Senate Budget Hearings – Key Points

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Senate Republicans questioned Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Dunn about issues surrounding Pennsylvania’s parks and open space at Tuesday’s Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on the proposed state budget.

Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Senate Republicans questioned Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Dunn about issues surrounding Pennsylvania’s parks and open space at Tuesday’s Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on the proposed state budget.

Fiscal Responsibility

With revenues from the Oil and Gas lease funds decreasing and given the structural deficit the Commonwealth is facing, Senator Pat Browne, Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, urged DCNR to become more self-sustaining and less reliant on General Fund revenues.

DCNR Blocks Natural Gas Development

Members urged the department to open access to natural gas land-locked leases that have been turned back.  Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Chair Gene Yaw (R-23) estimated that DCNR is sitting on 500,000 acres that could be drilled without surface disturbance and questioned why that land cannot be leased. 

Senate Republicans emphasized that Pennsylvania cannot have clean energy, such as solar and wind power, without mining and fossil fuels.  They said that point needs to be made to ensure that Pennsylvania has a safe energy grid.

Expanding Broadband to Rural Areas

Stressing the need to provide high-speed internet to rural areas and close the digital divide, Senate Communications and Technology Committee Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-28) urged Administration to lift the ban on broadband infrastructure on state game lands.  As Chair of the Senate Communications and Technology Committee, she noted that new technology has made it easier to integrate that technology, which is crucial to expand broadband service to all areas of the state.

Senate Republicans also pressed for installing more industrial solar panels on state park lands, rather than locating them on prime farmland and sought assurances that funds from the registration, certification and enforcement of ATVs go back to grants and programs for all-terrain vehicles.