Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Op-Ed: Sen. Ray Musto, A Legacy Of Environmental Leadership

By D. Michael Fisher
Over a career or a lifetime there are a handful of people you are privileged to know and work with that have had an impact not only on you, but on solving problems in ways that make our lives better.
Ray Musto was someone like that for me.
In the 1980s I served with Ray in the state Senate and on the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee where he was the Democratic Chair and I was the Republican Chair.
The political atmosphere was much different then than it is now.  Yes, we had our partisan differences and positions, but on most issues that really counted, we worked together, in a bipartisan way, to solve them.  The environment was one of those issues.
When a four million gallon storage tank split open and spilled a million gallons of thick, black oil into the Monongahela River, we worked together to pass the Storage Tank and Spill Prevention Act to establish spill prevention and construction standards for aboveground tanks and created a program to clean up leaking underground tanks.
When Pennsylvania’s local governments faced a crisis in where to safely dispose of household and other waste, we worked together to pass the Municipal Waste Planning, Recycling and Waste Reduction Act to create the first statewide, curbside recycling program in the country and set disposal standards that closed 1,000 dump sites across the state.
When communities had difficulty in finding the money to fund improvements to local drinking water and wastewater systems to protect water quality, assure safe water supplies and attract new business, we worked together to create the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority to provide grants and loans so the state would share that financial burden.
Faced with how to clean up hundreds of contaminated sites across the state from a legacy of industrial development, we worked together to pass the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act to provide the necessary enforcement tools, funding and provisions allowing the state to pay for things like water supply replacement to keep our citizens safe.
These four laws, the keystones of Pennsylvania’s environmental protection and restoration programs, were all enacted within the same three year window and they would not have been possible without Ray Musto.
After I left the Senate to become Attorney General, Ray continued his good work in the same bipartisan way by helping to pass the original Growing Greener Program to restore watersheds and reclaim abandoned mines, the Land Recycling Program to cleanup brownfields and establish the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund to support State Parks, Forests and local recreation projects.
A gentleman, a friend and a great Senator for his district, Ray Musto left his imprint on Pennsylvania and will be long remembered as a true partner in making things better.

D. Michael Fisher was a member of the Senate from 1980-1996, Chaired the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee from 1980-1990, was PA Attorney General from 1996-2003 and has been a Circuit Judge on the U.S.  Court of Appeals, Third Circuit since 2003.

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