Coalition Issues its Plan for Environmental Funding Within Severance Tax

Coalition Issues its Plan for Environmental Funding Within Severance Tax

For Immediate Release:  June 27, 2014
Contacts:  Andrew Heath, Growing Greener Coalition, (717) 824-2281

 Pennsylvania Growing Greener Coalition Issues its Plan for Environmental
Funding Within Any Passed Severance Tax 

(HARRISBURG, PA) The Pennsylvania Growing Greener Coalition, the largest coalition of conservation, recreation and preservation organizations in the Commonwealth, today made its case for why environmental funding must be contained in any severance tax package passed by the legislature.

“The impacts of drilling in Pennsylvania are evident throughout the Commonwealth. Our parks, forests, scenic and cultural areas, and waterways are at risk of being disturbed and degraded. Any severance tax must dedicate funds toward the protection of these public resources,” said Andrew Heath, executive director of the Coalition.

“Funding through a severance tax is essential to address the resources being most affected by natural gas extraction and should not take away from funding already being provided by other general and special fund programs.”

The Coalition has proposed $26 million be set aside from a severance tax in year one, growing to $70 million by year five, to address the Commonwealth’s open space and forest resources, rivers and streams, historic treasures, and heritage areas. Distribution would be as follows;

Year 1
$3 million for Heritage Areas
$3 million for Historic Preservation
$20 million for Growing Greener Environmental Stewardship Fund with a priority on conserving our sensitive lands and cleaning our rivers and streams (AMD, major basin watershed projects, etc.)

Year 2
$4 million for Heritage Areas
$4 million for Historic Preservation
$30 million for Growing Greener Environmental Stewardship Fund with a priority on conserving our sensitive lands and cleaning our rivers and streams

Year 3
$5 million for Heritage Areas
$5 million for Historic Preservation
$40 million for Growing Greener Environmental Stewardship Fund with a priority on conserving our sensitive lands and cleaning our rivers and streams

Year 4
$5 million for Heritage Areas
$5 million for Historic Preservation
$50 million for Growing Greener Environmental Stewardship Fund with a priority on conserving our sensitive lands and cleaning our rivers and streams

Year 5 and beyond
$5 million for Heritage Areas
$5 million for Historic Preservation
$60 million for Growing Greener Environmental Stewardship Fund with a priority on conserving our sensitive lands and cleaning our rivers and streams

The Coalition pointed to a new survey that found overwhelming bi-partisan 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.

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.

“The Commonwealth has 19,000 miles of rivers and streams that do not meet basic water quality standards. Historic preservation funding is at a low and the Heritage Areas Program was zeroed out in the Governor’s proposed budget,” said Heath. “These issues must be addressed.”

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.

“Utilizing funds collected through a severance tax to address these issues is a step in the right direction, and would also negate the need to raise additional state revenues through more leasing of state lands,” said Heath.

 

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