Environmental Accomplishments Of The Ridge-Schweiker Administrations
In recognition of the Lifetime Achievement Award presented to Gov. Tom Ridge by the Pennsylvania Environmental Council the following is a list of accomplishments of Gov. Ridge and Gov. Mark Schweiker compiled by PA Environment Digest.
These Governors are very strongly linked not only by virtune of being elected as a team and by a unique series of events, but also because they have very similar views on environmental policy.
The Ridge-Schweiker Administration served from 1995 to 2001 when Gov. Ridge was named the first Secretary of Homeland Security after September 11th. Lt. Gov. Schweiker then became Governor without missing a beat through 2002.
What follows is a description of some of the major environmental accomplishments during the Ridge-Schweiker Administrations.
Many New Hands
The assignment from Gov. Ridge in 1995 was clear: a giant “Kick me!” sign was on the old DER--a magnet for criticism and a liability to whoever sat in the Governor’s office - and it had to change. While its mission was as popular as ever, nobody seemed to think it was doing a good job. And change it did thanks to the energy and hard work of 3,000 employees of DEP and many new partners.
The real measure of success for the Ridge and Schweiker Administrations on the environment are the tens of thousands of new people that have been empowered to take positive action to protect and restore our environment since 1995.
Restructuring Environmental Agencies
In 1995 Gov. Tom Ridge signed into law legislation reorganizing the state’s environmental agencies for the first time in 25 years -- splitting the 1970s style Department of Environmental Resources (DER) into the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).
The effort was led by a bipartisan group of four former DEP secretaries who supported the change to focus more attention on the needs of state parks and forests in a new DCNR and to enable a new DEP to concentrate on its mission to protect the environment.
Land Recycling Program
Pennsylvania’s award-winning Land Recycling Program has cleaned up and made safe over 1,100 industrial and commercial “brownfield” sites where more than 30,000 people now work. By adopting risk-based cleanup standards, setting deadlines on cleanup plan reviews, and providing financial institutions and parties interested in cleaning up their properties reasonable cleanup liability relief, the Land Recycling Program has become a national and international model for how to do brownfield cleanups.
The Program has received several awards, including the prestigious 1997 Innovations in American Government Award from the Ford Foundation and Harvard University, and it received the 1997 Innovations Award from the Council of State Governments.
The Growing Greener Program Gov. Tom Ridge signed into law on December 1999 is the largest single environmental investment in Pennsylvania’s history — nearly $650 million over five years — that will preserve open space and farmland, reclaim abandoned mines, restore watersheds, support local recreation projects, eliminate the backlog of maintenance projects in state parks and forests and upgrade water and sewer systems.
In June 2002 Gov. Schweiker signed legislation extending the program through 2012 and doubling its funding to $1.2 billion.
The program was proposed based on recommendations made in 1998 by the Governor’s 21st Century Environment Commission that communities and watershed groups be given financial and technical help to solve environmental problems at the watershed level.
During its first three years, Growing Greener funded 1,100 watershed restoration projects totaling over $333 million ($127 million in public funds, plus $206 million in matching funds). More than 4,659 acres of abandoned mines will be reclaimed, 5,071 acres of wetlands restored, 487 miles of streamside buffers planted and 1,336 oil and gas wells plugged.
Growing Greener also included a special “good Samaritan” provision that removes environmental liability for persons who voluntarily reclaim abandoned mines or plug abandoned oil and gas wells and who have no responsibility for the original problem.
The "good Samaritan" provision was just one of dozens of recommendations made through the Governor's Reclaim PA initiative to encourage voluntary and industry-lead efforts to reclaim abandoned mines and plug oil and gas wells.
The Growing Greener Program is the largest state program of its kind in the nation devoted to addressing nonpoint source pollution problems which cause 96 percent of the water quality impairment in Pennsylvania.
The Pennsylvania Resources Council, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group, gave Secretary Seif its prestigious Fox-Calhoun Award for his work on both the Growing Greener and Land Recycling Programs.
Secretary Hess received the "River Hero" Award in 2002 from the national Rivers Network for his work with Growing Greener.
