Over Last 9 Years: $1.5 Billion Cut/Diverted From Environmental Protection Programs
A total of $1.5 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 nine years.
Just hours after Gov. Corbett signed the FY 2011-12 state budget, the Department of Revenue announced the state collected $785.5 million more in revenue than they estimated.
Here are the highlights of the cuts and diversions--
-- $481 million in Act 339 grants intended to support wastewater plant operations over the last nine 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;
-- $164.3 million in FY 2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11, 2011-12 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 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;
-- $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;
-- $669,000 from the Safe Water line item in DEP's budget; and
-- $102.8 million cut continued from the FY 2010-11 DEP and DCNR General Fund budget in FY 2011-12 budget.
Growing Greener Bankrupt
In 2005 voters did approve a $625 million Growing Greener II bond issue, but that bond and the implementing legislation in 2006 capped the original Growing Greener program and expanded its original purpose. The bond issue funds ran out this year.
The original purpose was to fund watershed restoration, mine reclamation, capping abandoned oil and gas wells, drinking water and wastewater system improvements farmland preservation and parks and recreation projects.
But in 2005-06, the projects Growing Greener II could fund expanded to include funding alternative energy projects, downtown redevelopment projects, the Game and Fish and Boat Commissions, provided funding for similar projects by counties and diverted the $4.25 per ton fee on waste disposal to paying off the debt service for the bond.
For the first time in FY 2010-11, more than half of the income in the Environmental Stewardship Fund (Growing Greener) will go for debt service-- $36.8 million-- with only $33.2 remaining for projects. In FY 2011-12 the debt service payment increased to $42.5 million.
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.
And with Growing Greener II bond monies now gone, project funding will drop from over $50 million at its peak to just $6 million in FY 2011-12.
Other Environmental Funding
Just to complete the environmental funding picture, in 2008 the General Assembly approved a $650 million bond issue to fund renewable energy projects, a $800 million H2O Water Infrastructure Program funded by gaming revenue to fund drinking water, wastewater, flood protection and high hazard dam repair projects outside of Allegheny and Philadelphia counties and a $400 million water infrastructure bond issue was passed by voters.
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