Growing Greener began in 1999 when Governor Tom Ridge and legislative leaders agreed to commit $650 million over five years for investments in farmland preservation, conservation of open space, restoring and protecting Pennsylvania’s streams and rivers, improving and expanding state and local parks, and developing new trails and greenways.
In 2002, the General Assembly and Governor Mark Schweiker created the Environmental Stewardship Fund to help fulfill the original Growing Greener commitment and to establish a permanent funding mechanism to carry the program’s success into the future. They provided the Environmental Stewardship Fund with a dedicated revenue source by increasing the fee charged for dumping trash in Pennsylvania landfills.
Governor Ed Rendell and the General Assembly, recognizing the need to accelerate the work of Growing Greener, decided to put a $625 million bond referendum question to the voters. In the 2005 primary election, 60% of voters approved the bond and Growing Greener II was established.
For over a decade, legislators, Governors and voters from both parties have recognized the value of investing in Pennsylvania’s land, water and communities. The success of the Growing Greener initiative proves that sustained funding enables our communities to make major improvements in our quality of life, environment and economy.
Diversion of Environmental Stewardship Monies
Following the voters’ approval of the Growing Greener II bonds in 2005, the General Assembly and Governor Rendell enacted implementing legislation that contained a provision providing an option for Growing Greener II debt service to be paid out of the Environmental Stewardship Fund, contrary to the normal practice of paying debt service out of general funds. In subsequent years, Governor Rendell proposed and signed budgets tapping the Environmental Stewardship Fund to pay debt service, diverting tens of millions of dollars each year from environmental conservation and restoration work that the Fund would have otherwise supported.
Oil & Gas Lease Fund Transfer
Per Act 13 of 2012, signed by Governor Corbett, a set amount has been authorized to be transferred from the Oil & Gas Lease Fund to the Environmental Stewardship Fund each year as follows: $20 million in 2013 and $35 million each year going forward.