The Council of State Governments gave its 2001 Innovation Award to DEP for the Growing Greener Watershed Restoration Program.
[Note: Gov. Rendell capped the funding for the Growing Greener Program in 2005 with the passage of the Growing Greener II bond issue whose funding ended in 2011. In addition, the debt service for the bond issue was taken from the recurring revenues generated by the $4.25/ton fee enacted in 2002 further reducing funding. In 2012 the Act 13 Marcellus Shale law included some additional funding for Growing Greener, but not enough to make up for the losses.]
Money-Back Guarantee Permit Review Program
In 1995 Gov. Tom Ridge established the Money-Back Guarantee Permit Review Program by Executive Order and required that permit decisions by DEP be made by stipulated deadlines or DEP would return the permit application fee.
This program brought on-time decision making by the agency and helped eliminate a serious backlog of permit applications -- all without shortchanging the opportunity for public review and comment.
In the five years since the program began operating there have been less than 22 refunds out of 125,000 permit actions taken through mid-2002.
Robert D. Behen, director of The Governors Center at Duke University, lauded the Money-Back Program in a 1997 article in “Governing Magazine” as evidence that a public agency can dramatically improve efficiency with the dedicate work of committed managers and staff.
[Note: While the program remains on the books, the Rendell Administration failed to enforce the provisions of this policy.]
Opening Doors to the Regulatory Process
In August 1996, DEP issued a new Public Participation Policy to require agency programs to involve the public in a meaningful way and early in the process of developing new policies and regulations with input from affected parties, the public and stakeholders.
Traditionally, environmental regulations have been the result of "decide and defend" strategies by government agencies, instead of allowing true public participation in the regulatory process.
Among the many successes of this approach were the Clean Air Stakeholder Groups formed in 1995 in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia to develop regional ozone pollution reduction plans.
Prior to forming the groups, regional leaders and the General Assembly shot down proposal after proposal for cleaning the air in these areas. After nearly a year of hard work in stakeholder groups, both regions agreed on measures to reduce ozone pollution in those areas that DEP implemented without opposition from the General Assembly.
This approach was repeated in clean air groups in the Lehigh and Susquehanna Valleys and with other issues in various combinations dealing with municipal waste regulation and recycling, special protection watersheds, storage tank program reforms, regulating concentrated animal farming operations and most recently with the Environmental Justice Work Group.
[Note: The Rendell Administration did not use stakeholder groups to develop or refine programs and frequently failed to follow the Public Participation Policy and its requirements to post agendas and handouts before advisory committee meetings.]
The Regulatory Basics Initiative
Twelve thousand pages of regulations – some outdated (or not even in English, some said) – were formally reviewed to update, clarify, repeal and streamline them under DEP’s Regulatory Basics Initiative.
Through an extensive process of public review and comment, review by advisory committees and DEP staff stretching over three years, the RBI process resulted in proposing 24 packages of regulatory changes that eliminated over 4,500 pages of guidance and regulations without weakening environmental standards.
It is estimated these changes resulted in saving the individuals, local governments and businesses regulated by DEP $672 million in costs since 1995.
The same approach was used to “clean up” and redraft hundreds of form letters used by the Department, so that DEP can speak more concisely, politely and helpfully to those with whom it corresponds. This sounds rather mundane, but it’s the kind of effort that adds up to effective government.
Zero Pollution Goal
In 1995 DEP created the Office of Pollution Prevention and Compliance Assistance at a deputy secretary level to assist communities and companies in meeting regulatory requirements and encourage them to go beyond merely complying with the law. As part of this effort, Pennsylvania adopted a “zero pollution” management goal for the first time.
DEP now assists hundreds of companies and communities in reducing pollution and compliance costs while sharing cutting-edge technologies among businesses through a newly formed Pennsylvania Environmental Assistance Network and other partners.
DEP also succeeded in creating grant and loan programs to help businesses audit their operations to identify pollution prevention opportunities and install pollution prevention and energy efficiency technologies.
One important part of this strategy was creating the Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence to annually recognize the environmental accomplishments of individuals, businesses, local governments and community organizations.
