State funding to DEP is inadequate, says advisory panel
An advisory panel to the state Department of Environmental Protection warns consistent cuts to the agency over the last 20 years have reached an “unsustainable level.”
In a letter sent Tuesday to state Senate Appropriations Committee chairs Patrick Browne and Vincent Hughes, DEP’s Citizens Advisory Council chairman William Fink says the cuts are threatening the agency’s ability to do its job.
“General Fund appropriation for the Department has decreased steadily from a high of $245.6 million in [fiscal year] 2002-03 to the current $152 million in the proposed FY 2017-18 budget.”
Fink also cites the recent warning Pennsylvania received from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, saying it lacked the staffing and resources to enforce clean water standards. The shortage caused the number of unaddressed Safe Drinking Water Act violations to nearly double in the past five years, from 4,298 to 7,922. These failures could be grounds for taking primacy away– costing Pennsylvania millions of dollars in federal funding.
The DEP has also been warned by the feds about shortages in its Bureau of Air Quality and Mining programs, “The mining program faces extra issues in FY 2017-18,” Fink writes. “Because 30 percent of the staff eligible for the early retirement offered by Governor Wolf are located in this program.”