If Gov. Rendell's proposed 2010-11 budget becomes law, a total of $1.3 billion has been diverted or cut from environmental programs to help balance the state budget or to fund programs that could not get funding on their own over the last eight years. Here's the rundown-
-- $428 million in Act 339 grants intended to support wastewater plant operations over the last eight years were eliminated to balance the budget;
-- $143 million diverted from the DCNR Oil and Gas Fund to balance the FY 2008-09 budget;
-- $79 million cut from the DEP and DCNR General Fund budget during FY2009-10;
-- $60 million diverted from the DCNR Oil and Gas Fund to balance the FY 2009-10 budget;
-- $100 million in 2002 from the Underground Storage Tank cleanup insurance fund to balance the budget (although this is slowly being repaid over 10 years);
-- $52.7 million “one-time” diversion from the Keystone Recreation, Parks and Conservation Fund in 2006 to balance the budget;
-- $50 million in 2007 and 2008 from the Environmental Stewardship Fund, which supports mine reclamation and watershed restoration, to fund the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Program because there was no agreement on how to fund that program;
-- $85 million in FY 2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10 from the Environmental Stewardship Fund to pay debt service on the Growing Greener II bond issue and taking funding away from restoration projects each year for the next 25 years – reflecting a pattern of only environmental programs being required to address their own bond debt service;
-- $15 million from the Recycling Fund in to balance the FY 2008-09 budget;
-- $18.4 million put into budgetary reserve in 2008-09 from the Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Conservation and Natural Resources;
-- $5 million reduction in Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) farm conservation tax credit program in FY 2009-10;
-- $79 million cut from the DEP and DCNR General Fund budget in proposed FY 2010-11 budget;
-- $180 million diverted from the DCNR Oil and Gas Fund to General Fund in proposed FY 2010-11 budget;
-- $5.5 million reduction in Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) farm conservation tax credits in proposed FY 2010-11; and
-- $5 million in additional cuts to the agencies to balance the FY 2010-11 budget.
Bankrupting Growing Greener
For the first time, more than half of the income in the Environmental Stewardship Fund (Growing Greener) will go for debt service in the proposed 2010-11 budget-- $36.8 million-- with only $33.2 remaining for projects. In addition, the proceeds from the Growing Greener II bond will be exhausted this year to support projects.
Debt service payments will increase to $60 million of the $66 million in new revenues coming into the Fund annually leaving little funding for mine reclamation, watershed restoration, oil and gas well plugging, agricultural best management practices, recreation and farmland preservation.
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