Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Proposed Budget Lacks Clean Water Funds

Andrea Sears, Public News Service 

Agriculture is the major source of nitrogen and sediment pollution.  (Lynn Betts/Wikimedia Commons)
Agriculture is the major source of nitrogen and sediment pollution. (Lynn Betts/Wikimedia Commons)
HARRISBURG, Pa. - Environmentalists are concerned that the budget proposed by Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday is short of the resources needed to meet the state's clean water obligations.

Harry Campbell, director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Pennsylvania office says it will take almost $380 million a year just to implement the agricultural practices needed to meet 2025 clean water goals.

"The budget that Gov. Wolf actually proposed overall, we believe needs further investments in some key programs in order to successfully implement Pennsylvania's new Clean Water Plan," says Campbell.

Pennsylvania is far behind in its obligation to reduce nitrogen and sediment pollution in its waterways under a 2010 agreement with the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

A reboot plan was just announced last month. Failure to meet those obligations could result in the imposition of new regulatory requirements and increased costs to Pennsylvania taxpayers. But beyond that Campbell points out cleaning up the water has many benefits.

"It pays dividends in increased economic activity, both directly and indirectly," he says. "But then of course through things like improved air which avoids asthma attacks."

Campbell says since 2002 the state has diverted about $2 billion of environmentally related funding to balance its budgets.

"We must reinvest in our communities, in our conservation programs," says Campbell. "So we have clean and healthy water, reduced flooding, increased economic activity and recreational opportunities."

A first step, he says, would be budgeting for a new generation of Growing Greener funding to support environmental efforts, an item not included in the governor's proposal.

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