Talking Points: Using the American Rescue Plan to
Fund Water and Green Infrastructure
- 30% of PA’s streams (25,468 miles) have impaired water quality for one or more uses: water supply (84 miles), aquatic life (17,547 miles), recreation (9,935 miles), and fish consumption (2,817 miles). (2020 Integrated Water Quality Report)
- Agricultural runoff has impaired 5,765 miles of PA streams, including a 46-mile segment of the Susquehanna River that can no longer sustain aquatic life. (DEP IWQR 2018)
- PA is one of the six states within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed that has committed to significantly reducing the nitrogen flowing into the Bay by 2025. However, PA is responsible for 69% of the watershed’s total nitrogen reduction. 80% of PA’s reductions belong to the agricultural sector. (DEP Agriculture)
- More than 5,500 miles of PA streams have been polluted by billions of gallons of acid mine drainage (AMD) – one of PA’s largest sources of stream impairment. (DCED AMDATP)
Flood reduction and stormwater management
- From 2011 to 2018, PennDOT incurred $211 million in damages to state roads and bridges caused by flooding, slides, and other extreme weather events. (PennDOT flood/slide costs).
- Fulfilling MS4 requirements, which apply to more than 1,000 municipalities across PA, costs municipalities millions a year. (PA Environment Digest)
Land conservation and restoration
- DEP’s abandoned mine land (AML) inventory has identified 287,000 acres of AML in need of reclamation, their construction cost exceeding $5 billion. (DEP AML Fact Sheet).
- There are more than 8,500 abandoned or orphaned oil and gas wells in PA. Plugging them costs DEP $33,000, meaning DEP’s plugging liability ranges between $280 million (8,500 wells) and $6.6 billion (200,000 wells). (Bureau of Oil and Gas Planning 2020)
- The US Department of Agriculture census estimates that between 2012 and 2017, PA lost more than 6,000 farms (400,000 acres) to development, declining farm incomes, and retirements. (USDA census)
- PA’s farmland preservation program has a backlog of 1,400 farm families wanting to preserve their farms and help stabilize local farm economies. (Bureau of Farmland Preservation, 2020 Annual Report)
- Public use of parks, preserves, and trails has doubled, tripled, and quadrupled across the Commonwealth. As the state reopens, it appears that considerably higher public use of outdoor recreation spaces is a new norm for Pennsylvania.
- In the past year, more than 9 out of 10 Pennsylvanians engaged in outdoor recreation. (2019 Spring Lion Poll, used in SCORP 2020-2024)
- PA’s trails experienced a 97% increase in visitation from 2018 to 2020. (DCNR 2020 Parks & Rec)
- In March 2021, PA’s 121 state parks drew 2.71 million visits compared to 1.77 million visits in March 2019. (Philadelphia Inquirer)
- This higher demand has greatly accelerated wear-and-tear on facilities and the need for rehabilitation of many of the state’s 6,100 local parks and more than 12,000 miles of trails.
- PA’s State Parks and State Forests have more than a $1 billion backlog of maintenance, safety, and necessary infrastructure. (Protect our Parks and Forests).
- PA experienced a spike in outdoor spending from March 2019 to March 2020, with bike purchases increasing 121%, kayak purchases 85%, and camping gear 30%. (DCNR 2020 Parks & Rec)
Return on Investment
- Green infrastructure investments support small businesses and create jobs. They are proven programs for stimulating local economies across the state.
- Green infrastructure investments continue giving to communities year-after-year, decade-after-decade. For example, the Keystone Recreation, Park & Conservation Fund delivers $7 in flood control and prevention, water treatment, and other natural services for every dollar invested. (org)
(TargetSmart survey of 1,332 likely PA voters conducted September 20-27, 2020; credibility interval of +/- 3.0%)
- 96% of PA voters said protecting the quality of the PA’s drinking water is very or somewhat important while 92% of voters believe it is very/ somewhat important to clean up rivers and streams.
- Support transcends party affiliation: “Protecting PA’s drinking water” is found to be very important by 75% of Republicans, 84% of Independents, and 92% of Democrats.
- 9 out of 10 Pennsylvanians support increasing state funds to conserve and protect open space, clean water, natural areas, wildlife habitats, parks, historic sites, forests, and farms.
- 91% of PA voters believe that is a time of COVID, it is more important than ever to have parks, preserves, and other public spaces where we can safely enjoy the outdoors.
- 93% of Pennsylvanians agree — 68% strongly — that “we have a moral obligation to take care of our environment.”
Funding green infrastructure out of the American Rescue Plan is a great fit because:
- These are capital investments, not expenditures that have to be repeated (and supported out of the state general fund) after the federal money is gone.
- Tens of millions of dollars in green infrastructure projects are shovel-ready now and many more can be ready if the money is made available.
- The purpose of ARP is to address the economic repercussions the COVID-19 pandemic has had on households, small businesses, nonprofits, and industries such as tourism and hospitality. Green infrastructure investments benefit all these groups and communities and are the reason why PA’s tourism industry was able to flourish in 2020, despite the COVID emergency.
- ARP funds are intended to support small businesses and communities that have been struggling because of the recent economic fallout. Green infrastructure investments generate innumerable jobs and stimulate local economies every year with its investments.
- Green infrastructure supports myriad small businesses and good-paying jobs. Projects involve surveyors, appraisers, legal services, engineers, planners, drafters, environmental remediators, hydrologists, geologists, agricultural consultants, nurseries, architects, landscape architects, landscapers, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, heavy equipment operators, painters, roofing contractors, fencing installers, paving contractors, material delivery, sign makers, archaeologists, and arborists. Supplies and equipment are needed from nurseries, lumber yards, quarries, building material suppliers, hardware stores, equipment manufacturers, and equipment rental businesses.
- Billions of dollars in water investments are needed on a multitude of fronts to restore 19,000 miles of PA waterways unsafe for drinking, swimming, fishing, and boating.
- Municipalities face huge costs regarding MS4; farmers badly need help with designing and implementing conservation practices like forested stream buffers to keep soil and nutrients on the land instead of running into the water.
- Untreated AMD, desolate AML, and uncapped oil and gas wells harm our water and drag down local economies.
- Lack of investment in green infrastructure to address stormwater management and flood prevention leave many Pennsylvanians highly vulnerable to loss of property and life.