Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Pennsylvania Needs to Pay A Half a Billion a Year to Save the Bay?

I'm a poet and don't know it. From the York PA Daily Record, Killing the Chesapeake: Report says it will cost Pa. $521 million a year to save the bay

For 38 years, when then-Pennsylvania Gov. Dick Thornburgh signed the first agreement with Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia to pledge to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, Pennsylvania had fallen short of its obligations to help clean up the bay.

The state routinely falls well short in reducing the pollution that flows into the Chesapeake, and the cause is simple – Pennsylvania doesn’t want to pay for it, falling, by most estimates $324 million short of what needs to be spent.

A new report by the environmental advocacy group PennFuture – to be released Thursday – estimates that the state would have to spent $521 million a year to meet a 2025 deadline set by the agreement among the bay watershed states to reduce pollution in the bay.

Yeah, I'm not expecting us to walk away in 2025 and say "See, we fixed that." 

The group has compiled a list of proposals so the state can meet its obligations — including the establishment of a Clean Water Fund, a program to help farmers pay for improvements that reduce the amount of pollution that flows into the Susquehanna watershed and limits on the use of fertilizer on lawns and in developed areas. It has also compiled a list of ways to pay for it, including revamping the state income tax, imposing a tax on single-use plastic bags and a fee for stormwater drainage and increasing fees to dump trash.

“What we’ve provided is a legislator toolbox,” said Renee Reber, PennFuture’s campaign manager for watershed advocacy who wrote the report. “It’s possible that there is a pathway forward. It’s time to stop kicking the can down the road and take action now.”

PennFuture’s senior director of government affairs, Ezra Thrush, said, “It’s time for Pennsylvania to kick it up a notch.”

Legislation that would enact many of the measures PennFuture has proposed has been introduced during past legislative sessions but has often failed. For instance, a bill that would set limits on the use of fertilizer – aimed mainly at commercial lawn services – has been introduced in the state Legislature during every session for the past decade or so and has failed to gain passage. Meanwhile, both Maryland and Virginia passed such laws – 11 years ago.
. . .
The problem is politics, as is everything in Harrisburg. It’s a tough sell, Yaw said. “A lot of my constituents don’t even know where the Chesapeake Bay is,” he said. “It’s 300 miles away. Why should we care? The way I look at it is it’s not an environmental issue. It’s a living issue.”

I see this as the biggest bar. What would motivate Pennsylvanians to pay half a billion a year to clean up something of very little consequence to them? I've been trying to think of ways for Maryland and Virginia to overcome the indifference of the upstream states, but I have not found it.

Complicating matters, he said, is how Pennsylvania government functions. He recalled a few years back, the bay commission heard from an expert who was going to describe the political processes in the three states represented on the commission. Yaw believed it would be “a waste of time,” but as the presentation went on, he was stunned. Both Maryland and Virginia have more streamlined legislative processes and fewer local government entities to deal with. Pennsylvania has a cumbersome process and 67 county governments, 2,500 municipal governments, 2,500 public authorities and 500 school districts.

“Representatives from Maryland and Virginia said, ‘We don’t see how you get anything done in Pennsylvania,’” Yaw said. “Pennsylvania is really different.”

Yeah, Pennsylvania has odd government, boroughs, townships, counties. Someday when Alex understands it he can explain it to me. 

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