HARRISBURG – Three Senate Republicans are pushing for increased funding towards clean water initiatives through the most recent federal stimulus payment to the Commonwealth.
Senator Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), Senator Scott Martin (R-Lancaster) and Senator Dan Laughlin (R-Erie) are seeking $250 million of Pennsylvania’s allocation from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) to establish a “Clean Streams Fund” for Pennsylvania. The fund will be used to protect and restore Pennsylvania’s streams and rivers to stimulate economic growth in communities and improve the quality of life for all Pennsylvanians.
“As Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee and a member of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, I have been proud to work towards the betterment of Pennsylvania’s 85,000 miles of rivers and streams,” Sen. Yaw said. “Unfortunately, a legacy of intensive land use has left almost one-third of those waters unsafe for either humans or aquatic life. By restoring these waters, we will reduce the cost of drinking water treatment and invest in our top two industries – tourism and agriculture – by helping farms improve soil health and increasing recreational opportunities throughout the Commonwealth.”
Of the known sources of pollution, 70 percent are attributed to either agriculture or abandoned mine drainage. These “non-point” sources of pollution are diffuse throughout the landscape and regulated differently from end-of-pipe “point” sources such as wastewater treatment plants.
Senator Martin, also a Chesapeake Bay Commission member, stated that “without any ratepayers or user fees to support them, the burden of mitigating non-point sources falls on individual farmers and landowners, but the impacts of this pollution – and the benefits of its clean-up – are felt by all of us.”
“I have heard many concerns from local farmers about the cost of compliance with the unfunded mandates coming from the federal government,” Martin said. “This funding could play a critical role in helping Pennsylvania meet these clean water requirements without asking more from property owners or taxpayers.”
Senator Laughlin, Chair of the Senate Game & Fisheries Committee, added that “non-point mitigation requires materials, equipment and labor that are sourced locally. For every one dollar invested, $1.60 is returned to the community. For every mile of stream improved, over $100,000 will be generated in the local economy from improved fishing and boating opportunities. Every ten percent increase in tree cover reduces water treatment costs by 20 percent.”
“The investments made in rehabilitating and improving Pennsylvania’s waterways provide tangible economic benefits to local communities, while enhancing recreational activities for anglers and boaters and preserving these valuable resources for future generations,” Laughlin said. “Pennsylvania is committed to protecting and restoring the natural beauty of our waterways and the Clean Streams Fund would provide a substantial boost to those efforts.”
ARPA money cannot be used to reduce taxes or fund government pension systems. States can only use ARPA money for certain actions to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic on households, businesses, and government operations, or to make new investments in water, sewer or broadband infrastructure. Pennsylvania’s total allocation is expected to be $7 billion and is only available through 2024.
Nick Troutman (Yaw)
Terry Trego (Martin)
Matt Azeles (Laughlin)