Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Gov. Shapiro’s Proposed 2024-25 Budget Includes DEP Permit Modernization Initiative, Expands PFAS ‘Forever Chemical’ Testing; Expands DCNR Trails Program, PA Outdoor Corp

On February 6, Gov. Shapiro
proposed a 2024-25 state budget that includes a $10 Million DEP permit modernization initiative to increase permit review staff and upgrade permitting IT systems, expand testing for PFAS “forever chemicals,” support the expanded conventional oil and gas well plugging program and improve air quality monitoring.

The budget proposes a DEP complement increase of 71 positions.

The proposed DCNR budget includes an $8.5 million initiative to expand trails through out the state and a $3 million investment to expand the capacity in the PA Outdoor Corp employment program

The budget proposes a DCNR complement increase of 38 positions.


“This budget recognizes that moving at the speed of business means faster, more reliable, and more transparency about permitting for individuals and businesses that are looking to grow in Pennsylvania. 

“The budget provides over $10 million in funding for the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to increase permitting staff at regional offices across the Commonwealth and to upgrade, improve, and modernize permitting IT systems.”

A total of 40 new positions are proposed for the permit modernization initiative.

“The 2024-25 budget allocates $11 million from the General Fund to continue the important work of finding and capping abandoned wells and other activities.”

“This budget improves the health and safety capacity of DEP, with a $1.5 million investment in new capabilities to test for PFAS [‘forever chemicals’] contamination.

The budget includes funding for a Western PA Oil & Gas Air Monitoring Project-- adding two new positions-- and $1.1 million to improve the Bureau of Air Quality’s air monitoring capabilities, allowing it to conduct intensive long-term air studies for the first time.

“With the major influx of federal investment from the Inflation Reduction Act and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, DEP's Energy Programs Office plays a key role in receiving and managing substantial federal funding. 

“To unlock the full potential of that work, this budget invests $2.5 million to support experts with a dedicated focus on transmission planning and environmental justice.”

Complement Changes - 71 New Positions-- 

-- 15 new positions Energy Programs Office

-- 40 new positions modernizing permit process

-- 2 new positions PFAS 'Forever Chemicals' water testing

-- 2 new positions conventional oil & gas well plugging

-- 1 new position federal energy homes program

-- 1 new position federal electric appliance program

-- 5 new positions federal conventional oil & gas well plugging

-- 3 new positions federal climate grants, local capacity building program

-- 2 new positions Western PA Oil & Gas Air Monitoring Project

Complement January 2023 - 2,419

Complement January 2024 - 2,538 (119 increase) (243 increase since January 2021)


“The budget proposes an $8.5 million investment to greatly improve the length and breadth of the Commonwealth’s outdoor trail system. 

“This build-out will be an important asset to encourage greater outdoor recreation, benefiting Pennsylvania’s tourism industry, public health, and the economic competitiveness of nearby localities. 

“The budget will enable DCNR to design and construct new trails, retrofit, widen, and otherwise improve existing trails, and prepare to respond to damage that currently cannot be quickly addressed when emergencies occur.”

“The 2024-25 budget significantly expands one of DCNR’s most successful programs: the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps

“In 2023 alone, the Outdoor Corps—currently consisting of eighteen crews across the Commonwealth with a total of 181 participants—improved 91 miles of trail, planted 2,894 trees, improved 512 acres of natural lands and wetlands, and improved 79,579 feet of shore and waterways, all while providing a formative and rewarding experience for participants.

“This budget recognizes the impressive work of the Outdoor Corps and dedicates an additional $5 million from the Reemployment Fund to provide a growing pathway for individuals to serve their communities, engage in meaningful and impactful work improving natural habitats, trails, and environments, and gain important job skills and experience.”

The proposed budget also reduces funding from DCNR’s Oil & Gas Lease Fund by $16.7 million to support staffing and administrative costs for State Parks and Forests.

Complement Changes - 38 New Positions--

-- 5 new positions to improve trails General Operations

-- 6 new positions to improve trails in State Parks

-- 22 new positions to improve trails in State Forests

-- 5 new positions to increase PA Outdoor Corps capacity

Complement January 2023 - 1,282

Complement January 2024 - 1,359 (77 increase) (145 increase since January 2021)


“$10.3 million in agriculture innovation, important funding that will help support and attract new agricultural businesses, including energy and conservation endeavors, and to build the future of American agriculture right here in Pennsylvania. 

“This funding will bolster the Conservation and Innovation Program at the Department of Agriculture by providing support staff specifically for farmers, who can identify available funding options and connect farmers to those opportunities.”

Resource Links

             The FY 2024-25 Budget documents--

-- FY 2024-25 Budget At A Glance  (House Appropriations - Democrats)

-- FY 2024-25 Budget Spreadsheet

-- FY 2024-25 Big Budget Book

-- Gov. Shapiro’s Budget Address As Prepared

-- Gov. Shapiro Press Release Highlighting State Budget Initiatives

             Visit the Governor’s Budget Office webpage for more information.


