Our Story

In celebration of our 50th anniversary, we are sharing stories of Pennsylvania’s environmental history and the issues that have defined PEC’s work over the years.

"We Had to Do Something"

PEC’s founders recall the circumstances that led to its founding in 1970, and the early victories that made it a leading environmental voice in the commonwealth.

Taking the Lead

In its first quarter-century, PEC emerges as a statewide leader in environmental advocacy and conservation.

A New Millennium

In the 21st century, energy production booms in Pennsylvania — and PEC leads the way on climate policy.

Pennsylvania Legacies podcast


At 96, Thomas Dolan is part of a very exclusive club: surviving founders of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council. As we mark the 50th Earth Day this week, we continue our celebration of PEC’s own semi-centennial with reflections from someone who was there when it all began.


Securing Our Environmental Rights

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 and in the Senate from 1973 until 1980, when he joined the PEC Board of Directors. One of PEC’s longest-serving directors, Mr. Kury retired from the board in 2000.


The Early Vision

Eleanor Winsor, a core member of the group that founded PEC in 1970, recalls the fledgling organization’s early days and grand vision for a statewide network of environmental experts and advocates.



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 was 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.

PEC’s Pennsylvania

In celebration of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council’s 50th anniversary, we are pleased to share the following photo essay, prepared especially for the occasion, portraying the special places and landscapes at the heart of PEC’s work.

When Dutch and Swedish settlers first arrived in the mid-1600s, Pennsylvania consisted of more than 40,000 square miles of forest wilderness. Over the next three centuries, that wilderness all but disappeared. What happened in between is a story of voracious consumption of natural resources that fueled the Industrial Revolution, powered the Civil War and Westward Expansion, and built the machinery of two world wars.

Pennsylvania’s streams and rivers nearly died. Its forests were all but wiped out, only to be given new life through an awakening of public consciousness over what had been nearly lost. Pennsylvania in 2020 is the sixth-largest economy in the United States. But a visitor to any of its 121 state parks, two million acres of state park lands, or 1.5 million acres of state game lands can readily see the beauty of Penn’s Woods that still endures.

The Pennsylvania Environmental Council commissioned photojournalist Jeff Swensen to capture the Pennsylvania environment as it is today—its river valleys, forests, its skies and waters, as well as the impacts of an economy that today supports nearly 13 million people, and the legacies of industrial practices old and new. The people of Pennsylvania will find these impressions familiar as they define much of our shared landscape in 2020, and we offer them here as a time capsule for future generations to heed.

The Next 50: The Only Constant Is Change

Over the last year, we’ve celebrated PEC’s 50th anniversary by looking back at our history and impact on Pennsylvania’s environment. But as we look toward year 51 and beyond, there is plenty more work to be done. In this essay, Dr. Aurora Sharrard, Director of Sustainability at the University of Pittsburgh, writes about the environmental progress we have made and the future steps we must take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Pennsylvania.


Where Are They Now?

For five decades, PEC’s staff has shared a common goal: to protect and restore Pennsylvania’s environment. This mission has always attracted a talented group from a wide range of professional backgrounds. Over the years, this staff has turned over as folks switched paths or retired. But each individual that has worked at PEC has contributed to its impact and helped shape its legacy. In honor of our 50th anniversary, we decided to catch up with some former PEC employees to see what they’re doing now.

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