Good News on the Enviromental Budget
The Senate took up amendments to the budget last week and we have some good news. First, Senator Brewer's amendment which would permanently waive the administrative charge for the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program was adopted. NHESP has not been receiving any appropriations from the general fund so they rely on grants, fees and the state income tax check-off. However, of the funds that come into the program, the state was taking 36% (!) as a standard administrative charge. These funds will now stay with the Program - all the more important given that the NHESP line-item has not been restored in the budget. This was a unanimous roll call vote. Hats off to Jen Ryan at Mass Audubon in particular for her great work on this with help from Steve Long at The Nature Conservancy.
Senator Brewer also championed the defeat of an amendment introduced by Senator Tisei that would have prevented DEP from reopening an investigation or imposing any liability on cases closed longer than 5 years under chapter 21E (hazardous waste site remediation).
Please take a moment to thank Senator Brewer for his leadership on these issues. Emails are fine; send to Stephen.Brewer@state.ma.us.
Finally, the Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI)
- which had specific funding in the Governor's and House budget, but not in the Senate (they were included in the UMass line-item but with no funding level indicated)
- is now explicitly funded in the Senate budget thanks to an amendment by Senator Jamie Eldridge.
We will now need to make sure that the higher funding levels for DEP and DCR in the Senate budget along with these changes are adopted in conference committee and that the higher funding levels for Office of Dam Safety and DCR Stormwater Management that are included in the House budget are also adopted.
We will keep you posted once budget conferees are appointed. This will be our last chance this year to get an improved environmental budget so please stay tuned.