Joint Conservation Committee hears PEC plan to expand cleanup, anti-dumping program

Harrisburg, Pa. – Julie McMonagle, Director of the Northeast Regional Office of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, told the Joint Legislative Air and Water Pollution Control and Conservation Committee of its plans to expand the Cleanup Our American Lands and Streams (COALS) Program statewide.

Ms. McMonagle made the presentation at the first Environmental Issues Forum of the fall legislative session sponsored by the Joint Conservation Committee in Harrisburg. “The COALS Program encourages unique partnerships at the local level to cleanup and then keep clean old mine areas, forests and stream banks,” said Ms. McMonagle. “We work with local governments, other non-profit groups, companies and watershed associations to help make this program a success.”

Brian J. Hill, President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, said, “The Council is delighted to collaborate with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection on this initiative. Promoting cleanups improves environmental quality and stimulates community revitalization.” Hill added, “State Senators and Representatives have also supported this program. Julie McMonagle has done an excellent job at working with DEP and local groups to make this program a success across the Commonwealth.”

The COALS Program, administered by the DEP, is a statewide initiative that addresses illegal dumping and spurs economic revitalization. Economic revitalization activities have been accomplished through a variety of projects, including beautification plantings, development of an outdoor environmental education center and the planning of new parks and trails in areas where cleanups have been conducted. This unique program was implemented through partnerships between environmental non-profit organizations including the Council, Pennsylvania Cleanways, private business and industries, and local, county and state governments.

The COALS Program uses a multi-faceted approach, doing much more than just “hauling out the trash,” Ms. McMonagle said. The effort includes recycling of tires, appliances and scrap metal, educating communities about the environmental and community impacts of illegal dumping, and surveillance and enforcement to try to keep sites clean. The Program was piloted in the Commonwealth’s lower anthracite coal fields of Northumberland and Columbia Counties. It has expanded to over 18 counties and will eventually be active in all 67 counties statewide.