By Georgia Mae Lively–3/24/2020
You may have heard of Environmental Advisory Committees—possibly because your town in Pennsylvania has one or you know someone who is on one—but you might not know exactly what they are or what they do.
In Pennsylvania, Environmental Advisory Committees (EACs) exist as part of many municipal governments and are made up of appointed, volunteer members that work specifically on environmental and sustainability issues. The committee’s main function is to advise elected officials, like a city council or board of supervisors, on issues affecting the natural resources within the municipality. While EACs are an official arm of a municipal government, they are unable to make regulatory decisions on their own. Their function is simply to advise the legislators to whom they report, or sometimes to run programs or initiatives. Municipal governments are also not required to create EACs, but Pennsylvania state law allows them to be created either by the municipality itself or by a citizen or group of citizens concerned about environmental issues.
There are approximately 170 Environmental Advisory Committees across the Commonwealth running programs and advising their municipal governments on environmental issues using evidence-based, scientific research. These issues and programs can vary widely. For example, Lower Gwynedd Township’s EAC works on issues ranging from Spotted Lanternfly management to water basin naturalization to encouraging the use of cloth bags and reusable water bottles. The Conshohocken Environmental Advisory Council, otherwise known as “Green Conshy”, fosters their relationship with the Conshohocken business community by awarding businesses that engage in good environmental practices—like energy efficiency, water conservation, reducing/reusing/recycling, and fostering community participation—with a decal and social media promotion from Green Conshy. And the EAC for the Town of McCandless makes an effort to educate itself and provide recommendations on environmental legislation to its City Council, like on a recent natural gas development bill.
As an Energy Co-op member, you are very likely to be someone who cares about environmental and sustainability issues, making you a great candidate for your municipality’s EAC. In fact, at least one of our members (who also happens to be our accountant), Bryan Hutchinson, was recently appointed to the East Goshen Sustainability Advisory Committee. And if there are other Energy Co-op members out there who are members of an EAC, we’d love to hear from you and learn about interesting sustainability developments and initiatives in your town. Please call Meryl Sands at (215) 413-2122 x16 or email us at [email protected].