Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell in July signed a bill to distribute $625 million in voter-approved borrowing among a variety of environmental protection and land preservation programs, many of which would benefit Bay cleanup goals.
The measure will tap the $4.25-per-ton “tipping fee” that trash haulers pay to dump garbage in Pennsylvania landfills, which will generate as much as $60 million a year to pay off the bonds and interest.
The bond-issue money, which will be borrowed over six years, will be allocated as follows:
- $230 million to the Department of Environmental Protection for mine cleanups, watershed protection, energy projects and brownfields remediation. The legislation specifically mentioned watershed projects that address regional waterway issues and activities designed to achieve the goals of the Chesapeake 2000 agreement.
- $217.5 million to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for improvements to state parks and forests and open-space conservation.
- $80 million to the Agriculture Department for farmland preservation.
- $50 million to the Department of Community and Economic Development for downtown redevelopment projects.
- $27.5 million to the state Fish and Boat Commission for improvements to its land and facilities.
- $20 million to the state Game Commission for improvements to its land and facilities.
Of the money earmarked for the four departments, $90 million is reserved for projects designated by the counties.
The counties’ individual allocations range from $1 million to $2.7 million, depending on their population.
“Although the final bill doesn’t include all that is necessary to fully restore local waters, it’s a significant start,” said Matt Ehrhart, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Pennsylvania executive director. “We will now need to set our sights on bridging the funding gap that we will be facing down the road, when the state’s environmental funding resources run out.”
The bill also requires other payments from the tipping-fee money, including $50 million in the next two years for hazardous site cleanups and $10 million a year for historic preservation incentives.
Pennsylvania voters overwhelmingly approved the borrowing in the May 17 primary election without knowing how the money would be spent.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report