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Budget: Fair Share For Clean Water Coalition Calls For Strong Steps To Restore Water Quality

The members of the Fair Share for Clean Water Coalition this week wrote to all members of the General Assembly and Gov. Rendell urging them to help communities and ratepayers in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and farmers statewide achieve mandated nitrogen and phosphorus pollution reductions while allowing and stimulating future economic growth and providing more options for farmers, wastewater treatment plants, and future homeowners and businesses.

The Coalition includes: the PA Municipal Authorities Association, PA Builders Association, PA Association of Conservation Districts, Chesapeake Bay Foundation and other environmental, sportsmen and local governments groups.

The recommendations, outlined below, reflect the Coalition's understanding that difficult choices concerning budget priorities are necessary, given the significant constraints imposed by the state’s continued economic weakness.

Distribute Previously Approved Funding to Reduce Costs to Communities and Ratepayers
-- Municipal point sources in the Chesapeake Bay watershed need improved access to funds already available from the $1.2 billion in infrastructure funding approved last year
-- Despite the fact that 184 plants in the Bay watershed are mandated to meet new permit requirements at costs exceeding $1 billion, only two of the affected plans have received funds this year (Hazleton and Mt. Carmel)

Restore Funding for County Conservation District Farmer Assistance
-- To fund conservation districts assisting farmers implementing agricultural conservation practices
-- Restoration of funding of $3.6 million in DEP line and restoration of funding of $1.66 million in PDA line, plus an additional $2 million for technical assistance to the agricultural community
-- Conservation district line items were significantly reduced by over $1 million in the proposed budgets of the Governor and the PA Senate, translating into a funding decrease of almost 20 percent.

Restore Funding for Key Department of Agriculture Programs
, Including:
-- Retention of $10 million in available annual tax credits for the Resource Enhancement and Protection tax credit program (REAP)
-- $3.6 million for the Nutrient Management Fund
-- Funding is critical to the health of Pennsylvania’s number one industry and to meet mandated water quality improvements

Ensure a Workable Nutrient Credit Trading Program
-- The current system must be strengthened by adding a nutrient credit bank to provide greater stability and predictability, reduce trading risks and provide viable nutrient reduction alternatives for wastewater treatment plants, new job-creating projects, and other point sources
-- Establish an independent technical review process/committee to increase transparency and acceptance of the program by the regulated community
-- A viable nutrient credit trading program is imperative to ensure the availability of sewage capacity for future economic development in large portions of central Pennsylvania

For more information, visit the Fair Share for Clean Water Coalition website.


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