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Archive for Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Legislators, county officials unhappy with Brownback’s veto of environmental grants program

October 9, 2012

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— Legislators and county officials on Tuesday said Gov. Sam Brownback's veto of funding for an environmental program will come back to haunt the state.

Richard Ziesenis, with the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, testifies Tuesday to the Legislative Budget Committee on the impact of losing state funds from the Local Environmental Protection Program.

Richard Ziesenis, with the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, testifies Tuesday to the Legislative Budget Committee on the impact of losing state funds from the Local Environmental Protection Program.

"The decision to not fund LEPP (the Local Environmental Protection Program) is a penny-wise and pound-foolish decision," said state Sen. John Vratil, R-Leawood.

LEPP, which started in 1990, provided grants to local health departments to help enforce, inspect and monitor wastewater and water systems.

The relatively low-cost program — $750,000 in its final year out of an approximately $15 billion overall state budget — was touted as an effective partnership between state and local governments to protect drinking water.

Without LEPP, the state will see more health problems, increased lawsuits, non-compliance with federal environmental laws and skyrocketing local fees for putting in septic tanks and other systems, officials said.

State Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, and chair of the Legislative Budget Committee, described the elimination of the program as "short-term conservatism versus long-term conservatism." State Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, said the veto pushed costs down onto counties.

In his veto message earlier this year, Brownback said the program was never meant to be permanent. "The program was started in the early 1990s for the purpose of providing local governments with technical assistance and grant funds in order to establish environmental programs specifically suited for local priorities. Once the programs were established, the intent was to discontinue the state funding," he said.

But local officials, appearing before the Legislative Budget Committee, said LEPP had been so successful, it made no sense to kill it.

Richard Ziesenis, environmental health director of the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, said the $41,000 the country received, helped officials make sure that water wells and septic tanks were properly installed.

"The homeowner is relying on our expertise," he said. Without state funding, Douglas County has had to increase fees and depend more on the county for funding. There are approximately 5,000 septic systems in Douglas County, and about 500 of those are cleaned each year, which means the disposal of 500,000 gallons of septic tank waste, Ziesenis said. "That has to be treated and disposed of in a proper way," he said.

Other counties are in the same position. For example, the fee to install a wastewater system in Reno County had to be increased from a $90 to $275 once LEPP funds disappeared.

Darcy Bayse, environmental health coordinator of Reno County, said the state should reinstate the program. "This money assists counties in being fully staffed, purchasing proper equipment and keeping fees low for the public," she said.

Legislators said they feared cash-strapped counties would start cutting corners on making up the lost revenue, and that could lead to environmental and health hazards.

Vratil said the Kansas Department of Health and Environment doesn't have the resources to enforce minimum standards statewide, leaving that to counties that now face increased costs.

Comments

Steve Bunch 2 years ago

Perhaps the effluent can be treated and turned into snow to draw wealthy tourists to Mont Bleu and create lots of jobs. (See Arizona's Snowbowl project.)

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verity 2 years ago

It has the word "Environmental" in it. Must get rid of.

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storm 2 years ago

I wish the School Finance Task Force luck. They might suggest not spending money on flat-screen tvs to adorn schools' common areas. There will be outcry. I also think it is not wise to consolidate rural schools - makes for a long day being on the bus. In addition, parents have the opportunity to participate at school near their home, which is integral to successful students.

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olddognewtrix 2 years ago

Ths is a blatant Brownback hatchet job on education

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George_Braziller 2 years ago

I'm in the group of Kansans who didn't vote for him. He's a complete nut job. It'll take decades for the state to recover from his disaster administration. At least he's finally killed any chances for running for President again.

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verity 2 years ago

V O T E !

We can't get rid of Brownback for two more years, but we can vote in legislators and local officials who are smart enough to look to the future and who are not wholly owned by the Kochs and their minions.

The percentage of registered voters who actually vote in the United States, and Kansas, is truly pathetic. And how many people who could vote are not registered? The far radical right has been energized to get out and vote and look what that has given us. The rest of us need to get out and vote so that we are represented.

And don't say "my vote doesn't count." In the recent primary, one local election was won/lost by seven votes.

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StirrrThePot 2 years ago

Vote Koch, watch Kansas become a wasteland of fail, short-sightedness, and lost opportunity.

Kansas....as backward as you think!

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Ken Lassman 2 years ago

Seems to have been a program with statewide individual and public benefits: protecting water quality and ensuring safe septic systems seems to meet the "is it important enough to borrow from China?" standard that Romney wants to use, especially in these cash-strapped times for local and state services. Talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater....

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scaramouchepart2 2 years ago

In Sept. Brownback held a fund raiser for lobbyists. The lobbyist who's interest group paid the most in Republican donations will recieve support for any bill or cutting of a bill and it shall be done. Celock, J.(2012, Sept.) Sam Brwonback headlines GOP fundraiser packed with lobbyists. Huffington Post. Now think of who can out donate all others and watch for more environmental bills and funds chopped, and other bills that will improve the bottom line of corporations. Miton Friedman is alive and well in Kansas. Hint( the business of business is business). Or no money should be spent other than for increasing the top few' s bank account.

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