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DEP Looks to Take Huge Hit in Budget Being Hammered Out in Harrisburg

October 1, 2009

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvania's long-overdue budget could hold an especially deep cut for the state's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Myron Arnowitt, director of Pennsylvania Clean Water Action, says the numbers being considered would be disasterous to efforts to protect the environment.

"The state DEP is getting one of the biggest cuts of any department: 25 percent. The overall state budget is being cut only 2 percent."

Arnowitt says his group also opposes plans to lease an additional 100,000 acres in the Marcellus Shale territory for natural gas drilling, and says a severance tax on those operations would be a more responsible way to raise revenue. An expected vote on the severance tax in the House Wednesday was delayed so members can discuss it further. Senate Republicans who support land leasing say it can and will be done responsibly.

Natural gas drilling already has a strong foothold in Pennsylvania, Arnowitt says. He warns that allowing this kind of expansion will leave a potentially irreversible footprint on the forests that sit atop the Marcellus Shale.

"Six-hundred-thousand acres of state forest already being leased is, to us, too much. To go even farther will just multiply the environmental damage."

Taking one dollar of every four away from the DEP will mean hundreds of jobs lost and more reductions in enforcement efforts that already are stretched thin, Arnowitt adds.

"We need more inspectors out there, especially with this natural gas drilling boom. They're operating more and more wells and no one's out there looking over their shoulders."

More information is available from Pennsylvania Clean Water Action, 412-765-3053.


Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA