A state Senate committee in Pennsylvania approved legislation Tuesday to use federal coronavirus relief aid to revive a long-running program designed to help clean up waterways, fix up parks and preserve open space.
The bill, approved 10-1, would inject the Growing Greener program with $500 million from the American Rescue Plan Act signed by President Joe Biden in March.
The bill still requires approval from the full Senate and House before it could go to the desk of Gov. Tom Wolf. The money likely would have to come out of the $2.4 billion in money left over from the American Rescue Plan Act. That had been set aside to balance next year's budget.
Growing Greener, begun in 1999, has had prior injections of cash, but environmental advocates say what's left is inadequate, considering long-term inflation and growing needs like preventing farmland runoff and storm-water drainage from flowing down the Susquehanna River into the Chesapeake Bay.
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The legislation would send $225 million to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, $200 million to the Department of Environmental Protection and $75 million to the Department of Agriculture.
Eligible projects include improvements to state parks and forests, local parks and riverfronts, land preservation, flood prevention projects and anti-pollution efforts, such as cleaning up abandoned coal mine lands and protecting waterways from storm runoff.