As a youngster, Robert “Bobby” E. Hughes set out to learn why culm banks existed and why rivers and streams ran orange with acid mine wastes. His legacy, he hoped, would be that of someone who did something about the problems.
Approaching his 25th anniversary with the Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation, Hughes is acknowledged as a pivotal point man in the struggle to overcome what decades of anthracite mining wrought. His teen-age wishes have become reality.
The Wilkes-Barre native works out of an office in Ashley. It seems appropriate that a few yards away, a coal breaker once operated and a railroad loaded its hoppers with anthracite.
Public Square talked at length with Hughes. This is his story and his take on where the region stands on key environmental issues.
CV. Tell us about your career path leading to EPCAMR.
A. I have been with EPCAMR for most of my career following a brief stint with the Pennsylvania Environmental Council. I graduated from Penn State and came home to the Wyoming Valley. I joined EPCAMR as a project manager. In 1997, I was named executive director. I had written a clean-water grant to the state Department of Environmental Protection. It was sponsored by the Schuylkill Conservation District where my office was located from 1997 to 2000. In 2000, sponsorship of the grant transferred to the Luzerne Conservation District until 2009. Finally, EPCAMR became independent of the sponsorship of a Conservation District. We administer our own grants and have been located in Ashley in space owned by the Earth Conservancy. We maintain an excellent partnership with EC.