PEC has sent the following communication to the Pennsylvania Senate strongly opposing a House-approved revenue package that would have devastating impact on state-funded environmental, conservation, agriculture, outdoor recreation, and community-based programs.
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Find a synopsis of PEC’s analysis and commentary on the budget process here.
September 18, 2017
To: Members of the Pennsylvania Senate Re: State Budget
This week the Senate will be considering options to finalize the state budget, including legislation (House Bill 453) passed by the House last week that, if enacted, would constitute the largest cut in environmental, agriculture, and recreational funding in state history. State agencies (DCED, DEP, and DCNR), as well as numerous local government and community organizations (including PSTATS and CCAP), have detailed the harm resulting from drastic reductions to these funds – some of which were approved by the Pennsylvania electorate for specific purposes.
Of equal consequence, House Bill 453 offers no solution to Pennsylvania’s structural deficit; it is a one-time financial dodge that accepts harm today doing nothing to address the state’s fiscal woes that will return in full force in a matter of months.
We urge you to oppose the shortsighted approach taken by the House and HB 453.
Unfortunately, budget legislation passed by the Senate in July (House Bill 542) and House Bill 118) also has significant problems. In exchange for a severance tax, the legislation includes non- germane riders that: dismantle the permitting authority of the Department of Environmental Protection; subject proposed air quality protections for one industry to a politically appointed review committee; place additional water quality treatment burdens on the public, instead of those discharging pollutants; and artificially extends operating permits for a handful of facilities facing noncompliance with state and federal law.
We urge you to reject this approach as well.
As we have stated in the past, public health and environmental protection are not bargaining chips for enacting a state budget. That is not the representation sought by the voters of Pennsylvania. There are answers to issues facing the regulated community, but eviscerating the budget and authority of DEP is not one of them. That course will only ensure future litigation, challenges to permits, reconsideration of state primacy to implement federal programs, and other difficulties that will impair environmental protection and bog down permitting and reform.
We recognize the incredibly difficult task set before you and the Governor in righting a state budget that is terribly off course. We also acknowledge that there are real issues that must be addressed to ensure both sound environmental protection and economic growth. Both challenges require thoughtful consideration and inclusive decision-making, not rash actions that only deepen the very problems meant to be addressed.
How the Senate elects to proceed will either help secure a better future for all Pennsylvanians, or perpetuate the recurring stalemate that is the true limit of progress and partnership in our state.
Pennsylvania Environmental Council
2124 Penn Avenue, 2nd Floor
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
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