Since 1995, Pennsylvania's pollution prevention programs and the winners of the Governor's Environmental Excellence Awards have resulted in companies saving over $1 billion in operating costs, reduced water use by over 7.3 billion gallons, eliminated 173 million tons of waste, reduced air pollution by 134 million tons, eliminated 732 million Btus of energy use and educated over 181,000 people on how to prevent pollution.
Pennsylvania has also been a leader in promoting environmental management systems like ISO 14000 and has a representative on the U.S. ISO 14000 council.
In 1998 Pennsylvania and 11 other states formed the Multi-State Working Group to document the environmental and economic benefits of environmental management systems and received the Council of State Governments Innovation Award.
[Note: The Rendell Administration did away with the Office of Pollution Prevention and Compliance Assistance and most of its central and regional office programs and staff.]
Growing Smarter Land Use Reforms
In June 2000 Gov. Tom Ridge approved landmark changes to state land use laws through Acts 67 and 68, the Growing Smarter initiative, which gave communities new tools to manage growth and take joint action to plan and zone together. Growing Smarter also requires state agencies to consider local land use ordinances in making permit and grant decisions for the first time in Commonwealth history.
The Growing Smarter initiative had its origins in the Governor’s 21st Century Environment Commission which concluded in 1998 that land use was the most pressing environmental issue facing the Commonwealth in the new century.
These reforms were especially important because of Pennsylvania’s complicated municipal makeup (67 counties, 2,600 municipalities and 500 school districts).
The National Governors Association Center for Best Practices recently recommended Pennsylvania’s Growing Smarter legislation to other states considering land use reforms.
Water Resources Planning
A comprehensive Water Resources Planning Act was passed and signed into law by Gov. Schweiker in 2002 ending a 20-year bipartisan quest for water resources legislation. Adoption of the legislation completed implementation of all the major changes recommended by the Governor's 21st Century Environment Commission in 1998.
The legislation creates a water resources planning process that will help answer three basic questions: how much water we have, how it's being used and where the demand for water will outstrip the supply. The Act recreates six regional and one statewide water advisory committee to help in the planning process and will result in an updated State Water Plan in five years and designation of Critical Water Areas. The Act also creates Pennsylvania's first water conservation/water use efficiency program.
[Note: The Rendell Administration provided no significant funding to implement the provisions of the Water Resources Planning Act.]
eFACTS (Electronic Environmental Reporting)
One of DEP’s most advanced technological and administrative innovations is eFACTS (the environment, facility, application, compliance tracking system). eFACTS consolidates program specific information on individual sites regulated by DEP in one place.
Using eFACTS, citizens, plant managers, bankers, consultants and lawyers can check to see the results of the inspection DEP performs at a facility, the status of any past enforcement or compliance actions and the status of any pending permit applications. eFACTS can be searched by name of facility or geographically to locate facilities with DEP permits within counties or towns.
In the related eMapPA, the information can be viewed in mapped form with facilities regulated by DEP shown geographically with links to individual facility information. A variety of environmental features can also be viewed at the same time to provide more context like streams, topo maps -- and aerial photographs showing land use.
eFACTS also allows DEP environmental program managers to identify useful trends to use as management guides -- like most frequent type of violation, who the most frequent violators are across programs, and opportunities for pollution prevention activities.
For the first time, DEP is able to report to the public and the General Assembly basic information like the compliance rate for each of our major programs to use as a measure of how well DEP is performing. In 2001 for example, 89.9 percent of the people regulated by DEP were in compliance with environmental laws and regulations.
eFACTS includes records on over 225,000 sites owned by individuals, businesses and local governments regulated by DEP and the results of over 70,000 inspections and thousands of compliance report reviews each year.
This system marks a significant paradigm shift from the traditional focus on “enforcement only” to the more comprehensive issue of compliance. Using Internet technologies and a vast inspection/enforcement database, more information is now made available to the public regarding compliance, violations and overall environmental performance of companies throughout the Commonwealth.
eFACTS is the first program of its kind in the world, and it won a 1999 Council of State Governments Innovations Award.
[Note: The Rendell Administration eliminated the detailed annual reports and significantly the compliance reports available to the public during the Ridge-Schweiker Administrations. Staff input of the information to keep this system up-to-date fell significantly behind current information.]
