The Administration has represented this money as being surplus, but that is not the case. The program has been ramping up to tackle the orphan sites, and was poised in this budget cycle to expend both the $18 million that has accumulated from the fee assessment and the 25 million dollars in bond funds that was initially provided in order to front-load the fund.
This diversion of supposedly-dedicated funding will:
* Hamper ongoing efforts to close orphan landfills, since if the full money were available, the agency would have spent $35 million by the end of 2007 and could utilize 5-10 million more each year to work through the priority landfills list. The IRS requirement to expend $23.75 by October 2006 would also be met. Sites that will be in progress on that date will have already committed much of the remaining portion of the $40 million and some will have to be held back from construction in order to allow funding to be replenished.
* Slow the completion of Stage 1 preliminary characterizations of around 1000 landfills, which was scheduled to be completed for most sites in 2007. These characterizations are critical since they identify the priority sites and allow responsible expenditure based on potential impacts.
* Strain the county open dump initiative, since under the Administrations Senate Bill 50, the 25% county match for the more costly open dumps is waived and picked up by the Pride Fund. While the work is done to date under HB 174 by the agency and counties has been impressive, with 1,133 open dumps cleaned up in that two-year period, through 2004 1,613 remain to be cleaned up at an annual cost of $2 million for FY 2005-7.
I urge you to consider restoring the 18 million dollars to the fund in order that the agency can complete this important characterization work and begin the construction activity. Thank you in advance.