Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Do Growing Greener Right and Do It Now, Coalition Demands

This came to me from another source, hence the ITALIC type. Authorship / ownership tip: As a style convention on this blog, generally, a good way to tell that I (Mark Rauterkus) didn't write the text is from the ITALIC messages.
Growing Greener implementation legislation is in the balance in Harrisburg at this moment. As you are likely aware, the budget process is supposed to be finished by June 30 (tomorrow), so this is the crazed rush time of year where everything gets thrown into the mix. The good news is that Growing Greener is in that mix. But, we need to make sure that what comes out the other end is what we all voted for in May.

PLEASE contact your legislators NOW and urge them to implement Growing Greener, but to do it RIGHT. See talking points below from a press release issued yesterday by the Pennsylvania Alliance for Conservation and Restoration (PARC). Sierra Club is a founding member of PARC, and urges our members to support PARC's positions in their communications with their Representatives and Senators.

Legislative Delay Violates Voters’ Trust, Risks Farmland and Environmental Cleanup

Harrisburg –With time running out for action this summer, the Pennsylvania Alliance for Restoration and Conservation (PARC), a coalition of sporting, environmental and civic organizations working together to protect Pennsylvania’s environment, who were the main organizers behind the resounding vote for environmental cleanup on the May ballot, called on Governor Rendell and the General Assembly to implement the voters' mandate for new spending on the environment. Instead of the House-passed version of Growing Greener, HB 3, which takes away $85 million a year in existing environmental funds to provide $115 million, the Coalition's 30 organizational members asked the legislature to adopt a general obligation bond, to be paid out of future revenues and not out of existing environmental programs, and to take that action prior to adjourning for its three-month summer recess.

"The voters overwhelmingly embraced the existing Growing Greener program with their 61 percent approval of the $625 million bond question in May," said Jan Jarrett, PARC co-chair and vice president of Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future (PennFuture). "They didn't vote to take money from one set of environmental priorities to fund another, nor did they turn out to hand over state dollars to local government. They voted to preserve open space, clean-up abandoned mine lands, and restore our rivers and streams. Instead of playing shell-games with the taxpayers' money, the legislators and the governor need to stand up and do what the voters asked them to do."

"The proposals put forth so far by the governor and legislators violate the voters' intentions because they divert funding from other environmental programs or fail to make the significant investments needed in conservation and restoration programs," said Andrew McElwaine, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC) and PARC co-chair. "This new money must be used for environmental programs to protect farmland and open spaces and to clean up our water and maintain places for hunting and fishing. Anything less is a betrayal of the voters' wishes."

The PARC coalition sent Governor Rendell and the leaders of the General Assembly a set of guidelines for spending the voter-approved $625 million bond, which includes:

  • The new program must address critical needs to conserve dwindling open space and farmland, to restore land and water damaged by coal mining, to protect and restore watersheds, and to repair infrastructure maintained by the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission and the Pennsylvania Game Commission;

  • Funding for these purposes must not come at the expense of existing environmental programs such as recycling;

  • The existing trash dumping fee should remain dedicated to its current purposes; and

  • Funding to address Pennsylvania's environmental problems and to conserve our natural resources must be in place for the long term to ensure a high quality of life in our communities.
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