It should come as no surprise that environmental groups like Clean Water Action and the Sierra Club are protesting proposed cuts to the Department of Environmental Protection. The groups held a press conference today in Harrisburg, where they said DEP should get a larger slice of the pie.
“Gov. Corbett’s FY 2012-2013 budget proposes to cut DEP’s budget $10.5 million, bringing state support for DEP to a historic low point, with only $126.6 million being proposed for FY 2012-2013. Since FY 2008/2009, DEP’s state support has been cut by 42%. This coincides with the beginning of significant gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale. Total General Fund revenue for FY 2012-2013 is projected to rise over $1 billion from last year.”
But Clean Water Action also says the source of DEP’s funding earmarked for Marcellus Shale oversight is unsustainable. The group’s director Myron Arnowitt, says using permit application fees to pay for more inspectors puts the DEP in the position of maintaining their oversight operations by granting more gas drilling permits to those they are tasked with regulating. Arnowitt says that’s a losing proposition.
“Trying to fund an ongoing program with one-time fees is a ponzi scheme at best,” said Arnowitt in a press release. “The last time we hired more inspectors was in 2010, and since then over 5,000 new drilling permits have been approved. It seems unlikely that a one time $3,500 payment is going to cover DEP’s costs of 15 years of inspection, water and air monitoring, and other oversight activities.”
DEP Secretary Michael Krancer defended the cuts to his department at a House budget hearing on Tuesday. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has more on the hostile exchanges that took place between Democrats and the DEP chief.