Rendell Environmental Legacy-- Renewable Energy Initiatives, Budget Cuts

Over the last eight years the Department of Environmental Protection was given jobs that strayed significantly from its core mission of clean air, pure water and protecting the natural resources of the Commonwealth and focused almost entirely on promoting alternative energy.

           Rendell Environmental Initiatives
            Since 2003, DEP has invested $387 million to fund over $2.6 billion in alternative energy projects, including funding 393 MW of additional renewable general capacity and annual energy efficiency savings of more than 170 million kWh.
            Among the energy and environmental initiatives were--
-- Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards mandate enacted in 2004 requiring 18 percent of electricity sold to be from alternative energy sources by 2021;
-- Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority provided over $65 million in funding for 144 alternative energy projects;
-- The $650 million Alternative Energy Investment Fund includes $500 million to fund alternative energy projects, $150 million for energy conservation projects;
-- Energy Harvest: created in 2003 to provide funding for renewable energy projects by taking money from the Growing Greener Program.  The program funded over $36 million in 179 projects.
-- Penn Security Biofuels Mandate: required diesel fuel to contain 2 percent biofuels starting in May 2010;
-- Energy Conservation: Act 129 of 2009 mandating a reduction in total electricity consumption by 3 percent and peak demand by 4.5 percent by  2013; and
-- Growing Greener II: The $625 million Growing Greener II bond issue which expanded the Growing Greener Program beyond environmental restoration, infrastructure, farmland preservation and recreation project funding to include alternative energy development projects, downtown redevelopment, historic preservation, funding for an energy efficient appliance tax holiday and funding for the first time to the Game and Fish and Boat Commissions.  In addition, each county was provided with funding to do local projects in each of these and the original Growing Greener categories.
            As a result of the changes made in 2005, Growing Greener project funding was capped and 2010 with the spending of the last of the bond issue funds.  Most of the remaining funds from the fee enacted in 2002 to finance the original Growing Greener Program are being used to pay off the bond issue.
            8 Years Of Environmental Cuts
            For eight straight years Gov. Rendell's proposed budget included cuts for the departments of Environmental Protection and Conservation and Natural Resources.
           The FY 2009-10 budget cuts alone required DEP and DCNR to furlough or eliminate 333 full time positions.  DCNR had to eliminate or reduce hours for 1,131 seasonal workers, putting appropriations for DEP at 1994 levels and for DCNR at 1995-96 levels.
            Complement levels at DEP were reduced from 3,211 in FY 2002-03 to 2,835 now, even less if you take out the 105 positions DEP added for the Marcellus Shale drilling inspection and permit program.  2,591 of the present 2,835 are now filled positions, the others are vacant.
            In addition, over 100 DEP Air, Waste and Water Quality field staff use all or part of their time to act as managers for federal stimulus projects, projects funded by the Energy Harvest and PA Energy Development Authority programs taking time away from permit reviews, inspections and compliance activities.
            Complement levels at DCNR were 1,391 in FY 2002-03 to 1,389 positions of which 1,289 positions are filled.
            During the last eight years of the Rendell Administration, DEP's General Fund budget has been cut by 40.9 percent ($245.6 million to $147 million), DCNR by 23.7 percent  ($108.8 million to $82.4 million) and the Department of Agriculture by 35.2 percent ($76.1 million to $62.8 million) from the FY 2010-11 to FY 2002-03 budget.
            One result of all these cuts is the  permit review backlog DEP said was already building in 2009 and in truth the last 7 years, delaying hundreds of millions of dollars in economic development projects across the state.
            Record Of Funding Cuts/Diversions
            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.
-- $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;
-- $121.8 million in FY 2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11 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;
-- $102.8 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 FY 2010-11;
-- $5 million in additional cuts to the agencies to balance the FY 2010-11 budget; and
-- $3.9 million in across-the-board cuts to help fill gaps caused by reduced federal Medicaid appropriations-- $2.4 million from DEP, $1.5 million from DCNR.
           Ridge and Schweiker Administrations
            Governors Ridge and Schweiker also put out a list of Environmental Accomplishments and Awards and Honors won by DEP, its employees and partners covering 1995 to 2002.


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