50 Years of Impact

Since 1970, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council has advocated for Pennsylvania’s environment. From organizing coalitions to pushing for policy change, PEC’s work has helped shape our land, water, and cities for the better.

In celebration of our fiftieth anniversary, here are just a few of the ways PEC has made a difference over the years.


PEC president Curt Winsor worked closely with Pennsylvania Rep. Franklin Kury in supporting passage of an amendment to the Pennsylvania constitution (Article I, Section 27) known as the Environmental Rights Amendment, which states: “The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment… As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.” PEC organized a coalition of 65 environmental organizations in support of the amendment.


PEC was part of a coalition of 65 environmental organizations that helped secure passage of House Bill 1333, amendments to the Air Pollution Act, which gave Pennsylvania one of the strongest air pollution regulations in the U.S.

That same year, PEC obtained authorizing legislation to pioneer the Scenic River designation. PEC went on to undertake a study of the Schuylkill River that explored its natural and historic value. The Schuylkill River was designated as scenic in November 1978 by act of the General Assembly.


PEC is a major advocate for the passage of Senate Bill 402, the Oil and Gas Act, marking an important victory in the long struggle carried on by PEC and others. for responsible oil and gas legislation.

PEC was also a major advocate for the passage of Senate Bill 201, the Pennsylvania Safe Drinking Water Act, the highest priority of PEC’s legislative agenda for the 1983–84 session. Gov. Dick Thornburgh signed the Act into law on May 1, 1984.


PEC advocated for and the voters of Pennsylvania passed a referendum allowing a $100 million bond issue to preserve farmland.

PEC successfully worked for passage of the new Agricultural Conservation Easement Program created to slow the loss of prime farmland in Pennsylvania using funds from the 1987 bond issue. That same year, PEC was a major advocate for passage of Act 101, Pennsylvania’s comprehensive recycling program.

1993: Keystone Fund

PEC advocated for passage of the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund, which won overwhelming bipartisan support both in the legislature and with the public. Key 93 provided funding through a $50 million bond for deferred maintenance for state park and historic resources managed by the Commonwealth.


PEC president Joanne Denworth authored, “Guiding Growth,” a growth handbook for municipalities. This resource helped to establish PEC as a leader in land use planning and led to the creation of “10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania,” a statewide alliance of organizations and individuals dedicated to building and protecting great communities across Pennsylvania.


PEC helped drive the planning and implementation of greenways, corridors of connected natural resources protected by multiple owners including municipalities, the state, and private owners to facilitate recreation, protect water quality, and provide critical habitat. Creating Connections, a handbook created by PEC in 1998, was to guide greenway protection that informed PEC’s large trail portfolio.


Starting with some of the first Rivers Conservation Plans on the Susquehanna River and its tributaries in the Commonwealth during the early days of the PEC office in northeastern Pennsylvania, PEC continued on with community partners to create several Rivers Conservation Plans for the North Branch of the Susquehanna and its tributaries. The plans spurred conservation and recreation projects along the North Branch corridor.


PEC’s illegal dumpsite cleanup program launched and has since become the benchmark for how to conduct a successful cleanup. This success led to the creation of Keep Northeastern Pennsylvania Beautiful, one of more than 1,000 nationwide affiliates of Keep America Beautiful.

2007: Climate Change Roadmap

PEC released Pennsylvania’s first climate action plan, calling for a 15% reduction in carbon emissions by 2015, and successfully advocating for a requirement that the state update the plan periodically.



PEC helped to secure funding under the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program for the design and development of the Circuit Trails in southeastern Pennsylvania. Since that time, PEC, the William Penn Foundation, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, and local trail groups in southeastern Pennsylvania, along with the City of Philadelphia and others, have grown the Circuit into 800 miles of connected trail systems throughout the greater Philadelphia area, linking the downtown area with suburban communities in each direction. Though not yet 50% complete, the Circuit already includes over 300 miles of trails that have rapidly emerged as recreational and commuting corridors.


PEC was instrumental in the creation of the vision of the Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition (IHTC), a network of off-road, multi-use trails that connect many of the major centers of America’s Rust Belt. When completed in 2033, the IHTC will span 48 counties across four states. By connecting trails, IHTC will also connect small towns, regional assets, and various destinations, allowing locals and visitors to be able to bike, run, or walk from trail to trail, city to city, and town to town.


PEC was one of several organizations that helped secure critical Pennsylvania delegation support for reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a bipartisan commitment to safeguard natural areas, water resources, and cultural heritage, and to provide recreation opportunities to all Americans. To date, the LWCF has provided more than $309 million in funding support to Pennsylvania from well-known places like the Flight 93 National Memorial and the Appalachian Trail to local projects like public park development and improvement in counties and municipalities across Pennsylvania.


Despite the onset of a global pandemic that disrupted logistics and sidelined volunteers, the PEC Reforestation Program completed its most successful season to date, planting more than 76 thousand seedlings across 69 acres of legacy mine lands.

PEC’s Reforestation Program advances the goals of the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative (ARRI), a joint initiative between the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) and six coal-impacted states using the Forestry Reclamation Approach (FRA) to restore healthy, productive forests on former mine lands.

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