DEP wants to boost fees on major polluters
Air quality improved so much in Pennsylvania that the state isn't making enough in pollution fees to cover one of its core permitting programs.
State officials want to increase by half the fees that big polluters pay, from $56 per ton of emissions to $85. The Department of Environmental Protection will hold public hearings on the plan, including one on March 5 in its Pittsburgh office.
The action would be in response to lessening air pollution from stationary sources, cut by half statewide between 2008 and 2011, according to federal data. Because power plants and factories are polluting much less, they pay less in fees the state uses to run the program that permits them. A fee hike would help cut deficits that are on pace to rise to $17.3 million by mid-2015.
“With the deficit, it wasn't something that could wait,” said Nancy D. Perkins, an environmental law expert at Duquesne University who helped the DEP's Citizens Advisory Council review the proposal. “Something had to happen. What happened here wasn't necessarily out of line with what other states were doing.”
The Electric Power Generation Association does not plan to fight the fee increase, said Jake Smeltz, president of the Harrisburg-based industry group. State officials spent years discussing and vetting the proposal with stakeholders in order to smooth its way to passage, Smeltz and Perkins said.
“I would say that the process was fair,” Smeltz said. “When you have that type of dynamic, it's not surprising that the fees are going up.”
Federal and state rules require Pennsylvania to charge plants enough annually to fully fund the permitting program. It covers permit reviews, modeling, analysis, staff costs, pensions, benefits, resources and equipment, DEP spokesman Kevin Sunday said.
The program applies to 560 facilities statewide, all of which pay for their first 4,000 tons of pollution. There were more than 800 polluters when the program started in 1994, according to the state.
At least a dozen coal-fired plants, the biggest polluters, are scheduled to close by 2015, meaning the state will have to do more to cover the deficit, Sunday said. This fee increase would raise about $5 million by 2014-15, leaving the department about $12 million short for the following year.
“We are aware that a ton-based fee may only temporarily stabilize the program,” Sunday said. “Trying to close the funding gap with a per-ton-based fee will not work, as it would drastically increase costs for the few well-controlled coal-fired power plants that expect to remain in operation after 2015.”
Timothy Puko is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7991 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Allgheny County charter school students give more than $11K to assist homeless children
- Newsmaker: Rick Rechenberg
- Witnesses recall scene of crash in Lincoln Place homicide by vehicle trial
- North Shore access to be limited Saturday for Chesney concert, officials say
- Pittsburgh Mayor Peduto returning from manufacturing trade mission to Cuba
- Blawnox man’s torture, death a robbery plot gone wrong, police say
- Plum schools, dealing with sex scandal, to form panel in June
- Duquesne University to raise minimum wage floor
- Police charge Allentown teen for beating, holding ex-girlfriend at gunpoint
- Air rifle incidents on the rise, experts say
- Allegheny County Council begins process to replace Barbara Daly Danko