Thursday, April 22, 2021

In Memoriam: Louise Dunlap A Leading Force Behind Coal Mine Reclamation, Regulation

We are very sad to report Lancaster County native Louise Dunlap passed away on April 15.  She was a major force behind the 1977 enactment of the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act and worked in that field with groups all across Pennsylvania and the United States on mine reclamation issues for many years.

Dunlap helped found the Environmental Policy Center (EPC) in 1972. She continued to work on behalf of citizens and communities seeking implementation of SMCRA’s standards. 

She was also actively involved in advancing the RECLAIM Act and another effort to reauthorize the AML fee at the time of her passing.

Click Here to read her full obituary.


The best way to describe what Louise Dunlap meant to the people  involved in coal mine regulation and reclamation issues are the appreciations written by those who knew her best--

-- John Dawes, Foundation For Pennsylvania Watersheds

“It is with a heavy heart that I report to you the death of Louise, April 15th at Johns Hopkins. Her chronic blood condition moved into Stage 4 leukemia which she could not conquer. Her sister Connie was with her as she slipped away peacefully, without pain. 

“I spoke with Louise early last week as she coached on what was needed to get HR1733 and HR1734m, RECLAIM and Reauthorization over the goal line.

“Louise was truly other oriented, and that helped her in her job. She provided 17 years of services to the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds, and the PA Abandoned Mine Lands Campaign

“An early victory came in our work in 2006 when Reauthorization passed December 9th at 3:30 a.m. during the lame duck session. 

“Needless to say, she could not wait until 6 or 7 to call . She was a force for good and will be missed. 

“I expect there to be a DC recognition of her accomplishments, but due to Covid, nothing is yet scheduled.”

-- Robert Hughes, Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition For Abandoned Mine Reclamation

“I just found out last night after coming home from our apple sapling planting project in Centralia about some very sad news. I'm devastated and heartbroken. Louise Dunlap had passed away. 

“She was more than a colleague to me. She was a mentor and a very special lady who I held in high regard and would do just about anything for. 

“She lived on the Chesapeake for some time. I often saw her in Washington DC during our trips to Congressional hearings that I had been invited to speak before on the topics related to the Surface Mining Control Reclamation Act of 1977 that she personally had a lot to do with becoming law. 

“She gave me sound advice, wisdom, taking points, and talked environmental strategy on Reauthorization for nearly two decades right up to the end. 

“She was a part of our PA Abandoned Mine Land Campaign. She taught me to lead my testimony with soundbytes for the media and then to rip into the details with facts, personal experiences, and of course, passion. 

“She knew I was like a lion in a cage when it comes to our line of work. 

“She was an extraordinarily passionate pioneering woman who I had first read about in my first Environmental Law course while in College in Dr. Becker's Class at Penn-State in 1995. 

“Never in a million years did I think I would get to become a friend and colleague of hers for the last 20 years and continue to fight with her, side by side, in the halls of Congress to continue to stand up for our coalfield communities and the injustices that we still face today. 

“I told her often how humbled I was to be in her presence. She laughed it off and thought it was sweet. Me on the other hand, hung on her every word and strategy.  

“I know she would want me to remain persistent and carry on with our passion to do what's right in the best interests of our coalfield communities. 

“She will always hold a special place in my heart. I loved her dearly and told her so on every personal phone call we had in the last few months. 

“I went to Centralia today and placed her name on an apple tree sapling I planted yesterday in her honor. 

“It only seemed fitting given the legacy and contributions she has done for Appalachia and coalfield communities across the country. 

“She was my guardian angel and guide to navigating the halls of Congress and the Senate when we were in DC wandering around like a freshman page. 

“We would not be in the position we are in now to get these environmental bills across the finish line that many of you have heard me talk about over the years, if it were not for her passion, respect, and reputation by legislators and staffers in DC to hear her out. 

“She encouraged and supported my passion to continue the good fight to see the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act reauthorized for another 15 years before September of this year and became my biggest supporter. 

“I will do my best to work with our reclamation partners to make that happen in her name. 

“There will never be another pioneering woman of her caliber and tenacity that could fill her shoes, shoes that I couldn't even keep up with half the time trailing her like a lost puppy in the halls of Congress. 

“God rest her soul.”

-- Andy McAllister, Western PA Coalition For Abandoned Mine Reclamation

“On Thursday April 15, 2021, the Abandoned Mine Reclamation (AMR) community lost a long-time friend and ally.  Louise Cecil Dunlap, an environmentalist and consultant working in Washington, DC who collaborated with the Pennsylvania Abandoned Mine Land Campaign (PA AML Campaign), lost her battle with Leukemia.

