2017 ECHO Award Goes to Craig Burda
For the past twenty-one years, Craig has worked as a mining engineer for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP). He has worked on improving the coal refuse permitting program to a point to where now the majority of refuse piles are synthetically-lined and capped like a landfill. As a result of Craig’s efforts, coal refuse facilities are now permitted as zero discharge facilities upon reclamation. To fully understand the difficulty of Craig’s achievement, one must understand the difficulties associated with permitting refuse piles and the environmental hazard they can pose.
Arguably, coal refuse facilities are the most difficult type of coal operation to successfully permit in Northern Appalachia. Without strong permitting, they become perpetual mine drainage generators after reclamation as well. Without proper environmental protection, a small amount of refuse water can cause severe contamination.
Craig used groundwater monitoring data to show that past methods resulted in groundwater contamination by refuse leachate. Faced with the data, operators fought to continue to use inexpensive protection measures. Craig stood firm by the data and his beliefs to require improved materials and stricter construction practices. While the cost to the company to employ these measures is significant, the long-term environmental protection and zero discharge after reclamation will benefit the surrounding community and, ultimately, the company. These permitting actions set a standard, and at least ten other refuse facilities in Pennsylvania now use liners and caps because of Craig’s efforts.
Craig’s accomplishment was achieved with no change in the regulatory requirements for protecting surface and ground water. He evolved the program by simply failing to accept substandard practices and using monitoring data as the basis for his permitting decisions. Craig is a perfect example of what can be accomplished through leadership, determination, and belief in doing right.
About the ECHO
OSMRE named the award the ECHO to signify the most common principles behind SMCRA: Environment, Community, Humanity and Ownership. The 2016 ECHO Award is the fourth to be awarded by OSMRE. In 2012, the bureau first began recognizing individuals for their contributions to support and strengthen SMCRA, the law designed to protect people and the environment from the adverse effects of coal mining while providing for the Nation’s energy needs.
OSMRE chooses the annual honoree based on the individual’s demonstration of one or more of the following attributes:
- Public Service: has shown a dedication to public service
- Sustained Engagement: has accepted difficult challenges requiring strategic, long-term efforts
- Non-partisan: has worked in a non-partisan manner
- Major Contribution: has made a significant and/or unique contribution to carry out SMCRA
- Advocate of the Law: dedication to improved implementation of SMCRA
- Protection of Society: dedication to improving protection of society
- Innovative Solutions: has a record of seeking and achieving positive solutions
- Environmental Protection: dedication to improving protection of the environment
The honoree receives a brushed stainless steel award in the shape of an octagon, which represents each attribute as well as the shape of the Office of the OSMRE Director at OSMRE headquarters. To retain a record of honorees who helped carry out the spirit of SMCRA, a similar version of the award will reside in OSMRE headquarters with the name of each awardee inscribed on its surface.
OSMRE is accepting nominations for the ECHO. To nominate an individual for the award, prepare a short (2-3 pages) written summary of the candidate’s contributions and explanation as to how he/she exemplifies the award's criteria. Anyone can submit a nomination. Please email nominations to Chris Holmes (firstname.lastname@example.org).
2016 - Louise Dunlap
On June 22nd, OSMRE Director Joe Pizarchik presented the 2016 ECHO Award to Louise Dunlap. Dunlap, a co-founder of two environmental lobbying organizations, helped create and lead the seven-year campaign to pass and enact the Surface Mine Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA), which created OSMRE. Dunlap’s tenacity and commitment to direct input from citizens helped pass SMCRA. In addition, Ms. Dunlap worked closely with Republicans and Democrats to secure billions of dollars during the 2006 reauthorization effort for the Abandoned Mine Land fund. Ms. Dunlap helped found the Environmental Policy Center (EPC) in 1972. She continues to work on behalf of citizens and communities seeking implementation of SMCRA’s standards. She is also actively involved in advancing the RECLAIM Act and another effort to reauthorize the AML fee.
2014 - R. John Dawes
R. John Dawes of the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds is a strong advocate for cleaning up polluted waterways across Pennsylvania, particularly mine drainage. He has financially supported mine drainage studies, treatment system design, and construction. Over the past decades he has provided more than 150 grants to local groups who used the support to leverage over $110 million of watershed improvements.
He is a first supporter of innovative projects such as the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden, which has converted acres of abandoned mineland and mine drainage into a regional economic engine as a botanic garden, education, and recreation center. He has funded a new edition of the SMCRA handbook - a citizens' guide to the federal law. He was also the co-chair of environmental groups who successfully worked for years to get the AML fee reauthorized and continues to work to restore our waterways.
2013 - John Husted
John Husted did not hesitate to go beyond his job duties as a public servant. Mr. Husted was instrumental in the development of Ohio's Ask Before you Build development guide (now adopted by several other states), a tool that stresses the importance of evaluating the presence of abandoned mineland issues prior to site development by local governments and landowners. He also played a very important role in the development and management of the Ohio mine subsidence insurance program, which lets homeowners purchase insurance to protect themselves when the abandoned mine land beneath their home collapses - insurance not available from insurance companies.
2012 - David Clark
David Clark, an ecologist and state regulator, recognized that conventional mine reclamation left the land starkly different. he worked many years to convince mine operators and others that it was possible to restore the land surface to look and function after mining as it did before mining. His expertise in the establishment and restoration of diverse native plants communities on reclaimed land and dogged development of revegetation and bond release guidelines enabled New Mexico to achieve some of the highest levels of bond release in the West. Dave's vision became known as "geomorphic reclamation," now a reality in several Western states and a model for mine reclamation across the country.