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Pa. funding for environmental regulation is ‘unsustainable,’ panel says By Wallace McKelvey | WMckelvey@pennlive.com The Patriot-News on February 21, 2017

Pa. funding for environmental regulation is ‘unsustainable,’ panel says

By Wallace McKelvey | WMckelvey@pennlive.com The Patriot-News
on February 21, 2017 at 5:20 PM, updated February 21, 2017 at 5:23 PM

An advisory panel issued a warning Tuesday that budget cuts to the state Department of Environmental Protection have “reached an unsustainable level.”

“We are aware that everyone will be approaching you with the expectations for additional funds, but the consistent cuts to DEP over the last [two] decades has reached an unsustainable level, wrote William Fink, chairman of the Citizens Advisory Council, a non-partisan panel that reviews and provides input on environmental policies and regulation.

Fink cited recent warnings from the EPA and the Office of Surface Mining about inadequacies in the state’s oversight of drinking water, air quality and mining regulations.

In December, the EPA found that poor staffing levels could lead to “serious public health implications” and warned that the state risked losing primacy if it failed to meet the minimum requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Primacy is the state’s ability to regulate itself. Losing it could mean losing about $100 million in federal funds that water systems rely on to help pay for upgrades.

Fink noted steady declines in the state agency’s General Fund budget from a high of $246 million in 2002 to the $152 million in the 2017 proposed budget.

The department itself has cited budget cuts for staffing shortages across its various programs.

In the letter issued Tuesday, the advisory council encouraged the chairs of the Senate Appropriations Committee–Pat Browne, R-Lehigh County, and Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia–to approve “a more adequate funding level.”

Fink wrote that the department has worked to cover the shortfall, including increased permit fees, but those efforts must be supplemented by increased state funding.

“The key issue for DEP,” he wrote, “is how to maintain a balance of the appropriate level of well trained staff to execute the mission of the agency while adjusting to changes in legal authorities due to statutes or legal precedent, right to know compliance, working with permit applicants and holders, and responding to citizens.”

The letter is included in its entirety below.

Citizens Advisory Council warns Senate about DEP’s budget by PennLive on Scribd

 

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