Coalition Urges Lawmakers to Include Environment in Severance Tax Legislation (Includes New Polling)

Coalition Urges Lawmakers to Include Environment in Severance Tax Legislation (Includes New Polling)

For Immediate Release: June 3, 2014

Pennsylvania Growing Greener Coalition Urges Lawmakers to Include
Environment in Severance Tax Legislation

New Survey Shows Overwhelming Bi-Partisan Support for Increasing Funds to Protect Land, Water, Historic Sites

 (HARRISBURG, PA) The Pennsylvania Growing Greener Coalition, the largest coalition of conservation, recreation and preservation organizations in the Commonwealth, today urged state legislators to include funding for environmental programs and initiatives in any legislation that would enact a severance tax on natural gas extraction in Pennsylvania.

“Any severance tax must dedicate funds toward the protection of our land, air and water,” said Andrew Heath, executive director of the Coalition. “The Pennsylvania Growing Greener Coalition urges lawmakers to remember the critical need for funding to protect our farms and open spaces, restore our waterways, enhance our parks and trails, conserve our wildlife habitat, and preserve our historic sites and heritage areas.”

The Coalition pointed to a new survey that found overwhelming public support for continuing existing dedicated state funding for conservation and for increasing state funding to protect land, water and historic sites.

Overall, the survey found that more than 97.4 percent of Pennsylvanians surveyed think that state funds dedicated to protecting rivers and streams; conserving open space, forests, natural areas and wildlife habitats; providing parks and trails, and preserving farmland should continue to be used for these purposes. This figure represented strong bi-partisan support, and is up by five percentage points since 2012.

The survey also found that more than three-quarters of respondents – 82.6 percent – would support increasing state funds to address these issues, even if it would cost the average household $10 more annually. This figure is up from 77.7 percent in 2012.

The survey was conducted between March 17 and April 16 this year by the Center for Survey Research at Penn State Harrisburg. The survey questions were commissioned by The Nature Conservancy and The Trust for Public Land. For the full results of the survey visit http://csr.hbg.psu.edu/PennStatePoll/MethodologyReportsandPressReleases/tabid/860/Default.aspx.

“Public support for protecting Pennsylvania’s extraordinary natural and historic treasures has always been strong, and this survey shows that it continues to grow,” said Heath. “If there is to be a severance tax on natural gas extraction, it makes sense that a significant portion should be invested in the forests, fields, rives and streams that Pennsylvanians value so highly.”

Despite the success of such programs like the Growing Greener Environmental Stewardship Fund, Keystone Recreation, Park & Conservation Fund, Agricultural Preservation, Marcellus Shale Legacy Fund, Heritage Areas Program and Historic Preservation, there is much more work that needs to be done. Consider that:

  • The Commonwealth has 19,000 miles of rivers and streams that do not meet basic water quality standards.
  • More than 2,000 family farms remain on the statewide list for preservation.
  • Pennsylvania continues to lose more forest, wildlife habitat, farmland and other open spaces to overdevelopment than we are able to preserve.
  • Abandoned mines still scar almost 220,000 acres across the Commonwealth and are the cause of more than 5,000 miles of dead streams.

Investments in conservation, recreation, and preservation also bolster the economy. A Trust for Public Land study found that for every $1 invested in land and water conservation, $7 in natural goods and services is returned to the state of Pennsylvania.

Moreover, investments in parks, trails, greenways, and open space add billions of dollars to property values and help support Pennsylvania’s tourism and recreation industry.  A report by the Outdoor Industry Association indicates that outdoor recreation in Pennsylvania generates $1.6 billion in state and local tax revenue and supports 219,000 direct Pennsylvania jobs.

In addition, conservation funding is an essential component for meeting federal Clean Water Act mandates associated with the Chesapeake Bay Blueprint and the need to reduce pollution in our local rivers and streams.

The Coalition also strongly supports preserving the funding provided by the current impact fee in order to address the impacts of drilling on communities and the environment.

“Communities across Pennsylvania have benefited from the Marcellus Shale Legacy Fund,” said Heath. “These investments and the economic and quality of life benefits they bring must continue.”

About the Pennsylvania Growing Greener Coalition

The mission of the Pennsylvania Growing Greener Coalition is to enhance the health and economic well-being of communities across the Commonwealth by advocating for funding to conserve, protect and restore land, water and wildlife; to preserve farms and historic places, and to provide well-managed parks and recreational areas throughout the state. Established in 2008, the Coalition comprises local, regional and statewide conservation, recreation and preservation groups.  For more information, visit www.PaGrowingGreener.org.

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