Environmental protection and conservation are winners in Governor Wolf’s proposed state budget. His proposal to levy a 5 percent severance tax on natural gas extraction would generate almost $1 billion in new revenue a year, a portion of which would go to a number of important environmental programs.
The governor would use $40 million a year from the severance tax to finance a $225 million clean energy bond that would be distributed in the following way:
- $100 million for alternative energy;
- $50 million for solar power installation rebates;
- $50 million for energy efficiency;
- $25 million for natural gas distribution line development.
Another $10 million of severance tax revenue would go to the Department of Environmental Protection to beef up oversight of the gas drilling industry. DEP’s entire budget would get an $18.8 million increase.
The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources budget would increase by $8.3 million. Over the last several years, DCNR’s budget has been funded almost entirely from royalties from natural gas drilling on public land. The proposed budget would begin to reverse that dependence by increasing the amount provided from the General Fund by $20 million.
A total of $41.7 million would be available through the Growing Greener Program which provides funding for watershed protection and restoration, parks and forest rehabilitation and community conservation – an increase of $1.16 million. The Keystone Parks, Recreation and Conservation Fund would get $51 million, an increase of $2.6 million, for local recreation projects, open space conservation and parks and forest rehabilitation.