“Louise contributed much to the history of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA) and all of the SMCRA reauthorizations up to this time.  She was very instrumental in working to get SMCRA signed into law in 1977. 

“The fee collection provision in SMCRA is a source of funding that helps states like Pennsylvania deal with their abandoned mine problems.  

“Over the years, Louise became known by most everyone working on environmental bills on Capitol Hill. 

“Louise was married to Joe Browder, an environmental activist in Florida who worked with Marjory Stoneman Douglas and others to stop a jetport from being built in the Everglades.  

“Louise met her future husband at a Senate hearing on the jetport in 1970. She had been studying landscape architecture and was working for the National Parks Conservation Association.  They eventually married in 1976. 

“In 1972, Louise helped found the Environmental Policy Institute (EPI) and the Environmental Policy Center in Washington.  She eventually became the EPI’s President.  

“Within EPI was the Citizens’ Coal Project (CCP). Through the CCP, the institute worked with coalfield grassroots groups across the country to closely monitor the implementation of SMCRA and the development of the Federal coal leasing program.  

“In 1987, CCP morphed into the national Citizens Coal Council (CCC), an organization of coalfield grassroots groups whose focus was to ensure that SMCRA was implemented and adequately enforced.

“Louise and her husband began an environmental consulting firm, Dunlap & Browder in 1981 and became advisers to businesses and nonprofits.  

“Continuing her dedication to keeping SMCRA going and working with the PA AML Campaign, Louise was instrumental in the reauthorization of SMCRA in 2006.  

“The struggle for reauthorization would have been a longer road if it were not for Louise. 

“For the past several years, Louise has been invaluable in her assistance to the Pennsylvania Abandoned Mine Land Campaign to reauthorize the current provisions of SMCRA before it sunsets in September 2021.

“In Pennsylvania, Louise was honored with the Mayfly Award at the 2007 Annual Pennsylvania Abandoned Mine Reclamation Conference.  The Mayfly award signifies a significant lifetime achievement dedicated to clean water.  

“She was also the recipient of the US Office of Surface Mining’s ECHO award in 2016 for her long career of protecting communities affected by surface coal mining.

“We’re grateful for the time we’ve had with Louise on this planet and will continue her fight for Abandoned Mine Reclamation and a cleaner environment.  

“She will be profoundly missed.”

-- Joe Pizarchik, former Director federal Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation & Enforcement, Director of DEP Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation 

“Louise Dunlap was uniquely Louise.  Her hard-driving enthusiasm inspired many. 

“Louise demonstrated by example what could be accomplished if people worked together—even if some were people with whom you disagreed or even disliked.  

“She encouraged, supported, and motivated others to continue their own work to serve the public.  

“Others acquiesced to her persistent enthusiasm.

“As a former government regulator, I know America, and particularly coal country, is better off because of Louise Dunlap.  

“I experienced first-hand her efforts to make sure the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act was properly implemented.  

“Without SMCRA—without citizen input, the citizen complaint process, and the citizen suit provision—state and federal regulators would not have been as effective.  

“Some had to be forced by people like Louise to implement the law.  

“Both Louise and President Jimmy Carter knew that SMCRA would make things better, but not as good as they both thought things should be.  

“State coal regulators and State and Tribal AML program staff should thank Louise.  Without SMCRA they would not have had the minimum federal reclamation standards.  

“Without SMCRA, in many states the regulators would have been despised as lackeys of the coal industry.  

“Without the SMCRA abandoned mine land fee, State and Tribal abandoned mine land program staff would not have been able to address more than 46,000 abandoned mine openings, eliminate more than 1,000 miles of high-walls, and restore hundreds of miles of polluted streams, nor could they have provided safe drinking water to more than 50,000 people whose water was polluted by coal mining.

“Even the National Mining Association should thank Louise Dunlap and her colleagues, for without SMCRA they could not claim credit for all of the reclaimed abandoned mines.  The industry could not tout their reclamation awards issued each year by OSMRE. 

“In fact, the National Mining Association should thank Louise and honor her by supporting legislation to double the original AML fees—instead of supporting a recent Republican proposal to reduce AML fees another 40 percent, in addition to the 20 percent reduction they took in 2006.

“Louise Dunlap will live on in each of us who work to fully implement SMCRA.  

“Her work will live on in every reclaimed coal mine, in every reclaimed abandoned mine, and in every mine that will be reclaimed today, tomorrow and into the future.  

“Thank you, Louise.”

