In a letter to the governor and general assembly, the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association joined fellow advocates for restoring Susquehanna River health and safe drinking water sources for Pennsylvanians across the state in calling for your swift and significant action to increase investments in water quality protection.
This communication was sent to PALTA partners on July 15, 2016
The state’s 2016-2017 budget did not favor the environment:
- For a second year, Growing Greener lost $15M due to Growing Greener’s dependence on natural gas impact fees, which have dropped dramatically with reduced drilling activities. Growing Greener was competing for these funds with the state’s General Fund, which (absent new revenues) needed the money to keep state government (e.g., DCNR) running.
- The Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund, High Performance Green Buildings Program, and Recycling Fund also took hits.
- DCNR and DEP, having experienced many years of cuts, were both in need of substantial increases to address water protection and other needs. This did not happen.
However, there were some bright spots for conservation:
With the increase in cigarette taxes, the state Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Program gets a boost of $5M annually. It moves from $20.485M to $25.485M annually.
PALTA had worked to expand the types of conservation real estate transactions excluded from paying realty transfer taxes. Although many land trust real estate transactions were already excluded, local government transactions involving easements were not. The newly expanded exclusions include:
- A transfer of an agricultural conservation easement to or from the Commonwealth, a county, a local government unit or a conservancy under authority of the Agricultural Area Security Law;
- A transfer of a conservation easement or preservation easement under the Conservation and Preservation Easements Act; and
- A transfer of a perpetual historic preservation easement, a perpetual public trail easement or other perpetual public recreational use easement, a perpetual scenic preservation easement or a perpetual open-space preservation easement to or from the United States, the Commonwealth, a county, a local government unit or a conservancy.
- Transfers to or by a land bank.
PALTA will be updating its guide to Realty Transfer Taxes in the next few days to reflect the changes in law.
Pennsylvania Land Trust Association
The Pennsylvania Land Trust Association, in a letter to Pennsylvania’s Senators and Representatives on June 16, 2015, communicated support for Governor Wolf’s severance tax proposal and “any other fair and reasonable proposal that dedicates a significant portion of the tax revenue to the conservation and restoration of Pennsylvania’s natural resources.” The text of the letter is below:
Re: Support Severance Tax Proposed by Governor Wolf
The Pennsylvania Land Trust Association, which is made up of 75 of Pennsylvania’s leading land conservation organizations, endorses the Governor’s proposed natural gas severance tax proposal and asks you to support it. The Association also generally favors any other fair and reasonable proposal that dedicates a significant portion of the tax revenue to the conservation and restoration of Pennsylvania’s natural resources.
The Association, favors such proposals because:
- Natural gas development imposes costs on our shared environment—some immediately apparent, some which may take years to become evident.
- History demonstrates that those who extract natural resources seldom if ever fully compensate the public for the costs of the extraction to our shared environment (for example, pollution from old mines and gas wells). The result is a net loss to our shared natural resources
- A natural gas severance tax may redress this situation by allocating the revenue to reinvest in public natural resources or by addressing public needs more broadly, reducing budgetary pressures that otherwise would squeeze government investments in protecting our land and water.
- 80% of the severance tax revenue would come from out of state. Pennsylvanians bear the burden of severance taxes charged by every other major gas producing state; it’s equitable that Pennsylvanians too should benefit from severance tax revenues. (Though Pennsylvania’s natural gas impact fee does deliver revenue, it is far less than the industry pays in severance taxes in other states.)
The Association notes that the Governor’s proposal boosts the Commonwealth’s ability to have enough inspectors to ensure that gas operations comply with laws that protect public health and our shared land and water resources. The proposal also invests in solar and other energy technologies that will reduce the need for industry and government to condemn land for new energy infrastructure; reduce damage to wildlife habitat and loss of agricultural production associated with energy infrastructure; and provide water quality and other environmental benefits.
Strong needs exist for boosting the Commonwealth’s investments in the conservation of our land, air, water and wildlife. The Governor’s proposal takes a good step in addressing the energy sector but substantially greater and broader investments in the protection and restoration of Pennsylvania’s natural resources are much needed. The Association looks forward to working with legislators in this and future years to address these environmental investment needs.
Thank you for your consideration.
Andrew M. Loza
On January 29, 2015, Governor Tom Wolf signed an executive order reinstating a moratorium on new leases for oil and gas development in state parks and forests. At an event in Benjamin Rush State Park, Governor Wolf signed the executive order with members of the General Assembly in attendance.
“Natural gas development is vital to Pennsylvania’s economy, but so is the economic and environmental viability of our parks and forests,” said Governor Wolf. “This is about striking the right balance. Our state parks and forests are unique assets that should be preserved, protected, and utilized by our residents for recreational purposes.”
Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) has concluded that additional leasing jeopardizes the agency’s ability to sustain the commonwealth’s gold-standard forest certification, which is vital the economic and environmental well-being of the state’s parks and forests. The executive order states that effective immediately, DCNR is directed to protect the lands of the Commonwealth that are held in trust for its citizens and for future generations, and subject to future advice and recommendations made by DCNR, no State Park and State Forest lands owned and/or managed by DCNR shall be leased for oil and gas development.
Representatives Mike Kelly (R-PA) and Mike Thompson (D-CA) just introduced the Conservation Easement Incentive Act, H.R. 641. It now goes immediately to a vote in the House Ways and Means Committee! The committee has scheduled a markup of this and other charitable incentives, which include incentives for donations of food to food banks, and provisions for tax-free charitable donations from IRAs tomorrow, February 4.
Then it goes to the House floor for a vote of the full House, as early as Wednesday, February 11th, most likely packaged with the other charitable provisions (similar to the packages voted on the floor in July and December of last year).
This is stunningly fast – which is possible because of all the work accomplished last year! We need you to call your representative and ask that they vote for the conservation easement incentive, and for the package of charitable incentives in which it will travel. The enhanced incentive is identical to that voted on last December.
- Here is the Dear Colleague Reps. Kelly and Thompson just sent out to their colleagues – asking them to co-sponsor. It’s too late for that now – what we really need is their vote next week!
- See Land Trust Alliance’s spreadsheet that shows how every House member voted on December’s charities bill (H.R. 5806), last July’s bill (H.R 4719) and whether they had co-sponsored H.R. 2807.
- If your representative didn’t vote for those bills, or is a freshman, see LTA’s new talking points to get your representative informed and on board.