterns put ecosystems and certain livelihoods at risk, requiring broad state-level solutions.

“The investments in this budget will improve the ability to respond to pressing environmental challenges. 

“These investments will also enable a new generation of Pennsylvanians, and visitors from across the world, to enjoy Pennsylvania’s parks, trails, and forests, while capitalizing on economic development opportunities that arise from the state’s natural resources.

“Finally, this budget supports innovative and forward-thinking agricultural practices and programs. These initiatives will help to further Pennsylvania’s national leadership in agricultural development and expand access to fresh, healthy foods across the Commonwealth.”

Click Here for a copy of the expanded Proposed Budget In Brief.

Click Here for Gov. Shapiro’s Budget Address as prepared.

DCNR Posts FY 2023-24 Budget Proposal Documents

DEP Posts Documents On Proposed FY 2023-24 Agency Budget Request

DEP Staffing

This budget expands DEP’s capacity by providing $5.75 million to grow the agency’s oversight capabilities. In particular, this will expand resources at DEP to increase efficiency in permitting, which will raise the number of permits that the agency can issue each year. 

This funding will improve the responsiveness of the air quality testing program to community requests and will increase the number of dam safety investigations that are conducted yearly to ensure that those critical pieces of infrastructure are being safely maintained. 

Dam safety is an important public safety concern, as a failure in a dam could result in serious injury and loss of life, and significant damage to property and infrastructure. 

This funding will also provide resources for the CO2 Budget Trading Program.

Specifically, this new funding would--

-- Pay For 47 new staff members to carry out the mission of the agency to include timelier processing of permits, completion of inspections, and proper program oversight, technical assistance, and training.

     -- 15 new staff for permit processing, inspections, program oversight

     -- 17 new staff for implementation of CO2 Budget Trading Program

     -- 15 new staff for increased air quality monitoring efforts

-- Also directs funds from the auction of carbon emission to clean air programming. 

-- Injects $4 million into the Clean Water fund to offset personnel costs to complete more projects.


The budget projects Pennsylvania will receive $663 million in proceeds in 2023-24 from participation in the RGGI [Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative] auctions, which will position Pennsylvania to:

-- Help support communities and employees impacted by the energy transition by providing crucial resources, while making targeted investments in greenhouse gas abatement, energy efficiency and clean and renewable energy programs that help to reduce air pollution in Pennsylvania.

--  Ensure that we continue to support communities and businesses that have helped create Pennsylvania’s rich energy history, even as we do our part to address climate change, the greatest environmental threat facing our world.

DCNR Staffing

This budget commits $2.8 million to expand resources at DCNR that will improve and support sustainable outdoor management, infrastructure updates, and safety in these outdoor environments. 

Specifically, this funding will help improve maintenance infrastructure and emergency response coordination, including climate resiliency work, geological mapping, and 3D geologic modeling to capitalize on opportunities for carbon capture and storage.

These funds will also increase nursery capacity and forest restoration efforts, including dedicated staff for watershed technical assistance and training. 

This budget also provides a coordinated approach to outdoor recreational development, supporting a new Office of Outdoor Recreation to create a connecting hub between DCNR and outdoor private industries and communities seeking to leverage outdoor recreation for economic development, in addition to local and visitor recreation interest groups.

More specifically, the budget includes--

-- 21 new staff positions to carry out the mission of the agency.

-- $422,000 for expanding the office of outdoor recreation to create a connecting hub between DCNR and outdoor private industries and communities seeking to leverage outdoor recreation for economic development.

-- $2.379 million for providing staff to improve and support outdoor management, infrastructure updates, and safety in the outdoor environments. 

Federal Rescue Funding

The expanded proposed Budget In Brief includes allocations from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law programs on page A2-3, A2-4 (page 87, 88).

Governor’s Remarks

The following are excerpts from the Governor’s budget address as prepared related to the environment--

Train Derailment

“Justice isn't only done in our courtrooms. It’s also done in our communities.

“Article I, Section 27 of our Commonwealth’s Constitution states that every Pennsylvanian has a right to clean air and pure water.

“And sometimes, those rights are threatened directly by events largely out of our control.

“Since the first hours after that Norfolk Southern train derailed just across the border in East Palestine, Ohio, my Administration has been on the ground in Western Pennsylvania, coordinating with first responders and ensuring Pennsylvanians have the resources and information they need to stay safe.

“We’re grateful for the hard work and cooperation of local and state officials from the area, including the Chair of the Beaver County Board of Commissioners, Dan Camp, who is here with us today – as well as Senators Bartolotta and Vogel, and Representatives Kail, Marshall, and Matzie.

“As we speak, the Department of Environmental Protection is conducting independent water sampling.

“The Department of Health has seen more than 300 people at their health resource center in Darlington Township, answering their questions and offering free access to treatment should residents need it.