The PA Environmental Council released this statement on the budget proposal--

“Governor Josh Shapiro’s proposed 2024-25 budget represents a much-needed investment in the outdoors and Pennsylvania’s environment, including new funding for trails and workforce development in the outdoor industry.

“[T]he Governor called for $8.5 million for trail development and improvement across the state. 

“Mr. Shapiro also proposed a $5 million expansion of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps, which provides training and valuable work experience to youth and young adults who assist the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) in maintaining and improving public lands. 

“Inspired by the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps, the program offers young people from diverse backgrounds a pathway to careers in conservation, a field in which women and nonwhite workers are historically underrepresented.

“Both budget lines reflect a commitment to building capacity for Pennsylvania’s fast-growing outdoor industry, as outlined in DCNR’s recently released outdoor recreation roadmap. 

“This funding also underscores the tremendous challenge that our recreational infrastructure faces in light of soaring demand and long-term maintenance needs.

“In 2022, outdoor businesses contributed more than $17 billion to Pennsylvania’s economy.

“PEC is pleased to see the Governor recognize the many economic benefits of trails and outdoor recreation assets,” said PEC President Thomas Gilbert. “We look forward to a sustained and serious conversation about investing in resources that return so much to our communities — not only in jobs and economic activity, but in benefits to our health and quality of life.”

“In addition to outdoor recreation, Tuesday’s speech emphasized one of Governor Shapiro’s top environmental priorities: locating and plugging abandoned oil and gas wells, whose uncontrolled emissions threaten human health and contribute to climate change, with an $11 million allocation from the General Fund. 

“Pennsylvania’s well-plugging effort has accelerated since Mr. Shapiro took office, but faces an uphill battle to cap the hundreds of thousands of abandoned wells estimated to be in the Commonwealth.

“The budget also proposes $50 million for the Whole Home Repairs program, which provides assistance to homeowners for basic repairs and improvements including energy-efficiency upgrades. 

“Simple interventions like fixing roofs and sealing leaky windows can lower residents’ utility bills and help control greenhouse gas emissions, while making properties eligible for other funding opportunities to further reduce residential energy usage.”

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation issued the following statement from Pennsylvania Executive Director Julia Krall, in response to Gov. Shapiro’s budget proposal--

“The final General Fund budget that reaches the Governor’s desk needs to include funding that will extend the Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program (ACAP) that is helping family farmers design and install conservation practices that keep soils and nutrients on the farm and out of the water.

“CBF is concerned that ACAP might dissolve if the initial investment of $154 million in federal American Rescue Plan funds through the Clean Streams Fund are spent by the end of 2026 and not replenished. It would be a horrible loss of opportunity and momentum for meeting Pennsylvania’s clean water goals.

“The ACAP cost-share is working. According to the State Conservation Commission in December, 66 conservation districts signed ACAP agreements and roughly $151 million has been committed to the critical work.

“Additional funding in the 2024-25 General Fund budget would extend ACAP and allow it to seamlessly enter a new phase. 

“Increased and sustained investments of financial and technical resources in ACAP are essential to help farmers reduce pollution from agriculture. The health, economic wellbeing, and quality of life of all Pennsylvanians depend on it.”

The Clean Power PA Coalition released the following statement on Gov. Shapiro’s proposed budget investment in the Whole-Home Repairs program--

“We applaud Governor Shapiro for proposing to invest $50 million to Pennsylvania’s Whole-Home Repairs Program, a tremendously successful effort to help families across the state make critical home repairs and safety and weatherization improvements. 

“These funds will help homeowners and small landlords across the state pay to repair leaky roofs, faulty plumbing, broken furnaces, unsafe wiring, and much more. It will also help them tap into federal weatherization and other assistance to reduce their energy costs. 

“Demand for Whole-Home Repairs has been overwhelming, so greater investment from the state is essential to come anywhere close to meeting the need. 

“We appreciate Governor Shapiro’s leadership in proposing these dollars in his budget. In doing so, he responded to a recent letter from 83 organizations from across Pennsylvania urging him to do so.”

American Petroleum Institute Pennsylvania Executive Director Stephanie Catarino Wissman issued the following statement in reaction to the budget proposal--

“As we see in the Governor’s proposed budget and new economic development plan, Pennsylvania-produced natural gas is playing a pivotal role in helping to drive our economy and create good jobs – including attracting billions of dollars of investment in hydrogen technology to the region. 

“More can be done to unlock Pennsylvania’s full potential and help ensure our energy future. 

“That means advancing comprehensive permitting reform and putting smart policies in place that support Pennsylvania energy and build-out of critical infrastructure. 

“We look forward to working with the Governor on solutions that prioritize our state’s energy economy and help ensure the Keystone State stays competitive.”

[Posted: February 6, 2024]  PA Environment Digest

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