State budget will give environmental efforts a funding boost, advocates, lawmakers say
The spending plan the General Assembly approved last week includes $220 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to establish a clean streams fund.
By Cassie Miller
State lawmakers and environmental advocates are celebrating the 2022-23 fiscal year budget Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law last week, saying it makes “historic” investments in environmental clean-up and protection efforts across the commonwealth.
“I said the other day that it is the largest investment in the environment that this state has made in maybe two decades at least,” House Appropriations Committee Chairperson Stan Saylor, a Republican from York County, told reporters last week. “It is cash money that will go into – it’ll help clean up the Chesapeake Bay, it’ll clean up our streams across this Commonwealth, and it’ll take a lot of the needs that our local communities all across Pennsylvania with sewer water projects – that we need to do to meet the [Environmental Protection Agency] standards.”
The impact of the new spending plan, which sets aside millions of dollars in state funding for environmental initiatives, “cannot be overstated in its importance to our environment, open spaces and natural resources, and for the economies that benefit from our state’s clean waters and healthy lands,” PennFuture President and CEO Jacquelyn Bonomo said.
The spending plan that the Republican-controlled General Assembly approved last week includes a $535,000 increase to the Susquehanna River Basin Commission; $100 million to support the rehabilitation, repair, and development of parks and forest areas; and a $5 million increase to the Conservation District Fund, as well as $220 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to establish a clean streams fund.
Elizabeth Rementer, a spokesperson for Wolf, told the Capital-Star that “the governor is extremely proud that this final budget has delivered meaningful investments in clean air, pure water, and opportunities to enjoy the natural resources of the commonwealth that residents deserve.”
Molly Parzen, executive director of the Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania said in a statement that: “Governor Wolf and the state legislature took advantage of federal recovery dollars and historic surpluses to make critical investments in key conservation programs.”
“These funds will reduce maintenance backlogs in our state parks, preserve farmland, improve the quality of our rivers and clean up abandoned mines,” she continued. “These investments through the Growing Greener program and the Clean Streams Fund, enjoy strong bipartisan support and will create good-paying local jobs, stimulate tourism, improve the health of Pennsylvania families and reduce the risk of flooding.”
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation celebrated the 2022-23 fiscal year budget for its investment in pollution reduction in the commonwealth’s waterways.
“Not since the days of the Ridge Administration and the first Growing Greener legislation in 1999, has Pennsylvania’s Governor and General Assembly made such monumental investments to restore and protect the waters that flow from farms, fields, and forests into our local rivers and streams, and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay,” Bill Chain, the foundation’s interim director and senior agriculture program manager in Pennsylvania, said.
The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which has previously said that it needs more than $1.4 billion for infrastructure repair and maintenance projects at the commonwealth’s 121 state parks, will receive a total of more than $151 million in the most recent budget.
DCNR will also receive $56 million for “forests Infrastructure projects to support the development of three new state parks,” Rementer confirmed.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection was allocated more than $183 million in the new budget.
DEP spokesperson Deborah Klenotic said that the “significant budget funding” will help DEP, the Department of Agriculture and DCNR work collaboratively to address water pollution in Pennsylvania.
“In our section of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, 34 county teams and many farmers and business and environmental leaders are working together with the Departments of Environmental Protection, Agriculture, and Conservation and Natural Resources to modernize best practices to reduce agricultural and stormwater runoff and treat wastewater and abandoned mine drainage,” Klenotic said.
“This preserves topsoil and farm viability, lessens flooding in fields and neighborhoods, and supports outdoor recreation and tourism and their considerable related economies,” she said. “The new Clean Streams Fund and other allocations in the 2022-2023 budget are a tremendous boost to Pennsylvanians working to reduce water pollution and all who enjoy the benefits of healthy waters.”
Cassie Miller is a reporter for the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where this story first appeared.