Tuesday, October 20, 2009
A leading environmental advocate in the Pennsylvania House says he’s disappointed by cuts in the Department of Environmental Protection’s state funding. The final Pennsylvania budget dropped state funding for the DEP from $217 million to $159 million. Federal funding was significantly increased, but Democratic Representative David Levdansky of Clairton says he’s bothered by the shift. He notes it comes at a time when the department will need to certify and oversee more and more natural gas drilling sites. He’s also disappointed the spending plan didn’t include a severance tax, saying 2009 was the best year to impose a levy on Marcellus Shale drilling. “I’m just being realistic about it.” Says Levdansky. “We’ve got our job cut out for us. Those of us that are concerned about the environment, we’ve got some battles that we’ve got to fight over the course of the year. The fact that the public tends to be a little more focused and attentive to the Marcellus issue is a benefit, but we’ve still got a heavy lift to protect the environment.” Levdansky says he’s concerned Governor Rendell won’t have the clout to push for a drilling tax next year. He says it needs to be done by then before a new governor takes office. A governor Levdansky fears will be against the levy. Levdansky says he’ll keep pushing for the tax, but he’ll focus efforts on making sure state forests are minimally impacted when leasing picks up over the coming months.