“Our constitution gives Pennsylvanians the right to clean air, to pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. We have a constitutional obligation to leave Penn’s Woods better than we found them—and today we act decisively to fulfill it.” –Governor Tom Ridge at the signing of the original Growing Greener legislation on December 15, 1999
The program known as Growing Greener began in 1999 when Governor Tom Ridge and legislative leaders agreed to commit $650 million over five years for investments in preserving farmland, conserving open space, restoring water quality, promoting outdoor recreation, and revitalizing communities.
In 2002, the General Assembly and Governor Mark Schweiker created the Environmental Stewardship Fund (ESF) to help fulfill that original 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.
Growing Greener II
Governor Ed Rendell and the General Assembly, recognizing the need to accelerate the work being accomplished by Environmental Stewardship Fund investments, decided to put a $625 million bond referendum question to the voters. In the 2005 primary election, 60% of voters approved the bond, establishing what was known as Growing Greener II . The $625 million was spread out over six years among six state agencies (see Allocation). All Growing Greener II funds have been spent or obligated.
Following the voters’ approval of the Growing Greener II bonds in 2005, the General Assembly and governor enacted legislation that contained a provision providing an option for Growing Greener II debt service to be paid out of the ESF, contrary to the normal practice of paying debt service out of general funds. In subsequent years, Governor Rendell proposed and signed budgets tapping the ESF 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.
Per Act 13 of 2012, the Environmental Stewardship Fund received transfers from the Oil and Gas Lease Fund of $20 million in 2013 and $35 million thereafter. The impact fee revenues for the Environmental Stewardship Fund are distributed to four state agencies (see Allocation).