Technology Adds to Security
The innovative use of information technology helped Pennsylvania develop a sophisticated West Nile Virus Surveillance Program to coordinate the efforts of the departments of Health, Environmental Protection and Agriculture as well as 67 counties and local health departments in responding to this health threat.
For the first time a sophisticated information system for data and geographic information was developed on a secure web server beginning in 2000 to enter mosquito, bird and horse sample data electronically in the field, track the results through analysis and display them geographically. Using this information, program managers can target local and state mosquito control efforts to reduce the potential human exposure to the West Nile Virus. In addition, the sample results are displayed automatically on the www.WestNile.state.pa.us website to help keep the public informed about the virus.
The West Nile Virus Surveillance Program placed third in regional competition for the 2002 Council of State Governments Innovation Award.
The same technology used for the West Nile Program is now helping law enforcement, emergency response and other state agencies share information about threats to homeland security. The Pennsylvania Incident Response System (PAIRS) will allow law enforcement, health and environmental incident information to be shared between agencies and later counties and local agencies to help coordinate a more effective response to these incidents. The PAIRS system is now being evaluated to use as a model by other states and the federal government.
Governor’s Green Government Council
In 1998 Gov. Tom Ridge established the Governor’s Green Government Council to “practice what we preach” by requiring state agencies to adopt environmentally friendly practices.
The Secretary of DEP and the Secretary of General Services co-chair the Council and jointly spearheaded efforts that resulted in Pennsylvania adopting the first “green” building standards for public buildings and taking on dozens of other environmental projects.
Pennsylvania became the first state government in the nation to buy “green” energy, helping the first windmill farm in the state in Somerset County become commercially viable.
The first “green” building project involved DEP’s Southcentral Regional Office Building in Harrisburg, which became one of the first dozen buildings certified as green in the United States by the U.S. Green Building Council and was recognized in 1999 with the Excellence in Environmental Engineering Award from the American Academy of Environmental Engineers.
DEP’s second major green building—the District Mining Office in Cambria County is so energy efficient, it sells power to the grid. It recently won the American Institute of Architects’ top 10 green buildings of 1999 Award.
Three other green buildings were started--offices in California, Washington County, Norristown, Montgomery County, Philipsburg, Centre County and Pennsylvania's first green environmental laboratory building in Harrisburg--for a total of six major green building projects.
In addition to the use of information technology as a management tool, the Department has been a leader in the deployment of environmental technologies. Secretary Seif and DEP staff have traveled to Argentina, Chile, Canada, Mexico, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Brazil and South Africa, leading trade delegations of Pennsylvania environmental businesses to showcase their products and services and the Globe 1998-2002 world environmental technology conferences.
The Department has also funded specific environmental research and encourages the use of new technology in permits, industrial and mine reclamation and in Growing Greener grants. Secretary Seif chaired the Technology and Innovations Committee of the Ozone Transport Commission and is a member of the Environmental Technology Evaluation Committee of the Civil Engineering and Research Foundation in Washington, D.C.
More than 6,300 environmental businesses - along with numerous private and public academic institutions - place the state in the vanguard of the environmental sector. The state’s environmental industry employs almost 70,000 workers and generates $9.7 billion in annual revenues, the fourth highest in the nation.
Green technology not only benefits the environment, but the economy as well.
Effective Public Participation
In 2000 the Washington, D.C.-based environmental group Resources for the Future ranked the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection first among states in its Electronic Democracy Project for promoting effective public participation in its environmental programs, using tools like the Internet as part of its Electronic Democracy Project. Some of the reasons for this recognition are the initiatives that follow.
DEP's adoption of the eNOTICE citizen notification service revolutionized the way a government agency invites the public to participate in its decision-making. Individuals can create a password protected account and ask to be notified by e-mail when a permit application is submitted from someone in their county, township, borough or city. They can also track individual permits through the permit review process and be notified at significant milestones like when public comment periods open and close. Recommended by DEP's Environmental Justice Work Group, eNOTICE is the first major improvement in the way government informs its citizens since agencies began posting notices in the town square.