-- Aimee Erickson, Citizens Coal Council

“In the 1970s, Louise created and led one of the most effective campaigns in the history of the US environmental movement: the seven-year national citizens’ effort to enact federal legislation, the Surface Mine Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) of 1977.

“In 1972, Louise was co-founder of the Environmental Policy Institute (EPI) and the Environmental Policy Center (EPC) in Washington, DC.  Within EPI was the Citizens’ Coal Project (CCP).  

“Through the CCP, the institute worked with coalfield grassroots groups across the country to closely monitor the implementation of SMCRA and the development of the Federal coal leasing program.

“In 1987, 10 years after the passage of SMCRA, CCP morphed into the national Citizens Coal Council (CCC), an organization of coalfield grassroots groups whose focus was to ensure that SMCRA was implemented and adequately enforced. 

“For over forty-four years, Louise dedicated her life to supporting and advising coalfield groups on SMCRA. 

“I met and worked with Louise in 2009 on a successful national grassroots campaign and Louise continued to advise me as CCC’s executive director on various campaign strategies since then.  

“She was my mentor and my dear friend.  I wouldn’t know half the things I know about SMCRA without Louise’s help. 

“She was willing to provide guidance to anyone that would ask.  She had a passion for helping people in the coalfields and it showed.

“CCC’s survival over the years was very important for Louise. I don’t think CCC would be in existence today without her guidance and support.  

“I am eternally grateful and blessed for having Louise in my life.  When times were hard she would lift me up with encouragement and I am going to miss her profoundly.  

“I can hear her telling me not to be sad, but to lift my head up and continue the work she started. 

“And that’s what I plan to do.”

-- Kathy Selvage, Citizens Coal Council

“Although I could not see her often, her presence will be missed.   From my first introduction, Louise  struck me as a person who had a feel for the environment and humans alike.  She wanted to protect them both. 

“She listened well and had a deep potential for empathy.  I witnessed her eagerness to be inclusive, to bring people together and a unique ability to remain calm while seeking to achieve the best legislative stance.  She was, in my opinion, quite a woman and quite a blessing to this world. 

“Rest in peace, Louise.”

-- John Oliver, Former Secretary, Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

“Louise Dunlop was the voice of mine land reclamation in the halls of Congress where she was highly respected for her in-depth knowledge of the issues surrounding the scars of unreclaimed coal mined lands in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

“It was an honor to work beside Louise for many years; she will be deeply missed.”

-- Janet Keating, retired Executive Director, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition 

“We are saddened to learn of the death of Louise Dunlap, a quietly effective, dedicated advocate and unsung hero for communities where coal is mined.  

“Louise had a long-term, genuine commitment to working to protect communities ravaged by coal mining. 

“We were so fortunate to have had someone with Louise’s commitment and expertise on Capitol Hill to help educate members of Congress and others in Washington, D.C., about the impacts of mountaintop removal and other mining abuses.  

“One of her most significant contributions to Appalachia was the successful passage of the Surface Mine Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA).   

“Louise was a tireless leader for its passage after the tragic Buffalo Creek mining disaster where 125 West Virginia residents lost their lives.  Throughout her career, she worked for the reclamation of abandoned mines and enforcement of surface mining laws.

“Additionally, Louise contributed greatly to efforts of local, regional, and national environmental groups in DC as we collaborated to reign in other coal mining abuses in Appalachia.  

“She, along with just a handful of other advocates, succeeded in halting the “Byrd rider” in 1999, which would have made it easier to permit mountaintop removal mines . 

“Later on, in 2007, Louise, already a key strategist and advocate of ours in the halls of Congress, was hired by OVEC and other groups to work with local and national groups to advocate for the passage of the Clean Water Protection Act.  

“This bill’s passage would restore the original intent of the Clean Water Act prohibiting coal companies from burying our streams with mining waste.  

“Our hearts go out to Louise’s family for her passing.  Truly their loss is very much our own.  Few people had the deep knowledge, caring, dedication, courage and staying-power to face off against such a powerful industry, as did Louise.  

“Her life was exemplary. Rest in peace, dear Louise.  You have earned a big place in our hearts.” 

-- Branden Diehl, Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds

“Louise was tenacious. The word “NO” was not in her vocabulary, and she was on a life-long mission to erase it from the dictionary. 

“To Louise, compromise was the vehicle for change. She was an unleashed tiger in the halls of Congress. 

“Having helped write the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) during the late 1970s, she helped usher in the final pieces of the environmental awareness movement. 

