1995-2002- DEP Secretary David E. Hess: Many New Hands Now Help Protect Penn’s Woods
In January of 2003, at the end of the eight years of the administrations of Governors Tom Ridge and Mark Schweiker, DEP Secretary David E. Hess summarized some of the major accomplishments achieved by working in partnership with private industry, local governments, local watershed groups and many, many others.
The people and places mentioned, were all places and people he visited in every county of the state during his time as Secretary to put a spotlight on all the great things happening to restore and protect Pennsylvania’s environment--
The last eight years under the Ridge and Schweiker Administrations have seen a dramatic improvement in our environment in Pennsylvania by almost any measuring stick you can use.
Solid waste, air pollution and water pollution have been permanently reduced by hundreds of millions of tons and billions of gallons; and millions of pounds of toxic emissions have been eliminated.
Over 33,300 acres of abandoned mines have been reclaimed, 967 miles of stream cleaned up, 5,000 acres of wetlands were restored and we exceeded our goal of recycling 35 percent of our household waste.
If your measure is jobs, there are now over 30,000 people working on brownfield sites restored under Pennsylvania’s Land Recycling Program; 81,000 people working in recycling related companies; and “green” technology and service industries now employ 71,000 people and generate over $9.7 billion in revenue.
And the bottom line— 89.9 percent of the individuals, businesses and local governments regulated by DEP are in compliance with environmental laws and regulations in 2001.
In the last eight years, Pennsylvania’s environmental programs have won international and national awards from groups like the United Nations, the Council of State Governments, Harvard University and the Ford Foundation -- more than any other state.
But the real measure of success are the tens of thousands of people we empowered to take positive action to be better stewards of their watersheds, businesses, farms and communities.
Today more than 425 watershed groups are flourishing across Pennsylvania and 11,000 people are involved in monitoring water quality. Hundreds of businesses are eliminating pollution and leading the Commonwealth toward our goal of zero pollution.
People like Jose Taracido of Washington County now have the resources to do stream bank fencing and restore habitats on farms to improve water quality.
Carole Williams-Green of the Cobbs Creek Community Environmental Education Center in Philadelphia creates wonderful opportunities for children and adults to learn about their environment.
Patrick Radigan and National Gypsum in Beaver County make wallboard out of scrubber waste from a nearby First Energy power plant, not only preventing millions of tons of waste from going to a lagoon, but creating family sustaining jobs.
Ed Wytovich in Schuylkill County now has the help he and his watershed group need to turn coal banks and orange streams into green fields and great fishing holes.
The parents, teachers and students of Radnor Elementary School in Delaware County now learn in a “green” school that is not only healthier and environment friendly, it costs taxpayers less to operate.
Jeff Tanner and Jim Clark in McKean County are working with PA CleanWays to cleanup rural dumps and prevent them from coming back.
Steve Wolfson, of Wolfson-Verrechia, Inc., is working with the Valley Forge Trout Unlimited Chapter to reuse old industrial property for commercial development and restore McIlvaine Run in Chester County.
Robert McCullough and the Babb Creek Watershed Association in Tioga County can now finish cleaning up all the mine discharges in their watershed, a terrific end to more than 14 years of work.
Karen Szwast and the Hicks Creek Watershed Association are tackling flooding and stream erosion problems as well as promoting recycling in Luzerne County.
Since 1995, Margaret Dunn and the Slippery Rock Watershed Association is treating over 500 million gallons of polluted mine water and remove enough iron and aluminum to make 273,000 soda cans and 200 small pick-up trucks as well as helped create a home for 5,000 insect eating bats!
Chris Kocher and the Wildlands Conservancy work in the Lehigh River watershed to permanently preserve land, do restoration projects and partnered with their public TV station to produce the documentary “The Water We Share” to educate Valley residents on watershed issues.
Richard Stehouwer from Penn State Cooperative Extension Service and Master Gardners taught more than 30,000 people how to do backyard composting.
Bill Shaffer and the York County Chapter of the Izaak Walton League are not only teaching “city kids” how to fish, they’ve restored miles of streams using natural stream design techniques.
GPU Energy, the City of Erie and the Port Authority won national honors for the Erie Front Street Project, a former power plant that now houses the Erie Maritime Museum, the Eric County Library and serves as the berth for the U.S. Brig Niagara.
Katthleet Horwatt and the “Radon Rangers” from FDR Middle School in Bristol Township, Bucks County teach their community about the dangers of radon in just one of several innovative environmental education projects sponsored by the school.
We’ve also built partnerships with communities to build and maintain flood protection projects and increased staff devoted to dam safety inspections.
Environmental education for all ages was expanded dramatically.
We established the Pennsylvania Center for Environmental Education, adopted the first K thru 12 Environment and Ecology curriculum standards for schools, partnered to create the GreenWorks for Pennsylvania television program, using newspaper inserts, radio and the world’s first video website to educate the public on what they can do to protect the environment.
Pennsylvania was also the first state to let its citizens look online at the results of inspections for thousands of regulated facilities and set up a system for notifying citizens directly when permit applications are submitted to DEP.
Thousands of people and communities all across Pennsylvania have new hope because of the partnerships built by the Ridge and Schweiker Administrations to achieve the goal we all share—to restore and protect our environment.
I know this is true because I’ve seen it first-hand by traveling to every county in Pennsylvania at least twice as Secretary to visit with farmers, business people, local officials, watershed groups, county conservation districts, students and teachers!
And by the fact that over a half million people every month seek out information and advice on our website.
We’ve created an approach to protecting the environment that emphasizes the involvement of stakeholders from all sides of issues, building partnerships, sharing information and promoting education to achieve measurable improvements in the environment.
But we also kept the old tools handy, mounting the largest enforcement effort ever undertaken in Operation Clean Sweep to keep unsafe trash trucks off our highways and helping Attorney General Mike Fisher collect the largest criminal penalty on record for environmental crimes.
In 1995 we were challenged to create the most advanced partnership in the nation to protect and enhance our resources and to restore Pennsylvania’s place as a national leader in protecting the environment.
We met that test and positioned Pennsylvania to achieve even more in the future because we have even more ambitious goals to achieve.
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[Posted: December 12, 2019]
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