The Council of State Governments gave eNOTICE their 2002 Innovations Award.
DEP’s Website -- www.dep.state.pa.us
The award-winning DEP website makes available all Department activities, meetings, training opportunities, and opinions 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Never before has the public been so well informed and empowered to recognize the major environmental issues facing the Commonwealth.
The website features customized homepages for the major clients served by DEP — individuals and families, business & industry, local governments, farmers, students, teachers and home schoolers.
Information on the website is updated several times a day with the latest environmental news, events and news clips from around the state. Visitors can also sign up to have news automatically delivered to them by e-mail.
Before 1995 DEP did not make available to the public in an easily accessible way information as basic as advisory committee meeting dates, times, agendas and handouts.
To illustrate the power of this website and the volume of business transactions involved, consider the following – DEP’s website had an average of a few thousand “hits” or contacts during its first few months of existence in 1995. Now it is averaging over 7 million hits a month and since 1995 it had over 525 million hits.
Simply stated, the level of service provided today would be impossible without the use of this technology.
DEP’s Internet-based services continue to expand, including interactive learning sites; a local government help center, live video webcasts, public meetings and presentations.
The website has received numerous awards, including two from the Council of State Governments’ ECOS magazine and has been recognized by the Pennsylvania Wildlife Federation.
[Note: The Rendell Administration reworked and dumbed down the original DEP website in ways that eliminated significant content and information for the public.]
Environmental Protection Update Newsletter
DEP’s weekly Environmental Protection Update newsletter has become the environmental publication of record in Pennsylvania and fulfills a needed role to provide information that increases public participation and dialogue about environmental issues. The Update is not only a guide to what’s going on, but is an index to new information posted on DEP’s website.
[Note: The Rendell Administration eliminated the Update newsletter, especially content from groups and individuals outside the agency working to restore and protect the environment.]
GreenWorks for Pennsylvania
An innovative partnership with the nonprofit Environmental Fund for Pennsylvania has resulted in a series of educational products designed to teach people by example about what they can do to reduce pollution, clean up their watersheds and save energy.
GreenWorks for Pennsylvania is a monthly TV program on over 80 cable and public television stations across the state that presents entertaining stories about how business people, local officials and citizens are taking the initiative and positive action to improve the environment.
Now in its fifth season, the GreenWorks show has won an Emmy Award from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences as best public affairs series in the Mid-Atlantic area, a 1998 Innovations Award from the Council of State Governments and numerous other awards.
To see and hear someone talk about what they did to protect the environment is a thousands times more effective than simply reading a static webpage. That’s the theory behind the innovative environmental video website—www.GreenWorks.tv – (since renamed GreenTreks Network) also produced by the Environmental Fund for Pennsylvania with funding from DEP.
With content from the GreenWorks TV program and original video productions, the www.GreenWorks.tv website makes educational and entertaining environmental programs available to the public any time day or night.
The www.GreenWorks.tv website won the year 2000 Most Innovative State Government Website Award from the Council of State Governments.
The GreenWorks Gazette, a tabloid-size guide to pollution prevention, recycling, waste reduction, watershed protection and energy efficiency, was inserted into 4.2 million newspapers across Pennsylvania starting in 2000 to reach the general public with an environmental message. Public response to the Gazette has been overwhelming, generating more calls, e-mails and letters than any other outreach DEP has ever done.
The Gazette was awarded the Best Energy Education Program Award in the newsletter category by the U.S. Department of Energy and State Energy Program Managers in 2000.
A new addition to the GreenWorks family was the www.Watersheds.tv Website which offers weekly online video stories about how people all over Pennsylvania are protecting their watersheds.
The webcast, in combination with a printed Watershed Weekly newsletter and a website developed with the Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds and Rivers, is designed to help groups share information on watershed restoration strategies as part of the Growing Greener Program.
[Note: The Rendell Administration eliminated support for the GreenWorks for PA show, website and related environmental education initiatives. During its first year, the Rendell Administration discarded 18,000 requests for environmental protection information generated by the last GreenWorks Gazette publication without fulfilling those requests.]
