by Cassie Miller, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
May 3, 2023
Clean water advocates and lawmakers gathered in the Capitol on Wednesday to recognize Clean Water Education Week, and to urge the General Assembly to support legislation that they said will reduce pollution in Pennsylvania’s waterways.
The activists for the environmental organizations, including PennFuture and the Chesapeake Bay Commission, also urged lawmakers to codify the Office of Environmental Justice in funding programs, to ensure that underrepresented communities have a voice at the state level.
State Rep. Joe Webster, D-Montgomery, called on his colleagues in the House to support HB 699, a bill that would require counties to create responsible stormwater management plans.
Webster, whose eastern Pennsylvania district was heavily affected by flooding from Hurricane Ida, wrote in a co-sponsorship memo for the legislation that while state legislators are “responsible for the wellbeing of every watershed in Pennsylvania,” they “cannot know the needs of a watershed better than the local administrators who see the effects of storm water pollution in their own communities.”
Advocates also said that the commonwealth needs to continue to support conservation efforts and programs directed toward supporting Pennsylvania’s farmers and agricultural producers.
“Local, state, and federal partners are working hard to put those dollars to work for Pennsylvania farmers and their local streams as effectively and efficiently as possible,” Chesapeake Bay Commission Executive Director Anna Killius said. “With almost 90% of the initial investment already committed, Pennsylvania’s agriculture community and their partners are proving that additional, dedicated funding is needed to continue accelerating our progress toward cleaner water, strong local economies, and a healthy Chesapeake Bay watershed.”
Specifically, advocates called for continued support of the Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program, which is funded under the Clean Streams Fund during the 2022-23 state budget.
According to the Department of Agriculture, the program “provides financial and technical assistance for the implementation of best management practices (BMPs) on agricultural operations.”
“Farmers are some of the best stewards of the land and want to install practices that improve water quality and soil health, while making farms more productive and sustainable for future generations,” Doug Wolfgang, executive secretary of the Pennsylvania State Conservation Commission, said Wednesday. “ACAP provides much needed technical and financial support to help farmers meet these goals.”
While advocates praised the $220 million for the Clean Streams Fund allocated from the federal American Rescue Plan Act in 2022, they called on the Shapiro administration and lawmakers to build on those efforts in the next budget.
“We urge the Pennsylvania General Assembly to build on the momentum created by the historic investment of the Clean Streams Fund in the 2023 state budget,” Mariah Davis, acting director of the Choose Clean Water Coalition, said. “Further resources and support is needed to meet the growing demand for programs that improve the health of rivers and streams throughout the Commonwealth.”
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