HARRISBURG – Legislation establishing the landmark Pennsylvania Clean Streams Fund heads to the governor’s desk this week as part of the 2022-23 budget, Sens. Scott Martin (R-13), Dan Laughlin (R-49) and Gene Yaw (R-23) announced today.
The senators have spearheaded the creation of this fund over the last two legislative sessions through multiple proposals, including Senate Bill 832, which passed the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee in September of 2021.
“This is a momentous investment in our rivers and streams to improve water quality for all Pennsylvanians,” Martin said. “We will be able to reduce pollutants to support healthy habitats for fish and humans alike, decrease flooding in prone areas, while reducing water treatment costs. This is all at no additional expense to taxpayers.”
The Clean Streams Fund uses $220 million from the American Rescue Plan to clean up rivers and streams damaged by decades of non-point source pollution, including agricultural runoff, abandoned mine drainage and stormwater management in developed areas.
“I’m happy that we could get this done as part of the budget,” Laughlin said. “In a year where we had this type of surplus, it would be a travesty if we couldn’t invest in our environment the way we have with the Clean Streams Fund. As Chairman of the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee and a proud conservationist, I have a million reasons to support healthy and vibrant streams, rivers and waterways. This is a win-win-win for Pennsylvanians.”
The fund will support a new statewide Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program that will partner with counties to remediate the affected waterways. It will also launch a “Pay for Success” pilot program that rewards entrepreneurs for discovering new and cost-effective ways to reduce pollution.
“The Clean Streams Fund puts money into action by correcting decades of non-point source pollution with innovative solutions, like farming cooperatives and strategic tree planting, without demanding a single cent from taxpayers,” Yaw said. “Our rivers and streams are a source of beauty, purpose and economic opportunity in this state and the Clean Stream Funds will preserve and enhance these waterways for generations to come.”
Pennsylvania boasts the highest stream density in the continental United States, with more than 85,000 miles of waterways that support a $26.9 billion outdoor recreation industry and more than 390,000 jobs.
Unfortunately, one-third of those rivers and streams are not safe for fishing, swimming or drinking. Every mile of polluted stream limits economic opportunity and increases treatment costs for residents, though historically, the state’s efforts to remediate its waterways has focused on point sources of pollution – like wastewater treatment plants.
“An investment of this magnitude will go a long way toward restoring our streams with the help of farmers, whose modern techniques and commitment to conserving our land and water will be crucial to the success of this program,” Martin said. “I appreciate the support and commitment from the General Assembly and our governor in making the Clean Streams Fund a reality.”
Without a regulatory permit, and without any ratepayers or user fees to support them, the burden of protecting our local streams and creeks from non-point sources falls on individual farmers and landowners. However, the impacts of non-point pollution as well as the benefits of its clean-up are felt by all Pennsylvanians.
“This is an historic achievement and I am grateful for the support of my fellow lawmakers and our governor in getting this across the finish line,” Yaw said. “We must do all that we can to support our top industries, agriculture and tourism, and preserve the natural resources we’ve been gifted.”
Senators Martin and Yaw represent Pennsylvania as members of the Chesapeake Bay Commission. Martin serves as the vice chair of the commission.
Terry Trego (Martin)
David Kozak (Laughlin)
Nick Troutman (Yaw)