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DEP: PA House Republican Budget Will Delay Permit Reviews, Put Public Health At Risk
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The Department of Environmental Protection Thursday warned cuts to environmental and public health programs in the proposed budget from House Republicans will slow down the permit reviews and could put air and water quality at risk.

These concerns were magnified Wednesday when Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre) said Senate Republicans were looking at “about the same” spend number as House Republicans.

The Independent Fiscal Office reported Thursday they project $32.49 billion in revenue will be available in FY 2017-18, which is nearly $1 billion more than the House Republican budget of $31.52 billion.

There is also the impact of proposed federal budget cuts on DEP’s programs to consider, if they become a reality.

DEP Letter

In a May 30 letter to the chairmen of the House and Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committees, Secretary Patrick McDonnell outlined six key ways the proposed budget would impact public health, safety, and economic development.

“A spending cut of this magnitude -- unfocused and on top of the changes we have already proposed and the cuts we have received, including a reduction of 754 positions over the past decade -- would put Pennsylvania’s environmental and public health at risk,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell.

Among the impacts of the proposed across-the-board cuts in DEP’s budget would be:

-- Delayed Permit Reviews: Longer wait times for permit reviews, slowing down economic development and undercutting improvements that DEP has made to the permit review process

-- Fewer Water System Inspections: 600 fewer inspections of public water systems, which provide clean drinking water to 83 percent of the Commonwealth population;

-- Stifle PA’s Ability To Clean Up Chesapeake Bay Watershed: The Commonwealth recently kicked off a new process to develop the Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan to meet the Commonwealth’s legal mandate to cleanup the Bay Watershed.  More resources, not fewer are needed to meet this obligation;

-- Fewer Inspections of Hazardous Dams: A 6.41 percent reduction in DEP’s budget will have a significant impact on the implementation of the statewide Dam Safety Program, including 800 high-hazard dams;

-- West Nile & Zika Virus Cuts: The House Republican budget would cut this item $338,000; and

-- Fewer Mine Inspectors: Fewer underground mine inspectors that ensure safe working conditions for Pennsylvania’s coal miners.

A fee package that would increase and implement new fees on public water systems has been introduced to fund additional staff for the program.

In December 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warned DEP that continued staff shortages and underinvestment in the program could lead to Pennsylvania losing primacy over the program.

Loss of primacy for the program would strip DEP’s authority to regulate drinking water, as well as remove millions of dollars of funds for communities to upgrade their safe drinking water facilities.

Proposed Federal Cuts

In addition to the cuts outlined in the letter, Secretary McDonnell noted that possible cuts to DEP’s budget from federal sources would further exacerbate these issues. Combined, funding cuts at the state and federal level would hamper infrastructure projects and the jobs that those projects create.

Along with the effects that funding cuts at the state level would cause, DEP also outlined the impacts of federal budget cuts in a letter to the Pennsylvania congressional delegation.

NewsClips:

Agriculture: House Republican Budget Bill Would Cut Vital Services

Crable: Chesapeake Bay Watershed Governors Push For Continued Funding

AP: PA Gas Drilling Fee Revenue Falls For Third Year

Impact Fees Shrink While Natural Gas Production Swells

Impact Fees Down Again, But Washington County Top Recipient

Westmoreland Drilling Impact Fees Drop For Fourth Year

Beaver County Bucks Trend, Will Get Increased Drilling Impact Fee Money

Dems, Labor Push Natural Gas Severance Tax, GOP Balks

Op-Ed: Leaving Money On The Table, Natural Gas Severance Tax

Corman: Gaming Bill Next Week, Budget Spend Number About Same As House

PA’s So Low On Cash, It Could Have To Borrow From Outside Lenders

Bumsted: House Republicans Consider Leasing State Assets To Reduce Deficit

GOP, Democratic Lawmakers Vow To Stop EPA Cuts

Trump’s EPA Budget Cuts Hit Strong Opposition At U.S. House Panel

Nation’s Water Officials Converge On Philly To Press Their Case For More Support

Casey Urges White House To Restore Funding For Lock-And-Dam, Infrastructure Improvements

AP: Finding Released From Appalachian Agency Targeted For Elimination

Week Ahead: it’s Perry’s (DOE) Turn In The Budget-Defense Barrel

Related Stories:

June 17 Call For Clean Water Funding At Susquehanna River Rally In Harrisburg

PUC Distributes $173 Million In Act 13 Drilling Impact Fees, Down $14.5M, More Reductions Ahead

Op-Ed: Parks, Forest And Recreation - Essential To Pennsylvania Health And Economy

Take A Few Minutes To Write To Your Legislator To Save Our State Parks & Forests

PA House Republican Budget Deals Crippling Blow To DCNR Budget, Leads To Layoffs

Sen. Corman: Gaming Bill Next Week, Budget Spend Number About The Same As The House

IFO: FY 17-18 Revenue Estimate Is  $32.49 Billion, Nearly $1 Billion More Than House Republican Budget

PEC: Will The Environment, Conservation Be Dissed Again In PA’s State Budget?

Senate Unanimously Passes Bill To Prevent Funding Crisis In Recycling Program

House Passes Bills Authorizing Local Stormwater Management Fees

[Posted: June 15, 2017]


6/19/2017

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