HARRISBURG (July 3, 2019) – Pennsylvania’s new $34 billion budget and spending plan threatens to undermine any progress the Commonwealth has made in recent years in protecting the environment and promoting sustainability, state Senator Andy Dinniman said.
“The budget and related code bills are detrimental to our environmental programs and policies,” Dinniman, who serves on the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, said. “In fact, significant funds were diverted from important environmental programs, natural gas drillers again dodged a severance tax, and local entities are now blocked from limiting or banning single-use plastics.”
Some budget lowlights and areas of concern, include:
- $16 million diverted from the Environmental Stewardship Fund (Growing Greener) and $10 million diverted from the Recycling Fund.
- Plans to terminate the Joint Legislative Air and Water Pollution Control and Conservation Committee in two years.
- Language in the fiscal code that prevents municipalities and counties from taxing or banning environmentally harmful single-use plastics for one year.
- No effort made to reduce our carbon footprint and move toward renewable energy.
- No measures to address mounting concerns regarding pipeline safety and environmental protection.
- Pennsylvania remains the only major natural gas-producing state without a severance tax.
Dinniman, a co-sponsor of legislation to ban plastic bags in Pennsylvania retail stores, said he was particularly frustrated that the legislature would try to block municipalities from regulating plastic products.
“If the legislature won’t vote to limit or ban single-use plastics, that’s one thing,” he said. “But to prevent local governments from doing the right thing, under the guise of an economic study, is just unconscionable. Why wait a year? What’s to study? We know these plastics can take 1,000 years to decompose. And we know that other states have successfully banned them.”
He also noted that the controversial and problematic Mariner East pipeline, which has negatively impacted so many residents in Chester County, is carrying hazardous natural gas liquids to be shipped overseas for plastics manufacturing in Europe.
“So, for all Sunoco/ET’s talk of natural gas jobs and energy independence, this pipeline is potentially threatening our lives, our homes, and our environment, to make more plastics in another country,” Dinniman said. “The whole premise that Mariner East is carrying homegrown energy for our economic benefit is as thin as a cheap plastic bag. The only difference is it’s breaking down a lot quicker.”
Dinniman, who was one of eight lawmakers to vote against the budget, said it also revealed the waning emphasis on and concern for the environment that he has seen firsthand during his tenure in Harrisburg.
“When I was first elected state senator in 2006, we could count on many more bipartisan, pro-environment votes in the Senate. Today, that number appears to have decreased considerably,” he said.