PennFuture praised Gov. Tom Wolf for “his bold plans to reinvigorate Pennsylvania’s investments in clean energy” as part of the administration’s proposed 2015-16 fiscal year budget.
The Wolf administration unveiled a proposal to invest $225 million in revenue from a new drilling tax in a comprehensive energy portfolio that includes $50 million to re-launch the Pennsylvania Sunshine Solar program; $50 million to improve energy efficiency at small businesses, local governments, schools and nonprofits; $30 million for a combined heat and power grant program; $30 million for clean energy market development; $20 million for clean energy and energy efficiency projects in the agricultural sector; and $20 million for a wind energy generation program.
“Not long ago, Pennsylvania was a national leader in clean energy production and clean energy jobs,” said John Norbeck, acting president and CEO of PennFuture. “Gov. Wolf’s proposed new investments will send a powerful signal to both entrepreneurs and markets that Pennsylvania is serious about regaining national leadership in solar, wind, energy efficiency and other clean technologies.”
“Investing in new clean energy resources not only creates jobs, protects the environment, and helps break our dependence on fossil fuels, but it will also help to put the breaks on rising energy costs,” said Rob Altenburg, director of the PennFuture Energy Center. “Dedicating $50 million to energy efficiency projects at schools, municipalities, and small businesses is a common-sense measure that has proven results. Independent studies have shown that these investments can return to our citizens more than double what is invested.”
PennFuture also praised the Wolf administration’s plans to boost funding and staffing for the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) oversight of the natural gas industry. DEP is slated to receive an additional $10 million for the inspection and oversight of oil and gas operations, and an additional complement of 50 staff for these activities.
“We agree with the Wolf administration’s approach to strong regulation of the natural gas industry and to have those rules strictly enforced,” continued Norbeck. “Gov. Wolf has pledged to regulate methane emissions from natural gas operations, and 70 percent of Pennsylvanians agree. As such, we are calling for a rulemaking for the direct regulation of methane in Pennsylvania.”
In addition, PennFuture applauded the proposed budget for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) for beginning to wean the state’s flagship conservation agency from being funded by natural gas extraction on public lands. The Oil & Gas Lease Fund was originally envisioned by Maurice “Doc” Goddard as a means to reinvest revenues from gas drilling on public lands in conservation and recreation.
Recently, however, Oil & Gas Lease Fund revenues have increasingly funded DCNR’s core government operations. This year’s proposed budget would begin to reverse the trend by using $20 million in additional General Fund revenue for DCNR operations in place of Oil & Gas Lease Fund revenue.
PennFuture is a statewide public interest membership organization founded in 1998 with offices in Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Wilkes-Barre.