Saturday, February 25, 2023

In Memoriam: Walter N. Heine, PA Deputy For Mines, First Director Of Federal Office Of Surface Mining

Walter N. Heine, 88, passed away on February 14, 2023.  He played a key role in modernizing Pennsylvania’s regulation of mining operations, adoption of the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act and served as the first Director of the federal Office of Surface Mining.

He also served on DEP’s Citizens Advisory Council for 34 years.

Professional Background

From 1955 to 1970, Heine worked for the Pennsylvania Department of Health, serving as a staff engineer, operations engineer, regional sanitary engineer, and Chief of the Division of Mine Drainage Control.

Heine played a key role in shaping environmental policy in the regulation of mining operations in Pennsylvania as the Associate Deputy Secretary For Mines and Land Protection in DER from 1971 to 1977.

In 1977 President Jimmy Carter nominated Heine as the first Director of the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement after the passage of the first federal law to comprehensively regulate coal mining operations-- the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act-- that same year. 

Heine assisted in the drafting of the federal law whose provisions were based largely on Pennsylvania’s own mining program.

The new law established a comprehensive regulatory program for the coal mining industry, in cooperation with states, and provided funding for the reclamation of abandoned mine lands through enactment of a per ton mine reclamation fee that is still in place today and has benefitted Pennsylvania immeasurably in cleaning up the environmental insults left by coal mining.

During his nearly three years as Director of OSM, he oversaw the development and implementation of the first federal regulations covering coal mining and laid the foundation of today’s modern mining and reclamation programs.

If there is a father of the federal coal mine regulation program, Walter N. Heine is it.

Citizen Service

Heine was first appointed to DEP’s Citizens Advisory Council in August of 1983.  The experience he brought to discussions was shaped by his background as a registered professional engineer and President and CEO of Walter N. Heine Associates, Inc. and as a former West Pennsboro Township Supervisor in Newville, Cumberland County.

During his tenure on Council he has served as Chairman from June 2004 through September 2006 and before that as Vice Chair.

He was elected to be one of Council’s representatives on the Environmental Quality Board, the board that adopts all of DEP’s regulations, and to the Mining and Reclamation Advisory Board. He was also a member of the Environmental Standards and Water Committees of Council.

"When we say we stand on the shoulders of others, we often mean people like Walter Heine," said James M. Seif, former Secretary of DEP.  "The sturdy framework of laws, regs and people we rely today on for coal mine reclamation in Pennsylvania was designed and implemented by him and his colleagues in DER and the federal government. In later years his guidance to the Department and its people was invaluable. We are grateful and we will miss him."

“Walter Heine’s career represents the leadership role Pennsylvania has had in shaping environmental programs that make sense not only for the Commonwealth, but also the nation,” said David E. Hess, former Secretary of DEP.  “I have very much appreciated the education Walter has given me over the years and benefited from his experience both in public service and the private sector.”

Click Here to read his obituary.

[Posted: February 25, 2023]  PA Environment Digest

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