“Though coal wasn’t in her backyard, it didn’t prevent her from being one of the foremost activists for coal-impacted communities. 

“Those who worked with Louise know she was never short on passion!”

-- Angie Rosser, West Virginia Rivers Coalition

“We are saddened to hear about the passing of Louise Dunlap. Louise was a tenacious advocate for Appalachian coal communities – her clarity and conviction for justice for our communities was undeniable and undefeatable. 

“Though she will be greatly missed, the contributions she made through her career are lasting and will continue to inspire us to keep pushing forward on the path she set.”

-- John Walliser, Pennsylvania Environmental Council

“Louise was a tireless advocate for Pennsylvania, and an invaluable voice in securing support for addressing our vast legacy of abandoned mine lands and impaired streams. Her work has and will continue to benefit all citizens of the Commonwealth for generations to come.”

-- Ann Swanson, Chesapeake Bay Commission

“Louise’s passage is our loss.  She was an extraordinary environmental leader who could stay focused on the finish line, despite the challenges of getting there. 

“She knew the importance of diverse citizen voices and of bipartisan support to ensure the passage of an enduring, sustainable program.  

“She also understood that the passage of a law is in many ways only the beginning and spent most of her days ensuring that the SMCRA was fairly and efficiently implemented over time.  Her tenacity did not allow her to rest.  

“She worked to the very end on behalf of clean water and air, believing they were the God-given rights of all of us.  

“She gave more than she took.  She has left her mark.”

-- Eric Schaeffer, Environmental Integrity Project

“Louise was an early and invaluable member of EIP’s Board, and I can’t say enough about the enthusiasm and encouragement she brought to that task.  

“Too few people know that Louise was a driving force behind adoption of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act in the late seventies, which forced mining companies to control runoff and take responsibility for cleanup when mines close.  

“Not long afterward, Louise founded and managed the Environmental Policy Institute (EPI), which she ran for about ten years. 

“It’s no exaggeration to say that EPI was the most innovative, and in my view the best, environmental advocacy group of its day.  

“They were especially good at in-depth investigations and blockbuster reports on the incredible waste of taxpayers’ money on boondoggles like the plutonium breeding nuclear reactors, overpriced and destructive dam and canal projects (like the Tennessee Tombigbee waterway), and synthetic fuels plants that were supposed to squeeze gasoline out of coal.  

“Their economic analyses helped persuade conservative Republicans to join enough Democrats to kill the multibillion Clinch River Breeder Reactor and two big synfuels projects.  

“And while the Tenn-Tom canal was eventually built (or most of it), a Post story several years ago confirmed that it sits empty, just as Louise and EPI predicted. 

“Louise never met a stranger, and was one of those people who could work both sides of the aisle on any issue.  

“She and Joe were lucky enough to be alive and all in at the dawn of the environmental movement.  

“That movement has grown by leaps and bounds since those early days, but this is a moment to remember one of the heroes who helped bring it to life half a century ago.”

-- Jacqui Bonomo, PennFuture

“I’ve been thinking about Louise lately with action in DC gearing up around abandoned mineland funding and the Reclaim proposal.  

“Her commitment to restoration and fair funding for Pennsylvania’s land and communities historically impacted by coal mining was as formidable as her lobbying skills and ability to corner a member of Congress and argue her case.  

“I’m very happy she was “on our side.” Lots of good memories of time spent with Louise and her husband Joe Browder, usually in DC. 

 “She represented the coalition of Pennsylvania groups working on the successful 1998 reauthorization of AML, at the time, and I know continued her relationship with the advocacy groups here in PA until the end.  

“She will be greatly missed by her friends here.  

“Her impact on our state must not be underestimated.”

All appreciations for Louise Dunlap have been posted at the Louise Dunlap: Appreciations From Friends & Colleagues webpage.

To contribute your appreciation, send to: 

(Photo: Taken at the 40th Anniversary of the 1977 Act.  Center- Louise Dunlap holding a photo of the signing of the 1977 Act by President Carter; Left- John Pizarchik, Director of federal OSM and former Director of PA’s Mining Program; Jim Lyons, U.S. Dept. of the Interior; Edward Grandis, Chair, Citizens Coal Council; Right- Walter Heine, first Director of federal OSM in 1977 and former Director of PA’s Mining Program.  Taken by Aimee Erickson, Citizens Coal Council.)

Related Article:

-- U.S. House Hearing On Reauthorizing Federal Abandoned Mine Lands Program: We Don’t Deserve To Wait Any Longer For Clean Streams, Diversified Economies

[Posted: April 22, 2021]  PA Environment Digest

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