In 1996 Gov. Tom Ridge created the Pennsylvania Center for Environmental Education by Executive Order. The PCEE is a multi-agency organization which serves to promote an agenda of life-long environmental education.
The Center, with DEP’s help, benchmarks environmental education efforts in the Commonwealth, identifies teacher training and curriculum needs and coordinates special projects like the Earth Day mailing to over 9,000 schools, libraries, residents and businesses.
Pennsylvania became one of the first states in the nation to formally add environment and ecology standards to the required statewide curriculum standards all public schools in the Commonwealth must meet.
[Note: The Corbett Administration eliminated funding for the PA Center for Environmental Education in 2011 even though the program was established in law by Act 71 of 2008.]
Senior Environment Corps
DEP, in partnership with the Department of Aging and the nonprofit Environmental Alliance for Senior Involvement, created the Pennsylvania Senior Environment Corps (PaSEC) in 1997 to involve hundreds of experienced, knowledgeable senior citizens in environmental projects that benefit their communities. Senior Corps members served nearly half of the counties in Pennsylvania.
With the second largest senior population of any state, it makes sense for Pennsylvania to harness these capable citizens to improve local environmental conditions.
PaSEC members ran water quality monitoring programs in their communities and educate students and the public on water quality issues in 45 counties. At its peak, over 11,000 PaSEC and other volunteers monitored water quality around the state becoming citizen water monitors.
As membership grew, PaSEC is planning projects for hazardous waste collection, streambank protection and other environmental improvement projects. Many other states are contacting DEP to replicate this innovative program, the first of its kind and scale in the nation.
In 1999, PaSEC was selected to be added to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Globe 500 Roll of Honour, joining a list of distinguished organizations and individuals like Jane Goodall and the National Geographic Society. PaSEC also received the National Award for Sustainability in Community Participation from Renew America and the President’s Council on Sustainable Development. It has also received a “Point of Light” designation and placed third in the regional competition for the Year 2000 Council of State Governments Innovations Award.
[Note: The Rendell Administration eliminated funding for the PA Senior Environment Corps shortly after it celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2007, even though the program was established in law by Act 215 in 2004.]
People from around the world tuned in for the first time to the Internet in 2000 to watch the pair of Peregrine falcons on the Rachel Carson State Office Building in Harrisburg raise four fledglings live on video through the www.GreenWorks.tv website.
This project, a partnership between the Game Commission, DCNR, Commonwealth Media Services and the Environmental Fund for Pennsylvania, attracted over 98 million web hits in 2002 and helped the public understand endangered species, the role of pesticides in their decline and how Rachel Carson, a Pennsylvanian, helped prevent a “silent spring.”
In 2002 backpacks were put on two fledglings to track where they fly during their first year.
Special programs with teachers and their classes in schools surrounding Harrisburg extended the educational value presented by the falcons. Many of these classes, from first grade to high school, attended a special program in the auditorium of the Rachel Carson Building to see wildlife experts band and give the small falcons a health checkup. The whole program was webcast live on the Internet.
Environmental Policy Consortium
DEP joined DCNR, 38 colleges and universities and the RAND Corp. to create the Pennsylvania Consortium for Interdisciplinary Environmental Policy to share information about environmental academic programs, research capabilities and to help identify technical and policy research needs.
World Focuses on Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania and Somerset County were the focus of world attention on September 11, 2001 when the passengers of Flight 93 became heroes by attempting to take control of the plane back from the hijackers rather than having it turned into a weapon. Pennsylvania, DEP and local emergency teams helped with recovery operations at the crash site and Gov. Tom Ridge was named the first Secretary of Homeland Security.
Gov. Mark Schweiker, Pennsylvania and the Department of Environmental Protection were again the focus of world attention during the successful rescue of nine trapped miners at the Quecreek Mine in Somerset County in July 2002. The rescue was a tribune to the partnership and cooperation of federal, state and local agencies and the mining community.
Note: The Rendell Administration did not fund or eliminated many of these initiatives during it's tenure, some of which received national and international awards. Funding for environmental programs in the last 10 years through the Rendell and Corbett Administrations has been cut by over $1.8 billion from the levels achieved during the Ridge-Schweiker Administrations.
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