The Pennsylvania Environmental Council today joined the Pennsylvania Chapter of The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the Pennsylvania Office of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), the Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds and Rivers (POWR), and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC) on the following statement.
As the Commonwealth collectively stares down another budget deadline, environmental programs once again find themselves as primary targets for revenue diversion to balance the General Fund budget. In addition to extending the extraordinary cuts already made last year, including more than $259 million taken from the Departments of Environmental Protection and Conservation & Natural Resources, the current proposal on the table between the Governor and General Assembly would transfer an additional $132 million in funding from clean air, clean energy development, agricultural preservation and, most astonishingly, Growing Greener and the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund (or Key’93).
In fact, the proposed transfers would effectively end the landmark Growing Greener program and empty the Keystone Fund, long-standing and highly effective programs which have helped the Commonwealth address watershed restoration, public recreational amenities, community revitalization, abandoned mine land abatement, land conservation, and other critical needs. While we all certainly understand the realities of a bad economy, there is a clear line between making “tough decisions” and looking for short term solutions which fail to meet ongoing needs; especially when other alternatives exist to help plug funding shortfalls.
In reality, the cuts made to environmental programs over the past several years now raise serious questions about the State’s ability to meet existing state and federal mandates for environmental protection, such as those related to the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay. These cuts affect the very air we breathe, water we drink, and places we live. While sustaining or deepening these cuts may get us past June 30th and a budget deadline, they tear into the very foundation that has led Pennsylvania’s environmental resurgence — one that has attracted businesses and created jobs, benefited public health, and restored overall quality of life. Are we really willing to make this sacrifice?
We ask the Governor and General Assembly to reject temporary budget fixes that cut critically important environmental and conservation programs like Growing Greener and the Keystone Fund.