Friday, May 20, 2022

DEP, DCNR, PennDOT Employees Recognized With Governor’s Award For Excellence For Environmental Projects

On May 20, Gov. Tom Wolf recognized employees from the departments of Conservation and Natural Resources, Environmental Protection and Transportation with the Governor’s Award for Excellence for environment-related projects.

The projects included Pennsylvania’s first Litter Action Plan, a creative “Let It Grow!” educational video and efforts to reduce air pollution.

Litter Action Plan

Department of Transportation and the Department of Environmental Protection with Governor’s Awards for Excellence, in recognition of their efforts to develop the first-ever Pennsylvania Litter Action Plan.

Through coordination with over 100 stakeholders, the employees spearheaded the development of an actionable plan with the goal to shift the focus of Pennsylvania’s response to litter from cleanup to prevention. 

The plan includes resources and suggestions for the General Assembly, state agencies, local governments, and the public.

The honorees are:

-- Jessica Shirley, former Policy Director, DEP;

-- Kate Cole, Policy Director, DEP;

-- Natasha Fackler, former Policy Director, PennDOT; and

-- Emily Watts, former Executive Policy Specialist, PennDOT.

PennDOT spends roughly $14 million each year on litter cleanup statewide, and DEP has funded “Pick Up Pennsylvania” community litter cleanups and illegal dump site cleanups for over two decades, supporting volunteers in removing many tons of trash from the land and waters. 

“It’s clear that in order to truly see less litter in Pennsylvania, we need to focus on getting people not to litter in the first place,” said PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian. “The Litter Action Plan provides real solutions that can be implemented at the state, local, and individual level to help make a cleaner Pennsylvania for all of us. I'm so proud of the work that this team has done to develop this plan.”

“This award is very well deserved and represents the work that this team has done to keep the Keystone State litter free,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “This plan is needed because of the growing – and frankly disgusting – problem of litter polluting our lands and waters. The Litter Action Plan sets us on a path to a cleaner, more beautiful Pennsylvania.”

The persistence of littering prompted PennDOT and DEP to partner with Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful to conduct the first comprehensive state study to inform development of the Litter Action Plan, with a focus on changing littering behavior. 

“It is my privilege to congratulate the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for their vital and mission-based work to develop the state’s first ever Litter Action Plan,” said Shannon Reiter, President of Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful. “The plan’s blueprint for implementing preventive measures and behavior changing strategies to reduce littering in Pennsylvania will benefit and positively impact the health, safety and beauty of whole communities all across the Commonwealth.”

DEP identifies many ways Pennsylvanians can be anti-litter

PennDOT provides litter information and many additional litter cleanup volunteer opportunities, including Adopt-A-Highway, Litter Brigades, and more on its Roadside Beautification webpage.

DCNR ‘Let It Grow’ Video

DCNR Environmental Educator Curtis Sherwood, currently assigned to Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center in Northampton County, was honored for his creativity and adaptability as demonstrated in the “Let it Grow” music video meant to inspire people to let their grass grow into meadows for pollinators and to help stop erosion during flooding.

“Normally, environmental educators in Pennsylvania state parks bring students and visitors to their local state park or forest for learning experiences. During the pandemic, these programs had to occur online,” DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said. “Curtis, like so many of our educators, used ingenuity, talent, and a bit of fun to engage people virtually about our conservation mission when interest in the outdoors was at an all-time high but we couldn’t gather.

“Virtual programming allowed us to reach new audiences of people in Pennsylvania, and across the country. Although we will always welcome visitors to programs at our state parks, we are taking the best ideas and practices learned during the pandemic and including some online programs in our offerings,” Dunn said.

A straightforward talking format of a video that Sherwood was working on wasn't resonating with him and he was worried that others might find it boring. So, he wrote the lyrics, performed and sang, and edited the “Let it Grow” video with a little help from a friend.

Visit DCNR’s Lawn Conversion webpage to learn more about how you can “Let It Grow!”

In state parks, DCNR has 118 environmental educators at 63 locations around the commonwealth. There also are two environmental education specialists that offer programming located in Forbes and Tiadaghton state forests.

Learn more about environmental education and state parks on the DCNR website. For upcoming educational programs, both in-person and virtual, check the DCNR Calendar of Events.  

Reducing Air Pollution

DEP Air Quality Engineer Vince Pascucci was recognized for his work to fight climate change and protect and improve air quality throughout Pennsylvania.

“This award is very well-deserved, and Vince’s efforts to ensure clean air for all Pennsylvanians will show benefits for years to come,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “Vince has exemplified the mantra of ‘government that works’ by taking the initiative to do what needed to be done for the people of Pennsylvania.”

Pascucci was nominated for this award for his work on the Reasonably Available Control Technology II (RACT II) regulation for reducing air pollution from coal-fired power plants in line with federal requirements. 

In order to provide the needed details for the new emissions limits, Vince taught himself a new programming language and compiled weeks’ worth of data analysis. 

This work has resulted in lower proposed emissions limits and decreased chances of ground level ozone pollution that can harm people’s health.

Governor’s Awards For Excellence

The Governor’s Awards for Excellence recognize exemplary job performance or service that reflects initiative, leadership, innovation and increased efficiency. 

The DCNR, DEP and PennDOT employees were among 50 employees from 12 state agencies honored by Gov. Wolf for exceptional accomplishments in 2021.

The Governor’s Award for Excellence was created in 2002 by Gov. Schweiker to recognize state employees involved in the successful rescue of nine coal miners trapped in the flooded Quecreek Mine in Somerset County. [Read more here.]

[Posted: May 20, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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