DEP: Budget Cuts Will Hurt Pennsylvania's Environment
Pennsylvania's communities face the prospect of dirtier water, higher electricity bills, weakened flood protection, and potentially virulent biting insects under a budget bill proposed and adopted by the Senate Republicans, according to a release from the state's environmental protection agency.
The caucus' planned $50 million in additional cuts to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's budget would have long-term, negative consequences for the state's natural resources, public health, and economic viability, said John Hanger, agency secretary.
"The Senate Republican plan removes funds that help keep sewage out of the land and water, that help our river basin commissions monitor potentially dangerous activities throughout the state, and that fight potentially deadly mosquitoes that could carry the West Nile virus and the bothersome black flies that are such a nuisance each summer," said Hanger. "They also cut much-needed funds that help communities protect themselves against floods and that will make it easier for consumers to avoid higher energy costs by installing insulation and windows or by purchasing more energy efficient appliances."
Hanger noted that Gov. Edward G. Rendell already proposed $19 million in difficult, but necessary, cuts to the department's budget. Those reductions, however, would minimize the risk to Pennsylvania's prosperity and progress.
The Senate Republican plan would:
- Eliminate the $15 million Keystone HELP program that helps households avoid higher energy prices by insulating their homes or installing Energy Star-qualified windows and doors. Nearly 1,700 people have already applied for grants and rebates through the Keystone HELP program.
- Cut $1.9 million from the West Nile virus program, which would make DEP unable to maintain the level of surveillance and treatment it has in previous years. Last year, 14 people were confirmed to have acquired the virus and one died.
- Cut $1.7 million from the Black Fly suppression program that now serves 33 counties.
- Cut nearly $1.4 million from the state's Flood Control Program, which helps keep communities safe by responding quickly to emergency situations where permanent structures are threatened or supporting maintenance, reconstruction, and post-flood repair work on levees.
- Reduce funding to the Ohio, Delaware, and Susquehanna river basin commissions by an additional $180,000.