“Nothing can make up for the damage already done – but what the people of Pennsylvania deserve now is accountability.

“Last week, Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw came to my office to apologize and I laid out what he and his company must do to make up for their mistakes.

“He heard me loud and clear: they need to pay for this – and they are.

“I demanded the company pay for the hours of work Commonwealth employees have done in the wake of their derailment.

“I demanded they pay to replace damaged or contaminated equipment from local fire departments who responded that night.

“I looked him in the eye and told him the people of Beaver and Lawrence Counties deserve better, that they need at least $1 million for a community relief fund.

“And now, that’s exactly what Norfolk Southern has committed in writing to do.

“They’re going to make our people whole.

“Like Emily from Darlington Township who evacuated her home and had to throw out hundreds of dollars of food and all of the eggs her chickens laid.

“Like the small businesses owners who had to miss a day of work or lost customers due to the derailment.

“All of that will come out of Norfolk Southern’s pockets. And let’s be clear.

“This is a floor, not a ceiling, for what they owe the people of Western Pennsylvania.

“My Administration will continue to do everything in our power to protect Pennsylvanians.

“We will be there as long as it takes.”


“But it’s not enough just to respond to this crisis – we also need to protect our communities and safeguard our natural resources before disaster strikes.

“That’s why my Administration is tackling a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions here in Pennsylvania, and creating thousands of good-paying, union jobs in the process.

“I have directed the Department of Environmental Protection under the leadership of Acting Secretary Negrin to draw down as much federal funding as possible to cap and plug orphaned and abandoned wells that dot rural Pennsylvania.

“It’s estimated that the more than 350,000 orphaned wells across our Commonwealth make up nearly 8% of our total methane emissions.

“Methane is particularly dangerous because it is up to 86 times more potent than Carbon Dioxide – warming our planet and contributing to air pollution that damages our lungs and our hearts.

“I’ve seen some of those wells myself.

“I’ve taken a zippo lighter – made right in Bradford by the way – and watched a big fire ball go up.

“That invisible gas, that is the methane that’s leaking into our atmosphere every day – and we can do something about it.

“Let’s plug the wells, improve our air quality, and strengthen our communities – especially in the Northern Tier.

“This budget also improves air quality testing, increases dam inspections, safeguards water quality, and more.

“It invests in DEP’s ability to not only protect our environment, but to process applications and get back to businesses sooner and with more certainty.

“We must reject the false choice between projecting jobs and protecting our planet.

“I believe we can do both – we can embrace the Commonwealth’s role as an energy leader, create good- paying jobs, and fulfill our constitutional obligation to protect Pennsylvania’s clean air and pure water.

“Listen, we can’t ignore the science here.

“We have to be honest and connect the dots between that abandoned well leaking methane into our atmosphere and the impact it has on our people.

“That methane contributes to rising temperatures and more frequent storms.

“And that warm, wet weather creates more mold that infects our crops right here in Pennsylvania – spoiling our corn and potatoes, and our farmers’ hard work.

“I know we might not all believe the same things, but I sure as hell hope you believe in drinkable water, breathable air, and good jobs – because protecting the environment will lead to all three.”


“As we invest in public health, safety, and wellness, we should also be supporting our state parks – the places Pennsylvanians go, from Presque Isle to Pine Grove, to spend time with their families, relax, and enjoy our beautiful Commonwealth.

“One of my favorite things to do is spend time with the First Lady and our kids, hiking a trail on a quiet weekend morning.

“We love spending time together outside, enjoying the fresh air... finding a spot along the trail to skip rocks across the lake or the stream.

“I’m sure some of you can relate. How taking a hike helps you relax.

“How it can lower your blood pressure and give you a real appreciation for this Commonwealth we call home.

“We have to finish the job you started last year, when you created three new state parks under the fine leadership of Acting Secretary Dunn.

“Let’s invest in those and our entire park system and give the people what they want – more opportunities to enjoy the outdoors and spend time with their friends and families.”

Hydrogen Hub

“We stand on the precipice of a major opportunity for energy and tech jobs – and Pennsylvania must lead the way by securing at least one regional hydrogen hub.

“My Administration supports Pennsylvania’s applicants, and we want the future of hydrogen to come through our Commonwealth.”

Click Here for Gov. Shapiro’s Budget Address as prepared.

Governor’s Budget Documents

Documents related to the Governor’s budget request will be posted on the Office of the Budget’s Commonwealth Budget webpage.

Click Here for a copy of the expanded Proposed Budget In Brief.

Click Here for Proposed 2023-24 Budget Spreadsheet.

Click Here for Gov. Shapiro’s Budget Address as prepared.

[Posted: March 17, 2023]  PA Environment Digest

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