PEC at 50: Securing Our Environmental Rights

Over the years PEC has worked with countless leaders, experts, and citizens to advance environmental goals across the state. In celebration of PEC’s fiftieth anniversary, we asked a few of them to share their reflections on our shared work, how far Pennsylvania has come, and where we go from here.

Best known as the author of Pennsylvania’s historic Environmental Rights Amendment, Franklin Kury served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from 1969 to 1972 before being elected to the Senate. Upon his retirement from the legislature in 1980 Mr. Kury joined the PEC Board of Directors, where he served until 2000.

Franklin Kury (photo: Amiran White)

From 1965 to about 1972, Pennsylvania went through an environmental revolution. The people of Pennsylvania woke up to the fact that they’d been badly exploited by the coal industry, the steel industry, and the railroad industry. And they were determined. They saw too many acres of land being struck by surface mining and slag piles.

In those few years, the legislature passed more bills on the environment than in all the history of Pennsylvania before or since. In fact, when I was elected to the House in 1966, my picture was in the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, suggesting that I was the new wave of environmental legislators. I was the first one to go hard on an environmental issue, and I defeated the senior Republican in the House of Representatives.

In the legislature, I was a strong proponent of environmental issues. I was the author and lead advocate of the bill that became Article 1, Section 27, otherwise known the Environmental Rights Amendment. At that time PEC had just been founded and the amendment was just a year away from going public. But we got it through the legislature with the help of Curt Winsor, who was the first leader of PEC.

PEC was different than other environmental advocates in the sense of balance. They got industry and people involved, more than just pure environmentalists.

PEC and I worked together. Curt was very strongly in favor of the amendment. He and PEC, along with a few other organizations, really helped the public understand why this should be passed. Curt was one of the leaders in that effort. When we went to the ballot in 1971, the amendment passed the public referendum by a margin of four-to-one.

Since its beginning, PEC has been very aggressive in supporting environmental legislation and helping the public to understand environmental issues. Their role of educating the public and advocating for environmental legislation has had a positive impact on Pennsylvania. It also got the business community involved, which has been terrific. PEC did a good job of getting people together to talk things over and build consensus on what we needed to do to protect the environment.

PEC was different than other environmental advocates in the way they got industry and people involved, more than just pure environmentalists. They brought a more balanced approach.
PEC understands that we have to protect the environment and secure that protection, or we
as a society are going to lose where we live and how live it.