Our budget dog days continue, and once again budget negotiations have broken down with each side blaming the other. News outlets continue to report that Senate Republicans are insisting on the dreadful idea of immediately opening up hundreds of thousands of acres of public forest land to gas drillers as part of the budget deal. Out-of-state-drillers want to snatch up leases on public land at a time when the leases can be picked up for a song because of the current low price of gas. And remarkably, the Senate Republicans apparently would rather take that deal than adopt a severance tax, supported by the House Democrats and Governor, that will produce ongoing revenue to the tune of more than half a billion dollars a year by 2014.
Bond rater downgrades Pennsylvania's credit outlook
The failure of budget negotiators to agree to raise new revenues has led Moody's Investor Services to downgrade the outlook for the Commonwealth's credit worthiness to negative. Moody's warns that if policymakers rely on one-time infusions of cash (such as tapping the Rainy Day Fund or federal stimulus funds) to resolve the budget crisis, rather than raising new revenue to achieve "structural budget balance," it may further downgrade the bond ratings.
A downgrade in the state's bond rating will hurt taxpayers by making borrowing more expensive. Moody's also notes that policymakers have a wide variety of options available to responsibly address the budget crisis, including new longer term sources of revenue.
Speaking of ongoing revenues - The case for the severance tax
House Finance Committee Chair Dave Levdansky (D - Allegheny and Washington) issued an excellent and pithy report on the proposed severance tax on the extraction of natural gas. It should be required reading for budget negotiators. The Chair blows huge holes in the industry's arguments against the tax by countering with facts – about business taxes, competitiveness, potential revenues, and environmental impacts. The industry has spent more than $1 million lobbying to embed misinformation in the minds of legislators. Levdansky's report is a bracing dose of reality.
Saluting Green Power leaders
Each year PennFuture salutes the people, businesses and organizations blazing the path to a clean energy future in Pennsylvania. Come join us for our luncheon September 10 in Philadelphia as we present our Green Power Awards.
Here are just a few of this year's award winners in the Green Power Consumer and Green Power Purchaser categories:
Hot off the press
Hotter days and more prolonged heat waves in the summer will be one of most tangible impacts of global warming. This week, the National Wildlife Federation and Physicians for Social Responsibility released a research brief on the hot days ahead of us – unless we can enact a wide range of policies to keep our cool.
Global Warming Conference set for Montgomery County
Reserve your spot now for PennFuture's annual Southeastern Pennsylvania Global Warming Conference, Global Warming 2009: Taking Action to Build our Economy and Protect our Environment. The conference will take place on Monday, October 12, from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. at Har Zion Temple, 1500 Hagys Ford Road in Penn Valley, Montgomery County.
Speakers include John Rowe, CEO of Exelon; PennFuture President and CEO Jan Jarrett; and Jerry Melillo, Co-Chair of the United States Global Climate Change Impacts Assessment and Director of The Ecosystems Center, who will explore the challenges of climate change and the opportunities for taking action. Other speakers will also examine state and federal climate legislation, and what they offer from both a religious and a business perspective. The event is free and open to the public, but advanced registration is required. Sign up online today.
Making the best case
PennFuture and PowerMinders are sponsoring an energy efficiency case study contest for college students from across Pennsylvania. Students can win a $500 prize for the best case study of how families and businesses stop wasting and start using energy wisely. Submissions will be evaluated by an expert panel, and included in a publicly available online library. Dr. Eric Malm, Assistant Professor of Business Administration at Cabrini College, will serve as faculty advisor on the project.
For more information, go to www.powerminders.com/educators. Submission deadline is November 1.
Podcast of the Week: Everything you wanted to know about stimulus funding, part 2
This week's podcast takes up where last week's podcast left off, continuing the workshop with the third panelist, Fred Dedrick, Pennsylvania Deputy Secretary for Workforce Development, continuing the discussion of opportunities for growing green jobs through the stimulus programs. Dedrick's presentation is followed by a question and answer session moderated by Leanne Krueger-Braneky, executive director, of the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia, with answers coming from all three panelists: Dedrick, Mark Alan Hughes who, at the time of the workshop, was director of sustainability for Philadelphia, and David C. Dickson, district director of the U.S. Small Business Administration.
You'll then hear the nitty gritty about how the city of Philadelphia stands ready to help grow the green economy in a quick presentation by Kevin Dow, who at the time was Deputy Commerce Director, Office of Neighborhood and Business Services.
This podcast is the second in a three part series featuring Recovery Act 101, a free forum held on May 11 in Philadelphia, targeting small businesses, discussing the top things businesses need to do to compete for funding for green initiatives in the federal stimulus package.
Tune in for the third podcast next week.
If you aren't already a member of PennFuture, what are you waiting for? PennFuture was called the state's "leading environmental advocacy organization" by the Philadelphia Inquirer. So join the leader on our secure website, and sign up for our publications. And remember, you can make sure you hear our podcasts first subscribing to them through iTunes.
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A Bear in the Woods
PennFuture continues to fight irresponsible oil and gas development in Pennsylvania