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Governor Shapiro's Budget Supports Pennsylvania's Environment

April 05, 2023 10:00 AM

​Article I, Section 27 of our Commonwealth’s Constitution states that every Pennsylvanian has a right to clean air and pure water. And the reality of climate change is here for Pennsylvania. Warmer winters, hotter summers, stronger storms, and other impacts of a global climate change are already being felt across the Commonwealth. They are here, now, today. Confronting it is the challenge of our time. DEP is rising to meet that challenge, and we will continue to do so.

Pennsylvania is the birthplace of commercial oil drilling, and that legacy helped industrialize the nation and build the world’s leading economy. But it also left a legacy of hundreds of thousands of abandoned oil and gas wells that pose an ongoing threat to Pennsylvania’s environment. Too often, these wells pollute groundwater and leak methane into the air. And resources to plug these wells, or even find them, had been scant – prior to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) passed by Congress and signed by President Biden in 2021. That law is providing hundreds of millions in funding for plugging orphaned and abandoned wells, which are the source of 8% of the methane emissions in Pennsylvania. DEP will plug hundreds of wells over the next year with roughly $25 million in first-year funding under IIJA.

Another legacy of Pennsylvania’s energy history are the abandoned mine lands and acid mine discharges that impact our landscapes and affect our streams and rivers. Through the IIJA, Pennsylvania will receive $244.9 million dollars per year for 15 years to clean up these sites and install treatment for these waters. This money is not only putting land back into productive use – it is also money going into the pockets of the hardworking people that are part of making these projects a reality. Heavy equipment operators, truck drivers, professional engineers, and many others are part of these projects, taking home paychecks for restoring our Commonwealth. Those reclaimed lands and cleaned up streams form their own economic engines too; bringing in new businesses to build on the reclaimed land and tourism dollars for people fishing in those restored streams. Through the IIJA we are also helping to update community water systems and replace lead service lines. There will be more than $1.3 billion for water infrastructure upgrades like lead service line replacement and removing emerging contaminants like PFAS that will be administered through PENNVEST; DEP staff are standing by to help with the necessary permits and guidance on how to deliver those projects to our communities. Through the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), there are also many opportunities for climate change mitigation through cleaner vehicles, homes that are more energy efficient, and reductions in greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane. Currently there are programs to reduce energy demand with rebates for electric heat pumps, water heaters, and kitchen appliances, and more opportunities will be available as the federal government finalizes the programs.

DEP is here to get results, and to fulfill our mission to protect Pennsylvania's air, land, and water from pollution, providing for the health and safety of its citizens through a cleaner environment. We will work as partners with individuals, organizations, governments, and businesses to prevent pollution and to restore our natural resources. DEP will also continue to work with communities around Pennsylvania, large and small, rural and urban, to further environmental justice. With the increased interest on the federal government in meeting environmental justice goals, there are many opportunities to leverage federal funding to meet the needs of Pennsylvanians. DEP is tracking these available resources, applying for funding where appropriate, and sharing opportunities with businesses, nonprofits, community-based organizations, and municipalities where state entities cannot apply. We aim to continue to take advantage of outside funding opportunities wherever possible and to better position non-Commonwealth agency partners to take advantage of opportunities as well.

“We must reject the false choice between projecting jobs and protecting our planet. I believe we can do both – we can embrace the Commonwealth’s role as an energy leader, create goodpaying jobs, and fulfill our constitutional obligation to protect Pennsylvania’s clean air and pure water. Listen, we can’t ignore the science here. We have to be honest and connect the dots between that abandoned well leaking methane into our atmosphere and the impact it has on our people. That methane contributes to rising temperatures and more frequent storms. And that warm, wet weather creates more mold that infects our crops right here in Pennsylvania – spoiling our corn and potatoes, and our farmers’ hard work. I know we might not all believe the same things, but I sure as hell hope you believe in drinkable water, breathable air, and good jobs – because protecting the environment will lead to all three.” Governor Josh Shapiro

We will continue to transition to a clean energy economy that creates good paying, family supporting jobs. Read more about Pennsylvania’s environment and Governor Shapiro’s budget here.

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